Staff Spotlight

Staff Spotlight: Meet Anastasia Leyden

By June 27, 2024No Comments

My favorite thing about teaching at Acera is the ever-present opportunity for connection and learning with children, and my favorite student question is one that can be answered with: “I don’t know, let’s find out!”

Anastasia has been a teacher for 11 years, following a decade in medical writing and an undergraduate degree in comparative literature, past experiences she leverages to create curricula that interweave science and the humanities and engage students in the deep systems-thinking that is a hallmark of Acera.

One of her favorite classroom themes centers on the concepts of trade and piracy, integrating experiential learning around history, science, and economics to explore the essential question “How do societies create and assign value?”

An interesting discovery students made in their research into piracy was that much of the “treasure” that pirates found on captured ships consisted of items that people today might consider mundane. That inspired students to ask the overarching question “What makes something valuable?” during an investigation into the New England fur trade. Anastasia’s students learned about basic economic concepts, like the relationship between price and supply and demand, opportunity cost, and different types of economic systems by completing non-fiction readings from Economics for Beginners and news articles. 

In true “learn by doing” fashion, students participated in trade simulations, starting with small items that might be found in a classroom: fidgets, washi tape, new pencils, and fancy erasers. After several rounds, the students determined that what one person finds valuable, another may not; that common items felt less valuable; and that if you start with a low value item, it can be much harder to “trade up” – lessons that have practical applications in the real world. All along the way, students felt motivated to take on Anastasia’s customized coaching into their writing and to develop their powers of persuasive argument!

Anastasia earned an M.Ed. from Lesley University, and a B.A. from Williams College. In her free time, she explores the world vicariously through books and first-hand through travel and scuba diving.


Anastasia’s students read The Whydah as part of their theme exploration.