ATLAS Academy

ATLAS August 2016



Tennyson Middle School

MattA Message From the Assistant Principal

A Message From the Assistant Principal

In addition to rigorous and differentiated instruction, this year the ATLAS program will be focused on highlighting our students' success and fostering their giftedness through several enrichment activities.  As always, we look to excelling in the History Fair, UIL, and several other competitions. Recently, we had several teachers, along with their students recognized for achieving some of the top STAAR test scores in the district. Again, last school year, we had multiple students advance to the national finals of the National History Day Competition in Washington, D.C.  Also, our students continue to demonstrate their talents not only in the classroom but also in athletics and the fine arts, bringing back several awards and trophies. 

This will be my third year as an administrator here at Tennyson and my first as the administrator over the ATLAS program. Prior to Tennyson, I was the Secondary Science Content Specialist for Waco ISD. Prior to that, I taught 4 years of PreAP Biology, AP Biology, and Aquatic Science at Waco High School. I was also the Secondary Teacher of the Year for Waco ISD in 2012-2013 and I am a Fighting Texas Aggie, class of '04. 

I am excited about this wonderful program and believe it is a privilege to work with the wonderful students at the ATLAS Academy. 

We are looking forward to even bigger and better things in the future as our program grows.

Matt Rambo
Assistant Principal
ATLAS Academy
Tennyson Middle School


ATLAS Middle School Academy is designed to offer gifted and advanced learners a 21st Century curriculum that meets their learning nature and needs.  This academy will serve as a Research and Development campus that implements and evaluates best practices that may be used at other middle school campuses in WISD.

Mission Statement

Waco ATLAS will develop the talents of gifted and advanced learners through differentiated, integrated, and accelerated Pre-Advanced Placement (Pre-AP) curriculum.  The purpose of this middle school academy is to enhance students’ problem-solving abilities, critical and creative thinking skills, and leadership skills through inquiry-based learning exemplified by innovative products and performances and service opportunities. The curriculum will offer authentic intellectual work through problem-based learning in order to meet students’ learning needs and interests.  Students will demonstrate their learning through a variety of venues, including Advanced Products and Performances.*

Instruction will emphasize 21st Century skills including, but not limited to

  • digital age literacy,
  • innovation,
  • written communication,
  • oral presentation,
  • professional ethics, and
  • content knowledge

in a creative educational setting that offers opportunities to develop students’ intrinsic motivation and sustained inquiry.


ATLAS Academy is a school of choice that addresses student interest in the humanities, sciences and technology as the foundation for advanced learning, Pre AP, in all content areas. Students who attend ATLAS in grades six to eight work closely with multi-talented, creative teachers who guide students in developing deep understanding of subject matter through direct instruction, problem-based learning, collaborative explora­tion, and discovery.

Instruction is interdisciplinary. There is a strong emphasis on technology across the curriculum. Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) are integrated into thematic units centered on 21st Century skills and problems of relevance to ado­lescent learners. Emphasis for all students is on applied learning experiences that help them function with increasing competency as research­ers, creators, problem solvers and practitioners. Problem-based study using a variety of research strategies, group activities and independent work allows students to pursue their individual inter­ests in depth.

It is a goal of ATLAS to instill in young people lifelong intellectual curiosity and commit­ment to learning based on students’ strengths and interests. The dual emphasis on rigorous aca­demic standards and creative productivity creates a dynamic learning environment that inspires authentic learning, motivation, innovation and enjoyment!

Students who are curious and who learn best in a creative educational setting will comprise the student body at ATLAS. Intrinsic motivation, resourcefulness and a problem-solving disposition are characteris­tics that all students must possess. From revision of writing to completion of science experiments and creation of exhibits, students are always learning from mistakes and overcoming obstacles in order to be successful learners.

Daily “hands-on, minds-on” learning allows students to work through the intellectual disso­nance they experience when presented with new information and skills. Students ask questions, conduct research, and consult with experts in order to make uncertainties more certain.

Through authentic, intellectual work, students grapple with important concepts that are important to them. They are engaged in sustained inquiry as they work with one another, and with teachers and other adults. The Exhibition of Inspired Learning is the heart of ATLAS because one outcome of integrated curriculum, such as creativity and technology, is spotlighted in their products.
The Advanced Products and Performances offers students opportunities to research and create quality projects in art, science, math­ematics, social studies and language arts.
Upon completion of an exhibit, students serve as docents in service to the entire com­munity, sharing their findings with others. In this way, student learning expands beyond the classroom, leading to real-world applications and connections.


Students will be motivated through the opportunity to

  • demonstrate self-knowledge with respect to their interests, strengths, identities, and needs in socio-emotional development and in intellectual, academic, creative, and leadership domains,
  • develop competence with interpersonal and technical communication skills,
  • demonstrate personal and social responsibility and leadership skills,
  • demonstrate growth with their aptitude and interests, including acceleration and enrichment,
  • become independent investigators and lifelong learners, and
  • identify future career goals and the talent development pathways to reach those goals through rigorous academic standards.

*The Exhibition of Inspired Learning will be an annual event in which students present the culmination of their year’s learning through innovative and creative products and/or performances.