Hudson College KEY INSIGHTS
Each school is different. Hudson College's Feature Review excerpts disclose its unique character. Based on discussions with the school's alumni, parents, students, and administrators, they reveal the school’s distinctive culture, community, and identity.
What we know
- Instruction is student-centered building from individual strengths, talents, and interests.
- A strong foundation in the core curriculum is paired with adaptability, flexibility, and the development of strong leadership skills.
- The curricular and extracurricular programs consider the student experience—what it means to be a teenager or a child participating in the learning environment.
Our editor speaks about the school (video)
The school was founded in early 2023 initially as a prep school that would accommodate Grades 7 through 12. Just as he was opening the doors to Hudson, founder Jeff Bavington recalls that his own daughter was starting her public school journey in Grade 1. “She’s my eldest, and a January baby, and the experience she was having at school wasn’t the start that I had hoped for her,” he recalls. At the time, he turned to his father and co-founder and said, “Let’s go for it; let’s make Hudson a K to 12 school.”
Bavington is as involved in the school today as he was when it began. Officially, he’s responsible for the school’s business operations, but his passion comes from the staff and students. “I like to try to meet with every student and family who applies to the school,” he says, “because that connection really matters to me.” Bavington knows all the students at Hudson and takes pride in their success and growth. “The kids keep me going,” he says, “their energy is contagious.”
Bavington’s route into education was perhaps a bit reluctant, but looking back, it’s clear he couldn’t imagine himself anywhere else. Education was the family business—his father, mother, uncles, and aunts were teachers and administrators. At family gatherings, he says, “that’s all I’d hear about.”
His father was at the helm of a large collegiate institute in Scarborough. Many of the ideals that informed his work there were considered “alternative” for the time, such as a greater attention to individuals and a desire to support all students, not just those achieving in the upper percentiles. Likewise, his father was aware that students could easily become lost within a student body that numbered in the thousands. He worked to change that, and Bavington was clearly impressed by the work his father did.
Today, Hudson remains committed to the same values it prioritized two decades ago. These include smaller class sizes that are capped at 20; strong connections between students, teachers, and the parent community; and above all else, happiness and a love of learning.
ON THE ATMOSPHERE
Many of the ideals that are expressed at Hudson—the “Be Yourself, Be Anything” banner over the entryway, for example—are direct expressions of the work Bavington’s father was doing in the 1970s and ’80s. Typical of other private schools that are established by a single person or family, many of the school’s strengths come from the founders’ clarity of vision.
The overall atmosphere is one of invention, curiosity, and community encouragement. “When parents tell me how happy their child is, how stimulated, engaged, and challenged, that’s truly our measure of success,” says Michelle Gow, Hudson’s director of admissions.
Hudson is a place where students are encouraged to find their own voice, nurture their own interests, expand their horizons, and learn to be good friends and good humans. Academics are rigorous, but delivered in a way that ensures everyone will thrive.
Celine is a parent with three kids at Hudson and each is quite different from the others. Now four, six, and eight years old, they all came to Hudson in Kindergarten and continue to thrive at the school. “What I love about the school is that the teachers are all very different but extremely engaged,” she says. “And the students in all grades know one another and get many opportunities to interact.” ...“It’s such a warm community.”
ON STUDENT LIFE
“The students who do best at Hudson are those who are friendly, open-minded, and willing to persist,” explains Gow. “We are selective in choosing incoming students, but above all else, we want to focus on each individual’s potential.”
A big part of the student experience at Hudson is relationship building. “It all comes down to the relationship between the educator and the child,” says Bavington. “Being a K to 12 school we are in a unique position. For the kids who join us in Kindergarten, it’s a 14-year marathon, and any one teacher may only guide one leg of that journey. But if you do everything in your power to make that leg the best for that child, you will see, over the long haul, a permanent and lasting difference in their growth as a student and, more importantly, as a person.”
“The class topics are enriched and very interesting,” explains a Grade 9 student in his first year at Hudson. “And if students are interested in the discussions, they will become engaged and not bored.”
“Being in a large public school, I had really poor study habits,” explains another Grade 9 student. “I also lacked the ability to improve them.” ... He arrived at Hudson a bit reluctantly. His sister had also attended the school, and while his parents wanted him to join as well, he admits that he didn’t want to leave his friends. But he welcomes the experience Hudson has provided.
The real difference he found, on arrival, was that this was a place where social currency was, among other things, gained through academic engagement. “Being with teachers who wanted me to succeed,” he says, “was also a new and welcome experience.” And succeed he did.... Upon graduation he’ll be going to Waterloo, and from there on to medical school—a level of success that he credits directly to his experience at Hudson.
ON THE PHYSICAL PLAN
Hudson doesn’t present as a stereotypical private school, which is a net positive for parents and students alike. “When we came to Hudson for a tour I can say that everything about the school just felt right,” says Yana, a parent with daughters in Grades 9 and 12. “There was nothing pretentious about the students or staff, the science lab was impressive, and the art projects displayed on the walls were really good quality and they captured my attention.”
Campus highlights include multimedia spaces with digital LED screens and integrated sound and video equipment for multimedia presentations, 3D printers, and a soon-to-be-launched Adobe Creative Cloud Lab. A ceramic kiln is being added to the school’s visual arts room, in addition to a digital recording studio for video and audio broadcasts and productions.
The academic program at Hudson was built with the understanding that contemporary children won’t have a single career over the course of their working life. Rather, they’ll move between careers and between different fields. This demands a strong foundation in the core curriculum, though they’ll also need to be able to adapt to a range of environments and new realities.
The adoption of a new math program in the Lower School a number of years ago serves as a case study in how the curriculum is continuously being assessed and developed.
“As Jeff always says, math is tied to self-esteem and is something kids often think they are inherently good or bad at,” Gow explains. “In reality it’s a muscle that can be strengthened with exposure, practice, and time, and we find our students, by the time they’re in Grade 8, are typically very strong and confident in math.”
There’s also an extensive focus on literacy and language, including spelling, grammar, and writing. From novel studies which focus on critical thinking, to extended writing assignments that ensure all students can write well-researched formal essays upon graduation, the school is committed to ensuring a love of reading and a confidence in writing among all students.
“I have a background in special education and what I brought to Hudson from my background is the idea of universal accommodation.” While Hudson doesn’t provide specific curriculum modifications, what they do provide is a commitment to teaching in a way that works for all kids to be successful. “We recognize the uniqueness of every child and we utilize that to enhance their learning.”
ON THE TEACHING ENVIRONMENT
While Hudson recognizes the importance of academics, they also place great value on other things. “What adults often forget, I think, is what it was like to be a teenager or a child,” Bavington says. “You want to do well at school, but you need other things to feel good about, which in turn help your academics. Yes, we want to teach them well and build their academic skill set, but we don’t want to do that in a vacuum of other skills such as leadership, public speaking, trying out for athletic teams … we give them every opportunity to be able to try and succeed at different things.”
“My daughter came to Hudson from the public system and despite not having any academic problems, her confidence was on the floor,” James tells us. “She was a very physical and visual learner and those learning styles weren’t supported at her public school. After years at Hudson, this is a girl who has way more confidence to believe in herself. The academics are very important, obviously, but they weren’t the sole source of my daughter’s overall success.”
THE OUR KIDS REPORT: Hudson College
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