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Academics at ATI Austin

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

The ATI Austin curriculum is rooted in thought and industry

Montessori emphasized that teens should do real work: not just in school, but fully in the world. At ATI, we remove the artificial barrier between the vocational and the avocational; what's required for class and what's chosen for life. Our students integrate their passions with their studies, unlocking their potential to:

  • Do real work in the world
  • Serve as a productive member of a community
  • Realize the natural desire for independence
ATI Austin Curricular Tree

The ATI Curricular Tree

A student’s experience at ATI grows like the roots of a tree: the first quarter is spent exploring the foundations of knowledge. These roots grow into a strong trunk of core subject courses, including math,science, literature, and history. Each course opens up branches for deeper exploration, and as students gain mastery over core curriculum they start branching off into individualized learning and real-world opportunities.

The Roots: Foundation Courses

The Roots: Foundations Quarter

When students start at ATI, in middle or high school, they embark on a foundations quarter. This 8-week period immerses them in the school’s community, and helps ensure that every student can thrive in a self-directed environment. Each course during this 8-week period has the same objectives:

Create a culture of work

Students join ATI from varied backgrounds, and may or may not be prepared for a self-directed learning approach. The foundations courses are a period to determine how much structure an individual student might need to begin their journey at ATI.

Create motivation and engagement with material

Students often come to ATI with a very specific view of “school.” They may find some or all areas of curriculum boring, or inaccessible to them (the student who declares: “I can’t do math!”). The foundation courses are designed to showcase the “why” of each discipline. Why does history matter? Why is math exciting? And to do this in a way that is very different from prior experiences in a classroom.

Set students on a path towards independent inquiry

In order to guide students within a curricular tree with so many options, we need a comprehensive assessment of each student’s current knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

This includes content knowledge as well as social and emotional skills. Rather than a one-day standardized test, we spend the entire first quarter getting to know each student holistically, to ensure that they enter the program with full visibility.

Middle School Sample Coursework

ATI Middle School Coursework

High School Coursework

High School Coursework

The Branches: Optional Courses

As students advance, they have an ever-increasing set of optional courses to explore areas of personal interest. These courses can be offered in their own community, or through the resources of the global network: learning drawing and filmmaking from professional artists working in LA; exploring the history of human progress with philosophers of science in San Francisco; studying human anatomy with a surgeon in Texas. Wherever a student is physically located, the network brings experts to them. Students are empowered to find their own passions and work with their coach to chart their individual curricular path. Some examples of branch courses include:

Opportunities to Explore

Students' choices helps to build an intentional curriculum through elective courses, entrepreneurial opportunities, and internships.

Elective Courses

Students have an ever-expanding and changing catalogue of optional courses to deepen their passions or discover something new! Each quarter brings new options, either on campus or taught virtually by world experts. Examples include Drawing as Creative Practice and Digital Art, taught by professional working artists in LA. Greek Mythology, taught by a college professor in Antiquities; Creative Writing taught by an award-winning young adult novelist, and more.
Entrepreneurship Opportunities at ATI


Micro-economy is a key value of Montessori programs. Many of our middle school programs create campus-wide businesses, and students work in bookshops, coffee shops, or small campus farms. As they progress towards high school, many students begin launching their own entrepreneurship. Some student businesses have included photography studios, web design companies, crafting co-ops, and more: all connected with mentors who help craft business plans and support long-term and real-world success.


In high school, students begin to identify areas of particular interest in the world. Students are encouraged to participate in existing internship programs, ranging from Montessori education to marketing or music production, or to identify an area of interest and work with their coach to identify and earn a new internship opportunity. Prior intern opportunities have included botanical gardens, doctors’ offices, congressmen, and more.
ATI Virtual Middle School and High School

Virtual School Option

Serving both middle and high school students, our virtual school delivers a powerful education for independence through our:

  • Montessori-based curriculum
  • Coaching program designed by experts
  • Individualized approach to learning
  • Flexible and student-led work supported by guides and coaches
  • Our virtual students receive quarterly packages of materials, from science lab kits to journals that support them in their learning.
Learn more about ATI virtual middle and high school

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.

Coaching at ATI Austin

Adolescence is a period of intense physical and emotional growth for middle and high school students. Students have the ability to set their own goals, sometimes for the first time, and to explore their own values, and control their own schedules—and these tasks are challenging at any age! While the increasing independence and freedom is both desirable and necessary, it requires support and planning.

Every student at ATI Austin is paired with a coach, a supportive guide who serves as thought partner and mentor. The coach’s role, over the course of the school years, is to make herself obsolete: as the student gains the social, emotional, and cognitive skills to enable her to serve as her own coach going forward. This is not a tutor or a guidance counselor; the coach is a powerful and unique partner to help each student unlock his or her full potential.

Learn more about Coaching

Planning for College and Career Development

ATI Austin’s ultimate goal is to create students who thrive: living happy, fulfilled, and productive lives. We work with each student to identify their own values, set specific goals, and learn how to achieve them. This process gives them a sense of accomplishment, and prepares them for a variety of paths in life.

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 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

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