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Academics at ATI San Francisco

At ATI San Francisco, 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

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.

A 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.

Read more about the prepared enviroment

Coaching at ATI San Francisco

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 San Francisco 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
ATI creates a culture 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.

Entrepreneurship and 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.



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.

ATI San Francisco 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

High School Humanities Guide

David O'Hara

High School Humanities Guide

David grew up in the California Bay Area and has since spent much of his life working and studying abroad. He holds a doctorate in English Literature and Creative Writing (PhD), as well as degrees in English Literature (BA, MA) and Publishing Media (MA). He is also a published author and playwright. His teaching career has been international and varied. He began by teaching introductory classes in English for undergraduates in Canada. He later provided tutorials and guest lectures within the University of Oxford. Between 2008 and 2012, he also taught and organized high school courses in both English Literature and Creative Writing at one of the more esteemed international summer schools in Oxford. Most recently, he was employed as a Language and Literature Teacher at an International School in Tallinn, Estonia. Besides teaching, he also loves film, old music, and the sea.

High School Math Guide

Michael Feinberg

High School Math Guide

Mr. Feinberg graduated from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT with a bachelor's degree in Theatre. He moved to California in 2003 and has been teaching ever since. He specialized in the role of Education Specialist in several schools throughout the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Alameda, Lafayette, and Piedmont. When not in the classroom, Mr. Feinberg enjoys being outdoors, reading, volunteering in the East Bay Regional Parks district, and playing board games.

High School Math Guide

Israel Iniguez

High School Math Guide

My name is Israel I love Music & Math, learning about computers and new & emerging technology, creating artwork and having fun I was born and raised in Oakland, CA and have been teaching/tutoring since I was in High School while enrolled in the Education Academy I have helped student understand their requirements to be eligible to attend a UC or CSU, taught students Mathematics for grades K-12 as well as colleagues, & studied Jazz and Classical Music in college

Planning for College and Career Development

ATI San Francisco’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

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 San Francisco 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 public high school in San Francisco

What parents are saying about academics

ATI Student

Our daughter is relatively new to ATI but quickly settled in due to  ATI’s thoughtful and principled thinking behind their curriculum and their classroom culture. ATI has allowed our daughter more breathing room to pursue what truly interests her and to work at her own pace. She is now applying responsible stewardship over her education rather than experiencing “ the one sizes fits all” education that is so common in most schools. She is more focused and excited to get to school and do her best work.

Jane L.

ATI San Francisco Parent

ATI Student

We have seen an enormous improvement in our 13-year-old daughter’s self-confidence, independence and maturity since she started at ATI. She is also more articulate and focussed. Thanks to the Socratic Method which is practiced throughout the school every day, our daughter is learning to think critically, form opinions and participate in intellectual discussions. We are also impressed with how her writing skills have improved and evolved. We love that she can choose electives that thrill and engage her, such as Film, Design, Art and Chemistry, and that she is encouraged to discover and pursue personal interests that are meaningful to her. She can also work at her own pace and receives one-on-one tutoring to help her on her journey of self-discovery. Her guides are supportive, involved and engaged and care deeply about our daughter’s welfare. The collaborative nature of the school encourages the students to work in teams, as well as on their own. When you visit the school, it is amazing to see so many students who are confident, articulate and so comfortable in their own skins.

Betty K.

ATI San Francisco Parent

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

The Academy of Thought and Industry 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.

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