People

Faculty & Staff

Our Core Classroom Teachers

Core Classroom Teacher

Emily Achilles Stefanich, M.Ed.

M.Ed, Lesley University
BA, Merrimack College

Emily has been teaching elementary grades for over ten years, with a special focus on the lower and intermediate grades. She is a self-described 'brain nerd', who loves tying social-emotional learning and understanding of how the brain works into academic content. Outside of the classroom, Emily loves spending time with her family, being active outdoors, cooking and reading.

Core Classroom Teacher

Deborah Barolsky, M.S.

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 and dog.

Core Classroom Teacher

Vered Brooks, M.Ed.

M.Ed., Lesley University
B.A., Literature, Bennington College

Vered is passionate about developing and following student inquiries to ensure that learning is authentic for her students. She brought this approach to several years of teaching in public schools before coming to Acera, where student inquiry drives every class. At Acera, Vered loves to encourage deep thinking and inquiry around fiction and creative writing, as well as the history that one has to understand to be able to fully appreciate writing. She encourages students to always see the possible avenues of continued exploration in everything they look at. When not at school, Vered is an avid reader, especially loving speculative fiction, and gardener.

Core Classroom Teacher

Alyssa Colby, M.A.

M.A. Teaching University of Maine, Orono
M.A. Philosophy Brandeis University
B.A. Wheaton College

A core classroom teacher at Acera since 2018, Alyssa Colby loves having the freedom to explore ideas like philosophy and follow students’ curiosity and interests instead of being limited by a predetermined curriculum.

One year, for example, Alyssa created a simulation around the colonial fur trade. The content helped students develop their systems thinking and persectivie taking capacities, helping them understand that history is not a simple story. Using her experience as a Model UN coach, Alyssa designed the module so students could learn in an interactive way and think critically about how things could have gone different.

“I feel like I get to respect kids' humanity here in a way that hasn't always been true elsewhere. I really treat them as ‘ends in themselves,’ which is something that aligns with my philosophy background.”

Core Classroom Teacher

Bob Defandorf, M.Ed.

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.

Core Classroom Teacher

Ruma Dutta, M.Ed.

M.Ed. Elementary Education, Lesley University
B.A., Cum Laude, Philosophy, Mount Holyoke College

Ruma comes to us from the Odyssey Day School, where she served as co-head teacher as well as English and Social Studies teacher for grades 7 and 8. Her classroom experience includes teaching 6th grade humanities at the Pike School in Andover and working with students with reading vulnerabilities at the British School of Boston. Before discovering her love of teaching and working with adolescents in 2009, Ruma enjoyed a distinguished career as an experienced writer and editor, working with authors signed by large publishing houses such as McGraw Hill and Wiley, and writing for the Times of India and the New York public television channel WNET. Ruma has gone to school in India, Iran, the UK and the US, and is familiar with four languages next to English.

Core Classroom Teacher/On sabbatical for the 23-24 school year

Anastasia Leyden, M.Ed.

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!

Core Classroom Teacher

Jill Rubinstein, M.Ed.

M.Ed, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
B.A., Smith College

"I've always loved teaching, and learning in all aspects of life, but nothing beats school for building community and relationships. And I love Acera’s community of creative, motivated, dedicated, warm, caring people!"

Jill Rubinstein joined Acera in 2023 as Room 7’s core classroom teacher. Jill has a combined 26 years of teaching experience, including more than 20 years at the Park School in Brookline, Mass. Throughout our very detailed and comprehensive hiring process, it was clear that she is an educator with a remarkable depth of experience, an innovative, responsive and collaborative approach to her work, and a passion for teaching and learning with her students.

Jill earned her masters degree in education at the UMass Amherst, during which she received an invitation to be part of their Collaborative Teacher Education Pathway. Outside of the classroom, Jill is an avid cook and outdoor enthusiast, as well as a writer of children’s fiction.

"I'm writing a children's novel right now,” said Rubinstein. “I love how fiction advises how to be a friend, survive mistakes and discomfort, and celebrate success."

Core Classroom Teacher

Jamie Schefen, M.A.

M.A. Teaching, Columbia University
B.A., Northeastern University
Jamie has experience as a high school teacher (A.P. LIterature and Composition, History, Sociology, Filmmaking, and Psychology), a department leader, a college counselor, and a student clubs moderator. She also has extensive experience leading – and inventing! – simulation-based learning, which is one of the most powerful ways to enable perspective taking, systems awareness, and deep understanding. Jamie’s philosophy is a perfect fit with Acera, extending our mission in high school.
Core Classroom Teacher

Renee Scherer, Ph.D.

PhD-ABD, Slavic Languages & Literatures, University of Michigan
M.A., Slavic Languages & Literatures, University of Michigan
B.A., English Literature & Russian Literature and Language, Illinois Wesleyan University

As a teacher, Renee loves seeing her students revel in asking “why?” – an embrace of curiosity that makes her a wonderful fit for the inquiry-driven learning at Acera. In fact, it was her own “why?” moment that inspired her to become an educator.

“As a graduate student, I was co-teaching a university writing course for freshman honor students,” said Renee. “ Our very brilliant students had amazing insights in discussion, but struggled to move those ideas to paper. That gap in skills drove me to wonder ‘why?’ Why did these students seem to struggle with writing? Why did they seem to think they weren’t good writers? I loved helping my students learn not only how to bolster their skills, but to find their own confidence and curiosity in things that seemed intimidating.“

Following earning her advanced degrees at the University of Michigan, Renee served as a Humanities Teacher, English Specialist, and English Curriculum Designer for California schools including Khan Lab School and Tessellations: The Beneventi School, bringing a project-based learning approach to her classrooms.

“One of my students’ standout victories was the creation of an Oral History Archive in partnership with an organization called Downtown Streets Team,” said Renee (The mission of Downtown Streets is to build teams that restore dignity, inspire hope, and provide a pathway to recover from homelessness). “My students created a digital oral history archive of the life experiences of people experiencing housing insecurity, then presented the archive, their reflections on the project, and a series of photo portraits of participants at a community event that the students themselves planned.”

At Acera, Renee is excited to ask and explore questions with her students.

“Acera has already been a warm and welcoming community. I’m inspired by the passion that I see and hear from adults and students, and by the intentionality and dedication of the staff. What a joy to be here!”

Core Classroom Co-Teacher

Lisa Wilson, M.Ed.

M.Ed., Curriculum and Instruction, Southern New Hampshire University
B.A., Behavioral Science, Lesley University

Lisa has been an early childhood educator for the past fifteen years. After teaching the youngest students for eleven years, she moved up to the early elementary age in a lab preschool at a local high school, where she also mentored the high school students who were exploring and pursuing early education. While taking a break from teaching, and faced with the pandemic, Lisa decided to pursue her master’s degree in education, specializing in curriculum and instruction, with a concentration in special education including differentiated instruction, executive function, social and emotional learning, as well as educational leadership. Lisa is looking forward to working with students in the Lower Elementary class and being a valued member of the Acera School community. Lisa is originally from New Zealand, is married with two adult children and enjoys biking, hiking, traveling, reading, and spending time with friends.

Our Student Support Team

Student Support Program Manager & School Counselor

Eileen Sauer, BCBA, LABA

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 individuals with autism, as a clinical director specializing in working with students with anxiety and inflexibility. She really loves talking with kids of all ages about their interests and sharing her interests with others, which include video games, art, and gemology. Eileen grew up in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, where she currently lives with her husband John, her sons Lincoln (Link) and Leo, and her cats (Mato and Oro).

School Counselor and Math Teacher

Neal Bottom, M.Ed.

M.Ed, Rutgers University, School Counseling
M.S., Human Resources and Organizational Leadership, Chapman College
B.S., Psychology, California State University

Prior to joining Acera, Neal was a math teacher in California. He has worked as a Fellow for the California Department of Education, served in the Navy as a hospital corpsman, and has several years of experience working in business. As a school counselor and math teacher, Neal is looking forward to helping create a nurturing environment where Acera students feel supported. Neal loves
to spend time in nature with his wife and three daughters hiking, paddle boarding, and gardening.

Student Support Provider

Sigourney Hamilton

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.

Literacy, Writing and Dyslexia Specialist

Laura Inglese, M.Ed.

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.

Literacy Specialist

Susan Levy

Orton-Gillingham Reading Specialist
Trained at MGH Reading Disabilities Unit, Boston

Susan comes to Acera with 25 years of experience as an individual and small group literacy tutor in both public and independent schools, including Chelmsford, Woburn, Arlington and the Carroll School. She specializes in working with students diagnosed with dyslexia and helping them to meet their reading and language goals. When not at school, Susan loves spending time with her Bichon Frise, Violet.

Our Specialist Teachers

Engineering, Woodshop, & Math Specialist Teacher

Josh Briggs, M.S.

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

Josh studied and trained as a civil engineer for more than fifteen years prior to changing careers to teaching in 2014. After graduating with dual degrees from University of Notre Dame in 1996, he worked as an engineer in contaminated groundwater assessment and remediation in the San Francisco Bay area. He relocated back to the Boston area in 2000 and worked for a small environmental firm designing restoration solutions for stream and wetlands impacted by human development and stormwater. Josh then pursued his M.S. in Civil Engineering studying the use of porous asphalt for stormwater treatment (2006). After several years of working in rainwater harvesting design and installation, he made the leap to education. He started out teaching woodworking for Eliot School’s School Partnership Program in Boston Public School classrooms. Soon thereafter, he started part time at Acera running Frugal Engineering sessions for Creativity Morning. He began working full time at Acera in the 2015-16 school year. His focus at Acera is creating exciting projects for students that leverage student creativity while developing solid construction and engineering skills. Josh originally hails from Maine, where he developed his great love for boats, building and playing in the outdoors!

Biology & Chemistry Specialist Teacher

Tory Campbell, Ph.D.

Ph.D., Tufts University

I guess you could say teaching was my destiny. I am a curious person, and I have always found a kinship with teachers; they were the magical humans that held the secrets of knowledge, compassion and communication. As a teacher, I love that eureka lightbulb moment when you see a kid's eyes light up and you know they are understanding the concept and interested in – sometimes even amazed by – the idea.

Tory earned a Ph.D. at Tufts University, where her thesis State Resolved Measurements of Surface Temperature Dependence and Isotopically Selective Reactivity of Methane on Ni(111) helped theoretical physical chemists create a better model for determining reactivity and reaction coordinates. She spent more than 10 years teaching chemistry, biology, and physics at Tufts University, where a memorable project was her leadership in the course "Big Bang to Humankind."

“Over the course of several years, I became solely responsible for it, which gave me the freedom to adjust things,” said Tory. “The course became quite popular, requiring the University to open up a fall semester offering. COVID allowed for me to bring new ideas to the classroom, which increased student enrollment and taught me about the necessity for creativity in the classroom.”

In addition to finding authentic connection with people through the act of learning, Tory has long been drawn to environments that foster innovation, inclusion and an awareness of differences in intellectual thinking.

“Acera seemed like a really interesting place where I might be able to grow as both an educator and student,” said Tory. “I believe we have limited ourselves as a society by ideas of fixed curriculum. The blossoming of the internet and technology has opened the doors to a whole new arena in terms of teaching. Acera's approach to education allows for creativity and flexibility in the modality of learning, which seems critical in a world that has opened the floodgates to information. I’m really looking forward to meeting the kids, seeing how their brains work, and having fun in the experience of learning.”

Outside of school, Tory is an avid Bridge player, citing its effectiveness in building math, teamwork, and communication skills. She also occasionally competes in Spartan races – a series of obstacle courses that range from 5K to marathon length. Her favorite one? The “Beast Course” in Vermont, which gains more than 4,000 feet in elevation as racers reach to the top of Mt. Killington.

Assistant Teacher

Queenie Desulme

Maker Space & Physics Specialist Teacher

Alison Earnhart, M.A.

M.A. Science and Engineering Education, University of Texas at Austin

With a background in physics and pedagogy, Alison uses her mad science skills for good, not evil. Having taught science and project-based engineering her whole career, she loves empowering students to hack, tinker, build, repurpose, explore, and invent all kinds of things, but definitely NOT robots that could take over the world. Ailson's other interests include stargazing, sewing, traveling, totally not being an evil supergenius, and playing the sousaphone.

Computer Science & Game Design Specialist Teacher

Danny Fain

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
Math Specialist Teacher

Thom Fries, Ph.D.

Ph.D., Physics, Tufts University
B.A., Dartmouth College

Thom loves math – and loves sharing that with his students at Acera! Prior to joining our school Thom worked as a financial software engineer, and also spent many years as the – as Thom puts it – “front-line parent” for his three kids. When not at school, Thom enjoys biking, skiing, and spending time with his two dogs.

Visual Arts Specialist Teacher

Camila García Enríquez, M.Ed.

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.

Music & Entrepreneurship Specialist Teacher

Linwood Harper

Physics Specialist Teacher

Alexis Hibbler

S.B, Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Alexis Hibbler joined Acera in the fall of 2022 as a physics and math teacher. Alexis attended MIT – where she majored in physics – and she also attended North Carolina School of Science and Math for high school, which is a school for gifted students. Already, Alexis has made an incredible impression on our students, introducing new electives like Astrobiology and challenging kids to consider the energy and physics behind flying pumpkins! Alexis loves the curiosity of students at Acera:

"The great thing about Acera is that whether the kids know how to get to the answer to a problem or not, they want to try – and present their process of logic. They do not feel shy about asking questions, and are unconcerned if they get it right or wrong. Acera kids are interested to investigate why and to connect it to bigger themes. When you are studying physics, that is exactly the point."

Maker Space Specialist Teacher

Adrienne Jacobson, M.A.

M.A., Art History, specialization in use of science and technology in art
B.A., Art History

Adrienne has seven years of experience teaching textiles and design both in the Boston area and abroad. She trained to teach Design and Technology at a secondary school in the UK, and has a passion for combining scientific inquiry with creative projects. She teaches Design Thinking, Electronic Arts and Textile classes to Acera students. She is always working on her own creative projects, and especially enjoys making her own clothing.

Mindfulness & Movement Specialist Teacher

Kei Phillip, M.A.

M.A., Columbia University Teachers College, Clinical Psychology in Education
B.A., Barnard College, Dance

Kei Phillip is a creative facilitator, dancer-performance artist, and intraprenuer with over 10 years of experience in community arts and education initiatives. In her work with various NY-based organizations and schools, her contributions have included program development, student affairs administration, camp counseling, and special events coordination. She is passionate about supporting ways that embodied expression can foster self-discovery, wellbeing, communication, and community-building. At Acera, Kei collaborates with core teachers to provide students with strategies for social emotional learning, writing/literacy, and project management; she also serves as an upper school mentor and manages school transfer application procedures. Outside of work, Kei enjoys exploring Boston's social dance and cultural arts scenes.

Math Specialist Teacher

Tian Yao, M.S.

MS in Curriculum & Instruction, Purdue University
BA in Sociology, Huaqiao University

Prior to joining Acera in 2020, Ms. Tian taught at a National Blue Ribbon School in Louisiana for three years, where she was a third grade teacher teaching Math, Science and Social Studies. At Acera, Ms. Tian teaches Science Electives and Math to students across the school. She also works as a co-core teacher. When not at work, she can usually be found spending time with her family, reading, cooking, and working out at the gym.

Enrichment Specialists

Textile Arts Enrichment Specialist

Kathy Aluia

Enrichment Specialist

Lauren Dale

B.A., Psychology (with a minor in painting), Washington University
M.Ed., Curriculum & Instruction, National Louis University

Lauren believes deeply in the power of children’s literature to teach critical values, build empathy, validate human experiences, and expand people’s horizons. As a creativity specialist teacher at Acera, Lauren loves integrating books and art into her teaching, and enjoys the spirit of curiosity and culture of experimentation she finds in this community.

In addition to working at Acera, Lauren works for Story Starters - an organization that gives parents and teachers the tools to use children's books as conversation starters around issues of race, racism and anti-racism. Over her career she’s also worked as an elementary school classroom teacher, art teacher, yoga teacher and literacy intervention teacher. When not teaching, Lauren can be found reading, paddleboarding, and spending time with her husband, two kids, and adorable puppy Peanut!

Science, Robotics, & Engineering Enrichment Specialist

Jonathan Dietz, M.A.T.

MAT, Simmons College
SB, Electrical Engineering, MIT
SB, Life Science, MIT

Jonathan has taught science, engineering, and arts at all levels, including at Weston Middle School, The Driscoll School in Brookline, the MIT Edgerton Center, the Rashi School, and various summer programs. Prior to working in education, he was a hospital clinical engineer for many years. He is also adjunct faculty in education for American International College.

Engineering, Music Production & Stop Motion Enrichment Specialist

Dylan Foley

Model UN Enrichment Specialist

Wren James

Music Production, Outdoor Survival & Role Play Game Design Enrichment Specialist

Chuck Lechien

Performance, Arts & Artistic Activism Enrichment Specialist

Stephanie McKay, M.Ed.

M.Ed, Lesley University
MA in Art, Community and Education specializing in Integrated arts
B.F.A., Modern Dance, University of the Arts

Stephanie is a professional recording artist, performer, published songwriter, former chair of the Medford Arts Council, Creative Entrepreneur Fellow with the Arts and Business Council of Boston, a Live Arts Boston grant recipient, and a community artivist with the Club Passim Folk collective, Boston Dance Alliance and Americans for the Arts.

Curriculum created by Stephanie at Acera include Songs in the Key of life, Dancing with Darwin, Community arts, Art and Power of storytelling, Exploring the Hero's Journey through Zines music, Songwriting, Puppet Plays, Music Appreciation, Take the “A” train, Music and Movement, Poetry in Motion, Sound and Color. When not teaching, you will find Stephanie in nature hiking, making music, dancing, singing, seeing art and culture, and most importantly spending time with her family.

Physics, Woodworking & Hydrodynamics Specialist

Adam Rosell

LEGO Robotics Enrichment Specialist

Mohammed Tonkal

LEGO Robotics Enrichment Specialist

Jazz Xu

Our Management Team

Founder & Head of School

Courtney Dickinson

B.A., Dartmouth College
Certified Teacher
Leadership & Company Culture Consultant/Culture Architect, Sapient Corporation

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.

Director of Lower School

Malcolm Campbell, M.A.

M.A., Counseling Psychology, California Institute of Integral Studies
B.A., Fairhaven College

Malcolm joined Acera in 2013 as our School Counselor for one year, then served as the Assistant Director of the School for the next five years before shifting to the role of Senior Counselor and, now, Director of Lower School. Malcolm has a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology, is licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist in New York State. For more than 20 years Malcolm worked with youth from birth through age 21 as a founder, director and therapist in foster care and residential treatment programs. As a director in these programs Malcolm was responsible for overseeing all facets of the care being provided for the youth including their education. Malcolm served on a number of professional oversight committees within the foster care system to ensure quality of service, application and integration of evidence based practices and progressive models of care. Malcolm also consulted with the Child Protection Services department to support youth moving up and out of the residential treatment system in a more efficient, effective and less traumatic manner. In addition, Malcolm has also had a private therapy practice for children, youth and adults. Before his graduate degree, Malcolm focused his self-designed bachelors degree on alternative education and human development. At Acera, beyond his work with our students and staff, Malcolm also loves building things to help make our school facilities better. Perhaps Malcolm's favorite part of his day finds him in the lobby greeting every student (and parent) as they enter the school at the start of the day! Aside from his deep experience as a member of the team, Malcolm also has insight into our school as the father of an Acera alumnus. A few lesser known facts about Malcolm include that he is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming, was on the ski patrol at Mount Baker in Washington State for 7 years as a certified Wilderness First Responder, loves cooking and making ceramics, and has been on a four-week silent meditation retreat.

Director of Admissions

Tami Cronin

BSE, Special Education, Bridgewater State University
ADN, North Shore Community College

An Early Childhood Educator and Director for over 35 years – as well as Director of Admissions in independent and private schools for the past two decades – Tami is inspired by each child’s potential and embraces and supports every family in their quest for a school that meets their child’s individual learning needs. “There’s so much joy associated with children and their natural curiosity that I never tire of exciting and meaningful learning experiences focused on their interests. It’s only then that the learning is organic and this is what is found here at Acera!”

With her roots in Maine, Tami enjoys everything outdoors including hiking, beaching, skiing, fishing and animal watching. Her love for musical theater goes back to her childhood and attending a live performance is one of her favorite things to do. Quieter pursuits include enjoying a great read, playing cribbage and a nice walk. Tami and her husband Rick reside on the North Shore and marvel at the fact that they can take in the ocean, the mountains, a lake or the city, all within a short hour’s drive. They have five grown children, 8 grandchildren, and a revolving door for their busy household as family time is her greatest joy.

Director of Finance and Human Resources

Carol Fallon

Shawsheen Valley Technical School
Carol is an experienced finance and operations professional; she comes to Acera from Alcanza Clinical Research, where she served as Director of Finance. She has also held leadership finance positions at a Burlington-based CPA firm, the Boston Institute for Psychotherapy, a global industrial technology company, and a moving and storage company. Carol will work closely with Director of Operations Sara Honeywell on the long-term and day-to-day financial management of our core day school and community-wide enrichment programs.
Director of Operations and Administration

Sara Honeywell

B.M. Music Business, Entrepreneurship Concentration, Berklee College of Music

Sara has a background in Human Resources and Operations Leadership in the for-profit world, and is also a music and fiber arts performer, creator and educator. At Acera, any time she can spend with students is time well spent; she loves seeing what the students here are thinking, creating, and planning to do next. She’s been told by a colleague that she’s a monster* for drinking iced coffee in winter, but that’s a born and raised New Englander for ya.

*colleague stands by her statement.

Director of Upper School

George Papayannis, Ed.M.

Ed.M., School Leadership, Harvard University
M.A., Secondary School Science Education, Columbia University Teachers College
B.S., Architectural Engineering, Drexel University

A deep believer in innovation in education, George is excited not for just any job, but to be at Acera! George brings twenty years of experience in STEM teaching, teacher leadership, and school administration in both public and private schools, including Boston Public Schools, Framingham High School, and the Cathedral School in New York. Prior to entering his career as a teacher and education leader, George worked as an engineer. His educational philosophy is a perfect fit for Acera:

"I believe that education is an empowering experience for people of all ages to learn new things. Educating is hard and takes a tremendous amount of thought and care to design and deliver authentic, purposeful learning experiences. When working with teachers, I emphasize the distinction between teaching and learning and that learning doesn’t necessarily happen despite a teacher’s attempt to teach. It’s important that teachers can defend why they teach what they teach the way they teach it. Everything matters. Their time – and their students’ time – is precious, so it is important that we know what we are doing and why, and share with each other with an open mind to accept feedback that can help us improve learning experiences."

Director of Development & Parent Engagement

Trent Ramsey

B.A. English and Sociology, Birmingham-Southern College
Graduate Certificate in Grant-Writing, Fort Hays State University

An experienced, well-connected fundraiser, Trent joined our school in fall 2016 as Acera’s first Director of Development. Trent has nearly 20 years of fundraising and youth development experience from across the state of Massachusetts in a variety of capacities: as the Director of the Area IV Youth Center in Cambridge, MA, one of the few high poverty pockets of Cambridge; as the State Field Director for the Mass Charter School Association, building community and funding collaborations for the 60 charter schools in the state; and as the Director of Strategic Advancement for the Lowell Community Charter Public School, focusing on capacity building for the largely ELL-populated school. Before landing in Massachusetts, Trent founded and served as executive director for 11 years of a youth service nonprofit in Alabama that focused on bringing young people from different backgrounds together to engage in community service and social justice work.

Student Support Program Manager & School Counselor

Eileen Sauer, BCBA, LABA

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 individuals with autism, as a clinical director specializing in working with students with anxiety and inflexibility. She really loves talking with kids of all ages about their interests and sharing her interests with others, which include video games, art, and gemology. Eileen grew up in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, where she currently lives with her husband John, her sons Lincoln (Link) and Leo, and her cats (Mato and Oro).

Director of Education & Innovation (AceraEI)

Sarah Zuckerman, Ed.M.

M.Ed Harvard University, focus in Arts in Education, Recipient of the Urban Scholars Fellowship
B.A.Ed Indiana University, Indiana

An urban public school graduate, Sarah’s life has been dedicated to giving all students high-quality education. Prior to her work in education leadership and program design, she was an art teacher in K-12 classrooms for 10 years, she has taught in the lowest- and highest-performing urban public schools. Sarah has worked on numerous policy issues advocating for students and has received numerous awards for her work, including Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Urban Scholars Fellowship and the Sontag Prize for Urban Education, and has had works published by Education Leadership, Ed Week, and Americans for the Arts.

Administration

Marketing and Public Relations Manager

Kerry Crisley

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 marketing leadership roles 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, Annual Report, 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.

Enrichment Program Manager

Ryan Cutter

M.S., Management, Lasell University
B.A., Sport Management, Lasell University

Ryan Cutter joined Acera School in the winter of 2023, as the Enrichment Program Manager. Ryan spent the last year working at Sparhawk School as the Director of Marketing and Community Engagement. He designed and coordinated all internal and external marketing materials for two campuses, PreK-12, and all silos of the school. Ryan organized and oversaw all of Sparhawk's outsourced afterschool/summer programming and community events throughout the year.

A graduate from Lasell University, Ryan received his undergraduate degree in Sport Management and received his Masters in Management. During his time at Lasell he began coaching and directing at Skyhawks Sports camps, while also balancing an internship at Harvard University in the Sports Marketing department. Ryan spent the majority of his free time creating websites for companies and running his own website. He was able to build a following of more than 10,000 on his social media pages.

Born and raised in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Ryan spent his early childhood playing soccer and soon added track to his arsenal when in High School. Being a 3-sport captain and assistant PE Teacher, Ryan transitioned his love for athletics and youth into a career path.

Ryan has gone on to help out with 2018 NCAA D1 Basketball East Regional Finals, ACC Indoor Track and Field Championships, Liverpool FC International Soccer Academy, and received the 2018 Lasell Univeristy’s Club of the Year award for his dedication to the Lasell University Sport Management Association as the Director of Marketing. With close to 5 years of experience at Skyhawks Sports overseeing youth sports afterschool/summer programs for over 6,000 2-14yrs old annually across New England, Ryan is passionate about creating more opportunities for the students here at Acera.

Facilities Manager

Kevin Duval

B.S., Wentworth Institute of Technology

After 20 years as a Senior Design and Construction Project Manager for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, Kevin accepted a company-wide early retirement offering and joined Acera. The opportunity for more hands-on work – and to be a mentor for inquisitive students – drew Kevin to this role, and he’s looking forward to enhancing the lives of our students and helping to expand the mission of the school. Kevin lives in North Reading with his wife, youngest son, and his son’s girlfriend. He rebuilds old cars with his son, and they enjoy winter hiking in the White Mountains as a family.

Math Curriculum Coordinator

Viktor Grigoryan, Ph.D.

Ph.D., M.S., University of Massachusetts, Amherst
B.S., Yerevan State University, Yerevan, Armenia

Viktor is a Math educator who has taught at elementary, secondary and tertiary levels. His vision of the role of the teacher is that of a guide in support of students' own explorations, which can and frequently do follow non-linear paths. Being a problem-solver and tinkerer at heart, there is nothing more joyful to Viktor in his career as an educator than collaborating with students to troubleshoot and resolve their educational entanglements and discovering new and exciting learning adventures for everyone. He believes that Math education should not only be greatly useful and deeply purposeful, but also profoundly enriching for the students.

Languages, music, hiking and play are among his non-professional passions. Outside of the school, Viktor can be frequently found on the ice - playing or coaching hockey (during the season), or on two wheels - cycling away (during the off-season).

Alumni Relations & Events Coordinator

Alice Neville

B.A. Communications, Boston College

Alice is a seasoned Executive Assistant with over 25 years in account service and business development. Her experience has spanned the advertising and public relations fields, consulting firms, veterinary hospitals, and childcare organizations. Alice has also launched and managed her own dog walking business, which she grew to more than 40 clients, and is a volunteer at the Perkins School for the blind. In her spare time, Alice enjoys cooking, movies, and attending live theatre and music events. When the weather cooperates, you’ll likely find Alice at the ocean! She has three cats – Bud, Lou and Tony – and loves hanging out with her daughter Kathryn.

Executive Assistant

Pei Ng

B.S., Deakin University, Victoria, Australia

I enjoy supporting teachers, staff and students through many little ways! Being at the front desk, I get many questions each day and those from the little ones just makes my day! Outside of school, I love going for nature walks with my family.

Technology Educator and Manager

David Olson, M.Ed.

M.Ed. Lesley University
B.A. Anthropology, University of Massachusetts

David is the creator and mentor of Acera’s TechHub, the facilitator of various “respectful disassembly” Creativity Stations – in which students can take apart technology to better understand it – and a sought-after mentor and content coach for technology-related IMPp projects. Formerly the Network and Systems Engineer for WGBH and Bike Mechanic at Laughing Alley Bicycles, David loves the hands-on approach to learning at Acera. You’ll frequently find him repairing, refurbishing, or repurposing pretty much anything electronic or mechanical and digging into the history of technology with students. When not at school, David keeps busy building, making, and designing all sorts of things, mushroom hunting, night driving, and gaming with his teen.

Teacher Mentor

Sarah Slubowski, M.Ed.

M.Ed., Harvard University Graduate School of Education
B.A., Trinity College

Sarah is an experienced educator (10 + years in independent schools), with a love for children, a creative and engaging approach to teaching, and a passion for coaching and supporting her peers. Sarah joined Acera as a Math Block Teacher, emphasizing hands-on learning and working with children’s interests as the basis for inquiry. Through a child-constructed approach to teaching and an atmosphere of trust, warmth, and curiosity, Sarah maximized students’ intellectual engagement and enjoyment in the classroom. Her role at Acera has now grown into that of a Teacher Mentor; Sarah supports our elementary Core Teachers and Math Block Teachers by sharing strategies, stepping in to offer support, and through thoughtful coaching and collaboration. Sarah helps our teachers by supporting their individual growth, while building on their strengths. She also places an emphasis on the whole child as a unique individual and believes that differentiated instruction and tending to students’ social and emotional growth are vital in the classroom.

AceraEI

AceraEI is the public outreach division of Acera. The EI team partners with teachers and school/district leaders to cultivate a love of learning in students through choice, voice, agency, and hands-on STEAM learning in public schools.

Director of Education & Innovation

Sarah Zuckerman, Ed.M.

Ed.M. Harvard University, focus in Arts in Education, Recipient of the Urban Scholars Fellowship
B.A.Ed Indiana University, Indiana

An urban public school graduate, Sarah’s life has been dedicated to giving all students high-quality education. Prior to her work in education leadership and program design, she was an art teacher in K-12 classrooms for 10 years, she has taught in the lowest- and highest-performing urban public schools. Sarah has worked on numerous policy issues advocating for students and has received numerous awards for her work, including Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Urban Scholars Fellowship and the Sontag Prize for Urban Education, and has had works published by Education Leadership, Ed Week, and Americans for the Arts.

Education & Innovation Program Manager

Irina Uk, Ed.M.

Ed.M. Technology, Innovation and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education
M.S. Applied Mathematics, DePaul University
B.S. Mathematical Sciences and B.S.C. Finance, DePaul University

Irina Uk is a teacher, a curriculum creator, and educational change agent. She joins Acera from Boston Public Schools, where she taught mathematics to 6th through 8th graders. Irina is adept at using design interventions, multi-model, and multi-disciplinary supplemental lessons to engage and meet the needs of all learners, and she is experienced in building partnerships with education and research institutions. As AceraEI’s Program Manager, Irina will help bring Acera’s innovative approach to K-12 education to more public schools in Massachusetts and beyond.

Our Board of Directors

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.

Chair

Holly Whittemore, C.P.A

Chief Operations Officer, Dunad Therapeutics

Treasurer

Richard J. Morello, M.B.A.

President, Life Sciences Division Aptus Health

Richard Colvin, M.D.

Chief Medical Officer, Bluebird Bio

Courtney Dickinson, B.A.

Founder & Head of School, Acera

David Grayzel, M.D.

Partner, Atlas Venture

Jane Moulding, A.L.M.

Principal, SmarterWisdom Consulting
Former Head of School, The Cambridge School of Weston

Diane Rosenberg

Former Head of School, The Nueva School