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Elmwood School:
The Our Kids Report > Reviews
Grades Preschool TO Gr. 12 — Ottawa, ON (Map)

Elmwood School:

Roundtable Q&A Discussion About Elmwood School (2020)

Elmwood School alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Sijyl, Ryan Schwartz, Julie had to say about the school.

Video Contents

Highlights from the Q&A discussion

Sijyl — alum

Sijyl attended Elmwood for ten years, from Grades 2 to 12, and graduated in 2017. Sijyl is currently a fourth-year biomedical student at the University of Ottawa.

  • The thing that I've appreciated about the school the most is the vast array of opportunities that we were given as students and also the dedication of the staff and my peers in encouraging me to pursue the vast number of opportunities that were put in our way.

  • Since I've graduated, the biggest takeaway I've learned from my time at Elmwood is to always go for something. Don't let your inhibitions hold you back, because this idea of letting your inhibitions get in your way and stopping yourself from doing something has hindered me in the past. And knowing that I have the skills and the capability to tackle anything that comes my way is something that I really appreciate. That's something that I've taken forward in both my academics and in my professional life as a research assistant.

  • It's the tight-knit community between both the staff and the students, apart from the small class size. Everyone knows each other. They're all in good relationships with one another and I think that's great. It's a very homely environment for the students.

  • The all-girls environment is very nurturing, and you see girls supporting each other through their education and their extracurricular pursuits. And that's something I really valued as a shy person coming into the school. I was not very willing to participate in many things, I would not attend clubs, I would sit by myself at recess and not try to make many friends. But I found that with the encouragement of my peers and my teachers, I started to step out of my comfort zone and try new things and that's something I really valued.

  • The diversity in the student population and the staff population. The fact that Elmwood has that diversity but also celebrates it through activities such as International Night and Francophonie Night, that's something that stuck with me as a first-generation immigrant and that's what I value about the school the most.

  • Three words to describe Elmwood: The first trait that came to mind was nurturing because Elmwood fosters a positive environment in which girls feel like they can be themselves and not be under the scrutiny of being judged. Not only do teachers and fellow peers encourage students to pursue new opportunities and new endeavours, but they also provide them with the opportunities to stretch themselves and I think that's important. Secondly, I think the school is driven and is always looking towards ways of tailoring their education to ways in which girls learn best; that's something I found valuable. Then, with drive comes innovation. So, Elmwood, from what I saw at my time, is always looking for ways to connect with the broader world of education and tailor its teaching techniques to ways in which girls learn best. But not only that, but they’re also incorporating new, novel technologies into their teaching strategies to make the educational experience a really wholesome one.

  • My advice would be to leverage all the opportunities that the school provides you. I don't think I have ever been to an institution where we were given so much to work with. The number of extracurricular opportunities that we had access to was unbelievable for me. And I think that leveraging those is really going to benefit a student who attends the school because it can change the way your life pans out after you leave Elmwood. For example, I was avidly involved in the KAPI team at Elmwood School when I was in Grade 9 through Grade 12. We were a team of 9 students who would go around to different high schools in the Ottawa region and review their place. That's when I realized that I had a love for creative writing and reviewing, reviewing articles, and reviewing plays and such. But if as a student you want to experience the Elmwood experience maximally, I would advise you to engage with whatever opportunities come your way, both academic and extracurricular.

  • Elmwood prepared me extremely well for university. I took the full IB diploma in Grades 11 and 12. So for those who aren't aware, it simulates the academic environment of what you would see in university, as the assessments are very few and they're weighted quite heavily. So, I received the IB diploma, all my courses were IB level classes, and I even got some credits that I could redeem in university and that was the icing on the cake.

  • I came into the first year having had that experience already, which made the transition from high school to university a little less daunting than it is for most people.

  • In terms of balancing homework and workload, it was kind of a mix between having a traditional classroom and a flipped classroom where the student does the bulk of the work at home and then comes to class for questions and discussion with the rest of the group. I think as a student, I benefited from both equally.

  • Back when I was considering different career options, what I valued about Elmwood was that we had a very accessible guidance department that I could approach if ever I had any sort of professional or university-related question. Our guidance counsellor was a very approachable person.

  • Elmwood, like many other high schools in Ontario, has a careers class, which I found to be extremely helpful in coming up with programs to apply to and understanding what kind of a learner I was and what career I would be beneficial for me as a person. So, there I learned about a scholarship at the University of Ottawa. It's a research scholarship where they gave 10,000 dollars to an incoming first-year student in the Faculty of Science.

  • Fast-tracking, by the end of Grade 12, I did end up getting that scholarship. I have worked in a research lab since I graduated high school and now, I've run projects on my own. I've been a co-author on a paper, and it's shaped my educational and career outlook. My research is more based on biomedical imaging. I was set on a career in medicine, and I still am, but I know that there is this new contingency that I can go towards, and I can pursue a career in biomedical imaging. That's something I would love to spend my life doing if given the opportunity to.

  • If I had a question, the guidance department answered it extremely honestly and truthfully. I attribute a lot of what I am today and where I am today to that.

Ryan Schwartz — current parent

Ryan is a proud father at Elmwood. His daughter, Bridget, joined one year ago and is currently in Grade 6.

  • If Elmwood was a person and I had to describe their personality, I would use nurturing, inspiring, and I would also use credibility. So, for nurturing, I chose that one because I think it's obvious that the school cares about the development and the growth of the girls. … Also, I choose inspiring because Elmwood creates an atmosphere that is not only inspiring to the girls, but it creates this environment of wonderment about the world and whether that's on the more of the STEM side or the arts and culture side. I feel that Elmwood really creates this sense of wonder within the girls such that they want to learn as much as they possibly can. Lastly, concerning credibility, I came up with this word because it's an institution that's founded on excellence. I know that might sound a little bit cliche, but what impressed me about Elmwood when we were first looking at researching schools and opportunities for our daughter was some of the statistics that were on your website in terms of 100 percent university placement rates and a 90 to 95 percent scholarship rate.

  • In terms of what we expected, like Julie's comment, it was the quality of the education, the excellence of the academics. The small class size was a real selling feature for us.   So, she ended up having a lot more engagement and one-on-one opportunities with the teachers.

  • I think what was not expected for us or what we were surprised by was the focus on arts and culture at Elmwood. By that, I mean the music and the theatre programs. I never would have expected that they would be so well developed as they were.

  • Elmwood has made her a much happier kid. She was always a happy kid, but in the context of school, this is a place that she looks forward to going to every day. She's excited by it. She is happy to get up in the morning, happy to get ready for school, happy to go to school.

  • So, when we were looking around for alternatives to her previous school, what appealed to us was a safe space. By that, I mean a place where she's free to try new things and to express herself in a way that she doesn't have to worry about or feel self-conscious about.

  • Elmwood has had a very big impact on Bridget's confidence in terms of her willingness to put herself out there, be proactive, and meet people. And that's exactly what we wanted to do with her. We recognized that she had a bit of a spark and we wanted to really harness, enable, and nurture that. Elmwood has been a great place for Bridget to do that.

  • We've talked about a lot of different descriptors that represent Elmwood, I'd throw out words like empowerment in the sense that it's giving the girls the wherewithal and the knowledge and the tools to help them to better make their own decisions and make more meaningful contributions to society.

  • Elmwood focuses on enhancing, bringing out the specific values, and the personalities of the girls and focusing on what their strengths are and helping them to become stronger in the areas where there are growth potential and growth opportunities.

  • I always see Elmwood as something that’s always striving to be better. I think that applies to the institution itself, to the educators and the administrators, and the students. That's what the school is trying to ingrain and instill within the girls as a philosophy of continuous improvement, which I absolutely love.

  • Respect is a very important word that’s heavily focused and is evident in any interaction I've ever had with anyone in the Elmwood community, which is a nice thing to see. I would also include dedication because I know a lot of work goes into ensuring that it's a safe place for the girls to go. Also, caring and commitment, everyone is committed to the mission of the school, to the vision to create the empowered leaders of tomorrow.

  • Bridget hasn't had a lot of homework, which she has enjoyed. When she does her homework, she's motivated to do it and she'll do it on her own.

Julie — current parent

Julie is a very proud parent at Elmwood. She joined the community three years ago and has three daughters who are in Grades 8, 10, and 12.

  • So, if Elmwood was a person, I would say that she was a sister. When you come to our village, everyone there, whether it's a teacher, whether it's the other students, everyone there treats you like you are their sister, like it becomes this giant family. All the girls know each other, even in different grades. Every teacher has contact with every student. So, it becomes this big giant family.

  • Another word that I would choose is to describe Elmwood as a risk-taker. Sometimes the girls arrive, and they're sort of shy. Elmwood will work to get you out of your shell and push you to become a risk-taker, to just go out there and try things that you wouldn't necessarily have tried.

  • You've never played volleyball. That's okay. Try out for the volleyball team. It'll be fun at the very least or join a club that you're interested in, but you're not too sure. Maybe at your previous school, people would have judged you for what you thought here. There's no judging like that, you're just encouraged to take risks and go and try new things

  • As we expected, the academics are superior. Some of the classes are as small as 5-7 girls, depending on what the elective is and how many girls are taking it. So, it's not so much like a classroom as it is a discussion.

  • You can sense a family feeling when you come in for your tour and it feels a bit surreal. But when you came in after the very first day, the girls were like, ‘Mom! All the other girls were saying Hi, you're new, who are you? Where are you from? What's your story?’ There wasn't any sort of trying to fit in and not being sure immediately. You're welcomed in and your homeroom teacher is also your sister's math teacher. Just everybody knows everyone. And very quickly, the whole school knows who you are and it's that great feeling of community.

  • My daughters could not be more different. They all look the same, but they could not be personality-wise, more different. What I'm always impressed with is how Elmwood has enabled each one of them to grow, but in different ways, because they needed it in different ways.

  • My eldest daughter, who's in Grade 12, Alex, is a go-getter. She said she was 40 when she was born, and she's got everything figured out. She knows where she's going, what she's doing, and she's doing the full IB diploma program; it's pushing her pretty hard, but she loves it. She's thriving because she wants to be pushed. If the teachers know that you want to be pushed, they will push you and get you where you want to be. So, for Alex, it's been great because she's super high reaching and she's not getting bored.

  • Now with my second daughter, she would love to be a wallflower. She would love it if no one would talk to her, no one would notice her. So, for her, the first few months at Elmwood were a bit more difficult because she was like, ‘Oh, I have to pay attention all the time because they might just ask me a question.’ In the public system, she had gotten used to, ‘If I don't raise my hand and I don't answer any questions, but I do my homework, people will just leave me alone, which is kind of what was happening.’ So now we've got this element where she has no choice. She can no longer be the wallflower that she wishes she could be.

  • My youngest daughter is in Grade 8 and I've always called her my sunshine baby. The glass is always half full. She loves everything and so having come here, she's got all these opportunities. We had the girls do a lot of dance classes when we were in the US, but since coming here they hadn't really practiced many sports. But you don't have to have a base in something; you can just come. So, she's been on the soccer team, volleyball team, badminton team, and golf team. She's had every opportunity thrown her way.

  • I feel like the girls are taught at Elmwood that if at first, you don't succeed, try again.  They're kind of taught that you know what, it's okay to fail and that's how we learn the most. The girls come out with some grit; they're not afraid to try new things, but they're not afraid to fail at those new things and try again, which I think is so important these days. I feel like generally out in the world, people are just not risk-takers. They're not greedy and they give up too quickly, too easily. So, I think that's such a great thing that we can offer the girls that by going to Elmwood, they come out like grittier.

  • Every opportunity that the girls have been given at Elmwood has helped them to grow and has helped them to learn. I could not be happier with how their education is working out.

  • There's a ton of leadership opportunities at the school. So, one of the things that I had to wrap my brain around was that at an all-girls school, all the clubs, all the committees are run by girls. So, every single girl thinks that she can run any club because it's already been run by a girl before.

  • It's a great experience for them in leadership. It's a great experience for the other girls to watch the girls be leaders. I think that's to me, that's almost more important than the actual leadership is knowing that you can lead anything if the clubs are not there. If
    there's a club that you want to run that doesn't exist at Elmwood, one hundred percent find yourself a teacher. That teacher will support you. There’s a program at Elmwood that also involves community service, learning a new skill, and doing outdoor activities like a camping trip, a canoe trip or the winter camping trip. So, there are all these different opportunities to participate in activities, but you can be the leader of those activities.

    It's a great experience for them in leadership. It's a great experience for the other girls to watch the girls be leaders. I think that's to me, that's almost more important than the actual leadership is knowing that you can lead anything if the clubs are not there. If there's a club that you want to run that doesn't exist at Elmwood, one hundred percent find yourself a teacher. That teacher will support you. There’s a program at Elmwood that also involves community service, learning a new skill, and doing outdoor activities like a camping trip, a canoe trip or the winter camping trip. So, there are all these different opportunities to participate in activities, but you can be the leader of those activities.


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The 50-page review of Elmwood School is part of our series of in-depth accounts of Canada's leading private schools. It provides a unique and objective perspective on the school's academics, programs, culture, and community.

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