Studios and Staff

Spark Studio Students

Amanda Mercer

Spark Guide

Amanda is local to the area and grew up in Granite Bay, at a time when there were sprawling fields of tall grasses, towering oaks, and crawdad inhabited ravines. Her childhood days were spent frolicking these woods, catching handfuls of frogs, climbing trees, running lemonade stands, and casting the neighborhood children in the plays she wrote.

As she grew older, she became the neighborhood babysitter and then a full time nanny, an experience that greatly impacted the trajectory of her life. Her observations of young children and her own sense of curiosity led her down a path of discovery and she explored different educational systems. She found Waldorf Education and fell in love with this alternative form of education that preserved childhood, nurtured the natural sense of wonder and curiosity within children, while utilizing the arts to strengthen the creative process necessary for children to discover their own gifts and fulfill their destiny.

Amanda attended a two year full time Waldorf teaching training program at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks. She then joined the Live Oak Waldorf School Community in Meadow Vista, California. Amanda held positions where she worked with children from infancy through early adolescence. Her curiosity was sparked again when she discovered Acton Academy and she is excited to bring her Waldorf background to create a learner driven environment in the Spark Studio this year. Amanda truly believes that each child has their own unique gift to offer the world.

Amanda is an artist, a yogi, a trail runner and a perpetual learner. She joins Acton Academy with her two daughters, Camille and Ambrose. As a family they love to cook together, create art, wander the woods, and swim in the river near their home in Auburn, California.

Spark Studio Students

Michelle Wonders

Threshold Guide

Michelle Wonders has built her life around doing what she loves and this next chapter is ready to take flight here at Acton. Her love for inspiring children grew from a young age when she was the neighborhood babysitter, summer camp counselor, and Jr. Teacher in her high school ROP Careers with Children courses. Michelle received her teaching credential from CSU Sacramento in 2008 and married her college sweetheart that same year. They now have three beautiful children, two of whom are crazy excited to attend Acton with her this year.

Over the last 13 years, Michelle has taught TK and First Grade at two different private schools in the area and has more recently had the pleasure of homeschooling her children along with many of the neighborhood kids in her home during these unique times. These recent experiences in education alone have led her to realize that there is so much more out there for young learners.

While not on campus you can find Michelle mountain biking with her family, practicing yoga by the lake, cooking and exploring new restaurants with friends, or hanging out with all the neighbors during monthly block parties in her small neighborhood in Loomis.

Chara Hubbard

Threshold Guide

Chara was raised in Sacramento, California. She attended Rio Americano High school and went on to graduate from Sacramento State University where she played volleyball and earned a degree in Early Childhood Education. During her college years, Chara spent time tutoring children at a local women and children’s shelter and thrived on knowing she was making a difference in the lives of young people. Chara has been blessed with two beautiful children (Hanna 9yr Marshall 7yr) and is bound and determined to raise children who are happy, kind, self-reliant, and resilient. After realizing that the public education system was not the right fit for her children, Chara enrolled her children in Acton Academy and was so passionate about their experience that she decided to continue on her hero’s journey as part of the Acton team!

When not at Acton, you can find Chara paddle boarding, gardening, and keeping active with her family.

Spark Studio Students

Andrew Garewal

Discovery Guide

Andrew has come to Acton Academy after spending the past three years at Leroy Greene Academy in Natomas as a teacher in the Entrepreneurship Pathway. There he created a variety of innovative programs focused on student engagement and design thinking. In partnering with local entrepreneurs, he provided students the opportunity to explore startup culture and support the launch of their own ventures.

Andrew spent 15 years in sales and marketing within corporate and small-business environments. Given his professional experience, he provided a much needed business and entrepreneurial perspective to traditional education. Having shown to be an innovative educator, Andrew was recruited to a pilot program offered at the University of the Pacific with the goal of disrupting the traditional model of education through entrepreneurship. Andrew will be graduating in the Spring of 2021 with his Master’s in Educational Entrepreneurship.

Andrew brings his love of creativity to the studios at Acton in a myriad of ways. His expertise in technology and design have aided in the launching of a 3D Print and Tech Labs. He enjoys guiding heroes through exploration of art, engineering and creative design.

Outside of the studio, Andrew participates in a variety of art, design and start-up competitions. He enjoys coaching high school baseball and is eager to grow the sports programs within Acton Academy.


Katie Murray

Head of Program

Katie came to Acton Placer at its inception in July 2017 after graduating from CSUS with a B.A. in Child and Human Development with a concentration in Cognitive Development. While attending CSUS, she studied and worked with Qualitative Researcher and Developmentalist Dr. Lynda Stone as her videographer. She personally helped Dr. Stone collect data for the articles she was writing exploring children's cognitive development. In 2013 she also began to work at the after-school program that Dr. Stone had created, which was based on similar philosophies as the Acton model. She has experience in working with groups of children that vary in age, collaborating together on a project-based learning system, with the instructors acting as a guide. It was this experience, coupled with her experience working as a Teaching Assistant in 2015 for Dr. Stone that really set her passion towards wanting to change how we educate young heroes. After graduation, it was all about finding the right fit for Katie.

After spending a year teaching in a traditional school, Katie knew there had to be something better out there that she could be a part of. She heard about Acton through a Ted Talk and pursued a career from there and has now found her home at Acton.

Katie started as the Threshold Guide in Roseville for four years, moved to the Lincoln campus to start the Sparks Studio, and is now at the Sacramento campus to offer support to the families and Guides. Her greatest desire is for the Acton model to spread throughout the Placer/Sacramento area, freeing heroes from the restraints and limitations that are currently their options for education, and allowing young people to be the geniuses they are.

While Katie is not in the studio, she enjoys going on adventures. She and her family can be seen hiking, kayaking, bike riding, camping, dancing, and doing yoga! Katie and her husband love to travel and plan to take their three children to see the world.

Kelsy Blyakherov

Co-founder / President

Kelsy has been working for Acton Academy since the Fall of 2014. Acton Academy and the Hero's Journey is something that she believes every child and adult should have the opportunity to be a part of.

Being the President of the company not only means working with young heroes on campus but with the families, Heads of Programs, and Guides of the heroes, as well.

Kelsy also has experience working in multi-age classrooms with highly individualizing curricula and enjoys the challenge of meeting the needs of each child. Working with blended studios and helping foster relationships makes the day-to-day exciting. Witnessing the growth of the children keeps her passionate about her work.

She worked at the San Francisco Schoolhouse for several years and in the summer months, she worked at Live Oak Elementary as the Lead K-1 Summer School Teacher, also located in the Bay Area.

Kelsy attended San Francisco State University for her college years, obtaining her B.A in Liberal Studies- with an Elementary Teaching Emphasis. Outside of the studio, you may find Kelsy living the awesome life of a wife and mama. She enjoys traveling, running, and camping.

"The thought of a learning environment that incorporates active learning, includes all the senses, and emphasizes a pursuit personalized to your individual gifts, sounds amazing. What kid doesn't deserve that?"