Roundtable Q&A Discussion About Greenwood College School (2021)
Greenwood College School alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Leah Kamanga, Leah Catina Mauer, Jennifer Diamond had to say about the school.
- 4:33 - What you've appreciated most about the school during your time as a student? And how is your perspective on that changed now that you have some distance from the school?
- 14:45 - If the school were to be represented as a single person, what would its personality be like in only three words?
- 20:31 - What one thing would you change about the school if you could make a change for the better?
- Show Full Video Contents
Highlights from the Q&A discussion
Leah Kamanga — alum
Leah is a recent graduate of St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School. She graduated in 2019, and now she is going to Barnard College of Columbia University in New York, and studying economics and sustainable development. Leah enjoyed the small class environment, her friendships, support, extracurricular activities, and SMS’s diversity of knowledge.
- “I think the small class size really helped me. Even going to university, a lot of my friends are afraid to go to office hours or to raise their hand. And I think a small class really provided us with the last bit of the confidence we needed to be able to know that even if we don't have the right answer it's okay, and to really go talk to our professors and understand that they're there to help us. So I think it was really great.
- “Because we were able to have such small classes, our teachers were really able to interact with us one on one. And so I never felt like there was a topic that I didn't fully understand or was skipped over because the class was moving forward. So just looking back, I'm really glad that I was really able to hone in and understand those foundations, especially like math and science, because it's really helped with university preparation.”
- “One thing I thought that was very unique [about St. Mildred’s] is how we have a lot of signature programs and special global studies programs. But what I thought was very unique is how they're able to connect the classroom and the outdoor experiences. When we went on our Grade 10 block, there was a Bahamas trip and that was more biology-oriented. And for me, I really enjoyed that because I found it more interesting to have a real-world experience to keep in the back of my mind while I was doing my classroom work.”
- “The school gave me the opportunity to not be afraid to raise my hand or ask questions, and not to stereotype men, but I wasn't prepared for the men who were talking over me or just ignoring what I was saying. When going to single-sex environment you wouldn't have that.”
- “I think [if the school were to be represented as a person, its personality would be] confident, accepting, and supportive. I think it is a very confident school [because] they are not afraid and are always trying new things. And even when there's so many different girls who are coming to us from class with different personalities and characteristics, I think school really just folds them in. You know, when a girl falls or messes up, the whole community is there to help her and to support her and [let her] know that she is included and respected.”
- “So what I thought families would find surprising [about SMLS] is the ... big emphasis on making sure that all the girls know each other and there's activities for them. So we had a Senior School or an Upper School girl (big sister) get paired with a Junior School girl (little sister). And I think going from both sides of that, as a Junior School girl I was so afraid of the older girls, but just seeing my big sister and being able to ask her questions at the Senior School I thought was fantastic. And then they make them less scary. Then, as a Senior School girl, I was able to get to know the younger girls [and] visit some old classrooms. So I really think what is special is that there's so much mixing between the grades.”
- “I would say just don't be afraid and don't worry about making friends. ...It is such a small school and such a close-knit community that it can be scary to go into a place where a lot of the girls already know each other, but I think it is such an accepting place and you really just get folded into the community so quickly and no one even remembers that you are new like in the third week, which I think is fantastic.”
- “[All-girls educational experience has] just really allowed us to focus on our education and also build such close female friendships. Like I'm so close to my good friends from St. Mildred's and I really appreciate that. I think especially in those high school years and all, you're really just learning about yourself and who you are, and I think just having other women who are going through the same things really helped to make that transition easier and more comforting. ... And now going into university and having more coed experiences, I know mostly who I am and I feel more calm being able to express myself and voice my opinions.”
- “I definitely think that we've had a lot of international girls coming [into the school], so don’t I think that coming into the school from a coed environment she would be missing out too much in that respect. Academic-wise, the IB Programme, of course, is very rigorous, but I do also think that St. Mildred’s provides a very intense and good education.”
- “We have a program called Grad Seminar in the last year [when] a class basically is very small. And you have a class with the guidance counsellors and university counsellors to really just hone in your applications, figure out what you're trying to do with your life, and make sure your applications go through and are good. And so, I think that was really great. In my grad seminar specifically, I think, we had three girls who were applying to the United States. So it was very helpful. And I really appreciate it because, of course, I didn't really know what I was doing. And so they were really helping me, accommodating and making sure that I would be able to meet the requirements for the state schools.”
Leah Catina Mauer — current parent
Leah Catina attended St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School herself for her last three years in high school and graduated in 2000. She has been very involved with the alumni association for the last 16 years since. As of September 2020, her daughter, Lily, joined St. Mildred's as well. Leah claims that St. Mildred’s has helped Lily to develop lots of confidence in its nurturing environment and has offered strong academics and technology knowledge.
- “I joined [St Mildred's] for my last three years of high school. I came to the school at the age of 16. And I think what I appreciated most at the time was the size of the school. It was amazing to go from a class of 300 at my previous high school to a class of 30. And the attention you get from that and the number of activities that you can become involved in really helped me blossom as a young adult. And the access to extracurricular activities really pushed me beyond the world that I lived in previous to St. Mildred's.”
- “Now that it's so many years past, I look back and I think what that really meant was that I gained a lot of confidence to try new things [and] have leadership opportunities. And I think the school just helped drive that in me. And that's been something that I've continued to benefit from as I've left Mildred's.”
- “I think the school has grown tremendously over the last 20 years. And I think that global studies and extra beyond-the-classroom-learning has flourished. And I think it's a fantastic piece that really does differentiate SMLS. I think just down to the roots that its all-girls education is huge. The empowerment that women get from that is outstanding. And I think the other piece that I've experienced now being so far out is that with the strong 127 years of alumni network you have a lot of women to lean upon for mentorship, for potential communities, and for networking. And so I think that that's a big part of what makes us most great.”
- “I don't think I'd change very much [about the school], I think it's pretty fantastic the way it is. I love how nurturing it is and how many opportunities it gives to the girls and the confidence it builds.”
- “The three words I would choose [to describe SMLS as a person] are confident, kind, and smart. So I said [the school is] confident because of the empowerment of girls to be leaders, to [help them] build their self-worth, their self-esteem, their self-confidence, and kindness. I really see it in Lily already and she's only been there a month. I think that the empathy towards peers, teachers, and their community as a whole are continuously reflective in the girls and the students, the alumni, the parents, the staff. Everybody just reflects the same type of values. And [the school is] smart for sure because I think there's a great standard of academic excellence that comes out of the school as well and prepares the girls for the post-secondary world.”
- “I think how down-to-earth the school is sometimes. I think there's this expectation that private or independent schools are very stuffy or very pretentious, but in my experience and Lily's experience thus far] has been a very welcoming atmosphere, in a very comfortable, nurturing environment. Nurturing is a word I think that I often use when I describe the school. No matter how big the school has grown in its technology, its facilities, and in the growth of its programs, there is still this feeling of home. I think that can be surprising to many when they enter, given how fantastic the school is on so many levels that you still get that feeling of nurture.”
- “Don't be afraid. I think there's just so much opportunity and the school is so welcoming. I think Lily had slight reservations when starting a new school in September, but within the day she came home and she's like, “I've already made three friends and I love my teacher.” And it's exactly the same feeling I had. And I started two months into Grade 11, which was very difficult mentally, but honestly, within a week I just felt like the school just embraced you. You have no choice but to become part of it. And so definitely that fear is not necessary, it's such a great school to be a part of. And if you allow yourself, there's so much opportunity to take from it, so many leadership opportunities, so many curricular activities. You know, enjoy everything that the school has to offer.”
- “It was a huge draw for St. Mildred's, knowing that their academics are really strong. And I think being the only-girl school in Oakville was a strong choice for us.”
- “Lily is loving the program so far. She's loving the food, the teachers, and the technology. You know, I think she's missing the co-curriculars right at this very moment in time, but that's to be understood with any school right now. I think the school is doing an amazing job navigating these very uncertain times, giving the girls a full academic and social experience in a very safe way… . So, yeah, Lily is saying only great things so far.”
- “I picked a few words when I thought about the values of St. Mildred's and inclusivity was the first one that really came to mind, [as well as the] strength, positivity, kindness, and adaptivity. I think the school continues to innovate and adapt given any circumstances. They're always forward thinking. They have developed these amazing inspirational girls, and those girls show strength, positivity, and kindness in everything that they do. So, I think those are reflected not only in the students, but in the staff and the parents as well, because you can't help but just get sucked into those values. And I don't think you are a right fit if you don't model those values as well.”
- “I'd say thus far in just these few weeks, the academic challenge that is already apparent is great. I think it's really good for kids to be challenged, and so we are already seeing that. So that's probably our biggest impact so far and watching her rise to the challenge. She has not learned French up until now and so she's got a big learning curve ahead of her to catch up to Grade 4 with the rest of the girls, but she's taking it in stride. And I love seeing that enthusiasm in her to reach the level of the other girls, and the supportive nature of the school [helps] so she's not afraid.”
- “I think that all-girls education is really important because I think girls learn differently than boys, given what I know from my experience with my little boy and a little girl. They absorb information differently, … [and] being around females and learning in that same kind of environment is very impactful.”
Jennifer Diamond — current parent
Jennifer is a current parent of two girls, one in the Senior School in Grade 9 and another in the Middle School in Grade 6. Both have been at the school for nine years. Jennifer liked the single-sex learning and multicultural experiences that her daughters gained from St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School. She also highlights the inspirational, respectful, compassionate, courageous, and leadership qualities of the school.
- “Well, originally, we chose St. Mildred's for a few reasons. Firstly, we had friends whose children attended St. Mildred's and spoke very highly of it. We also liked the idea of single-gender learning. When we toured, we liked what we heard from the students that we bumped into in the hall. They were so poised and confident when they stopped to speak to us, and everything the school spoke to us about in terms of understanding how girls learn really resonated with us.”
- “I would say I expected that the school would deliver a high level of academics, and I've been happy to find this to be true. I also assumed that they would integrate technology into the learning, and I was really happy to see that they have done a really impressive job of combining both traditional learning with innovative technology skills. I was concerned that the school wouldn't be multi-culturally diverse and then all the students would be from an affluent background, but I've been really glad to see that neither has been the case. It is very multicultural and there are families there from every socio-economic background. And lastly, I didn't think there would be any involvement with male students, but I have been very pleased to see that they do have many opportunities to have exposure to boys from other schools, but in a productive way, like with extracurriculars or global studies, travel and so on.”
- “[My kids] both say that they feel like St. Mildred’s is their second home. They really feel like how the teachers care about inspiring the girls and that’s because of the smaller classroom sizes, they really feel like the teachers know them really well. They think it's definitely hard work, but they love how St. Mildred's makes it a fun thing to learn.”
- “And they're really excited about all the opportunities that St. Mildred's has, both now and looking to the future. My eldest daughter is really looking forward to doing an internship and possibly being a school prefect. So they're both just very excited with all the opportunities that they can currently be involved with and looking at what they'll be able to do in the future. So they just love St. Mildred's.”
- “So, I would describe [SMLS as a person] as inspirational, exuberant, and enlightened. Inspirational, I would say, because I feel these students are being taught to put their all into everything. They're so aware of what it means to be kind. And my girls and the other girls that I know at the school really do inspire me to be a better person with their exceptional work ethic. I know that these girls will do amazing things. I use the word exuberance because I watch my girls enter the school on a daily basis with enthusiasm and energy. They're just always excited about something, whether it's going in and presenting a school project they're going to share with the class and parents, or they're leading a school chapel. There's just always something interesting that seems to be happening at St. Mildred's. And then the last thing I said was enlightenment. And I say that because I find that the girls are really made to be aware of what's going on in the world around them. They have been educated on relevant global issues. And I just think with their sharp minds and their truly empathetic hearts, they're being molded into the type of person who will actually truly make a difference.”
- “I think values are a huge theme at St. Mildred's, and I've always been so impressed with the way that they incorporate their core values into the kids' day-to-day life. And I see the value system being implemented at the school is really aligned with the value systems of the families at the schools I've come to know. I'll list five that I thought of: integrity, respect, innovation, compassion, and courage. Integrity [because] I think the expectation of the school is that the girls live with honesty and they show responsibilities for themselves, both inside the school and out in the community.” Respect is a second one, and I think there are daily discussions at the school of respecting those around you. And I actually see the respect represented in the diversity of the school community and how the school teaches to honour. Innovation is the third thing I was thinking about, and I see it very present at the school. They're constantly incorporating new ideas and practices around the world. And I know that I and the other parent community really appreciate the school integrating technology and academics.”
- “I see compassion in the school community and the parents are really committed to helping those less fortunate by doing regular charitable initiatives, and I also see that they're teaching the girls how to show compassion to themselves by maintaining a healthy work-life balance.”
- ‘St. Mildred’s just has really helped make both my children equally confident leaders, even though by nature they tend to be more reserved. The teachers have really helped to challenge them and step outside of their comfort zones regularly, whether it be public speaking, trying out for a team sport that they don't have a lot of experience with, or auditioning for the school musical. In particular, my eldest is actually the shyer of the two, and yet her music teacher convinced her to try out for the lead role in the school musical, which my husband and I could never have convinced her to do. But she did. And we were thrilled to watch her get up in front of all these people and sing and act. And because of this fantastic experience, she became more open to expanding her horizons after having such a great initial experience. And it was just wonderful for us to see. So, I would say that building confidence and teaching my girls to be leaders and stepping out of their comfort zones has really been the biggest impact I see on my girls.”