Beamsville, ON | Grades 9 - 12 | Shortlist
Despite the small size, the academic rigor of the school is fantastic. In a lot of ways I was far more prepared for university level courses than other students in my first year. There is not the same breadth of academic choices as at larger schools, but this is improving, and the school does what it can to accommodate students who need courses not offered (i.e. online courses, or making arrangements with another, local high school). I find the academic culture to be more collegial than competitive and that it was challenging and focused on preparation for next steps (i.e. if a student is on a university track, those courses are focused on preparing a student for that - teaching how to tackle university level courses). In my first year of university I found some of my peers were less prepared - seemed almost unable to write a basic essay. I was so grateful for the preparation I received at Great Lakes.
Academically, I thrived when at Great Lakes. The smaller class sizes certainly helped me learn and get extra help from teachers if I needed it. The teachers know all of the students on an individual level, so nobody would ever fall through the cracks. The students were collegial and there was not a competitive environment. Students of different levels and learning needs all got along well. When I attended the school, there were not very many options for elective courses, but this has changed quite a bit in recent years and they now offer courses such as entrepreneurship, food and nutrition, and design and technology that were not available before. I have also been impressed with the improvements that Great Lakes has made in terms of providing academic accommodations for students with exceptionalities. I ended up completing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology (following a BA - Honours, and MA), and I believe that the academic foundation that was set at Great Lakes contributed to this success.
I believe the best academic program in any school would be one that enables the child to identify his/her areas of strength and weaknesses to enable him/her to pursue an area of interest or career in which he/she is best suited. The subjects offered generally prepare the students for higher education and career progression. Though, I find that the school is not aggressive enough in making students break new grounds and rather allow them to choose their "comfort zones". It's amazing to me that by the time my daughter was mid-way through high school, she was already clear about subjects she would drop, her unique area of career interest and progression. I find that the teachers work with the students and tend to support them in identifying their areas of interest and career. I feel that the academic structure and culture is fashioned more along with the model of homeschooling.
Great Lakes offers a good number of subjects/courses with rigor that helps students prepare adequately for post-secondary education. The courses also vary to help students discover what they enjoy and would like to pursue as a career in the future, which I think is helpful. The academic structure helps students to focus on their own work and not compare themselves academically with others, which is best because this helps to discover what their strengths and weakness really are, and they are able to make their own decisions on what they want as a career. It also builds a healthy academic environment where students are not afraid to help each other out and develop their weaknesses with the strengths of others. I am confident that my child will thrive in the competitive environment of the University of Toronto due to the solid academic experience acquired in Great Lakes Christian High School.