- CORE CLASSROOM TEACHERS
- SPECIALIST / ENRICHMENT TEACHERS
- COUNSELING, EF and LITERACY
Courtney Dickinson, Founder & Director
B.A., Dartmouth College
Leadership & Company Culture Consultant/Culture Architect, Sapient Corporation
Connect with Courtney on LinkedIn
Courtney Dickinson is a passionate educator with a strong belief in public service and innovation in education. Initially, Courtney was certified as a teacher and planned to work in public education. Things did not unfold that way, however, and she spent the first 15 years of her career in industry – both as culture architect at Sapient Corporation and then as a management consultant for other high growth organizations.
After her own children started in public schools, Courtney saw that there was a disconnect between what kids needed in school and what they were getting, and in the 20 years away from education, things in the public space had become worse, not better. Realizing that a return to education was essential, she became an advocate for change.
The decision to found a bootstrap start up school was a difficult one. Courtney dove in, galvanizing prospective parents and teachers around a shared mission for what school could be. A year later, Acera opened in Melrose with an inaugural class of 37 students.
“Building the engine while you fly the plane” has not been easy, but with persistence and emphasis on continual improvement, the concept came alive: early and deep exposure to STEM, individual learning plans for every child, an eclectic blend of pedagogy that empowers teachers to create environments of discovery, authentic engagement, learning, and growth in their classrooms, and partnerships with scientific thought leaders in Greater Boston to link learning to real innovations and the challenges of our time.
From the very beginning, Courtney’s intent was to create a model that could happen anywhere. After years of developing and pilot-testing innovative curricula at Acera School, Courtney and her team launched AceraEI – an outreach division that brings Acera’s Tools to Transform Schools into public education. Through professional development workshops, ongoing support, and metrics for success, AceraEI partners with public schools to implement these Tools in a way that fits each school’s unique setting and needs, empowering educators to be change agents and leaders in their schools and school districts.
Faith Blake, Enrichment Programs Manager
M.A., Education, Stanford University
B.S., Biology, Tufts University
Faith is committed to giving each child and teacher that she works with opportunities to develop into the best versions of themselves and to contribute to a dynamic and healthy community. Prior to becoming Acera’s Enrichment Programs Manager, Faith taught Biology for five years in public high schools. She brings experience coaching new teachers, managing an Honors Independent Research Program, and organizing school field trips. When not managing Acera’s after school programs, Creativity Morning, and camps, Faith enjoys lifting weights, painting, and reading.
Shari Card, Executive Assistant
B.S. Business Administration, Saint Michael’s College
Kerry Crisley, Marketing and Public Relations Lead
M.S. Public Relations, Boston University
B.A. English, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Kerry brings more than 20 years of marketing and public relations experience to Acera, including a combined 16 years at the nonprofit organizations The Nature Conservancy and Boston Bar Association. Kerry creates and shares Acera’s stories of innovation in education via the school’s website, social media channels, and in local and statewide media outlets. She lives in Wakefield with her husband John, their children Ben and Erin, and their (very spoiled) rescue dog Luna. When not at work, Kerry can usually be found reading, walking in the Fells, or getting into a wide variety of shenanigans with her book club.
Alexis Daniels, Strategic Initiatives Manager
Doctoral Student, Entrepreneurial Leadership Specialization ’20 Cohort, Johns Hopkins University
M.S., Occupational Therapy, Tufts University
B.A., Anthropology and Public Health, Tufts University
Trained as an occupational therapist, she loved the merging of art, science, technology, and getting to help people. However, as she moved through environments – schools, hospitals, rehab centers – she realized she was more interested in how young minds developed, how students developed a sense of civic identity, and the magic that happens in a classroom. She began her teaching career in out-of-school environments, linking East Boston youth to food justice advocates in the neighborhood. She ran bilingual cooking and science programs, managed three school gardens, and ultimately co-founded an urban farm integrating youths’ visions to design a more equitable, resilient food landscape. Her skills in community organizing, teaching through high-engagement hands-on experiences, and managing novel programs fit well with Acera’s need for an Enrichment Programs Manager. For two years, she managed STEAM summer and after school programs, coaching specialist teachers and witnessing students’ creativity, problem-solving, and sense of purpose blossom.
Now focused on Acera Education Innovation, she sees the challenges translating what’s been proven possible at Acera’s lab school to other settings. Her desire to learn about strategic systems change, best practices in professional development, and develop a “wide angle lens” on innovation in education led her to Johns Hopkins University.
Queenie Desulme, Operations and Administrative Assistant
Sara Honeywell, Director of Operations and Administration
B.A. Music Business, Berklee School of Music
Carol Ann Licitra, Bookkeeper
Kim Machnik, Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Learning Coordinator
MS Ecological Learning and Teaching, Lesley University
B.A. International and Global Studies, Brandeis University
Pei Ng, Administrative Assistant / Front Desk
Trent Ramsey, Director of Development and AceraEI
B.A. English and Sociology, Birmingham-Southern College
Graduate Certificate in Grant-Writing, Fort Hays State University
Debbie Seidell, Math Curriculum Coordinator
M.S. in Mathematics, University of Washington
B.A. in Mathematics, Brown University
Sarah Slubowski, Teacher Mentor
M.Ed., Harvard University Graduate School of Education
B.A., Trinity College
Sandra Zuckerman, Director of Admissions
Professional Diploma, Berklee College of Music
B.A.University of Colorado
SIT, School of International Training
Sarah Zuckerman, Director of Faculty
M.A.Ed Harvard University, focus in Arts in Education, Recipient of the Urban Scholars Fellowship
B.A.Ed Indiana University, Indiana
Acera’s Board of Directors has as its foremost charter to safeguard the fiscal stability and sustainability of the school. Its approach is modeled more after the for-profit sector than the typical non-profit board approach, enabling the rapid and flexible growth of a start-up school.
Courtney Dickinson, B.A., Chair
Founder & Director, Acera School
Michael K. Barron, J.D., Secretary
Partner, Morgan Lewis
Richard J. Morello, M.B.A., Treasurer
President, Life Sciences Division Aptus Health
David Grayzel, M.D.
Partner, Atlas Venture
Jane Moulding, A.L.M.
Principal, SmarterWisdom Consulting
Former Head of School, The Cambridge School of Weston
Greg Phelps, M.B.A.
Independent Advisor, Former Chairman of the Board, Charles River School
Holly Whittemore, C.P.A,
Chief Financial Officer, Nimbus Therapeutics
CORE CLASSROOM TEACHERS
Deborah Barolsky, Core Classroom Teacher
M.S. Teaching Wheelock College
B.A. Swarthmore College
Deborah Barolsky brings more than 20 years of public and private school teaching experience to Acera. Deborah enjoys the creative and collaborative community of teachers and students here, and is especially happy to be teaching a multi-age class. Outside of school, Deborah’s hobbies include reading, drawing, swimming, playing chamber music, and spending time with her husband – also a teacher – and their daughters, dogs, and cat.
Vered Brooks, Core Classroom Teacher
M.Ed., Lesley University
B.A., Literature, Bennington College
Alyssa Colby, Core Classroom Teacher
M.A. Teaching University of Maine, Orono
M.A. Philosophy Brandeis University
B.A. Wheaton College
Bob Defandorf, Core Classroom Teacher
M.Ed. Lesley University
B.A. English Wesleyan University
Prior to joining Acera in 2017, Bob taught for seven years at Odyssey Day School in Wakefield, where he taught children of all ages from toddlers through eighth grade. At Acera, he loves helping math students attain both the joy and discipline of advancing their skills to the next level. In addition to being a co-teacher in the core classroom, Bob teaches a wide range of electives from Cultural Anthropology to the History of Math, including the annual US Government elective. Bob is from Boston, and is the parent of a former Acera STEAM Camp summer intern.
Ruma Dutta, Core Classroom Teacher
M.Ed. Elementary Education, Lesley University
B.A., Cum Laude, Philosophy, Mount Holyoke College
David Fodaski, Core Classroom Teacher
M.Ed., Lesley University
B.A., Lesley University
Rachel Kramer, Core Classroom Teacher
B.S., Engineering and Applied Mathematics, Tufts University
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia – where her parents, sister, and brother-in-law still live – Rachel came to Massachusetts to pursue her math and engineering education at Tufts University. At Acera, Rachel is inspired by the positivity and excitement that her students bring to learning, and loves witnessing kids follow their passions and create learning experiences that will continue to nurture their curiosity. In particular, planning last year’s New Orleans unit and field trip was a powerful experience for both Rachel and her students. Outside of school, Rachel loves to play Ultimate Frisbee; her Boston women’s team are current National Champions, and she was a member of 2018’s Team USA, which won the World Championship in Australia.
Anastasia Leyden, Core Classroom Teacher
M.Ed, Lesley University
B.A., Williams College
Anastasia spent 10 years as a medical writer before making the career shift to elementary education. At Acera, she loves the ever present and varied opportunities for connection and learning with children, and enjoys bringing creativity to the curriculum. One year, Anastasia used a “pirate” theme to bring to life the concepts of trade and the essential question of how societies assign value, engaging students in the kind of deep systems thinking that is a hallmark of our school. Originally from Arizona, Anastasia has lived in Pennsylvania and Connecticut before settling in Massachusetts after college. She loves to travel – especially trips to Maine in the summer!
Jenifer McGuinn (formerly Demko), Core Classroom Teacher
M.A.T. Child Development, Tufts University
B.A. Communications, Simmons College
Montessori Institute of San Diego, Primary Teacher Certificate
Jen grew up in Washington, DC. Prior to becoming a teacher, she worked as a cake decorator, camp counselor, and graphic designer. At Acera, Jen loves that each day is full of surprises and miracles. During the 2018-19 school year, Jen and her students worked as classroom to build a giant reading loft. The kindergarten and first grade students brainstormed design ideas, made drawings, wrote a persuasive presentation to school founder Courtney Dickinson. They then made models to scale, and presented them to an architect/parent in the class. That summer, the loft became a reality, and the students celebrated with a ribbon cutting the following September!
Emily Achilles Stefanich, Core Classroom Teacher
M.Ed., Lesley University
B.A., History, Merrimack College
Emily comes to Acera with deep experience in social-emotional learning and the neurosequential model. During seven years at the Expeditionary Learning School in Denver, she led students in fieldwork, including trips to Moab, a student-run voter registration drive in front of the Colorado State Capitol building, and sleepovers at the zoo during a study of animal adaptations. Emily loves seeing students learn and grow into amazing human beings who are empowered and can advocate for themselves. When not at Acera, Emily can be found going on adventures in the mountains with her husband and their dog, Luna!
Lauren Wibbels, Core Classroom Teacher
M.A. Teaching, University of Northern Colorado
B.A., Communication Studies, Nebraska Wesleyan University
SPECIALIST / ENRICHMENT TEACHERS
Tim Bilodeau, Engineering and Maker Space Specialist
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Northeastern University
Tim is a violinist and engineer with a love of problem solving and a penchant for making. He originally gravitated towards engineering from a desire to learn more about the physical world and deepen his love of working with his hands. As a mechanical engineer, Tim fulfilled this desire by working in metal and plastics fabrication and product design. While in school, Tim also nurtured a passion for teaching by giving violin and music theory lessons part time while volunteering at youth programs like the Clubhouse Network. Looking to gain more experience as a teacher, Tim was attracted to Acera because of its mission to create a collaborative space full of student-driven opportunities with a priority on inquiry-based learning. In this space, Tim looks to explore his interests alongside students, fostering play and continuing to view concepts from different perspectives.
Jack Blake, Photography Teacher
Josh Briggs, Engineering, Woodshop, & Math Specialist
M.S. Civil Engineering, University of New Hampshire, 2006
B.S. Engineering & Environmental Science, University of Notre Dame, 1996
B.A. History, University of Notre Dame, 1996
Registered Professional Engineer (P.E.), Massachusetts, 2012
Jacki Carlson, Theater Teacher
B.A. Theater Arts and English, Assumption College
Jacki is a comedienne, improviser, and writer who has been performing and writing sketch comedy for the past ten years throughout Boston, Chicago, and LA. She has been a character performer for The Walt Disney Company© and Party Princess Productions New England. She currently performs at Improv Boston in Cambridge and Improv Asylum in the North End. In addition to performing, Jacki is energized by creating theater-based learning programs/experiences for various audiences. She is the co-creator of an improv-based corporate training program at Bain & Company. She also created and leads a confidence workshop for young women in high school that focuses on public speaking, self-esteem and body image. Jacki’s passion for teaching improv comes from her strong belief in its ability to help students find their unique voices and develop the confidence to use them.
Chris Dale, STEAM & Tech Specialist
Alison Earnhart, Enrichment Science Teacher
Camila García Enríquez, Visual Arts Teacher
M.Ed, Harvard Graduate School of Education
B.A. Visual Arts Instituto Superior de Arte, Havana Cuba
Camila joined Acera after completing her Ed.M. from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. She was looking for a school with a strong profile of hands-on, interdisciplinary and experimental education, and has since found a community of creative and flexible people with whom she loves to work, and a student body whose passion for learning continues to impress her. Her previous teaching experience included four years teaching art at the International School of Havana, and three years offering private art lessons in the same city. Before finding her calling as a teacher, Camila lived and worked in Havana, Cuba as a full-time visual artist. In her free time, Camila enjoys to read, draw, watch films and cook.
Danny Fain, Computer Science & Games Specialist
S.B. Geoscience, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Teacher Education Program, with emphasis in Math and Science teaching
Several Workshops in Design and Development of Digital and Video Games, Team-Based Design, and Multimedia Visualization
Dylan Foley, Enrichment Teacher
Tanya Gregoire, Maker Space Teacher
Keira Harman, Music Teacher
Esteé Hill, Architecture & Visual Spatial Specialist
MAT, Tufts University
BAS, Bachelor of Architectural Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa
BArch, Bachelor of Architecture, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Michael Hirsch, Lab Sciences Specialist and Curriculum Collaborator
M.A.T. Biology, Salem State University
B.S., Molecular Biology, Clark University
Adrienne Jacobson, Maker Space Specialist
Samhida Kinikar, Maker Space Specialist
David Lerner, Math Specialist
S.B., Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Alazá Merrill, Cross Classroom Teacher
B.A., Psychology & Pre-Law, Worcester State University
David Olson, Technology Specialist / EQ Coach
M.Ed. Lesley University
B.A. Anthropology, University of Massachusetts
Alyssa Osiecki, Theater Teacher
Vanessa Roman, Health & Wellness and Mindfulness lead, Enrichment & Pop Up School Teacher
Adam Rosell, Frugal Engineering Teacher
Marcy Sacks, Enrichment Teacher
Robin Zelman Satty, Math Specialist
Jamie Schefen, Enrichment Sociology teacher
Yonatan Schreiber, Enrichment Teacher
Anastasia Sokolova, Dance & Movement Teacher
Gene Stamell, Math Specialist
Kelly Wilson, Environmental Science and Ecology Specialist
B.S., Environmental Studies, Warren Wilson College
Tian Yao, Cross School Teacher and STEM Specialist
M.S., Education, Purdue University
Bachelor of Laws, Sociology, Huaqiao University, Xiamen, CN
COUNSELING, EF and LITERACY
Malcolm Campbell, Senior Counselor
Marlon Davis, Executive Function & Writing Specialist
M.Ed., Harvard University Graduate School of Education
B.A., Psychology, Providence College
Marlon Davis has been a lifelong educator with more than 25 years of education experience, beginning as a classroom teacher. He has also served as a school leader in traditional public schools and as an executive director of a charter school. Before joining Acera, Marlon worked in the education technology space where he helped to start a software company designed to build apps for teachers that saved them time with grading. At Acera, his roles include Executive Function coach, Reading and Math specialist teacher, Health and Wellness support staff, and middle school student mentor via the IMP program.
Rachel Fuerstman, Literacy, Writing, Executive Function and Dyslexia Specialist
MA, Brandeis University, Teaching Elementary Education
BS, Vassar, History, Minor in Educational Studies
Sigourney Hamilton, Student Support Provider
BA, Psychology, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Intermediate Floortime Provider, Interdisciplinary Council on Development and Learning
Sigourney comes to Acera with a Floortime background. Floortime is a relationship based therapeutic approach utilized to promote the development and strengthening of social and emotional skills. Sigourney has worked with young children as a specialist at early intervention and older children through her work at a private practice and private school. She is excited to work at Acera and bring her skills to the classroom setting–from promoting self-regulation and self-advocacy to working as a flexible team member. When she is not at school, Sigourney loves to be on the beach or practicing pilates.
Laura Inglese, Literacy, Writing and Dyslexia Specialist
M.Ed, Curriculum and Instruction, UMass Lowell
B.A., Psychology, Keene State College
Laura has taught upper elementary and middle school math, and was a math specialist for kids in grades 1-5. Later, she shifted her focus to a deeper examination of literacy education, particularly reading. She has been engaged in Orton Gillingham training and post-graduate coursework for Reading Specialists. Laura grew up in New England, and enjoys being outside in all seasons.
Sam Kitchens, School Counselor
B.S., Clinical Psychology and Film, Tufts University
Sam brings extensive experience in education and student support to his role at Acera, including a tutor for the Elliot Pearson Children’s School, an ABA therapist at Nashoba Learning Group, and a lecturer at Tufts Experimental College. When it comes with working with kids, he loves their natural inclination towards curiosity and creativity. Originally from Florida – and a triplet! – Sam lived in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee before making Boston his permanent home.
Kara Page (formerly Williams), School Counselor and High School Admissions Manager
M.A., School Counseling, University of Saint Joseph
B.A., Theatre, Eastern Connecticut State University
Eileen Sauer, Student Support Program Manager
M.S. Behavior Analysis, Simmons College
B.A., Graphic Design, UMass Lowell
Eileen is Acera’s self-described behavioral science geek! She loves learning about why humans do the things they do, especially complex verbal behavior, and she has been a Board Certified Behavior Analyst since September 2010. She previously spent more than a decade working at Nashoba Learning Group, a private school serving children with autism, as a clinical director specializing in working with students with anxiety and inflexibility. She is working to track the growth in psychological flexibility that our Acera students experience throughout the year in innovative ways. Eileen grew up in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, where she currently lives with her husband, John, and sons, Lincoln (Link) and Leo.
Pam Tricca, Literacy, Writing and Dyslexia Specialist,
Certificate, Orton Gillingham Theory and Techniques, The Carroll School
B.A., English & Communication Arts, Emmanuel College