REVIEW OF Fern Hill School - Burlington BY parent, Justin Jones
- Date of Review
November 24, 2021
SK - Gr. 8
(5) Student Experience
We have two children (twins) who have attended Fern Hill School – both absolutely loved their 9 years at the school (currently 9th), but for slightly different reasons. Our daughter is hearing impaired, thus requires minor accommodations of which the teachers exceeded our expectations. Both our children absolutely love their teachers, followed by their social circle of friends. The small intimate classes gave the children an opportunity to develop deep relationships with both students and their teachers. Using the opportunity for deeper relationships, the teachers have been able to better engage our children as they intimately know their strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes – using examples and language that resonates with each child. Having two children in the same class we have first-hand experience of how the teachers adapt to the uniqueness, needs and aspirations of each child.
(5) School Leadership
The success of Fern Hill School comes down to great leadership – students, parents and teachers are held lovingly accountable ... all focused on one thing - putting the student first. Collectively and collaboratively creating a safe, fun, and enjoyable learning environment. What I personally appreciate most about the schools’ leadership, in addition to their expertise … is their genuine kindness and desire to educate. They are incredible human beings. The school’s leadership walks the walk; quickly and artfully addressing challenges as they arise. Fern Hill School is an embodiment of the wonderful Mrs. Derrick, the school’s co-founder and director. What an incredible lady and role model for our children. As our kids are now in grade 8, we have begun the ‘painful’ and ‘nerve-racking process of exploring high schools. This process reminds me that we would never have joined Fern Hill School if it was not for Mrs. Stone, the school administrator. We owe her so much gratitude for helping us make the best decision of our lives in joining Fern Hill School. She was patient, caring, open and balanced in her feedback and advice regarding school selection – and has remained a pillar of support throughout our 9-years at Fern Hill School.
Like every parent, I want the best for my children. I want them to have the opportunity to live the best and most productive life possible. Stating the obvious, parents and teachers play a vital role in a child’s life – our actions and attitudes can both ‘make’ or ‘break’ a child. I remember my teachers, the one who killed my passion for math and another who inspired my love of science. Teachers make a huge difference – Fern Hill knows it, and lives up to their responsibilities every day. The teachers are truly remarkable. I am grateful to all the teachers at Fern Hill School who went above and beyond to engage, inspire, and educate my two children … while making every day an enjoyable learning experience. The teachers frequently communicate, keeping us informed on both progress and challenges – after all, this is a team effort requiring parents, teachers and students to work closely together.
Although Fern Hill School follows a proven and approved curriculum – thanks to small classes and brilliant teachers, they educate each student according to their needs and abilities. Having twins in the same class, we get to see this ‘customized’ delivery firsthand. The school’s traditional curriculum worked well for both my children. On occasions where my daughter (mild hearing loss) struggled, the teachers and school went above and beyond to provide the support needed to ensure she grasped and understood the educational content. Once again, the teachers invested the time (and effort) in keeping us informed regarding the potential challenges. The teachers have done a great job walking the line between supporting a student and allowing them to learn and grow independently. I believe both my children are well equipped with confidence, tools and the knowledge that will help them thrive in their coming high school years.
As Fern Hill School is smaller (which has benefits) than most schools it has a limited number of competitive team sports. This wasn’t an issue for my kids personally as their preferred sports were available at the school. One of the many aspects of Fern Hill School that our kids (and us as parents) love is the wide-open fields surrounding the school–lots of green spaces for recreational sports, playing with friends, enjoying the fresh air, nature, and the occasional deer (or fox) during school breaks or field studies.
Every time I visit the school I see many happy faces, often laughing and having fun. I personally appreciate the comradery and sense of community among the children – everyone has a friend. No student was left behind. On the occasion where a student may feel ‘alone,' perhaps as a result of being new to the school – the community (teachers, parents and students) have been fantastic at helping students integrate and connect with other students. This was often done by deliberately pairing students on projects, inclusion in group play dates outside of school or through recreational activities … basically, engineering opportunities for developing relationships. I think this family and inclusive culture is the culmination of a few key factors: namely small classes, engaged parents, teachers who clearly have a passion for teaching and a consistent leadership team that guides the school with a long-term vision.
(5) School Life
Growing up, I wish I went to a school like Fern Hill. The balance between hard work, social development and fun are very well optimized. Being a parent, we all want the best for our children. Deciding which school to send our precious kids to is and feels like a huge life-changing decision. What if we get it wrong? About 4-years ago we had a huge snow dump, our local roads were not plowed – and I informed the kids that there would be no school, besides I believed that Fern Hill would eventually call a snow day anyway. About 10-minutes later my wife called to say the kids were upset that they were not going to school. Wow! My kids were ‘snitches’ (ha-ha), jokes aside, I was so happy to see that my kids would ‘rat’ on their own father so they could go to school. My kids absolutely love Fern Hill – and not even a parent will stand between them and going to school.
I have personally never experienced the level of parent activity and engagement that I have here at Fern Hill School. Parents are passionate, helpful, and interested in the children and the school. From fundraisers for good causes, field trips to group play dates – parents sprinkle the fairy dust that transforms a remarkable school into a magical school experience. Admittedly, I’m probably the least active parent – however, I have such deep appreciation and respect for the school’s leadership and the teachers that inspire my children, that I feel compelled to write this review. It’s the least I can do for a school that has transformed my two wonderful children into confident, well-rounded, and knowledgeable individuals. We will miss Fern Hill School and the community that made the environment so special.
(5) School Location
Fern Hill School is an island with a lot of green space, fresh air and distance between it and the nearest retail stores. Although Fern Hill School is easily accessible via QEW, 403 and 407ETR, I was surprised to see that many of the parents we interact with live a fair distance from the school. We are a 40-minute drive from Fern Hill, which I have come to enjoy as we use this time for general conversation and school discussion (how was our day, quiz questions, etc.)