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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

The ATI San Francisco 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 San Francisco 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: 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:
ATI creates a culture of work

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.

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

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.
Internships at ATI


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 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 Art Guide

Susana Barajas

High School Art Guide

Susana is an interdisciplinary artist and educator. She was born and raised in Mexico. Throughout her life, Susana has always shown her interest for illustration and ability to create and design and she has always been fascinated by images and how the world is represented through the eyes of others and she always had a talent for drawing and creativity. She earned a bachelor's degree in Graphic Design. She has worked on numerous personal and commercial freelance projects since moving to the states, her proudest of which is being a dedicated alumni of the Imaginism Studios’ many programs, where she have spent a lot of time honing her creative skills designing and creating original illustrated characters while being personally mentored by some of their great artists and have been asked to collaborate in some of their personal Illustration projects.

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.

Program Coach

Alex Gilman

Program Coach

Alex has a passion for educating the whole person, combining intellectual rigor with emotional intelligence to guide and mentor adolescents to create a life that is successful and fulfilling on every level. He graduated summa cum laude from Boston College with a bachelor's degree in History and Philosophy, the latter of which he also pursued at the graduate level at DePaul University. At Boston College, he was a member of their Honors Program, a four-year interdisciplinary Socratic Great Books program aimed at investigating the fundamental texts and ideas of the western canon, including philosophy, poetry, literature, theology and social science. Since graduating from Boston College, he has worked in diverse fields, including as a professional freelance writer and editor, nonprofit administrative manager, and carpenter. Alex also holds a Professional Life Coach certification from the Synthesis Center in Amherst, MA and worked for several years as a coach and trainer in the Mankind Project. He is also a long-time musician and music enthusiast, having played the guitar for over a decade, as well as an avid outdoorsman.

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

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.

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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