Ottawa, ON | Grades 1 - 12 | Shortlist
Our son had many difficulties in the regular school system due to a number of learning disabilities and medical issues. He has been diagnosed with dyslexia, is color blind and has Crohn's disease. Due to his medical condition he had to attend many doctor appointments requiring flexibility in the school curriculum to accommodate him. Due to his learning differences he required a host of different requirements to reach his full potential. This was not possible within either the public or Catholic school system. At Heritage, the small class size and exceptional teachers, were able to customize a plan to teach to his strengths. Their patience and understanding enabled him to become confident and perform well, with much improved marks and attitude. His main issues were not in his abilities but in how to express these ideas. Over the years they have further assisted with other life skills from obtaining employment, presenting the best him, living a good and productive life in addition to all the academic courses that he will require to attend university. For the parents they provided continual communication of progress and hurdles and worked collaboratively with us to best help our son. This included both academically as well as providing workshops to get access to potential government programs to assist financially and different software programs to help us keep pace with the tools that he was using. We are confident that he will be able to attend either college or University of his choice after next year. We feel very blessed to have found Heritage Academy and highly recommend it to anyone struggling with a school solution to their dyslexic child.
They are very hands on. All issues identified are brought to the parents attention for a collaborative response. We were pleased to learn that they do not permit bullying, foul, abusive language from the students, promote actively respect for authorities and working within the world we live. At times this has meant expulsion of students who would not follow these rules. Their active management meant that the environment remained supportive and was not derailed by those who had behavior issues. A consistent and uniform enforcement and treatment of these types of issues, promoted a community environment within the school. I had the opportunity to attend on a school trip over a weekend a couple of years ago. I was very impressed with all the children, who over many different years, stuck up for each other, and helped each other. Though they were in different classes there was a real sense of community within the school and it glowed.
The teachers have all been exceptional in my opinion. They teach in different methods which help the kids to learn the material and test in a fair way to truly judge the learning. They communicate regularly through email and are available for discussions when warranted. I have seen that over the years they have pushed towards a more independent learning model which will be prevalent in secondary education so that we feel confident that this transition will be smooth. Having attended for the last 4 years, we have seen this transition which help support the maturity of our son and taking full responsibility for his own progress. They stress taking care of themselves, each other, the environment and the world in which they live. I consider that to be well rounded.
Due to the low number of students the selection of courses is a little compressed from that which you might experience elsewhere, but options are always available. As they reach the higher grades, this can mean that there are even fewer kids per class and classes are often shared with other courses. While I was hesitant about this at first, it seems to work, further evidence that they are teaching independent work in a busy environment which I did not think was something our son could do. The approach is much more individualized which enables the material to be learned effectively. They also have opportunities to attend many outside school testing and programs which fosters confidence. The students are brought to understand that they are not defined by their differences but rather to embrace them and build on it.
There is a martial arts program after school and there are competitions with other schools in various sports, however, I feel that there is not enough of an emphasis on truly being competitive within any given sport. Most of this is for fun outside of the martial arts program. While this has been great for our son, is a significant difference from regular schools. Parents generally will enroll their children in outside programs if higher competition is something they are looking for and the school will support this by working around schedules should they conflict. Some of the inter school programs include volleyball, basketball, soccer, rugby but as previously mentioned is mainly just for fun. Our son enjoyed the camaraderie of this and the opportunity to attend.
This is awesome. The students openly acknowledge and accept the differences among the student body and don't make anyone feel that they don't belong. There is a common respect between the students not only within a given grade but within the school in general. Due to the low number of students, there is an opportunity for all students to interact and get to know one another. Many long term friendships have been founded at Heritage. In the 9 years of school prior to this, even though primarily at one school, this was not possible for my son. He always felt as an outsider and different from everyone else. This caused numerous issues and lack of confidence which was simply terrible for him. Heritage changed all of that. We took advantage of on opportunity to have a trial day, when we were first deciding about the school. After only the one day, our son wanted to change school because quite frankly the difference in attitude and environment was that much more supportive.
Prior to Heritage Academy our son dreaded school. It was a consistent battle to get him going in the morning and to be enthusiast about attending. That all changed. He truly enjoys going and meeting with his friends. He enjoys the teachers and their guidance and feels respected by them. This makes him want to work hard to gain their respect. The school uniform of a T-shirt, or sweater with the logo helps with decisions on wardrobe in the morning, and helps the students identify with each other. I think it is a great compromise to a full uniform and a free from, student selected wardrobe. It speaks to the general feel of the school of respect for oneself and for others while not making the students feel like they stand out too much.
There are numerous events throughout the year from teacher parent interviews, school celebrations and events to school trips which involve parents to as much as they prefer to be involved. I have had the opportunity to attend many of these over the year and always feel welcome and part of the larger community. Parent teacher interviews are also really helpful. It is evident that the teacher really knows and understands our son and so we are confident that he is getting exactly what he requires to succeed. They are open to our suggestions and very collaborative. As the kids have the same classmates most years, the parents naturally bond. They have one thing in common which is a great starting point. I find that we have developed friendships with some of the other parents because of the school as well which is nice.
At first I was surprised at the school as it is obviously an older facility. Since it is rented from the Catholic school board it does not receive the full support of that board. The independent grounds keeper however keeps it in good shape, safe and inviting to the students. While it is closer to the downtown core, it is convenient for us, but could pose an issue. Car pooling is offered which helps build connections with the school community. While it is somewhat isolated, it does offer near by parks, the route along the canal is within easy access, and various small convenience stores and the like are only a short walk away. While in younger grades this is not accessible to the students, as they get older, they are given the privilege of exploring these places as long as done so in a responsibly way, respecting the time lines of classes and lunch periods.
As it was a large step with the cost and not really knowing what to expect, we did a little research as you are doing. The school offered a trial day which enabled our son to attend what would be his class for a full day of education. He followed their schedule and was brought in just as if he was attending already. After only this one day, he was adamant that he wanted to return as soon as possible. Because of the limited class size we had to wait until the beginning of the next year for a spot to open up. This was at least the light at the end of the tunnel for us. Payments where done on an installment basis which we were able to budget around. The time to find a spot assisted us with this planning. We were also invited to a seminar about the disabilities tax credit and RDSP program that we may qualify for. I found these very helpful and informative.