Since its inception in 2013, Spring Branch Academic Institute (SBAI)’s mission has been to provide highly, exceptionally and profoundly gifted children with advanced and appropriately challenging educational opportunities matched to their abilities, strengths and interests.
This school year, SBAI celebrates its 10-year anniversary.
“I am honored to lead a school with such a unique opportunity to shape the lives of our wonderful children. We celebrate the previous 10 years, and look optimistically to the future," said Patricia Kassir, SBAI director. "Our students have been highly successful. It is a clear example of Spring Branch ISD's commitment to meeting the educational needs of Every Child. I’m grateful to our superintendent and Board of Trustees for their strong support.”
SBAI is a school-within-a-school, where kindergarten through fifth-grade students are hosted at Thornwood Elementary, sixth through eighth-grade students take electives at Spring Forest Middle and ninth through 12th-grade students are a part of Stratford High School. SBAI students are taught primarily by SBAI teachers and have the opportunity to engage in numerous activities in the fine arts, athletics, CTE and other courses and clubs available at their respective host campuses.
Teachers at SBAI are trained to work with gifted children and are encouraged to be masters of their craft.
“SBAI team members are highly creative, solutions-oriented and work collaboratively to deliver great learning experiences to our children,” added Kassir. “Our team leverages the Professional Learning Community process to advance our work and continually improve, with our children’s success always being our goal.”
The idea for SBAI was born in 2004-2005 when an SBISD task force was assigned to make recommendations about potential improvements to the elementary curriculum. One of the recommendations was the creation of a full-time school for highly gifted students. In 2007, the recommendation was adopted as part of the Advanced Academics Studies (AAS) five-year plan.
Around that time, Jon Larrabee's oldest child was in a pre-K Dual-Language program at a private school that was not meeting his academic and non-academic needs. Larrabee began to search for a better program and contacted SBISD to inquire about their approach to teaching gifted students.
"I talked to Lynnette Breedlove, then head of AAS, and asked about the recommendation for a program for highly gifted students," said Larrabee. "She provided much information and advice for my child and in 2009, when my family moved to Spring Branch, I offered to help in the adoption of the program beyond the proposal stage."
Former SBISD Superintendent Duncan Klussman, Breedlove, Larrabee and other community members partnered to host town hall meetings to inform the community and advocate for the school. A proposal to create the school was presented at a board meeting in Dec. 2010, and in Jan. 2013, the board approved it. SBAI opened its doors to students in Aug. 2013.
Larrabee enrolled his son at SBAI and notes how it transformed him into an active, curious, engaged and self-motivated learner. Since then, he has enrolled his other three children in SBAI.
Learning experiences at SBAI challenge the students to achieve high levels of academic excellence. Students participate and win in academic competitions including several math contests, geography, history, science and spelling bees. Every year, they also excel at the Science & Engineering Fair of Houston, where SBAI students have received various awards.
These competitions and hands-on activities emphasize SBISD's T-2-4 vision, where every graduate attains a technical certificate, military training, or a two-year or four-year degree.
"My students have greatly benefited from all the opportunities SBAI has to offer," added Larrabee. "They can engage with all the opportunities available at a large public school and still have appropriately challenging classes created just for them. It's the best of both worlds."
Similarly, Alex Zhang, a former SBAI student, mentions that the school prepared him to excel in college while still giving him an opportunity to engage in debate and be part of the Stratford Writing Club and band.
Alex was part of SBAI's first graduating class and is currently a student at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
"The SBAI experience is incredibly unique," said Alex. "The school's accelerated curriculum taught me how to manage my time, which has greatly helped me in my college classes. My teachers and administrators were also very supportive and especially helped me ignite my passion for writing, which led to the publication of my first book, Spark."
The knowledge and experiences Alex obtained at SBAI helped him develop the Core Characteristics of a T-2-4 Ready Graduate. As an Academically Prepared student, he is motivated and equipped with the knowledge, skills and competencies to succeed in life.
Larrabee and Alex encourage those considering enrolling their students in SBAI to learn more about the school and see if it is the right fit. They note that it is a special place that offers great opportunities for students.
Students must be identified as "highly gifted" through SBISD's identification process and zoned to an SBISD school. Depending upon the IQ test administered, students need a standard score or combination of scores of 145+. Currently, application and admission are limited to elementary students only.
For more information about the SBAI application process, contact Advanced Academic Services (AAS) at 713-251-1901.
See all the exciting things happening at SBAI!