Toronto, ON | Grades 9 - 12 | Shortlist
This place is fantastic. I started going to OAT in the summer after grade 9 to learn grade 10 math. I did exceptionally poorly in grade 9. Over a single month Hamed was able to undo the damage done by the previous year's teacher(s) as well as fill in a ton of gaps in my math knowledge. I have taken every math and science course there and they have all been exceptional. I will for sure be taking the rest of my stem courses at OAT. I really can't recommend them enough. The class sizes are very small (4-7) and the teachers are very flexible in their approach. You never feel afraid to ask questions or say you don't know something. Teachers are also very reasonable about deadlines.
The school is led by a Head Teacher, Hamed. Having lived and worked on three continents he is able to provide broad perspectives on all topics ranging from physics to philosophy. He is the kindest and most patient person that I have ever seen in education. No student could ever hope to have a better class or school leader. He always goes out of his way to make sure that everyone is on track and enjoying school.
All of the teachers at OAT are excellent. I have never in my life seen this kind of service or professionalism from any education based organization public or private. All of the teachers spent most of their lives in the field they are teaching in. Hamed, who teaches the physics and many of the math courses, has a double masters in physics and teaching and has taught in the Middle East, Britain, and Toronto. He has an amazing way of making sure that everyone is learning at a speed that suits them best so no one ever feels left behind. My calculus teacher has a computer science degree from the university of Toronto and is also excellent. Teachers also have the best board notes I've seen.
As I am taking exclusively math and science courses the work is challenging by design. It isn't easy but it is appropriate given the excellent teaching. There are no outlandish and expensive construction projects, assignments, or weeks full of presentations. The questions fall mostly around the application of the subject, which really helps to ground students in what they are learning. The tests can be tricky but again they are never unfair in their design. Teachers are also really great about part marks so you are always rewarded exactly for the amount of work you put into your learning. Teachers are very reasonable about deadlines and are understanding when you require some extra time to do an assignment right. Test dates are also negotiable for the most part so you always have the time you need to prepare.
As the school is very small there are few extracurriculars. One thing that is very nice is that students go on field trips to places relevant to the classes they are taking (science students get a tour of the Toyota factory for example). This level of on the ground learning is found in few other places. I'd forgotten how much I'd missed them.
All the students are really great. The majority of them are from Persia so they are all very friendly and respectful. Other students periodically come from places like Japan and Brazil. The community is very small so everyone in the school feels like family in no time. Without a doubt they have become some of my favorite people ever. The students who do best at the school are the ones who come into class everyday with a smile on their face (made much easier by the positive environment) and are willing to work hard and make sure everyone is having a good time. It is a lot of fun learning about foreign cultures and languages. Many student are happy to indulge in talking about home, making break time feel like another class in foreign studies.
The school is very small (3000 square-feet as of September 2019) so I would take someone for a tour of the breakroom and one of the classrooms. They have uniform desks and massive white-boards. This is really great for student collaboration. Hamed is very accommodating with things like fresh water coolers and a massive foosball table. Students are allowed two breaks a day. This is almost never done in high school but is great for giving students time to decompress and walk around in between studies. This improves a student's focus in class.
The cohort of students is small so its very easy to make friends with everyone. Most of the students are international but their command of English is very good nevertheless. The school has come to feel like a second home to me because of the incredible learning that has happened there but also because of the students and teachers feel like a second family. It is one of the most inclusive places I've been where you can always be yourself and feel accepted the way you are without having to make special accommodation for others. The number of students grows steadily every year always at a pace that manages to maintain the special community feel. The Yonge and Eglinton area is diverse so there is a restaurant or a Cafe to make anyone feel right at home.
OAT is located in a building in the beating heart of midtown Toronto. Located at the base of the tower is an excellent tea place with countless great places to get food or purchase consumer goods within a minute's walk. It is also just a couple of blocks from Eglinton subway station so commuting there is very easy and cheap.
The admissions process for OAT is very simple and straightforward. All that is needed is a phone call to the head teacher and registration via the well-made website. I would tell anyone that wants to apply to the school that the number of students is small so they should be prepared to make friends with everyone and to always be respectful and kind. There was absolutely no stress involved whatsoever. Being in my final year of OAT classes I can safely say that I made the right choice. Speaking as a Toronto resident whose public school guidance counsellors are quick to remind us of the uncertainties involved with private school, OAT is the perfect place for those who are not being served by public institutions. You can enroll full time, or take individual credits as your needs differ.