REVIEW OF Rosthern Junior College High School BY parent, Johann Malan
- Date of Review
October 02, 2018
Gr. 10 - 12
(5) Student Experience
All three of our children attended RJC and lived in the dorms. Two of them returned to serve as deans (one is still there). That says a lot, for starters! We are originally from South Africa and had very different school experiences there than what we could find here. We were looking for a school with a high standard of education, excellent educators, a great atmosphere, school spirit and traditions, and, importantly, a place where our children could feel at home and nurture and develop their education, skills, values and talents. In short, our children got all of the above and so much more! They built close friendships for life and had the opportunity to grow in the intimacy of the “school family”, where every student gets special attention every day and no one is ever “left behind”. More than a high standard of school curriculum and choice of activities, they were equipped with experiences and life skills that they would never pick up elsewhere. (Without drawing negative comparisons, what they got in previous public schools was rudimentary and frustratingly inadequate at best.) Of course there was the initial apprehension about leaving home and living in a dorm, but that more or less changed on their very first days already. Our children thrived and had the times of their lives at RJC!
(5) School Leadership
Our first interaction was during a summer holiday, having traveled far and stayed overnight to meet with the then principal, to find out if RJC would be a good fit for our eldest son. Right from the first sentence, it was clear that RJC operates more like a family, than a school. Although intimate and tight-knit, respect stands out as a guiding value. Just like in any loving home, there is clear leadership, proper guidance, great communication, good distribution of responsibilities, clear boundaries and the security of fair discipline.
I must admit, on that first day when we registered our eldest son and went from one teacher to the next to figure out his classes, I first thought they looked like a motley crew, until we realised their passion, commitment and genuine care. I still smile when I remember my son saying he’s not really interested in choir singing. Jim (Mr. Epp...as nobody has ever called him in years) leaned forward, put his elbow on the table and said: “Sure...if you can beat me at arm-wrestling.” The teachers were/are fantastic! They have small classes to work with and they put enormous energy into their subjects and instruction. Every subject is turned into an applied science, where the students are given the “life application” of what they’re taught. There is ample time for review and discussions after hours and a lot of effort goes into additional mentoring to those who need it.
RJC has an excellent academic program. We feared that, being a small school, with a small staff, the program would be limited, especially when my daughter wanted to continue with French instruction. We were wrong... The school went out of their way to arrange for online instruction and assistance. I’m constantly amazed at the depth of teaching in all the subjects, as mentioned, with the great emphasis on not just bombarding the students with academic facts, but equipping them with knowledge to apply for life. The school is based on great values and the academic program is designed and tailored to emphasize those life values. With the small classes there is ample time for individual instruction, attention to detail and participatory discussion. In fact, academic participation is a vital strength of the program. Going on to tertiary education, our children were certainly far better equipped than the average.
An absolutely outstanding aspect of RJC is the time and energy dedicated to extracurricular activities and the way in which everyone is involved. For such a small school, they pack an enormous punch in all the sporting activities they’re involved in. RJC, of course, is renowned for their choirs and drama productions. The intimate nature of the school atmosphere and the pride fostered in the students, make it a remarkable experience to see the dogged determination with which the students participate in all events. We were always amazed at the way in which the staff arrange activities for the students after hours, making sure there’s fun on the menu.
The fact that the school is small, lends itself to a personal and intimate experience. There is no way that any student can just disappear in the masses, as is the case in many/most of the larger schools. Everyone has a role to play and everyone is an important link in the chain. There is a lot of emphasis on participation in actiyans the staff go out of their way to involve everyone. Because of the caring and intimate atmosphere, students find it easy to “be a part of the family” in a non-threatening and non-intimidating manner...just like at home. The special bond between students stands out as something unique and really special and that continues to ripple out in the larger school, parent and alumni family. Students who spend such a large proportion of their time together in such a positive and caring atmosphere, build a foundation based on enduring values for the rest of their lives.
(5) School Life
Our daughter, the last of our three children (and that put a smile on some teachers’ faces), became more and more apprehensive, as the registration day drew closer. In fact, on our way there, she started protesting seriously (putting it mildly), lamenting the loss of her friends from the previous year and uncertain about being away from home. Her tears moved me, I have to admit. We expected a rather protracted and slow integration and assimilation into her new school and surroundings. Well, that lasted all of half a day, before she changed her mind and became fully immersed, just like her brothers before her. More seriously, our three children have very different personalities and we expected, in certain situations, that they might experience some conflict and stress. The supporting and nurturing atmosphere, however, negated or minimized potential pitfalls. The staff does an amazing job of keeping a keen eye on everyone, ironing out problems and communicating with the parents. The quality of “student life” of RJC students, I dare say, is far better than most students in other schools!
At RJC, parents are not welcome to become part of the broader school community - they are part, by default! The long history and grand traditions of the school, immortalized by the active alumni, ensure that new parents are made to feel more than welcome and are drawn in spontaneously. Due to the fact that many students come from far away, even abroad, many parents are not able to be as involved as they would want to be, but the school keeps them drawn in with continuous and personal communication. As mentioned before, the school operates much more like an extended family, than just an educational institution. Even though our children are done with their schooling at RJC, we will always remain a part of RJC and will always be grateful for the incredible experiences our children had and for our privilege to have been made important partners in that!
(5) School Location
Rosthern is a picturesque little town in the heart of the Prairies, surrounded by a wonderful agricultural community. For many, however, Rosthern is a beautiful little town built around Rosthern Junior College. The school is, undoubtedly, the pulse of the town. The advantages of such a high quality school in a beautiful rural setting, are legio! The school grounds are large, with plenty of room for students to engage in sports, activities and relaxation. Being in such a gem of a village, the students often venture out too, knowing that they are in a safe environment.
I clearly remember leaving RJC on a summer Saturday morning, our first stop of a little list of potential schools for our eldest son. Let’s just say that we were extremely impressed. Back in the car, we planned our next stop. Our son simply said: “Forget the other schools - I’m coming to this one!” We called back the next week, confirming that our son would register...and the rest is history. I cannot recall any hiccup with any of our children, as far as admission administration goes. In fact, the teachers and admin staff make it as easy as possible and they communicate very well, not just during admissions, but throughout the year. The only thing I’ll possibly change about the process, is to have a wider selection of home-baked snacks on registration day, for anyone who prefers more than the already groaning tables of cakes, cookies, salted snacks, tea, coffee, juice...
(5) University placement and counselling
RJC places a healthy emphasis on academic excellence and, as mentioned, the teachers go out of their way (really!) to encourage and support the students. Preparing them for post-secondary education is a very important part of the curriculum and it’s easy to see that on the annual provincial honor roll. The students get extensive guidance in possibilities and processes and they are acquainted with the University of Saskatchewan, as well as the Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg. Our children certainly got all the encouragement, assistance and support they needed to continue with whatever post-secondary education careers they embarked upon. Importantly, students at RJC are taught through both instruction and hands-on experience to become independent. In that regard, as parents, we never felt pressured to drive the process of post-secondary education for our children - they were enabled by the school to be on top of things by themselves. Prepare them for life is, after all, one of the primary functions of a school, and RJC does exactly that.