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Academics at ATI Austin

At ATI Austin, our Montessori-inspired education combines the best of a vibrant, liberal arts education with creativity, independence, and personalization. Programs include full-time campus and virtual options, as well as part-time and summer courses.

The ATI Curriculum

Mastery-based learning

At ATI, we believe that all students can become masters if they are given sufficient time and adequate instruction. Rather than putting emphasis on grades, we work with our students on the goal of mastering new knowledge and skills. This is a paradigm shift in thinking that allows learning to happen at each student’s pace, tailored to them, and with mastery clearly defined.

  • Learning is not time-limited. Some students are ready to move on quickly; others need more time. Students pass to new material when they're ready, not because a certain amount of time has elapsed
  • Instruction needs to be appropriate for each individual student, not someone else. That means clear objectives, a variety of learning methods, individualized support, and learner-centered instruction
  • Mastery is defined. Students track their own progress towards mastering learning objectives, and demonstrate their skill and understanding in a variety of ways


We work with Mastery Transcript Consortium to create a transcript that supports each teen’s learning today, opening doors for them in the future.

ATI Austin Prepared Environment

A “Prepared Environment”

Montessori educators talk extensively about the “prepared environment.” This is Montessori’s word for the classroom: the physical space, but also the intangible elements - the culture, the routines, the schedule, the norms. Everything that communicates, without a word, the values of the school. The prepared environment is the third component of a triad containing the guide and the student: a “third teacher.” Without giving a lesson, the environment nonetheless teaches its students about the type of world they inhabit, about the values of their school, and about the trust that the community holds for them.

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ATI coaching model

Coaching

Middle and high school students experience intense physical and emotional growth during adolescence. For many students, setting goals, exploring values, and managing schedules are new experiences — and these tasks are challenging at any age! Even though growing independence and freedom are desirable and necessary, they require support and planning.

At ATI, every student is paired with a coach who serves as a supportive guide and mentor. The coach is not a tutor or a guidance counselor; they are a powerful and unique partner who helps students achieve their full potential.

Learn more about Coaching
Love of work

Create motivation and engagement through love of work

There are many students who come to ATI with no specific idea of what they want out of school. It is common for students at this stage to find some or all areas of instruction inaccessible (the student who says, “I can’t do math!”) or irrelevant (“Why do we need this anyway?”). Our courses seek to explain the "why" of each discipline. What is the importance of history? What makes math essential? We combine this cognitive engagement with an individualized instructional approach that enables students to both identify and pursue their unique interests.

Network Courses

Our schools are intentionally small communities, uniquely linked in a large global network. One of the advantages of this structure is access to content experts around the world! Students can sign into live courses taught by professionals working and living in these fields: drawing courses taught by professional artists; film-making by LA-based directors; human progress and philosophy by philosophers at the University of Toronto; human anatomy by a surgeon in Texas. Wherever your student is located, with the power of the ATI network, the world’s experts are available to them.


ATI makerspace micro-economy

Entrepreneurship and Micro-Economy

Micro-economy is a hallmark of a Montessori adolescent program. Dr. Montessori imagined adolescents working together to create a small business that served the needs of the educational community. The goals of this “micro-economy” include:

  • Serving as a necessary and valued member of the community
  • Seeing the impact of knowledge and skill gains on practical work
  • Gaining confidence in their ability to survive and thrive in the real world

Many of our middle school communities work together on campus-wide businesses, including bookshops, coffee shops, small campus farms, and selling handmade products online and at local craft fairs.

In both middle and high school, many of our students begin to start their own small businesses, supported by both coursework and individual mentorship around crafting a business plan, making a website, professional networking, and more. Entrepreneurship is keenly aligned with Montessori principles and the values at ATI: encouraging students to pursue their individual passion at a high level, integrating knowledge from every area of academic study. From photography, to crafting co-ops, to web design and self-published graphic novels, students at ATI set and achieve ambitious goals that have the potential to change the world.

Internships

In high school, students begin to identify areas of particular interest in the world and many choose to participate in existing internship programs, or to identify an area of interest and work with their coach to earn a new internship opportunity. Prior interns have worked in hospitals, supporting local congressmen, at theater companies and botanical gardens, in marketing departments for international companies, and as guides-in-training for Montessori early childhood classrooms.

Middle School Sample Coursework

ATI Middle School Coursework

High School Coursework

High School Coursework

ATI Austin Teaching Staff

In Montessori education, a guide is a teacher, but not a teacher in the way that's presented in a traditional school model. A Montessori teacher, or Guide, is a facilitator who journeys alongside students in the process of learning and self-construction and guides them toward their innate human potential.

Our Team

Middle School Humanities Guide

Matt Ballin

Middle School Humanities Guide

Matt entered the field of education over a decade ago when he moved across the country to begin teaching and writing history curriculum. Since then, he has earned a Montessori certification from the Association Montessori Internationale, taught humanities-related courses to ages from elementary through high school, and worked on the Higher Ground Education programs team developing curriculum and training & mentoring guides at our adolescent schools across the country. His mission is to help create learning environments that enable students to live a fully human life, now and in the future: one of knowledge, action, and self-determination.

Middle School STEM Guide

Audie Alcorn

Middle School STEM Guide

Audie Alcorn is a 7th-generation Texan who earned his teaching diploma through the Association Montessori Internationale in 2009. Since then he has taught at both Montessori and traditional schools, in both public and private schools, and at the elementary and middle-school levels. In 2017, he founded ATX Tutoring & Academic Services here in Austin and has been tutoring full-time for the past couple of years. Though he has enjoyed working one-on-one with his tutoring students and their families, he has missed being part of a learning community and so is looking forward to returning to the classroom. Prior to his career in education, Audie worked as an accountant for Price Waterhouse, as a ranger at Zion National Park, as a buyer for Whole Foods Market, and as a wear-all-the-hats type at a small publishing company in Arizona. He has three college degrees -- one in Accounting and two in Philosophy -- and was a member of a weekly-performing improv troupe for four years while attending the University of Arizona. His other creative/spiritual pursuits include running, chess, writing, poetry, storytelling, quilting, and music. He lives in South Austin with his wife Colette, stepson Noah, cat Mixi, and guinea pig Albert Einstein.

High School Math Guide

Sebastian Gamboa

High School Math Guide

Sebastian Gamboa graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with bachelor's degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Physics. At CMU, Sebastian tutored incoming Freshman and Sophomores in calculus based physics I and II for two years. After graduation, Sebastian continued his work as a physics research assistant in Carnegie Mellon's cosmology department, while also helping the curriculum development team at Higher Ground develop middle school math curriculum material.

High School Science and Makerspace Guide

Randie Piscitello

High School Science and Makerspace Guide

Randie Piscitello is a born and raised Austin native that graduated from the University of Texas in Austin with a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology. While all of her career choices have centered around education, the sciences, and health, her hobbies lie deep in the creative expressions. Randie is a talented photographer and jewelry and epoxy artist, and enjoys pursuing new creative ventures with her students. Randie comes to the Academy of Thought and Industry with a deep background in Montessori platforms, both as a previous primary and adolescent guide. She is transitioning to us from a vibrant adolescent STEM community and looks forward to the in-depth and hands-on projects that she will be tackling with the high school science community and the entire ATI creative learning student community.

High School Humanities Guide

Catherine Hatch

High School Humanities Guide

After graduating from the University of Vermont with a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Catherine began her career working as a Marketing Content Specialist for two years. Her life mission to contribute to a more equitable society caused her to pursue a Master's degree in Education at Eastern Connecticut State University, believing that access to a quality education is the most important factor in improving social and economic equity. Catherine has spent the past three years working as an educator in public schools, focusing on how student autonomy, culturally relevant pedagogy, and an emphasis on social emotional learning lead to better outcomes for students. Outside of her passion for educational equity, Catherine enjoys hiking, rock climbing, reading, and watching true crime documentaries with her cat, Phoebe.

High School Humanities Guide

Beth Sharkey

High School Humanities Guide

For the past decade, Beth Sharkey has worked with students in grades 6–12 in both private and public school settings. She is excited to have been a part of developing the ATI adolescent experience from multiple angles—as a program manager, coach, curriculum developer, and now guide. Beth holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from UC Irvine and a CA state credential in secondary English. As you might guess, Beth is passionate about reading and writing! She loves being immersed in the worlds of novels with students and dissecting big ideas together. In addition to teaching, Beth has also written and edited educational content for national organizations such as Sesame Street, ParentPowered, and Mystery Science. She strives to help students envision real-world possibilities in writing. In her spare time, Beth enjoys playing the violin and spending time with her husband and young son and daughter.

Planning for College and Career Development

The ultimate goal of ATI is to create students who thrive in happy, fulfilling, and productive lives. From admission onward, each student at ATI has a team behind them. The head of school, coach, college counselor, and guides are invested in supporting each student to identify his or her personal goals and how to achieve them. For many students, this involves a path towards the college of their dreams; for others it is continuing a business started while in high school, or a path towards an ambitious career. Whatever the goal, we work together to ensure students have the resources to meet it.


Student Outcomes

Many of our high school students choose to pursue higher education, and to date we have a 100% placement rate for college-bound seniors. In addition to their coach and guides, students work with a full-time, licensed college counselor.


Here is where you will find some of our recent ATI graduates:


ATI Austin Academics FAQs

  • High-achieving students who are looking for an intellectually-challenging school
  • College-bound students looking to get into competitive institutions
  • Ambitious teens looking for a small, private school and a more personalized learning environment
  • Homeschooled or virtual school students looking for more opportunities to socialize and excel
  • Students who are looking for a supportive and accepting community
  • Advanced students looking for a Montessori-inspired middle and high school
  • Gifted and Talented students looking for an alternative to Austin public high school

What parents are saying about academics

If you're looking for a radically different approach to education that meets your child where they are, ATI could be for you. I'm a staunch supporter of public schools and I never envisioned putting my child at a small, private high school - until he needed something different. ATI has the luxury of caring about the whole child - not just test scores and achievements. The ATI environment respects and nurtures students' intellectual curiosity and different worldviews are encouraged instead of dismissed. When I get my child's progress reports (with narratives written by multiple faculty members), I feel like they KNOW him well - both his strengths and his growth opportunities. In addition to academics, he's learning real-world life skills from opportunities to lead projects and teams. This school is small and new(ish) and way different than what we were used to, and it was a leap of faith to move our son here. But I'm so grateful we did.

Cara F., ATI Austin Parent

ATI Austin middle school and high school students

Our 16 year old son attends ATI and we love it. But more importantly HE loves it! So much so that on the weekends he looks forward to going back on Monday. We had tried several other schools, both public/magnet and private, but always felt that something was lacking. If the academics were good the administration was rigid. If the teachers were great the kids were not open or supportive of anyone different. If the kids were great the classes were too easy. So after many years of trying we could not be more delighted to have found ATI where it all "fits"! Our son is academically challenged, socially accepted and most importantly seen as a unique and whole person who is not going to fit into any one box. Furthermore he is being extremely well prepared for college as he is being taught to think critically, back up his arguments with research, formulate questions to further his knowledge and communicate strongly in his writing. He is learning HOW to learn which is a lifelong skill that is worth more than any other in my opinion. And best of all he is loving learning. We wholeheartedly recommend ATI.

Krista J., ATI Austin Parent

The Academy of Thought and Industry Austin has received accreditation by Cognia™ and WASC

The Academy of Thought and Industry Austin has received accreditation by Cognia™ and WASC, the Accrediting Commission for Schools Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Earning accreditation from the Cognia Global Accreditation Commission means that the system and all of its domestic and international schools are accredited, and that ATI is recognized across the nation as meeting the Cognia Standards of Quality. ACS WASC accredits elementary and secondary schools; non-degree granting adult schools; and supplementary education programs.

Experience school on your terms

Join a school community designed to support your education with coaching, small classes, and a commitment to our core values. Engage in deep study and personal exploration as a student at ATI.

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Visit Higher Ground Education to learn more about our mission to make learner-centered education the mainstream.

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