Ancaster, ON | Grades 9 - 12 | Shortlist
My son started in grade 10 as a newcomer to Canada and found a welcoming and caring school community. There is individual attention and genuine interest in the students. The teachers and staff know them by name. The students feel valued and a part of the community. The teachers demonstrate a commitment and concern for the whole student: their academic, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. During this COVID time, the school responded proactively and communicated with clarity about how they would continue to provide schooling. This was reassuring to the students and helped them with the adjustments and upheaval. The plans made by the school were balanced and made the most of the permissible conditions. Academically, the disruption to education has been minimal. The students were also positively encouraged with showcasing talents, fundraising drives, fitness challenges, and creative engagements which kept them connected.
Very impressed with the level of commitment and professionalism of the leadership. The leadership sets a positive tone of fostering community and developing the whole student to set them up for their future. They are open and prayerful and innovative in their response to issues. Communication is through multiple platforms and is regular and quite clear for both students and for parents. Discipline is fair and constructive. The administration is efficient and helpful. HDCH is blessed to have such leadership at the helm.
The teachers at HD are deeply committed and provide relevant, engaging instruction to the students. There is a range of experience levels amongst the staff and they collaborate well with one another to share experience and to stimulate new ideas and approaches in teaching. The teachers are generally responsive and offer extra help or enrichment as needed. Their communication levels with the students around expectations and objectives are clear. They engage deeply with their topics of instruction and help the students to understand the connections with the wider world and with God's creation. The assignments in general are well-thought-out and meaningful to learning objectives and practical applications. The teachers are open to students asking questions and advice about academic plans as well. We're grateful for the teachers at HD.
HD has a mission in Christian high school education to prepare teens for their future regardless of their chosen profession. It is not one size fits all but they do make an effort to prepare students who are heading to university as well as more vocational oriented students. Because of the diversity of the students, the overall culture of the school is not highly academic. This was a bit of a concern for us joining but we have found that there is enough of a balance and individualized attention to academic progress to keep our son's development on track. The teachers have also been helpful in providing enrichment opportunities. Academically he is being well-prepared. The project-based approach has also provided the opportunity to distinguish the level of academic challenge for individual students.
HD is a bit unique in providing Christian high school education so their catchment area is very wide and students travel from Burlington to Jarvis to attend school here. As many students come from further afield, the school is not highly integrated into the surrounding neighbourhood although students do frequent nearby parks and businesses. The campus itself is a beautiful and sizable piece of land on the edge of Hamilton.
There is a range of extracurriculars happening at the school, and in COVID times, extra talent showcasing and fun fundraising challenges. These are positive outlets for the students to grow and engage with one another. Extracurriculars often would happen during the lunch hour as many students live quite far away. This is a limiting factor for engaging after school or socializing casually.
The size of HDCH's student body is big enough to have diversity and new people to meet in different years and activities, yet it is not too large that students feel lost in the crowd. Sharing faith and having a clear identity and purpose engenders a strong spirit amongst the students. There is great diversity in the backgrounds and life experiences of the students and that is enriching for the students to interact and engage with one another. The students have their rivalries and differences but the atmosphere is one of respect and caring. The core Christian mission of the school to cultivate character and to prepare students to live lives of service frames student interaction positively. Individuals are valued as unique members of the community.
The admissions process was very smooth for us and the staff of HD was accommodating for multiple visits and answering questions as well as helping us through the unique challenges of changing countries and curriculums. My son was offered an opportunity to do a shadow day prior to entering the school which helped him with the adjustment process. We were able to get a good feel of the school and a sense of who they are before admission. The admission process was not stressful and although a major decision, staff at the school had spent time with us and listened to our hopes and questions, and shared their hopes and expectations clearly. We did consider other alternatives but after engaging with the schools, the choice was clear that HD was the best fit.
My son enjoys going to the HD and has come to appreciate it even more during the disruptive time of COVID. He feels valued as an individual and has been encouraged at the school to develop some of his talents and interests. Moving mid-high school has not been an easy process for a teen but his adjustment has been well-supported by the school and he has found caring peers. There is an openness from the teachers and staff to questions and communication is clear and helpful. There is support for academics, emotional well-being, and spiritual development which is vital for a teen. One area of improvement for the student's quality of life would be better classroom discipline. While having a relaxed atmosphere in a class is positive, at times the noise levels of chatter veer too high.
There is a good community feel to HD in the broader community and with strong alumni support. Parents are welcomed in the life of the school although with the wide geographic catchment area involvement tends to be somewhat limited. There are parents who pray for the school and there is a deep level of commitment from the families to the school. The students are at a point in their development though that they need to feel independent and have their own space. At the same time, the school Edsby platform is fantastic at helping the parents to be aware of what is going on and to keep an eye on how their student is doing academically. It helps when the teachers make use of this platform.