Why did we start Slope School?
Matt & Maria Clayton, Laura & Jeff Sandefer | June 2018
Eight years ago, we found a school that changed our lives forever. While researching at Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen's think tank, we discovered Acton Academy — a hands-on learning laboratory for young people.
What got our attention about this school? The humanness of it. It didn't quite feel like a school; it felt like a workshop run by young people, with brilliant design and storyline that made it possible.
These were 6, 7, and 8 year olds who were acting like adults. They managed their time responsibly. They kindly assisted each other when in need. They were passionate about their work, and did the hard thing of holding each other accountable, even friends. These young people knew they were heroes on a Hero's Journey.
Fast forward several years and we were deeply involved — Matt as the Chief Operating Officer for Acton Academy, and his sister Heather with her five children enrolled in the school.
In the years since, we have dreamed of bringing Acton Academy to our mountain home of Utah. That time has finally come, and the first Slope School will open near the mouth of Provo Canyon in Fall 2019.
Thank you for letting us share this journey with you. We can't wait to see what our community of young people can build.
Matt & Maria Clayton - Provo, Utah, November 2018Schedule a Call
Slope School is located in Utah County near the mouth of Provo Canyon. Here, young people are surrounded by the natural beauty of Utah’s mountains as well as the economic growth of Silicon Slopes companies like Vivint, Qualtrics, Chatbooks, and Imagine Learning. The opportunities for mountain adventures and apprenticeships are nearly endless!
Co-Founder & Head of School
Matt Clayton is the Founder and Head of School of Slope School, a K-12 independent school in Provo, Utah, and former Chief Operating Officer of Acton Academy, hailed by the US Education Secretary as a leading example of education innovation.
Matt's background blends creative and technical fields, in music, economics, and finance. He studied internationally as a teenager, graduating as valedictorian of the American School of Buenos Aires. While in college, he was a researcher and author at Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen’s think tank.
After working as a stock market analyst at Goldman Sachs, Matt joined Jeff and Laura Sandefer to build Acton Academy. As the COO of Acton Academy, he led growth of this new school model from 8 schools to over 100 in 25 states and 20 countries. In this, Matt assembled a team of 15 people and led development of 12,000 pages of original project curriculum, three custom software platforms, and the playbooks to equip new teachers and school leaders for success.
Matt founded Slope School in 2018 with his wife Maria to bring this magical learning environment to their Utah mountain home. Matt and Maria are the parents of two daughters and love to ski, run, and play music together.
Maria Dance Clayton enjoys a dual career as a classical violinist and as a mother of two adorable daughters. Motivated by their love for their own children, Maria and her husband Matt have founded Slope School, an independent K-12 school in Provo, Utah, opening Fall 2019.
Professionally, Maria enjoys a love for performing, recording, and teaching. She has performed with or recorded for Andrea Bocelli, James Taylor, Michael Buble, Josh Groban, Itzhak Perlman, Alfie Boe, and the Transiberian Orchestra, among others. She has performed regularly with the Utah Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Hawaii Opera Theater, Austin, Symphony, and Ballet West. Teaching has brought her across the ocean to BYU Hawaii as Adjunct Professor of Violin and Chamber Music.
Maria looks at her high school years as the most formative time in her musical journey, when she often found herself practicing 5 hours a day, and spent 6 weeks in the Adirondacks studying at the Meadowmount School of Music and a month in Milan as a 13-year-old at "Oberlin in Italy."
Maria and her family recently moved back to Salt Lake City from Austin, Texas. Her hobbies include trail running, skiing, and soccer. She recently checked the Coeur d'Alene Ironman off her bucket list.
Heather Staker is the founder and president of Ready to Blend, a mission-driven training firm that prepares leaders and teachers to design and implement blended-learning environments that improve the achievement and well-being of K-12 students. She is the co-author of the Amazon bestseller Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools (San Francisco: Wiley, 2015), as well as the companion book, The Blended Workbook (San Francisco: Wiley, 2017). She has appeared on radio and television and in legislative hearings nationwide as a spokesperson for student-centered learning.
Heather is also the co-founder of Brain Chase Productions, which develops and produces online-learning adventure challenges disguised as worldwide treasure hunts for children and adults.
Prior to these roles, Heather was a senior research fellow for the Clayton Christensen Institute and a strategy consultant for McKinsey & Company. She served for one year as the student member of the California State Board of Education during Governor Pete Wilson's administration, taught U.S. history as a teaching fellow at Harvard College, founded a co-op preschool, and marketed Oil of Olay for Proctor & Gamble.
She holds a BA magna cum laude in government from Harvard University and an MBA with distinction from the Harvard Business School. She is the mother of five children and lives in Austin, Texas.
Jeff Sandefer lives a dual life as an entrepreneur and a Socratic Guide. As an entrepreneur, he founded his first company at age 16 and went on to found or co-found seven successful businesses. As a Socratic teacher at the University of Texas, Jeff’s students five times voted him the school’s Outstanding Teacher and Businessweek named him one of the top Entrepreneurship professors in America.
Jeff went on to co-found the Acton School of Business, an MBA program perennially ranked by the Princeton Review among the best in the nation. In 2012 The Economist honored him as one of the top fifteen Business School professors in the world.
Jeff is a graduate of the Harvard Business School, where he served for over twenty years on the school’s governing committees. He was a longtime director of the Philanthropy Roundtable and National Review magazine and one of the youngest members ever elected to the Texas Business Hall of Fame.
Laura lived on both US coasts and in between as a child, then settled into Vanderbilt University for her undergraduate studies in the College of Arts and Science. After being awarded the highly competitive Walter Wattles Fellowship at Lloyd’s of London, Laura worked in the aviation insurance industry in New York City.
Deciding to follow her calling into the world of education, Laura returned to Nashville and earned her Master of Education at Peabody College. This led her to her work at the Oklahoma Arts Institute, creating fine arts education programs for teachers and talented high school students.
Laura married Jeff Sandefer and is the happy mother of Sam and Charlie and step-mother to Taite. It is the inspiration of these children that led Laura and Jeff to co-found Acton Academy.
Her greatest hero is her mother who was a Master Teacher. Her wisest mentor is her father who sent her off to college with two words of advice: "Be curious."
Our promises to your child:
He or she will:
- Begin a Hero’s Journey.
- Learn to be a curious, independent, lifelong learner.
- Develop a deep respect for economic, political and religious freedoms.
- Cherish the arts, wonders of the physical world and the mysteries of life on Earth.
- Discover his or her most precious gifts and learn to use them to solve difficult problems.
- We believe each child has a gift that can change the world in a profound way.
- We believe in a closely connected family of lifelong learners.
- We believe in learning to learn, learning to do, and learning to be.
- We believe in economic, religious, and political freedom.