Royal St. George's College KEY INSIGHTS
Each school is different. Royal St. George's College'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
- Small school focused on relationships and belonging.
- Urban location in the heart of the city.
- An equal weight on academics and well-being.
Our editor speaks about the school (video)
Royal St. George’s College is an urban day school located in the historic Annex neighbourhood of downtown Toronto. Howland Avenue is a leafy residential street that runs north of Bloor Street and south of Dupont Street. Enrolment hovers around 426 students, making it considerably smaller than the other boys’ schools in the city. Since its founding in 1964, renovations and additions have maximized the available space and kept pace with the latest in educational amenities. The school puts equal weight on students being happy, kindhearted, and compassionate. It’s an intriguing balance that could just as easily not work, but it does—and remarkably well.
ON SCHOOL LEADERSHIP
Headmaster Stephen Beatty started at the school in 1976, when the founding headmaster and many founding teachers were still on staff. His fond memories of those years were what eventually led him to a career in education. After university, he worked in magazine publishing in Toronto and abroad before reaching a point in his twenties where he reconsidered his path. “When I landed on teaching as a second career, it had a lot to do with my sense that my teachers at RSGC really loved what they were doing,” he says. “I was looking for a meaningful and substantive way to spend my professional life, and I looked to their example.” His first job was at a private girls’ school in Toronto, then he moved to a coed private school. “All through those years, my presumption was that I would return to RSGC, but I didn’t imagine I’d come back to run the place,” he says. His two sons, set to graduate in 2022 and 2025, came with him.
Beatty readily acknowledges that, as a leader, he wears his heart on his sleeve. It’s partly just the way he is, and partly very deliberate. His colleagues all attest to the warmth and care he shows not just students, but everyone he encounters. “Like any school leader, Steve has talents across the board,” says Senior School teacher John Lambersky. “But his superpower is the way he connects with everyone he meets. He’s an extraordinarily empathetic person. It seems that all of his decisions at RSGC are filtered through both his intellect and heart.”
ON THE ACADEMIC ENVIRONMENT
Relationships are a key aspect of developing the sense of belonging and safety that are crucial to academic success and growth. “We don’t spend time in professional development devising strategies to teach kindness and consideration,” says Mike Ruscitti, senior school director of teaching and learning. “It’s just part of who we are.” Like the other teachers, parents, and students we spoke to, Ruscitti attributes the culture to the school’s promise that boys will be ‘known and loved.’ More than a slogan, the commitment is entrenched throughout the school’s operations. “This is a place that lives and breathes humane and human values in a way that not every school does,” says Senior School teacher John Lambersky. “Some of that is the long-term DNA of the school, and some comes from Steve joining us as principal 10 years ago. He leads from the heart, which is very telling considering that he’s an old boy.”
The academic program is challenging and the standards are high at RSGC. It is relational, grounded in helping each student find his passion and providing for him the opportunity to stretch and grow. In the Junior School, the pedagogical approach is progressive. In Grades 3 and 4, the small class sizes ensure that students develop foundational literacy and numeracy skills to become critical researchers and solution-based designers. Students clearly express themselves through word, media, and the arts as they become engaging communicators.
The Senior School builds on this foundation. Advanced Placement (AP) courses, including the AP Capstone program, enhance the course offerings, providing one of several enrichment opportunities for students. STEM learning is pervasive throughout the grades, and the Design Engineering Studio is a lively hub for discovery. Boys who have a passion for engineering and design can pursue the Advanced Computer Engineering School (ACES) curricula in Grades 10 to 12.
Overall, though, RSGC focuses on relationships to drive student learning. This is a key aspect of developing a sense of belonging and safety that are crucial to academic success and growth. Students are exposed to entrepreneurship, media literacy, and solving problems through a thinking classroom approach,” says Mike Ruscitti, senior school director of teaching and learning. “We expose the boys to a lot of different subject areas and experiences in Grades 9 and 10 so they can make informed decisions about where to focus their studies in the upper grades.”
The approach is student-centred. “An inquiry-based approach is used in our curriculum design,” says Junior School teacher Alessandra Matera. “It is meant to generate opportunities for critical thinking, asking thought-provoking questions, and seeking out new knowledge. Students are at the centre of the learning process, with teachers acting as facilitators and guides. We understand that our students are individuals with varying interests and needs; therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all approach in the classroom. By providing choice in our programs, students can make decisions and take ownership of their learning experiences.”
ON THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT
Some community members argue that the wood-paneled Ketchum Hall—transformed in recent years from a simple dining hall to a great hall—is the beating heart of the school, serving as both the lunchroom and the location for student-run assemblies. Another favourite spot, especially among the boys, is the tarmac behind the buildings, where pick-up games are always on the go during gym or breaks. Others point to the school chapel, as a place where we can gather as a community, every student, and every faculty member, on a weekly basis. That is something very special, says headmaster Beatty.
The Junior School recently completed a major renovation that included the creation of more collaborative, flexible learning spaces and informal meeting areas, along with enhanced lighting and air quality for all classrooms. The Grades 3 to 6 classrooms came together in a single, multi-purpose learning environment complete with smaller studios and nooks, while the space for Grades 7 and 8 is now the open-design Commons, purpose-built for collaborative teaching and learning. A full-sized gym, airy art studio, STEM labs, and theatre round out the facilities.
RSGC prioritizes sustainability in its built environment and curriculum. It’s been certified with EcoSchools Canada since 2014 and recently received the highest possible Platinum level certification.
ON THE SCHOOL'S VALUES
“Promising that we will know and love each student is really a way of saying we’re concerned about the whole student,” says RSGC social worker Andrea Kaye. “Part of the RSGC education is understanding how to both struggle and succeed. The fact that our principal knows every student’s name and wants to know about any challenges they’re having demonstrates that mental health and wellness are central here.”
There is ongoing committment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at RSGC. The school’s DEI committee is deeply engaged in work with the purpose of ensuring that all students and staff experience safety, joy, and belonging at RSGC.
Consistent with the school’s mission of helping boys become the best version of themselves—become true “Georgians,” as community members call themselves—RSGC strives for a holistic education that includes academic, athletic, social, moral, and spiritual growth.
“We have a focus on balance,” says Tom Stevens, director of admissions. “Our boys are involved in the music program from Grades 3 to 8. They take part in outdoor education. And we ask them to be engaged in community service, sports, and leadership.” This isn’t the school for boys with single interests to the exclusion of everything else. There’s a wide and diverse array of extracurricular activities, and the athletics program stresses inclusivity. That being said, the school has had some stellar results in individual sports such as alpine skiing and cross-country running.
ON THE STUDENT COMMUNITY
The students we spoke to were aware of their reputation and own it proudly. “RSGC does a great job in preparing you for your future life in academia and your career, but it also prepares you to be a good person,” says one recent graduate. “Our unofficial motto, ‘Manners Maketh Men,’ sounds old-fashioned and gentlemanly, but it still holds a lot of value. It’s less about mechanical manners—like holding doors open—than about fundamental respect in all your interactions.”
THE OUR KIDS REPORT: Royal St. George's College
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