Interview with Elmwood School PARENT, Julie Legris
Julie, parent of three girls at Elmwood, shared her views on the strengths of the school. She praised the small class sizes, friendly atmosphere, and emphasis on student participation. She has been pleased with the school's focus on in-depth academics, leadership opportunities, and nurturing individual potential. Elmwood's all-girls environment and supportive community made it an ideal choice for her daughters' education.
Highlights from the interview
One of the big things for us at Elmwood was the really small class size. And what that meant was that the teachers were able to better notice what our children already knew versus what they didn't know yet. We were moving back from the United States, and we had daughters that were in middle school, early high school ages, and we were finding it really difficult to connect with how things are done in Canada and how things are done in the US, especially in the sciences and math.
When we toured Elmwood, just the feel of it, everyone was super friendly. We just had this really great feeling after we left our tour, and that pretty much sealed the deal for us. It's a small school, which has its advantages and inconveniences, for sure. But it really is like a family. Everyone there knows everyone. Everyone says hello. It doesn't give a high school vibe. It gives the vibe of a cottage or summer camp, where everyone is just friendly with everyone.
Our girls found their footing very quickly, made friends, and they were really excited. All three of them were coming from public school. So it's a really different vibe when you first arrive.
Another thing that I find really interesting is that the teachers work really hard to make sure everyone participates. I remember one of my daughters was like, ‘Mom, you don't raise your hand to answer a question.’ The teacher is constantly chatting with everyone. ‘And how about you? What do you think? And what do you think?’ Students have to pay attention all the time, it also doesn't feel like we're learning, but students come back home with all this information.
I really love that it doesn't feel like school, but they're definitely learning. For the earlier grades, there's not really very much homework, because they're covering so much ground during the day, and there’s just so much application, and the class sizes are small. Obviously, for the later years of high school, there's still going to be a fair amount of homework.
My oldest daughter, who graduated from Elmwood last year, is now in her first year at McGill, and she's thriving. She's not struggling with the workload. She's been able to focus on settling into university life, as opposed to struggling with settling into university life and this huge jump in what's expected from you at university.
My three girls all have different personalities, and they've all found their niche at Elmwood, and they're just doing really well. We're really happy. There's not so much this feeling of cliques that you get maybe at other schools. All the girls get along. The grade size is small. Last year's graduating class was 44 girls, and I think those 44 girls could easily say they are all friends. There's very little drama of any kind. The girls seem to be really good about either working it out on their own or just being quite mature about it, like, ‘Let’s agree to disagree.’
My youngest daughter would definitely tell you that she appreciates the amount of clubs and the number of sports available. She would like to try everything she possibly could, and that's definitely what she's doing. There's a club for everything. And if there isn't a club for something, you can start one. You will find teacher support. The same goes for sports. You can join the volleyball team in grade nine, even if you've never played volleyball, which is actually really fabulous because in high school, there's not very much of that. In other schools, you have to play the sport earlier to join.
What I appreciate the most are the academics because the girls are just learning so much and so in-depth. I love how the teachers are curious themselves, and so they share that with the girls. And so there's a lot of discussions in class about current events. And it might be in math class that the teacher's like, ‘Guys, did you hear? This morning on the radio, they were talking about X or Y or Z,’ and the girls will right away be like, ‘Oh, I heard that too.’ And so they'll all feed into it, which means that they're aware of current events. They're aware of what's going on in the world. They understand how politics works. They understand how the Judiciary system works in Canada. And so all sorts of stuff that maybe isn't necessarily taught in school, they're still learning.
They're becoming citizens of the world. And I think a big part of that is the IB curriculum. And so I do love that Elmwood is an IB school. It teaches them the curriculum for Ontario, but also this extra stuff that I think is so important. But everything that feeds into that, the teachers that are there to support the students, all the staff.
Elmwood empowers the girls. There's a lot of leadership opportunities. As they get into the older years, they're in charge of a lot of the stuff for the younger students. There are a ton of different committees at the school, where the students are always involved in making decisions. And I think that's so important.
Elmwood is very protective of their students. Everyone cares for everyone else, but at the same time, they're not coddling them. So when your child does graduate, they will be ready for the next stage of their life.
There are a lot of different values that I find we're getting at Elmwood. I think the biggest one is they really are helping each girl reach her full potential, get to where she's going, and be happy about it. If they're trying to get into a certain university and they need to do community service, they will come up with the ideas, and then the school will help them put that into action. I could give you an example. My middle daughter has always been a little bit shy. She would love to be a wallflower. But in our first year at Elmwood, she was asked to do a reading for an assembly. She was quite nervous about it, but she actually did quite a good job. Lots of people came after and told her that she had done a good job. So now she loves the opportunity to get up there and speak in front of her peers. She doesn't have that fear of getting up there because that first time, people were so supportive of her. I think that's really a testament to the interactions with teachers and staff.
I would say the families at Elmwood are people who realize how important it is for our girls to know their value.
I believe girls do better in an all-girls environment. If you go to a coed school, there's a lot of stuff that seems to be more aimed towards the boys. In certain clubs, there seem to be more boys, or the school puts more effort into their football team, but the beauty of Elmwood is that because there are no boys, all of the leadership positions are held by girls, which means that the younger girls really look up to the older girls and they really are aware that they can do whatever they would like to do. So I would say, for a lot of the families, that's what they're striving for.
The teachers and staff are super responsive to parents. If you need to email a teacher, they'll get back to you immediately. If they can be reached by phone, for sure. I've never run into any issues where I didn't hear back quickly enough. Now I completely trust the school.
The lunches are phenomenal. So that's a huge weight off of me. The girls really enjoy the food. I don't have to worry about lunch or snacks. That was something that surprised me. And there are always multiple options and always a vegetarian option. So I think that might be one of the things that surprised me.
I think if I were to do this over again, I would get to Elmwood sooner. The environment is definitely something that I would highly recommend. It's a great place to be. I think if you can get there in person and tour the school, I think that's a great way to be a judge of what's going on. If you're walking past a classroom, look at the students. Are they engaged? Are they participating? Do they look happy? That's my advice to families searching for a school.