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Academy for Gifted Children - P.A.C.E.:
The Our Kids Report > Reviews
Grades Gr. 1 TO Gr. 8 — Richmond Hill, ON (Map)

Academy for Gifted Children - P.A.C.E.:

Interview with Academy for Gifted Children - P.A.C.E. PARENT, Steven Dengler

Steven enrolled his son at PACE from Kindergarten, after discovering the school’s program for gifted children, and they happily continued on to Grade 12. Steven really likes the continuity in his son’s educational journey, the fact that his son was understood and challenged by the caring and hard-working teachers at PACE. He also appreciates the good habits his son has developed, as well as the opportunity to participate in international academic competitions.

Video Contents

Highlights from the interview

  • Our eldest is just about to graduate, and it's been such an amazing journey for him. We couldn't have possibly picked a better school for him, just couldn't. Everybody knows him at the school, the teachers and the administration. Everybody knows his journey. Everybody knows his strengths, his weaknesses, his challenges, and what he can do.

  • While there are a number of schools with gifted programs in our area, many of them started their gifted program in later grades. So if you have a very young child, say in Kindergarten, who has been identified as gifted, there aren't that many places to consider that starts your kid out in a gifted program. So we initially came to learn about PACE while looking for a school for my eldest child. They had been identified as a gifted child, and they were very young then. And we could tell that, to really unlock his potential, he needed to be in a gifted environment. So that's how we came upon PACE initially. We were really concerned we weren't going to find a good place for him, when he was a little guy, but we did.

  • If your children have been identified as gifted around the JK years, there aren't a lot of great options out there. But PACE is amazing. But not only is it amazing, it's one of the only really good options in the area. As they transition to later years, starting with junior high school, now suddenly there are more schools around that have gifted programs.

  • PACE has a very carefully constructed educational environment, and that really appealed to us. It was the best option that we could find in our extended area for actually getting our child started in a gifted program from a young age. It's on the smaller side, especially compared to the public schools in the area, but in a good way, in a way that is nurturing. We were doing a lot of research, my wife and I. We discovered PACE and we went, and looked, and talked with them, and it really seemed to be a good fit. It seemed to be a small, supportive environment.

  • From day one, it was absolutely the right spot for him. It was just so immediate. It was wonderful, and a great memory. My son’s Kindergarten teachers were wonderful and supportive. I still remember them all by name. We're still friends. So, yes, from day one, we were so happy.

  • For my child, staying at PACE was the perfect way to have that continuous journey, from the time they were very small, in Kindergarten, to the time that they're in Grade 12. The fact that he's gone to the same school from Kindergarten to Grade 12, and that it’s a gifted school, means that they've really been able to have a continuous narrative of his development. It means that they understand what he needs, and they could anticipate his needs, before he even understands them.

  • There was just this immediate flowering of his personality and his intellect, once he started at PACE. Immediately just like, ‘Yes!’. Every child is different. So every child is going to respond to different educational environments. We couldn’t have known this when we signed him up, but in retrospect, PACE was absolutely the best environment for him. So he's the kid that needs a very predictable environment, with very close friends. Between the faculty and the friends that he's got there, it's almost more like a family than a school environment.

  • The fact that my son started high school in an ecosystem that already understood him, with people who had known him since he was a child, knew your strengths, knew your weaknesses, knew what you needed, was a massive benefit to him. High school, in general, is difficult for everybody. You’re going into some of the most emotionally challenging times of your life. I remember how hard high school was for me, but when I saw how my son was going through it, I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh! I'm so happy that Ralph is in that school right now.’ It's just the perfect place for him.

  • This school is purpose-built for gifted kids, and so they're not there to let them off the hook for being gifted. They're there to develop that; they're there to encourage that; they're there to challenge that; they're there to give the kids a foundation that they can use to go forward in life, especially with assignments that are actually challenging. Last summer, when my son was between Grades 11 and 12, he took a first year university course, just for fun, at a prestigious American school. It was distance learning, but it was the full first year university course. He had no problem with that course, because he had the foundation of hard work, and the foundation of being challenged.

  • My favorite thing about the school is the sense that it is a genuine investment and commitment on both sides. The way that the school is genuinely invested in the outcomes of the kids, puts in the work over many years, creates that bond. The teachers there and the administration there are genuinely invested in the success of the kids there. And they're a school for gifted children, and they take that seriously. I really am impressed with the staff and the administration there for being able to manage that on a daily basis.

  • The place has that sense of, ‘We're all in this together,’ and ‘I've known you for eight years,’ or ‘You seem a little bit off today’ or ‘How can we help?’ I think nobody at that school feels like they're just a cog in a machine. For everyone there, this is a very long journey. I’d say it’s like a family. Of course, there are rules and boundaries. It's more structured than a family environment. It's a small property. But that’s not a problem, especially when the kids are younger.

  • As my kids got older, I was rooting for the school to maybe expand and build a little bit of infrastructure in the school, because they got a good thing going there. That was on top of our list, thinking ‘Jeez, wouldn't they benefit from a facilities expansion, especially for the upper years?’ Yeah, they're doing it. Now, they've got a construction project going now, they're really expanding the experience, especially in the upper grades.

  • As my kids got older, I was rooting for the school to maybe expand and build a little bit of infrastructure in the school, because they got a good thing going there. That was on top of our list, thinking ‘Jeez, wouldn't they benefit from a facilities expansion, especially for the upper years?’ Yeah, they're doing it. Now, they've got a construction project going now, they're really expanding the experience, especially in the upper grades.

  • As my kids got older, I was rooting for the school to maybe expand and build a little bit of infrastructure in the school, because they got a good thing going there. That was on top of our list, thinking ‘Jeez, wouldn't they benefit from a facilities expansion, especially for the upper years?’ Yeah, they're doing it. Now, they've got a construction project going now, they're really expanding the experience, especially in the upper grades.

  • They've really put a lot of work into reinvigorating the facilities, especially in recent years, modernizing the systems, the computers, and other facilities. They started that well before the COVID-19 situation, and it really paid dividends during the pandemic. So, thank goodness, because organizations that didn't do that were caught out.

  • We have friends whose kids don't go to the same school, and they often say how you get lost with hundreds or thousands of people in a school. Without a sustained effort, on behalf of the staff, which sometimes they don't have the resources for, you can just get lost. You can just dissolve into the environment. But because PACE is a smaller environment, and because, as I was saying, they're very invested in the students and invested in their journey, they really do have the ability to foster good work habits.

  • PACE isn't a school where you can coast; you have to put in the work. When you're a gifted child at other schools, it is easy for that to work against you. By that, I mean, it's easy to get by with great marks and hide. At PACE, you're always expected to work. There's no way to dissolve or hide behind somebody else. Everybody there is contributing on a daily basis. At some other schools, where students might be coasting, a lot of them get slammed when they go off to university.

  • If your child has an affinity for math, or chemistry, or robotics, or some other subject, the school provides amazing opportunities to participate in competition, and would really encourage your child to get involved in the competitions. They have baked into their educational outlook the chance to go out and find places to compete academically, and intellectually, whereas other schools might only have competition in sports. My oldest has been involved in a number of competitions, in math, chemistry, and biology. And they've been super encouraging. They've really helped with the preparation. He's actually placed first in a number of very prestigious math competitions, as well as winning a silver medal at the International Biology Olympiad last year, which was in Portugal.

  • I've done some volunteering at the school, for some extracurricular activities, and I've always been incredibly impressed with how involved the kids are. They're 100 % there. They're there to contribute. They're there to learn. That's the thing that comes out of a successfully constructed educational environment, where you've instilled in kids the value of working, and bringing yourself to the situation, and contributing, and not coasting or sliding. That's not easy to do. I used to teach and I know that not everyone coming to class is interested in putting in the effort. So, to have a school, where everybody coming to class is there to contribute, and put in the work, speaks to a value of diligence or hard work or at least being present in the educational moment. So that's something I've been very impressed with.

  • I think, by and large, the families at PACE are a little bit more invested in the outcomes of the kids’ education. They come from all sorts of backgrounds, all ethnicities, and what they have in common is they all have gifted kids. And, I think, gifted kids can be a bit of a challenge, too. So, something else that parents have in common is some of the struggles of raising a gifted child. Some parents even put in a fair bit of driving to get their kids there, from places that are not particularly close to PACE. They do that because they know it's such a great educational environment.

  • The administrative part of the school and the teaching part of the school work very, very, very closely together. Everyone is working hand-in-glove, together for the benefit of the students. That is the true strength of that school, that it is a contiguous environment, where if you start really early, you have this journey, but you don’t have to start early to benefit from this. Teachers tell us things about our children, before we know about them, and they are able to make recommendations based on their years of knowledge with our children.

  • Our child's class right now is mostly people that have been there for the whole run. They are twenty-one students, and the vast majority of them have been there for the long haul, and they are a very tightly knit group that really gets along well together. It was just an obvious decision for us to continue at the same school, because at that point, he had just developed a comfort there, and he'd become integrated into the school and they were just as invested in his future as he was.

  • The parent-teacher nights are actually meaningful exchanges. They're not just, ‘They’re doing okay, goodbye!’ The school generally just truly cares about the kids and gets closely involved, and invested in their outcomes.


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THE OUR KIDS REPORT: Academy for Gifted Children - P.A.C.E.

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