MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - It's a place where kids love going to school, and it shows.
"They want to be here in the classroom," said second-grade teacher Emily Ogden. "We do it in a way they have fun."
Zaharis Elementary School in Mesa has received national recognition for its cutting-edge curriculum that takes a different approach to teaching.
Instead of pushing kids to memorize facts from outdated textbooks, students are encouraged to expand their creativity and critical thinking by giving them the freedom to read what they want.
Math, science and social studies are incorporated into lessons from what the students are reading.
Mike Oliver is the principal of Zaharis Elementary School.
"If we don't impose limitations on them, and we give them a real-world, authentic learning experience, they will mesmerize us with what they are capable of doing," said Oliver.
The success at Zaharis caught the attention of Andrea Lang Sims, the principal of Whittier Elementary School on the other side of Mesa.
Whittier has been an under-performing D-rated school dealing with low test scores and teacher turnover.
Principal Sims decided to shake things up and brought Zaharis' literacy curriculum into all her classrooms, starting this school year.
"There's a common saying in education that if you keep doing the same thing, you're going to get the same result," said Sims. "For Whittier, that just wasn't good enough."
Third-grade teacher Kayla Cohen has only been using the new teaching techniques at Whittier for a few weeks now, but can already see a difference.
"Adopting this curriculum and seeing my own enthusiasm with books, it's amazing to see how excited the students are to read," said Cohen. "We spend about an hour reading time every day, and they ask me for more. It's an amazing transition."