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My name is Rob Orlando, one of two co-founders of Liberty Leadership, a K-8 private school in Bel Air, Maryland. In 2004 I walked away from a career in education. I loved teaching, and my experiences in elementary and middle school are some of the most rewarding of my life, but the whole time I was there I couldn’t escape the feeling of hypocrisy. I didn’t believe in the curriculum we were being forced to teach, and yet I would go through the motions and do it anyway. How would rote memorization, absorbing lectures from an adult, and learning to obey really prepare children for the future?

So I walked away from education to pursue a career in computer science. I left the traditional model behind; or so I thought. Flash forward to 2017, and life had given Kim and me three amazing boys. As parents living in the day and age of unlimited possibilities, we did not want my children learning how to become factory workers. We’d look at what our boys were learning, and while it appeared like success on the surface, the reality was we couldn’t draw parallels between the curriculum and what would bring them joy and opportunity later in life. Like all parents, we want our children to experience the best life has to offer, and the dots just weren’t connecting. The scary part was where we did connect the dots. While we were fortunate to work with some incredible people over the past decade, they weren’t the majority. The majority feared change, required concrete instructions, had a victim’s mindset, and lacked the ability to apply creativity and abstract thinking to develop innovative solutions. Those dots we could connect, and we did not want our children to suffer the same fate.

I didn’t know what to do, but I had to do something. Not just for my children, but for other children as well. As a coach of youth sports for over a decade, I wanted something better for my players also. During that time, I learned how making practices fun and competitive while weaving in a foundation of character, chemistry, and leadership created high-performers who excelled as a team. I kept asking myself, “Isn’t that what they should be learning? Why can’t education do the same?” Realizing this wasn’t going to happen on it’s own, I finally decided to act; I decided to start a school here in Harford County.

But how would I even start a school? I had no idea. So I did what every good engineer does: I Googled it. And there it was, “Join the education revolution: start an Acton today.” I had no idea what this was, but having nowhere else to go yet, I decided to “follow the white rabbit.” Where it took me was beyond anything I could imagine. In truth, it started me on my own Hero’s Journey. And along the way, my journey connected me with Nathan and Jessica Ottensmeyer and their two children. I’ll let them tell you their story, but I will say this: Nathan, Jessica, Kim, and I are honored to bring the Acton model in the form of the Liberty Leadership to Harford County.

Rob Orlando, Co-Founder / Administrative Head



I firmly believe that Liberty Leadership embodies a learner-driven, student-led education model that prepares future leaders. I’m thrilled with the chance to be part of the school as Master Guide in the Elementary Studio. Everyone is on a Hero’s Journey, but it doesn’t mean we travel alone.

Growing up in a small, rural, farming community provided the backdrop for me to explore the world. I developed a lifelong curiosity through watching the agriculture and animals around me. I have always loved to read, travel and learn as much as possible about the world. My desire to help others fostered my passion for social justice. It led me to study sociology with a focus on community and urban development. It directed my path towards an internship at Inner City Law Center in Los Angeles to work on Skid Row. It inspired me to join the Peace Corps, where I served as a 9th grade English teacher for 2 years in a rural school in Chinhamapere, Mozambique.

After my Peace Corps service, I worked for some NGOs, taught in a bilingual program at the French School of Maputo, lived in Paris and worked as an online English instructor while improving French language skills and learning French culture, started a successful consulting company in Maputo that specialized in bespoke curriculums to meet clients’ personal interests and objectives with real world applications.

Before I moved back to the area in January 2018, I had been planning to open a school in Mozambique. When I discovered Acton, I was elated that the school was offering an education model I support. I couldn’t wait to find out if they had space for me to join their team. Luckily, I was offered the Master Guide position and eagerly anticipate tremendous learning opportunities with the Heroes at Liberty Leadership.

Alexis Cole, Master Guide


As a parent of two young children, education is a topic that is near and dear to me. My daughter, Alex, is seven years old and currently dreams of becoming a chef and restaurateur. My son, Kaleb, is an energetic, inquisitive soul who has the mind of an engineer. While no one can say for sure what they will actually do when they grow up, I believe their dreams will be best served at an innovative school where the focus isn’t on standardized tests but on learning to be, learning to do, and learning to learn. I am beyond excited to be a Guide at Liberty Leadership where I will have the privilege of helping all of our young

learners to develop real-life skills and begin their own hero’s journey.

My own journey began in a small town in Indiana. It was a pleasant place to grow up, but I always longed to see the world. With that in mind, I earned a dual B.A. in International Studies and East Asian Languages and Cultures at Indiana University. After college, I learned to adapt and thrive in various locations across the country and around the globe as I supported my husband’s career in the Army. I found inspiring work everywhere I went, from caring for children with disabilities in Washington state, to teaching English as a Second Language in Louisiana, and most recently supporting the Army’s Child Youth School Services (CYSS) in Italy. It wasn’t the path I had planned on, but it was the one I was meant to find. My work and volunteer experiences sparked my interest in education, and my own children cemented my desire to become part of Liberty Leadership.

Katie Hanson, Guide


OUR MISSION

Our Mission is to guide each and every person who enters our doors to find a calling that will change the world.

OUR BELIEFS

  • 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 by knowing, learning by doing and learning by being.
  • We believe in economic, religious, and political freedom.

If you’d like to learn more about our story, of if you’d like to start your own Acton, order the book Courage to Grow.

“Acton is one of the most important education developments in the world. The story behind the ideas, the school, and the movement is a must read.”

–Tom Van der Ark, CEO of Getting Smart

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