Cross Timbers Middle is the largest middle school in Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District, with 920 students walking its halls.
Cross Timbers is home to the Aspire Academy, a program for students identified as "highly gifted." These are students who test so high on standardized tests that regular gifted classes aren't enough of them.
Seventh grade Aspire Student Kelley Chow says don't pain them all with the same brush.
Carter In The Classroom
Focusing on unique things school districts are doing to help children succeed.
"There are a lot of biases that we're all smart and nerdy and good at stem, but we all have different things we're good at. I think I want to do something in acting," said Chow.
Aspire Student Rian Ali says it's hard when you're advanced and in a class where others aren't. Having peers who think like him across his entire school day has made a huge difference.
"You can ask questions without being embarrassed about it or people getting made at me for wasting time," said Ali.
Aspire teacher, Tim Spitzberg is a big brain himself, and leads college level lectures with his 7th grade class, but still gets them up and out of their chairs to do some fun activities, because they're just 12 years old.
"These guys are intellectually capable of everything that any high school, college, or grad school student I've ever run into is, but they don't know everything yet, they're massively curious," said Spitzberg.
Students told us time and again the teachers at Cross Timbers make their school special. Sixth graders, who are brand new to middle school expected class to be impersonal, and not as loving as elementary school, but they were mistaken.
The school is home to Grapevine-Colleyville ISD's Secondary Teacher of the Year for two school years in a row.
Daniela Barbaro's sixth grade science class is one of the students' favorites.
You can hear laughter and energy spilling into the halls.
"I love hearing them have real conversations mixed in with science conversations in this blend of delightful vocabulary," said Barbaro.
Despite the fact that every student in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD is assigned their own iPad or Chromebook, Barbaro likes to give the students old school, hands on experiments rather than lots of technology.
"I feel they’re being robbed of a hands on life with all the digital components, they just come alive when they can physically touch stuff," she said. "It would have been a lot less work to do it online and find the animated version, but I fell like kids need to be able to taste and touch and smell and feel."
Students appreciate her effort, and energy.
"We do a bunch of projects, she just makes us hyped about science and excited," said student Zio Cade.
"She makes sure we get the help we need, she doesn’t make it too hard but she makes it challenging for us, where we understand it but we’re still a little bit confused," added student MacKenzie Cummings.
Barbaro says loving her job and sharing that with her students is the bare minimum.
"If I’m not excited an passionate about the content I might as well be at Starbucks working, right?" She adds, "I think it’s the best kept secret. Other professions are like those poor teachers, they don’t make much. Let them think that. Other professions are missing out if they’re not working with kiddos."
Barbaro says the excitement and energy from the teachers is all thanks to the principal, Alex Fingers. She says she's turned down many other opportunities at other schools, because of the support she feels from him.
Fingers says they're working as a campus to constantly improve academics. "Our slogan is 'Building Excellent Schools Together' We want to be the best and we do that every day at Cross Timbers," he said.
Students say it's easy to be proud of their campus.
"Just the people, everyone gets alone, it feels like a big ole family," said student Cozette Sawyer. "You can really get into it and it just feels right."