REVIEW OF Toronto STEM School BY Alum, Jamie Hoar
- Date of Review
July 14, 2020
Gr. 10 - Gr. 11
- University (major)
(4.5) Overall Experience
I felt supported both academically and mentally when studying at TSS because of the small and intimate class sizes. Because of the setting, my teacher was able to truly get to know each and every one of his students and build real connections with them. Hamed is a very thoughtful and kind teacher. He always kept in mind academic needs for tests and other assignments and made sure I was prepared. This meant that if I wasn’t ready, he would accommodate my needs and push it back or change it into a practice test so that I would not feel as much anxiety towards a test or assignment when completing it. When enrolling with TSS, you should expect an environment like no other. The space is nurturing, the teachers are welcoming and the students are all there because they thrive in a spot just like you!
(4.5) School Leadership
The school environment was always very positive! I only took a night course there but I did get to know that it was really a close knit group of people who all respected each other. Because of the smaller class sizes, teachers and students are able to build real bonds that lead to honest and open communication when discipline is necessary. Students respect the administration because of this, leading to a very positive both learning and general environment! I experienced fair grading, which reflected the respect my teacher had for me because it meant he wanted me to improve by showing me where I was doing well and where I could improve.
Hamed knew all I wanted was a passing grade and he helped me achieve more than that by playing to my interests and making Math so much better than I ever thought it could be! The dynamic between students and teachers was informal in the most respectful way possible. Boundaries and values were set and never crossed and yet the students and admin got along really well. I can say that Hamed was one of the most passionate teachers I have ever met, specifically in his field but also in so many others. He WANTS his students to show interest and finds fun and interesting ways to get them there. He strives for true understanding at a deeper level and will take the time to achieve it with all of his students individually, at their own pace.
The academics were challenging but appropriate. There was competition but it was all friendly and only in order to motivate students to achieve their full potential. Something I learned with TSS was not to settle for a passing grade and that even in a course I am not very good at, I should still work hard and try to surpass my expectations. Having now been at Queen's University for two years, maintaining a 4.2 GPA, I can safely say that TSS helped me have a much more productive mindset. At TSS, I was encouraged to work hard and assured that grades were not a reflection of my ability, rather my effort was. The thing that most prepared me for life after TSS was the independent study ethic. This meant that I was able to experience a University-esque lifestyle, while still having the support of the admin, guiding me along the way.
I was only there for night school so I did not attend any extracurricular events. When I went there, the school had only just opened and there weren't many full time students that I knew of. I can say, however, that students were encouraged to bring in their hobbies and interests to the school. During my year, there was also talk of setting up a prom, and while that fell through because of unforeseen circumstances, the plan was thorough and Hamed worked hard to accommodate and allow students to input their opinions and ideas equally.
The student body was small and cohesive. Definitely a good environment for people who thrive in small class sizes. I spent a lot of my time at TSS in a class of one (just me) which was very very effective as it meant I had more time to get help or go through something I didn’t understand. I was also in another class with three other students and that was also extremely effective as it was still a small class size and we all got along quite well. Because of the close relationships due to the smaller class sizes, we were able to discuss ideas and have everyone's opinion heard. Everyone was very friendly and all in all the students are a very diverse and friendly bunch of individuals. I still talk to some of the people I met today, three years later!
(4.5) School Life
Going to my class there was honestly often a highlight even though it was for my least favourite subject Math. I’m very grateful for my experience there. Students were generally happy there as we were all treated as equals and given attention as needed. I think the academics at TSS are challenging, which is what really sets it apart from many of the smaller private schools I have heard of or attended. Thankfully the staff there (Hamid was my teacher) were very good at handling stress and so if he noticed the levels were getting high he’d change gears and shift to something less stressful or just take a break. Just his friendly demeanor was good enough to destress and help students calm down after a long day.
I have actually kept in touch with students from TSS. I keep in touch with both students who were in my classes and also students who I would see outside of class! Although I was only there for night school and I didn't get to experience in the "day" time environment, I can say that the TSS I know and love is a close-knit and safe community. My parents had open communication with my teacher, which kept them up to date on my improvement. In terms of the broader community of TSS, I have kept in touch with the school and was going to complete my Practicum for my teaching degree there before Covid-19 hit. I had a truly wonderful experience there and I know it has only gotten better since then.
(4.5) School Location
The location of Toronto STEM School was absolutely perfect for me as I was a full time student at Northern Secondary School at the time, which was just around the corner. There are also many restaurants nearby and Eglinton subway station is about a block away, making the school very accessible. The last time I went to visit the school, there was talk of going to visit universities and when I attended school, field-trips occurred from time to time, which enhanced the learning.
I honestly don’t remember the application process but I think that’s a good thing as clearly nothing stands out as going wrong. What I can say is that arrival was very smooth and I immediately felt welcomed and supported when I got to Toronto STEM School. A piece of advice I would give to anyone applying to TSS is to visit the school beforehand. While the small classes were great for enhancing my personal style of learning, some people do thrive off of the social aspect of larger numbers. I think the casual and independent education style is also one that students must keep in mind. If you are a student who's motivation doesn't come naturally, I would simply be advised and aware that you will be challenged - and supported!