La Citadelle International Academy of Arts & Science KEY INSIGHTS
Each school is different. La Citadelle International Academy of Arts & Science'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
- La Citadelle is a bilingual, coed private day school for pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 students in Toronto.
- The enriched and accelerated academic environment includes the Middle Years International Baccalaureate Programme and Advanced Placement courses.
- Character education is integral to every aspect of the student experience at La Citadelle.
At La Citadelle International Academy of Arts & Science, students experience stimulating academics and inspiring expectations alongside individualized support, warmth, and care. It’s a unique mix, but La Citadelle is a unique school, and parents seeking a solid, well-rounded education for their children should consider it.
Just the fact that La Citadelle, as its bilingual name suggests, offers French and English language learning in a truly bilingual format sets it apart. In the Ontario public system—and most of the independent school system—students must choose either French or English as the first language of their learning, not both.
Academic excellence is a top priority at La Citadelle, but this pursuit of excellence occurs within the context of a holistic education that emphasizes a well-rounded learning environment for the child. Founder and Headmaster Alfred Abouchar often states that La Citadelle is primarily focused on education, not instruction. “The key difference between the two is that instruction is simply about imparting knowledge and skills, while education encompasses the development of the whole child,” he says, and “As educators, we transmit values and pay close attention to students’ well-being. We teach the children to be good human beings in the broadest sense and to be proud of themselves and of their accomplishments.”
ON SCHOOL LEADERSHIP
La Citadelle is the culmination of Founder and Headmaster Alfred Abouchar’s illustrious and extensive career in education. Fluent in both English and French, Headmaster Abouchar holds an Honours B.Sc. in Physics & Chemistry from the American University in Cairo, a B.Ed. and M.Sc. in Physics from the University of Western Ontario, and an M.Ed. from OISE at the University of Toronto. He initially began his career as a Physics teacher and professor at the Faculty of Education, and later assumed various senior positions within different school boards and the Ministry of Education. His journey eventually led him to the esteemed position of Superintendent of Education with the Ottawa-Carleton French Language School Board, where he oversaw Curriculum, Research & Continuing Education. Throughout the years, he developed a robust educational philosophy based on his exposure to exemplary practices from diverse countries, systems, and schools.
In 2000, driven by an unwavering belief in the transformative potential of holistic, values-based, bilingual education, Headmaster Abouchar made the decision to establish La Citadelle. The school’s humble beginnings took root with just five students in a church basement. However, it quickly grew, relocated to a larger campus, and gained traction and expanded organically through the accomplishments of its students and the enthusiastic recommendations of satisfied parents.
“When I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in physics and chemistry, the university required me to immerse myself in arts and humanities courses,” Headmaster Abouchar recalls. “This experience cultivated my appreciation for culture and broadened my world perspectives. That’s why at La Citadelle, our students engage in a well-balanced curriculum that integrates both arts and sciences throughout their educational journey.”
ON THE ACADEMIC ENVIRONMENT
Academic programs at La Citadelle are both enriched and accelerated, with students learning curricular units ahead of their grade level at every stage. The teaching approach is defined by a commitment to consistency, discipline, and excellence—along with one-on-one support when needed.
According to Curriculum Coordinator Chantal Abouchar, the focus at La Citadelle is not solely on the content taught in schools today, but rather on equipping students with effective learning skills. She emphasizes that all teachers are specialists in their respective fields, providing students with the necessary skills, motivation, and confidence to analyze, inquire, and find the right information.”
Even the play-based Pre-Kindergarten program (Daycare) has an advanced curriculum. The youngsters complete a series of workbooks covering the earliest foundations of reading, writing, mathematics, and science, which sets them up well for becoming proficient language learners in Junior and Senior Kindergarten. During these four kindergarten years, students learn primarily in French.
English reading and writing enter the curriculum in Grade 1, and the students take an approximately equal number of subjects in both languages from then on. In Grade 3, parents opt for either Spanish or Mandarin as the third (mandatory) language for their children to learn.
In Grade 6, students at La Citadelle can choose between the English stream, where most courses are taught in English, or the bilingual stream of French / English. Upon graduation, students in the bilingual stream receive a bilingual certificate, highlighting their proficiency in both languages. This choice allows students to tailor their education and prepares them for their chosen post-secondary studies.
One unique aspect of La Citadelle is that, like their senior counterparts, Grade 1 to 8 students write exams twice a year. It starts slowly, with exams in just a few core subjects worth about 10 percent of final marks, then builds up to two-hour assessments worth 30 percent.
Even though students were a week away from final exams when we visited, we couldn’t sense any tension in the air. “They’re happy and fine because they’re used to it,” says Headmaster Abouchar. “Parents sometimes transpose their anxiety about exams onto children, but here we teach students to see exams as ordinary parts of the year and their own education. The aim is to make students accountable for their learning.” Homework—as well as “Devoirs de Vacances”—is also part of every student’s experience from Pre-kindergarten to the Secondary School.
Students take the Middle Years International Baccalaureate Programme (IB-MYP) from Grade 6 through Grade 10, then transition into Advanced Placement (AP) credits in their final secondary years. Since every Grade 8 student follows a reach ahead program of study, taking four Grade 9 credits, La Citadelle’s Grade 12 graduates tend to accumulate far more than the province’s minimum required 30 credits and gain very early acceptance into all their postsecondary programs of choice.
ON CHARACTER EDUCATION
Headmaster Abouchar firmly believes that a teacher’s role extends beyond imparting academic knowledge; it encompasses educating students in the essential values that define good citizens. This philosophy is reflected in the school’s official values, which place equal emphasis on standards such as Excellence, Discipline, and Achievement, as well as the “softer” ideals of Compassion, Respect, and Harmony.
At La Citadelle, the cultivation of good character is not approached with harshness but rather with a clear set of expectations within a caring, nurturing atmosphere.
Character education is woven into both the curricular and co-curricular programs at every level. “It’s present in the classroom, on the soccer field, during recess, and on field trips,” says Vice-Principal Matthew Wylie. For this reason, the criteria for hiring teachers goes beyond their academic qualifications so as to encompass their alignment with the school’s educational values. Parents’ alignment is also critical, says Murielle Riyasat, who directs Admissions. “We’re looking for families who believe in what we’re doing and will partner with us to give their children a great education.”
ON THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT
La Citadelle is conveniently located on Scarsdale Road just off the intersection of York Mills Rd. and Leslie St. close to Highway 401 and the Don Valley Parkway. Nestled in an upscale neighborhood, surrounded by serene greenery, the school’s distinctive architectural design embodies innovation and caters to the demands of contemporary education.
The two-story red brick building, complemented by vibrant play structures and green spaces, creates an inviting ambiance. Inside, La Citadelle showcases a modern and impressive bright, airy and welcoming interior. Its open-concept layout fosters connectivity and collaboration throughout the school, while glass windows in the classrooms offer transparency for onlookers to observe the engaging learning activities.
La Citadelle provides cutting-edge facilities, including well-equipped science labs, computer labs, a gymnasium-auditorium, a music room, and an art studio, used by all students. The architectural design emphasizes modernity and functionality, ensuring students have access to the necessary resources for a comprehensive education.
Aligned with its commitment to personalized attention, La Citadelle maintains small class sizes, enabling tailored instruction and support. Through its innovative architectural approach, which fosters interaction and creates a contemporary learning environment, the school demonstrates its unwavering dedication to delivering an exceptional educational experience.
At La Citadelle, students consistently excel in academics, arts, and sports. They receive prestigious academic awards, showcase their artistic talents through captivating performances and artwork, and achieve notable sports accolades. These achievements reflect the commitment of La Citadelle to create a well-rounded education that fosters the excellence in all areas of student life.
La Citadelle offers a wide range of enriching extracurricular activities, clubs, and teams. Students actively participate in robotics, debate, music, and dance clubs, while also contributing to community service initiatives and the production of the school newspaper and yearbook. Engaging in student council activities nurtures leadership and decision-making skills. Field trips to local and national destinations provide valuable learning experiences outside the classroom. The school also arranges national and international trips yearly to expose students to diverse cultures and experiences. Esteemed visitors and guest lecturers regularly inspire and share their expertise with students.
THE OUR KIDS REPORT: La Citadelle International Academy of Arts & Science
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