Experience how Greenfields Academy is transforming education, in the words of students, staff, and parents.

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Our Story

Rob Huge and family.

There has to be a better way.

After spending six months homeschooling my four kids while traveling in Central America, I couldn’t bear to put them back into traditional school. The rows of desks, fill-in-the-blank worksheets, one-size-fits-all curriculum, constant high-stakes testing, and the immense amounts of wasted time and lost potential were too much. That’s where Greenfields started.

I wanted to build a school that restored autonomy to schools, and honored the students, families and communities that it serves. I wanted to revolutionize education – to create a true, viable, and affordable alternative to the traditional school system.

I looked for schools that start with each child’s unique talents, passions and curiosity; that didn’t judge but empowered and strengthened, honing thinking and building character. I needed to create a school where failure is embraced as a learning opportunity and pushing past limits is expected. The graduates of this school would be prepared to tackle the challenges of the future while leading full, happy lives, profoundly rich with meaning and purpose.

There is a better way.

I believe we have found that better way. I hope that after learning about Greenfields Academy, you will send your children and delight in what they can do and who they can become. Together we can reinvent education for a better, brighter future.

Sincerely,

Rob Huge
Founder

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Chicago Campus

Greenfields Academy is located at 3232 N Elston Ave in Chicago, IL.

Our promises to your child

They will:

  • Begin a Hero’s Journey.
  • Learn to be a curious, independent, life-long 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 their most precious gifts and learn to use them to solve difficult problems.

Our Team

Rob Huge
Founder and Head of School

Rob has 20+ years of experience opening and growing educational centers. He has run everything from test preparation centers to groups of regionally accredited colleges. After a six-month adventure in homeschooling his family in Central America, he was convinced there was a better way to prepare children for their futures. Rob and his wife Christine are the proud parents of four kids including three Greenfields students.

Maggie Baker
Office Manager

Maggie brings a wide range of informal education experiences to the Greenfields team, from teaching children’s theater to guiding at science centers. She believes that discovery and exploration are key components to any child’s education. Maggie is currently pursuing a Master’s of Education at DePaul University. In addition to her education background, she brings a wealth of administrative knowledge gained from her work in museums and universities. When she’s not at Greenfields, Maggie enjoys sewing, going to the movies, and playing trivia.

Rebecca Penzick
Guide

Becca earned her Masters in Early Childhood Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2012. The notion that children construct their own knowledge through exploration and play, while being guided and supported from others, was a strong focus in her graduate coursework. She is thrilled to bring her years of experience working with elementary-aged children to a school that fosters project-based learning, social emotional intelligence, and authentic community-building. When Becca isn’t wrapped up in the world of education, you can expect to find her caring for her menagerie of animals, exploring in nearby LaBagh Woods, tending to her jungle of plants, enjoying the company of friends, or watching a movie.

Ishita Bhama
Guide

Working with people to help them to be their best and follow their passions is what Ishita strives to do in her life. She has done this through experiences as a nanny, student teacher in CPS, daycare teacher, improv teacher, and meditation teacher. Her enthusiasm for working with children led her to get her Masters in Education from DePaul University. She has also earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Loyola University of Chicago. To Ishita, children are creative, inspiring, and have much they can share and teach the world. When not at Greenfields, Ishita can be found out on the town taking meditation classes, cultivating her love for writing, or watching a play at a local Chicago theatre.

Pawel Kowalczyk
Guide

A dedicated and practiced lifelong learner, Pawel majored in Engineering and Computer Science, and then spent the years after grad school running a small custom-made clothing company, where he taught himself everything from customer relations to photography to sewing before switching careers again. In 2015, Pawel became one of the founding members of Bit Space, helping shape the culture and content at Chicago’s premier maker space for kids and teens. Though there were many, many high points of his time there, his proudest work was the Inter-Act summer camp: week-long project intensives where students aged 9 to 16 used the wood shop, coding, electronics, game making, and more to create a mixed reality interactive experience. Those amazing weeks showed him that kids are capable of so much more than people commonly give them credit for, and spurred his interest in full-time education. He speaks Polish, Japanese, and German, and about a half dozen computer languages. He is excited to bring his experience as a designer, maker, polymath, and unapologetic nerd to the classroom. When not teaching, Pawel enjoys playing and designing board games, collecting fancy beers, listening to audiobooks, and watching eclectic movies.

DJ DeGayner
Guide

DJ’s enthusiasm for creative education is based in guiding artists of all ages through the independent exploration of visual design. He moved to Chicago to complete his Bachelor in Fine Arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he focused his studies on millinery, fashion, and graphic design. DJ established his teaching practice by designing curricula and teaching programs for After School Matters, Marwen and Lillstreet from 2014 to 2019. He believes that art is fundamental in youth development, and the key to growth lies in showing students that there isn’t only one way to be creative. DJ has personal experience with triumphing over learning disabilities and being a non-traditional learner, and his memories of growing up with these challenges help provide unique insight into his guiding. When DJ isn’t at Greenfields, he is at home cooking new recipes, designing hats, and thrifting.

Emily Heck
After School Adventure Guide

Originally from Madison, WI, Emily relocated to Chicago in 2017 after graduating from Oberlin College in Ohio with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Education. She has worked with young people in many capacities including babysitting, camp counseling, leading wilderness trips, literacy and math tutoring, teaching movement classes and assisting in a pre-k classroom during college. Emily was most recently a first grade teacher here in Chicago and is excited about continuing to develop her approach to teaching, learning and collaborating. She is passionate about working with young people in creative ways that allow children's voices, curiosities and passions to be nurtured! While not teaching, Emily can be found exploring Chicago neighborhoods, cooking, and working on her handmade earrings business!

Aimee Skinner
Special Projects

Aimee brings with her not only a master’s degree in education, but valuable experience as a director of a cooperative preschool and a high school teacher. Aimee was instrumental in helping bring Greenfields to life and continues to be excited about the student-driven curriculum. Her family agrees, as her twins are both graduates of Greenfields! She supports Greenfields in a variety of ways in order to help our community become everything it can be.

Advisory Board

Jeff Sandefer
Advisor
Co-Founder Acton Academy

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 Sandefer
Advisor
Co-Founder Acton Academy

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."

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Andrea Breech Hunt

Andrea has devoted her life to helping others reach their full potential. As a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology she has helped people achieve mindful whole-body health through her private practice for 15 years and via a college counseling center for 10 years. She is a mother of two boys and a complete liver of life. She brings her experience and zest to Greenfields Academy as our expert in psychology. Whether it’s guiding us with a specific child, bringing intentionality and mindfulness to our community or informing us on the latest in positive psychology research, she will help make sure that each child becomes the best version of them self.

Michael Herman

Michael invites people and ideas to come together in new and powerful ways. His traditional educational trajectory culminated in an MBA at the University of Chicago, but his last 25 years of professional practice as an internationally recognized community process specialist, is rooted in the learning he did as both student and instructor with Outward Bound USA. As our community process partner, Michael brings passion and practical support for open exploration, breakthrough learning and innovation, emergent organization, and cultivating community spirit. Together we’ll give shape to “self-directed” learning where the “self” is the school community, our individual households, and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Kim Round

Dr. Round loves technology and education. That may be an understatement. She holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, M.A. in Educational Technology Leadership, Ed.S. in Computing Technology in Education, and a Ph.D. in Computing Technology in Education. She did her dissertation on cloud-based learning management systems. Her constant immersion in ed tech is great for us. She advises us not only on back-end operations systems, but keeps us up-to-date on new adaptive software breakthroughs. Kim Round is the Director of Instructional Technology at Saint Anselm College.

Carolyn Nordstrom

Carolyn has spent her life in and around education. She was the first in her family to attend college and apparently she liked it – all told, she earned a B.S. in Secondary Education, a M.A. in Counseling Psychology and a Ph.D. in Education Administration and Policy, all from Northwestern University. She followed up her studies with significant teaching and administrative roles. Her classroom experience and deep knowledge of how people learn has led many teachers to seek out her guidance and advice. Carolyn will help us identify and mentor great Guides while ensuring we stay grounded in proven cognitive science methods and use the best in assessments. She is currently acting as the President of Bauder College.

"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?"

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Hi, I'm Rob Huge. 👋

I'm the Founder & Head of School at Greenfields Academy

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