Prestige School - Toronto Campus KEY INSIGHTS
Each school is different. Prestige School - Toronto Campus'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
- Prestige's School's small, close-knit school community works closely with families.
- The school's student body is diverse, both culturally and linguistically, something that is rightly seen as a strength of the offering.
- It has a strong foundation in core academics, with ample opportunity for student enrichment.
Our editor speaks about the school (video)
Prestige sets a high bar for its students, academically, as well as socially and ethically. The program is designed and delivered to meet the needs of students functioning at the top of their peer groups. There is a close-knit feel within the student body, and an ongoing attention to the needs and development of each student as he or she progresses through the curriculum.
The belief that young people are capable of much more than is often expected of them is embedded in the school’s teaching philosophy and rooted in its origins as a family-owned tutoring service. After experiencing success with one-on-one tutoring and having students flourish with the aid of the specialized programming that she and her family provided, the school’s co-founder and principal, Olga Margold, transported the spirit of individualized learning to the private school environment.
“For me, the ideal is to perfectly balance an advanced curriculum tailored to each student’s needs with lots of personal attention,” says Margold. To provide that individualized care, the teachers regularly ask two questions about each student: Where is this child now? And where can they go? Given how well they know the kids, answers to the first question are easily found. That’s the small school advantage. When it comes to the second, the response is a personalized learning plan for each student that also expresses the school’s overarching theme: much further than they think.
ON THE ACADEMIC PROGRAM
The math and science programs are particular strengths. Students respond well to an advanced math curriculum (“They get bored if we go too slow,” says Irena Hryncewicz, math teacher) and are introduced to biology, chemistry, and physics as distinct subjects as early as Grade 4. By the time they reach the high school, they are very familiar and comfortable with topics and units of study that their peers in many other schools have yet to encounter.
The school’s approach to enrichment in all grades is to increase depth and complexity as students master the material rather than provide additional practice or assignments at the same level. In other words, busy work is out and intellectual challenge is in.
ON THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT
While Prestige provides the array of clubs and athletics expected of any private school, it stands out for what parent Marina Garvey describes as an “agile and highly responsive academic program within a warm and friendly atmosphere.” Or, as one student put it, “You learn better when school feels like home.”
ON SCHOOL LEADERSHIP
Olga Margold has been principal since 2003, and is a graduate of the business faculty at the University of Toronto. She’s open and easy to talk to, something that is seconded regularly by staff, students, and parents of the school. Her passion for education is based on the opportunities she has crafted the school offering to provide.
ON THE SCHOOL’S VALUES
The school promotes three core values: wisdom, courage, and integrity. While those are excellent ideals in themselves and modelled in the classrooms, hallways, clubs, and teams, it’s interesting to hear Margold talk about why they matter as guiding principles. She wants Prestige students to be able to make meaningful choices, rather than have choices made for them. In other words, one of the primary aims of the school is to graduate young adults who have attained a high degree of intellectual freedom.
Parents appreciate the role that high expectations play in their children’s lives. They witness what educational research has proven: With the right supports, young people will rise to the level established around them. “The approach to teaching is very personal. And at the same time, the academic work is challenging. The whole atmosphere is both highly caring and highly demanding. It’s a unique balance.”
ON THE STUDENT COMMUNITY
With class sizes ranging from 12 to 18 students and a commitment to enriched education, Prestige School is well suited for students and families focused on academic achievement. As Margold notes, the school “prides itself on a student body that reflects the multicultural city of Toronto” and, indeed, that’s something that infects the life and culture of the lived experience of the school. “We want our students to be well equipped to thrive in today’s global economy.”
It helps that homeroom teachers in Grade 1 through Grade 8 move up with their students year after year. Closeness and constancy provide a big pay-off as students advance through the school. They not only feel known and understood for who they are but also achieve their post-secondary dreams, with 98% of graduates attending the university program of their choice.
ON THE ACADEMIC ENVIRONMENT
Although there is some adjustment to the advancing curriculum for students newly entering the school, with the support of the school’s highly trained teachers, they are able to progressively become just as proficient as their peers. The school’s math, science, and language programs work well for motivated students who are eager to learn. “We have our particular areas of strength and specialization, and it works for our families,” says Margold. Parents told us that they value the family feel of the school. In some ways, that’s a by-product of its size and in others, it’s by design. Older students often mentor their younger peers, and parents are involved in many events and activities. For example, the school prides itself on the elaborate, multi-grade drama productions it puts on twice each year. Students of all ages come together on the stage and behind the scenes, and parents play a supporting role from home.
ON THE ASSESSMENT AND REPORTING
Teachers are available at drop off and pick up times every day for casual conversation, regularly email and call home with any questions or observations, and provide a steady stream of academic reports. Daniel Robinson, who has a daughter in Grade 5, notes that the individualized nature of instruction carries over to communication: “The school is very responsive to parent input and also provides regular, clear feedback on student achievement. There’s always a mix of professionalism and personal interest.”
Throughout the school, students work a year ahead. For example, Grade 5 students are immersed in the Ontario Grade 6 curriculum—or, more accurately, in “Grade 6 plus,” with a mix of provincial and Prestige-developed materials. Head of the elementary department Catherine Ng explains that from that accelerated baseline, students then have their work tailored to their ability. Teachers engage in a daily feedback loop that tells them where each student is now and where they can go next. “We can adapt and be very flexible in the classroom. Our teachers are ready to offer further enrichment or continue working at the current level until a student has gained greater mastery.”
ON CO-CURRICULAR PROGRAMS
The annual international café fosters a similar feeling of community. Each class draws a different country and then explores its culture in depth. Parents become involved in areas like helping prepare regional dishes and fashioning traditional dress. All of this research and activity culminates in a day—the café— when students visit each country to gain a greater understanding of cultures around the world. This extensive project connects to the value the school places on diversity.
THE OUR KIDS REPORT: Prestige School - Toronto Campus
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