About Us » Our Approach

Our Approach

STEAM: Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math


What is “STEAM“?

STEAM is a way for students to learn to connect concepts from all areas, and to see the relationship between school and life. STEAM includes project-based learning, and is based on exploration and developing students’ curiosity about the world around them. STEAM supports all students with learning challenging concepts, and applying the concepts that they learn to real-world situations.



STEAM teaches students to adapt, connect, and apply what they know in new situations. In their future careers and academic pursuits, students rarely need to separate what they know into specific categories. Schools frequently teach math, for example, separately from other subjects. Instead, students need to be able to do math in order to solve a problem in an experiment, or to complete an architectural plan. STEAM education helps students learn to make connections across different areas, and this better prepares them for challenges and careers in their future lives. STEAM fields have some of the fastest growing opportunities for careers, with nearly 1 million jobs set to be added between 2015 and 2024. Altura Prep students will come of age in a time when careers, opportunities, and jobs are constantly adapting to new changes. The reality is that we are preparing our students for careers and opportunities that do not yet exist. STEAMhelps students become better problem solvers and logicians- skills that they will certainly need to navigate the exciting future ahead of them. STEAM, and its interconnectedness, allows students to explore their passions while learning the skills and knowledge they will need to be successful.


Teacher Specialization


What is “Teacher Specialization”?

Teacher specialization means that each Altura Prep teacher focuses on teaching one or two specific subjects. Each student has three core teachers: English Language Arts, Mathematics, and STEAM/Social Studies. Each student also has Enrichment class teachers for Art, Dance, or PE each day.  

Why have teachers specialize?


Each student has at least 5 teachers with whom they interact every day. This means that there are 5 adults who know the student well, and who can work together to best support him/her. For each subject, students have a teacher who is an expert in that area and who knows how to adjust instruction to best meet each student’s needs.


Most schools require that elementary school teachers know and teach multiple subjects each day, all day, every day. When teachers plan and teach all the subjects, they are able to spend a little time on each one. Altura Prep teachers are able to focus on teaching one or two subject areas really well. They have time set aside to plan independently and collaboratively with their grade level team and with teachers of the same content.


Students have teachers who are experts in their content areas, and who are able to plan instruction for each student according to his/her need. Each student has a “homeroom” teacher who serves as the family’s point of contact, but families are also able to collaborate with each teacher to make sure that a student is making great progress. Families can trust that their student is getting the best, most focused learning environment in each subject, and that each child receives equitable educational opportunities across the school.



Social-Emotional Learning


What is Social-Emotional Learning?

Social Emotional Learning is the process through which we acquire and apply habits, mindsets, and skills that help us manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. (For detailed information, please visit the Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning)


Why teach social-emotional learning?


Presently, in order to prepare students to succeed in middle school, high school, and beyond, schools must teach children to engage deeply in challenging, problem-based activities. Our curriculum and standards require students to have the skills and strategies to deeply understand and communicate what they learn. The ability to do this successfully depends on our students having the necessary non-academic skills, habits, and mindsets. Our students learn social-emotional skills so that they can be successful academically and personally, regardless of what opportunity they choose to pursue in school and in life. Brain science shows that emotions play a central role in the neurological processes of learning for both adults and students. In order for students to meaningfully participate in the learning activities of their classrooms, we must create the conditions (academically and socially) for students to succeed. This includes teaching students self-regulation, self-management, social awareness, relationships, and responsible decision-making.


An analysis of 213 programs, covering three decades of research, found that social and emotional learning interventions that address social emotional competencies increased students’ academic performance by 11 percentile points, as compared to students who did not participate in such SEL programs (Durlak et al., 2011). The social and emotional learning programs also reduced aggression and emotional distress among students, increased helping behaviors in school, and improved positive attitudes toward self and others (Durlak et al., 2011).


How does Altura Prep teach social-emotional skills?

Altura Prep focuses our students social emotional learning on our REACH core values, which tie into the five key elements of social emotional learning (self-regulation, self-management, social awareness, relationships, and responsible decision-making). We embed our school values of Responsibility, Empathy, Agency, Curiosity, and Humor/Hard Work (REACH) and other essential skills, habits, and mindsets into the school day. Students begin their day with Morning Meeting in their homeroom with their class. They set goals, encourage each other, and prepare for the day ahead. Students end every day with the same teacher for Close Out. They reflect on their day, give shout outs, and celebrate the opportunities they had to practice both academic and non-academic skills, habits, and mindsets. Each month, the school focuses on a Core Value of the Month, practicing ways to demonstrate the value, and celebrating students when they do.
Fall Core Values of the Month Spring Core Values of the Month
August: Responsibility January: Responsibility
September: Empathy February: Empathy
October: Agency March: Agency
November: Curiosity April: Curiosity
December: Hard Work May: Humor
Each marking period, students share their social-emotional growth with their families as part of their character report card. Students track and give examples of the social-emotional skills they have learned. This information is communicated as regularly as academic progress, because it is equally as important to students’ development. Learn More About Our Values




What is “diversity”?

“Diversity” at Altura Prep means that we have students, families, and team members from different backgrounds, experiences, places, and perspectives. It means that we recognize that we have differences, and that those differences shape how we see and experience the world we live in. We also know that despite our differences, we share common goals, hopes, and dreams for the community that we live and work in. We recognize that our differences make us stronger when we come together, and that together we can do more than we can individually.


Why does Altura Prep strive for a diverse learning environment?

In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools were inherently unequal. In Albuquerque, students are designated to attend specific schools based on their zip code. Trends in income, ethnicity, race, and neighborhood are linked, and students tend to attend schools with students who are similar in ethnicity, family income level, and race. More importantly, schools with low-income, minority students tend to perform worse than schools with more affluent, white peers. Altura Prep believes that a diverse learning environment fosters a strong community in which all students are able to achieve at high levels.



A study at Teachers College Columbia found that, “diversity makes us smarter.” They write, “researchers have documented that students’ exposure to other students who are different from themselves and the novel ideas and challenges that such exposure brings leads to improved cognitive skills, including critical thinking and problem solving.” As our nation becomes more diverse and complex, Altura Prep students will be prepared for living and working in diverse, interconnected networks and communities.



The Teachers College Columbia study noted that 96% of major employers say that it is “important” for employees to be “comfortable working with colleagues, clients, and customers from diverse cultural backgrounds.” A growing number of parents, university officials, and employers want students to be prepared for an increasingly globalized world, and a racially and ethnically diverse society and global economy.