Albert College KEY INSIGHTS
Each school is different. Albert College's Feature Review excerpts disclose its unique character. Based on discussions with the school's alumni, parents, students, and administrators, they reveal the school’s distinctive culture, community, and identity.
What we know
- Albert College has a rigorous academic program and a focus on educating well-rounded, global citizens.
- Albert College is a small school that provides an inclusive, welcoming, family environment.
- Access to nature is plentiful both on and off campus and the school focuses on outdoor education and learning outside of the classroom.
Founded in 1857, Albert College is Canada’s oldest co-educational boarding and day school with a rich and storied history dating back 165 years. That being said, when you speak with the faculty, staff, and students, it’s clear that progress, innovation, and diversity are all top of mind. It’s definitely a school community that’s looking toward the future.
Most Pre-Kindergarten and Junior school students live in the Belleville and the surrounding areas (bussing is available) while Senior students (Grades 7-12) are about half-and-half day and boarding, with the majority of boarding students coming from outside of Canada. Various part-time boarding options are available for local students as well, especially those coming from Toronto, Kingston and other nearby towns east of Kingston that are just a bit too far to commute to and from daily.
Albert prides itself on its rich curriculum and academic excellence, but also strongly believes in teaching the whole child. They do so by requiring all students to participate in co-curricular programming with a focus on Arts, Athletics, Active Citizenship, and Adventure. They call these, along with Academics, the 5 A’s, and they are a significant part of the school’s raison d’être.
“When parents choose Albert, they know that their child is coming to a great school and that 100% of our kids get into the universities and colleges of their choice – but they choose Albert because they want more than that,” says Heather Kidd, Director of Enrolment Management.
ON THE SCHOOL CULTURE
When you speak with members of the Albert community, one word you hear over and over again is ‘family.’ And, while it could seem trite, it’s clear that the notion of family at Albert actually runs quite deep. International boarding students are often invited to day students’ homes for holidays and long weekends, many teachers and faculty send their own children to the school, and alumni invite faculty to their weddings and baby showers years after graduating. The community at Albert, in part because of its small size but also because of the value they place on it, is tight-knit and closely connected.
“I’m new to Albert College and this is my third CAIS school, and for me, as a parent and an educator, what’s struck me most of all is that people at Albert live and breathe the ethos of care in a way I haven’t seen in any other school,” says Junior School Principal Anne Beveridge.
The sentiment that teachers genuinely care about their students’ wellbeing was echoed throughout many of the interviews we did. And the culture of care extends to the students as well. “This school really is like a family, and in order to do well here, you’ll want to embrace that,” one Senior student told us.
“When I transferred to Albert College last year, I would wake up every day really excited to go to school,” says Grade 6 student Annika Hirt. “Though the program was a lot harder than the public school I was at before, I was learning a lot more and it felt really rewarding. Before, I would struggle with math and my mom had to help me a lot – here the teachers help me any time I need it, and it’s really great.”
ON THE ACADEMIC ENVIRONMENT
Small class sizes from JK through Grade 12 allows for individualized support and attention for all students in all grades. Learning needs are accommodated and parents talk about their students thriving in an environment that sees them as individual learners rather than just part of a collective. “Before our daughter started at Albert College, we had to provide her with a lot of help at home,” says Maria Panaritou, mother of a Grade 11 boarding student who came to Albert from a Toronto private school. “We practically had to teach her ourselves. At Albert she does everything on her own with the support and help of her teachers. It’s really amazing. They actually took the time to read her IEP and follow the recommendations, providing her with the tools and resources she needs to succeed.”
Albert College is a university preparatory school and there’s no doubt that value is placed on academics. Students are encouraged to aim high and succeed – while balancing the 5 A’s and taking on leadership roles. Graduates are wellprepared for post-secondary studies and have a wide-variety of experiences, coupled with grades, to include on their applications.
There’s also a school-wide focus on inquiry-based learning which allows, and encourages, students to think critically, ask questions, and explore their curiosity. While the school does follow the Ontario curriculum, they place a great deal of emphasis on going beyond government-requirements to include in the academic experience, a focus on the school’s core values, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and learning skills.
“For us, the Ontario Curriculum is the basement, not the ceiling,” says Mark Musca, Head of School. “We are committed to the notion of whole child education and providing each student with opportunities to excel in a variety of areas.”
ON CO-CURRICULARS & THE 5 A’S
It’s next to impossible to have a conversation about Albert College without mention of the “5 A’s.” In fact, these academic and co-curricular requirements are, in many ways, the foundation upon which everything at Albert is built. We’re told that it’s something all families consider when deciding if Albert is the right fit for their child. A family looking for an academic only environment will not find it at Albert,’ says Helen Walsh, Director of Advancement. “That being said, our goal is to get the best out of every single student we have come through Albert.” The Arts are a big deal at Albert. All students from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 participate and engage in artistic instruction. All classes are led by faculty, specialized artists and instructors and tailored to each student’s abilities, to ensure everyone from beginners to experienced artists all get something out of the program.
Every student at Albert is required to participate in Athletics… “Our ultimate goal is to encourage students to push themselves outside of their comfort zones, take risks, and explore their potential to see what skills they can develop,” Kara Mayer, Director of Athletics explains.
The final two A’s contribute in a meaningful way to the ‘whole child’ focus of the school. Active Citizenship aligns with the school’s vision to develop courageous global citizens across all grades by providing leadership and community service opportunities.
ON THE SCHOOL’S VALUES
“I’m fairly new to Albert, and one thing that really struck me when I started was how they really eat, sleep, and breathe their core values,” says Ann Beveridge, the Junior School Principal.
Under the leadership of Dr. Suparna Roy, the school’s Coordinator of Teaching, Learning, and Innovation, Albert has been working on making EDI even more of a priority. As Dr. Roy walks us around the school, she talks about the need for schools to change and adapt along with the times. She explains: “We have been looking at EDI at the student level, but also at the faculty, board, and schoolwide community level, and finding entry points in all of those areas. When we look at EDI, we want to look at gender inclusivity, racial justice, and indigeneity. This year we’ve focused on the latter two, with an intention to do more around gender in the coming years.”
The school’s Core Values are reexamined every time the school does its strategic plan, which is, we’re told, about once every five years. And, they’re not just something that’s posted to the website for good measure. You’ll find the Core Values all over the school, written out in classrooms, talked about in Chapel, and integrated into all sorts of school curricular and co-curricular programs. The Albert values are Individuality, Compassion, Integrity, and Inclusiveness – which work hand-in-hand with the school’s EDI mandate.
The focus on learning skills and core values extends beyond the classroom into every aspect of school life. “We role model these, pause when things happen in the school, on field trips, at lunch, and take every opportunity to really teach students and to lead by example,” says Mary Baker, Faculty Member.
The question Albert faculty continue to ask, and consider, is ‘do the students see themselves in the curriculum?’ This guides the work they do when it comes to evolving classroom materials and projects, explains Dr. Roy.
“I can’t say enough about the Albert boarding program,” says Maria Panaritou. “They drive my daughter to buy groceries, the nurses have been incredible when she’s needed extra care, the kitchen cooks specifically for her dietary requirements, and my daughter has told me time and again that while she does miss her family and friends in Toronto, Albert feels like her second home, she’s so comfortable there.”
The majority of boarders are international students, but many local students who live in the Toronto and Kingston areas take advantage of the school’s two, three, and five day boarding options. This part-time boarding program allows students to spend weekends at home and weekdays at school where they can concentrate on academics, participate in athletics, and fully explore the arts.
Heather Kidd is the House Director of Girls’ Boarding. She’s raised her own son in Victoria Manor and feels a strong connection to the boarding students. “We have an open-door policy day and night, if you need to chat, we are here for you. If a parent needs to get in touch, we’ll answer What’s App messages at all hours. We are the students’ family and those relationships are extremely important to us,” she says.
THE OUR KIDS REPORT: Albert College
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