Courtney Dickinson, Founder and Executive Director
B.A., Dartmouth College
Leadership & Company Culture Consultant/Culture Architect, Sapient Corporation
Courtney Dickinson is a passionate educator with a strong belief in public service and innovation in education. Initially certified as a teacher, Courtney spent the first 15 years of her career as a culture architect and leadership consultant for high-growth organizations. After seeing her own son encounter limitations in his education, Courtney realized that in order to get the teaching environment she envisioned, she had to build a school from scratch.
Today, the Acera School is now a microcosm of what is possible in education: early and deep exposure to STEM, individual learning plans for every child, an eclectic blend of pedagogy that empowers teachers to create environments of discovery, authentic engagement, learning, and growth in their classrooms, and partnerships with scientific thought leaders in Greater Boston to link learning to real innovations and the challenges of our time.
In 2016, Courtney launched Acera Education Innovations (AceraEI), a public outreach division dedicated to helping public schools transform STEM education by providing access to and training in Acera’s “Tools to Transform Schools.” As AceraEI’s executive director, Courtney leads partnerships with public school districts to define the right curricula, tools, and school success dashboard measures that will transform student experiences at school.
C. Trent Ramsey, Director of Development and AceraEI
B.A. English and Sociology, Birmingham-Southern College
Graduate Certificate in Grant-Writing, Fort Hays State University
An experienced, well-connected fundraiser, Trent joined our school in fall 2016 as Acera’s first Director of Development. For the past 15 years, Trent has worked in fundraising and youth development across Massachusetts in a variety of capacities: as the Director of the Area IV Youth Center in Cambridge, MA, one of the few high poverty pockets of Cambridge; as the State Field Director for the Mass Charter School Association, building community and funding collaborations for the 60 charter schools in the state; and as the Director of Strategic Advancement for the Lowell Community Charter Public School, focusing on capacity building for the largely ELL-populated school.
Before landing in Massachusetts, Trent founded and served as executive director for 11 years of a youth service nonprofit in Alabama that focused on bringing young people from different backgrounds together to engage in community service and social justice work.
Alexis Daniels, Strategic Initiatives Manager
Doctoral Student, Entrepreneurial Leadership Specialization ’20 Cohort, Johns Hopkins University
M.S., Occupational Therapy, Tufts University
B.A., Anthropology and Public Health, Tufts University
Trained as an occupational therapist, she loved the merging of art, science, technology, and getting to help people. However, as she moved through environments – schools, hospitals, rehab centers – she realized she was more interested in how young minds developed, how students developed a sense of civic identity, and the magic that happens in a classroom. She began her teaching career in out-of-school environments, linking East Boston youth to food justice advocates in the neighborhood. She ran bilingual cooking and science programs, managed three school gardens, and ultimately co-founded an urban farm integrating youths’ visions to design a more equitable, resilient food landscape. Her skills in community organizing, teaching through high-engagement hands-on experiences, and managing novel programs fit well with Acera’s need for an Enrichment Programs Manager. For two years, she managed STEAM summer and after school programs, coaching specialist teachers and witnessing students’ creativity, problem-solving, and sense of purpose blossom.
Now focused on Acera Education Innovation, she sees the challenges translating what’s been proven possible at Acera’s lab school to other settings. Her desire to learn about strategic systems change, best practices in professional development, and develop a “wide angle lens” on innovation in education led her to Johns Hopkins University.
Kim Machnik, Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Learning Coordinator
MS Ecological Learning and Teaching, Lesley University
B.A. International and Global Studies, Brandeis University
Kim comes to Acera School with a background in elementary gifted education, ecological education, and global sustainable development. At Heifer International, she specialized in curriculum design, teacher training, and global education outreach, and she is passionate about teaching children to be systems thinkers and global citizens of a thriving planet. Kim has been a core classroom teacher for both elementary and middle schoolers at Acera. She launched our summer program in 2015 and our teacher professional learning circles program in 2018.
Michael Hirsch, Lab Sciences Specialist and Curriculum Collaborator
M.A.T. Biology, Salem State University
B.S., Molecular Biology, Clark University
Hirsch is a former biotech scientist and public school science teacher. In 2020, he was named an Educator Fellow for NPR’s Science Friday.
He began his work life as a scientist in the Kendall Square biotech space, researching and creating therapeutics for metabolic disease and inflammation. During that time, he helped placed over 20 drugs into clinical trials and published several papers in the field of diabetes.
Despite his success, Michael was feeling unfulfilled and realized that his favorite part of being a scientist was teaching others his research and sharing his passion of science. After receiving his masters degree and Massachusetts teaching certifications, Michael taught Biology and Chemistry in public high schools for three years, where his zeal and excitement towards his content made him a favorite among students. His belief is that everyone can be a scientist and his goal in the classroom was simple: experiment and solve scientific problems. Michael was attracted to Acera’s vision of curiosity, inquiry based conceptual learning, and an opportunity to work with like-minded creative teachers. He loves the collaborative nature of the school, its ever-changing curriculum, and ability to provide a cutting edge, cool, safe, and unique place for many different types of student to learn and practice their skills.
Kerry Crisley, Marketing and Public Relations Lead
M.S. Public Relations, Boston University
B.A. English, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Kerry brings more than 20 years of marketing and public relations experience to Acera, including a combined 16 years at the nonprofit organizations The Nature Conservancy and Boston Bar Association. Kerry creates and shares Acera’s stories of innovation in education via Acera School and AceraEI’s website, social media channels, and in local and statewide media outlets. She lives in Wakefield with her husband John, their children Ben and Erin, and their (very spoiled) rescue dog Luna. When not at work, Kerry can usually be found reading, walking in the Fells, or getting into a wide variety of shenanigans with her book club.