REVIEW OF Hawthorn School BY parent, Yineska Saavedra
- Date of Review
February 28, 2023
- Child 1
Gr. 7 - Gr. 9 (Female, Current Day Student)
(5) Student Experience
Hawthorn School has provided an environment for my daughter to blossom and for us to be part of a community of amazing families who look to fully develop their kids academically while fostering humanistic values. During the pandemic, we realized our daughter was not learning enough to satisfy her thirst for knowledge and meaningful social interaction. We made the change to Hawthorn, not because it was an independent school but because it reflects in all senses its values. What we read, what we heard, and what we noticed about them were coherent. At Hawthorn, our daughter is surrounded by amazing teachers and mentors, people we admire, and great role models. They not only appreciate each child’s talents but also guide them to develop their civic and leadership skills. After almost two years we notice our daughter went from superficially content to happy at her core, from timid and quiet to a very confident young lady who engages in dialogue and debate with well-thought-through arguments, and even more importantly, cares much more for her family, her school and her community. A village is needed to raise a child. Hawthorn has become our village because the entire community strives for excellence and goodness.
(5) School Leadership
I found that the school leadership and administration are values-centric. The women who lead the school are truly admirable. They know every student and family by name and they really encourage a positive environment by caring for each individual person with appreciation and respect. Managing a school like this is not a 9 to 5 job, it is a way of living, of having a bigger family. All the faculty and staff extend their passion for the mission of the school to all those who participate in it. Many parents volunteer and help in the school because the environment invites us to develop a community. When there have been challenges or important conversations, we notice they take a holistic and educated approach, involving all the key stakeholders, listening with care, reflecting deeply, and looking for solutions out of the box with the wellbeing of each student and the school mission top of mind. During our admission interview, the directors were 100% clear about what I should expect of the school. However, we had to experience it to completely understand it. Since day one, we have only had positive surprises.
The teachers at Hawthorn are amazing human beings. The more I know them, the more I observe their deepness not only as professionals but often as daughters, wives, mothers, sisters, or friends. It is obvious that the teachers believe in the mission of the school and live their lives like that, with integrity. If you have a doubt or question, they will get back to you almost immediately. I have experienced that they have great listening skills, they really want to help, and they go out of their way to make learning interesting and fun for the kids. At our family dinner table, we hear with joy the stories of the day and how amazingly teachers explained a difficult concept, how they celebrate victories, and how they really shape the minds and hearts of our daughters. The relationships between teachers and students are not only based on academics, they are truly looking to form the minds and the characters of the students.
Each student is helped to be the best person they can be, in all aspects of their life and especially academics. Teachers will work with children to help them understand and enjoy the concepts. They not only work with the students but also with the parents and mentors to help the children improve their habits and mindsets. I find the school is really committed to creating great citizens with critical thinking and a growth mindset while at the same time really caring for what is more precious in life, health, and faith. The education at Hawthorn is well-rounded and the academics are superior. I also want to highlight how amazing their liberal arts curriculum is. Since my daughter started at Hawthorn, she has been keen to learn about Greek mythology, Latin, Moral Theology, Ethics, and advanced literature (Shakespeare as an example). She came to the school only loving one subject and now she is passionate about all of them.
We have experienced both Lower School and Upper School, and in both, they have enrichment time every week. In Lower School, they did tons of fun activities from knitting and drama to music programs. In Upper School, they have clubs to better themselves and enrich their lives. Students are offered to participate in debates, tutoring, plays, books, languages clubs, etc. Everybody has a chance to participate in the club of their preference, and if they want to create one, the teachers will support them. The impact I see is phenomenal. At a very early age, the girls start taking chances to lead, create, work, and improve their school life. This increases belonging, commitment, and good working habits. The longer my daughter is in the school, the more I see her loving it and getting more involved in extracurriculars.
Our daughter's best picture is from her first day at Hawthorn. We had never seen her so happy. All the girls in her classroom were welcoming. They embraced her as if she had been there for years, and soon after that, she started to laugh more, talk more, and be more of who she really is. She always says that all people at the school are super nice because they are like-minded in their values, notably in the pursuit of excellence with a joyful attitude. Some people think that a small school may be an issue. But for us, a small school means that our daughter is exposed to more diversity since instead of being only with her classmates, she relates to everybody, no matter the grade. As an example, when they do a play in Upper School it is with all grade levels 8 to 12 and they work in a respectful and helpful environment.
(5) School Life
My daughter describes school life as “super fun and action-packed.” In addition to all the interesting academic activities, they have events one after another which keep them enthusiastically engaged. She said that at school the time passed so fast while having fun. Her friendships are deep, they really get to know and cherish each other deeply. Being a relatively smaller school invites them to connect and develop friendships and camaraderie. The school also connected us with girls’ clubs and camps that work based on the same set of values. These experiences have complemented and enriched significantly the viewpoints of my daughter, her circle of friends, and more importantly her participation in meaningful activities that help her grow in integrity and leadership.
This was our big surprise! We knew Hawthorn was going to be an amazing school that would foster a higher level of academic excellence for our daughter. What surprises us is the familiar environment and the sense of community parents also enjoy. Parents at Hawthorn come from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds. Yet all of them seem to have common family values. As a result, during the many activities the school organizes, we began by making acquaintances who later become friends and later almost like family. I am honest when I say that the quality of our family life has improved significantly since we decided to be active participants in school life. We enjoy volunteering in the school and being part of its success.
(5) School Location
Hawthorn is conveniently located in the heart of North York with easy access to the DVP, 401, and public transit if needed, with lots of green areas nearby where the students can go for walks, exercise, and recreation. There is a plaza nearby where they can go occasionally for lunch. The most important thing for me is that it is in a nice, safe area with the convenience of lots of locations in the near surroundings for extracurricular activities.
Finding out what was best for our daughter and our family was a process of several deep and meaningful conversations with our family and trusted friends. We reflected on the gifts and talents of our daughter as well as the type of interaction and relations she would benefit the most from in these important years of her development. We discussed it with her to get her input, and she also trusted that we were carefully deciding what was best for her. In fact, that process itself nurtured our relationship, increasing the level of trust among us. The interview with the Head of School and the Director of Admissions was a very pleasant conversation. We introduced ourselves and asked questions and they helped us to understand the values of the school and the expectations regarding our own relationship with the school as well as the expected level of dedication of the child. There was much wisdom in their comments about the importance of parents being the first educators of our children which made us feel more empowered than ever in what and how our daughter is learning.