What attracted Burke most to Royal Crown School was the diversity of the student body. The mixture of international and domestic students as well as elite athletes was an interesting mix to Burke. “One that I have not seen in an independent school. As a result of that, our days are very unique.”
The large international contingent of students and staff members who speak other languages and come from different cultures creates a unique experience. While the school’s history is rooted in the international student body, Burke’s mandate, and what was exciting to him about the position, was to diversify the student body in a very intentional way.
An elite basketball program became his muse. “What I found through an existing elite basketball program where mainly Canadians were members of that part of the school contingent was this exciting opportunity to have two groups that started in different places—Canadians with our own experience here in Canada and students from all around the world. And then bringing them together and creating an environment where they could learn from one another.”
While Burke says often it’s easier for international students to stick with the group of students from their own culture, his challenge is to create possibilities where mixing and learning from one another can take place. “Together, we’re better and stronger for the experience of mixing.”
Although Royal Crown started out as an international school attracting students from around the globe, the proportion of local students at the school is on the rise. Currently, around 25 percent of the students are local day students.
At Royal Crown, local families find an authentic global community, without having to take a semester abroad or do an exchange. Canadian students learn alongside students from Africa and Asia, providing a true international perspective. This kind of cultural diversity, Burke says, adds a valuable dimension to the high school experience, allowing students to live and learn with people who bring different ideas and different histories into the classroom.
The structure of the school year at Royal Crown School is another draw for families. “We have four regular semesters where the students take two courses each.” In the rest of Ontario, most schools have two semesters with four courses in each. This allows international students to concentrate on just two courses instead of four at a time, to improve their language skills and understanding. But it has other benefits for other types of students as well, namely, elite athletes. “It also helps elite athletes who have a tremendous commitment to many hours of practice and games.”
You can find Burke at the campus most days before 7 a.m. “That quiet time allows me to have a bit of reflection.” Because many of the school’s students are international students, Burke is often chatting with families overseas in the early hours of the morning. Burke’s love of watching students learn often finds him sitting in various classrooms in the mornings, listening in on some lessons and checking the pulse of the school from the perspective of the classroom.