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Appleby College:
The Our Kids Report > Key Insights
Grades Gr. 7 TO Gr. 12 — Oakville, ON (Map)


Appleby College KEY INSIGHTS

Each school is different. Appleby 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

  • A long history of academic innovation and program development.
  • A dedication to global learning and global citizenship animates the academic and social experience.
  • Leadership is bold and progressive.
Read our Feature Review of Appleby College

Our editor speaks about the school (video)

Handpicked excerpts

Appleby is a coeducational day school for students from Grades 7 through 11, with boarding available from Grades 9 through 12. All students are required to board on campus for Grade 12. Instruction follows an integrated liberal-arts curriculum: humanities, natural and social sciences, the arts, and IT.

The college was established by John Guest in 1911. He had been headmaster at Upper Canada College and wanted to build a small school in the country. Financial backing was provided by Sir Byron Edmund Walker, a prominent businessman and also Guest’s father-in-law. In addition to business and philanthropy, Walker was an avid amateur natural historian and art collector. He was truly a man of his age, and seemed to rejoice in combining his talents and voracious curiosity with the opportunities that he found, seemingly, everywhere he looked. “Remember each day,” he said, “that we shall be judged by our children according to the use we have made of the really vast opportunity which fortune has placed in our hands.” “Walker’s talents,” wrote one commentator, “served to develop more aspects of Canadian life than those of any of his contemporaries.” He revolutionized banking in Canada, for one. Then, when he donated his fossils and Japanese prints to the Royal Ontario Museum, he at a stroke established both of those collections. Many items collected by Walker remain on display there today.

Walker’s influence is still felt at Appleby today. “Edmund Walker talked a lot about the greatest calling in life being finding ways to serve your community,” says principal Innes van Nostrand. “[His] vision for Appleby College was to produce potential leaders for the nation, who aspired for more than money, and who understood the importance of the world beyond Canada.” (It’s in his name that the Sir Edmund Walker Scholarship Program was established in 2013, in part to celebrate his goals for the school.)


The campus is strikingly beautiful. The initial impression is that of a traditional boarding school very much in the style of the English model that many schools in Canada have taken cues from. Appleby has all the trappings: ties, houses, a Latin motto, crests, kilts, and values founded in the Anglican tradition. “Appleby has been here for a long time,” said past principal Guy McLean at the time of the school’s centennial, “and we want our students to have a sense of the history and tradition of the school. But at the same time it has to be contemporary and modern in terms of usability, and [to] fit the needs of students.”

“You feel like you are a part of something bigger.”

Guest intended the campus to be pastoral, and despite a century of development around the school, it retains a pastoral feel. The campus is bounded to the south by Lake Ontario and to the west by forest, occupying 60 acres. The northern campus, Rabbitnose Island in Temagami, is home to the outdoor education program and adds another 11 acres to the school’s overall geographic footprint.


Physical transformations and teaching styles have been adopted to reflect the school’s values and academic mission. The campus is largely paperless. Students leverage multiple cloud-based solutions such as CANVAS, Microsoft TEAMS, ZOOM and Blackbaud BBK12 to submit papers, maintain schedules, and conference with teachers and peers. “We’ve not used paper submissions for lab reports, papers … well, we haven’t carried paper in our hands for 10 years plus,” says Anjuli Ahooja, a physics instructor. The one exception is exams, which are still typically given and graded on paper.

Though it’s been offering Advanced Placement credits for the past two decades, Appleby launched the AP Capstone Diploma program in 2017, formalizing a dedication to the benefits of AP offerings. Says Carlos Heleno, “We’re educating students to be leaders of character. We’re trying to do everything we can to build very strong academic students who love what they do and who love to learn.” He believes that the AP programs further that goal. “You can choose whatever courses you want to take. It’s up to you to choose what you want to focus on.” The prestigious two-year AP Capstone Diploma program is offered to Senior One and Senior Two students. The program enhances the discipline-specific study in other AP courses by focusing on analytic, research, problem-solving, and communication skills. Today, Appleby is one of the largest Capstone schools in the country.

Students are responsible for arriving in class prepared to engage meaningfully in discussion, creating a sense of co-responsibility and co-ownership over exploration and learning. The expectation is that they’ve read any relevant course material and have developed some facility with the core concepts. In class, the teacher acts more as a guide than an instructor.


“I think of Canada as a microcosm of the world,” says Innes van Nostrand, “and I think of Appleby as a microcosm of Canada.” Last year, students arrived from more than 50 different countries, the flags of which line one side of a common area at the centre of the property. “There is a richness that is added when it’s not the same kids that you’ve always grown up with, who come from similar cultural backgrounds.”


Appleby is known for a culture of academic innovation and there are many examples of that, both past and present. There are long-standing programs of experiential learning, as well as of adopting new technologies and practices. Appleby was the second school in North America to use laptops in the classroom, and the first in Canada to do so. In 1995, it instituted a school-wide Mandarin program, becoming an early adopter of something seen more widely today. The creation of a design lab in 2016, while not the first example of its kind, is nevertheless emblematic of an ongoing commitment to academic development and innovation.

Classes begin at 8 and finish at 3:45, followed by extracurricular activities, service programs, and athletics until 5:15. The school describes the day as “good busy”: a full schedule to keep students active and engaged, yet managed as not to feel onerous. “You have your school day, and right after school you have club or a sport,” says Jill Froembling. “For me in the beginning, it was very difficult to manage my time wisely, so [that] I have time for everything I want to do.”

“The teachers are always available for extra help,” says student Madeline Power, “and they set really reasonable timelines. So, at the end of the day, I feel like we have all the resources to succeed here, so it’s really all about your goals and how you manage your time.… The longer days and the busy schedule have prepared me for university. I feel like I can go and be successful and know what I’m doing.”

In a majority of classrooms, flexible/adaptable furniture supports a cooperative, project-based learning environment. “When there’s no one here,” says Katrina Samson, head of school, “each of the classrooms looks similar in terms of its structure. But when you walk down the halls when classes are in session, each classroom will look very different depending on the subject area, the day, what they’re doing.” Tables are moved to form pods, pushed together for large-group discussion, or faced forward.

“A math class is a great example,” says Samson as she enters a classroom where whiteboards line all of the walls. “Students are up, putting solutions to a range of problems on the board, and then they’re walking around the room, describing how they arrived at the solutions.”


Appleby has long dedicated itself to global education, both on campus and off, perhaps more than any other school in Canada. John Grant started the travel programs in the ‘20s and ‘30s, something that was as unique as it was prescient. John Osler took part in one of the first, boarding the Cunard liner Ascania in the spring of 1932 for a tour of Europe: “This trip was an experience, which created a deeper impression on my mind than any other event which I can remember, and it was an absolute revelation to me to see how some of the other people of this world live, what they do, how they dress, talk, and to a certain degree, what they think. It has given me … a much broader outlook on life.”

The details of the international programs have changed, including an emphasis on service learning, though the sense of their value has grown over the years. Rob McGuiness, assistant head of school, global and experiential education, says “If [students] are going to make a significant impact in any field you name—science, or business, or social justice, or athletics—part of it is actually having an international outlook and international literacy.” He adds that “it’s not just about studying the globe, but about encouraging students’ awareness of their place within it through real-world experiences and interactions.”

The goals of the program were formalized with the creation of the Appleby College Diploma with Distinction in Global Leadership, offered for the first time in 2011. It is a supplemental, enriched diploma, intended to develop students’ global competencies. There are academic requirements, including languages and literatures, and a global experiential trip. Also required is the completion of a global action plan based on what students have learned within the program. It requires students to think of how they will turn their learning into action, and to begin forming some concrete ideas about what they’d like to accomplish in their careers in university and beyond.

THE OUR KIDS REPORT: Appleby College

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