Halifax, NS | Grades JK - 12 | Shortlist
We have four children at Sacred Heart School of Halifax (SHSH). If I think about our eldest son, who has gone from Grade 6 to where he is now (Grade 11), he may not put it in these exact words himself but two of the things that he would appreciate the most include: (a) Connections: He has truly rich friendships. It is clear that some of his classmates are close friends for life. Some teachers may even make the same cut. (b) Challenge: SHSH creates the conditions that challenge him to do his best academically, where the primary goal is learning and preparation for university, not brute-force academics for the sake of it. The school has nurtured a sense of curiosity in him that represents a love of learning for sake of personal growth. To be clear, he inevitably reflects on the harsh reality of wanting to get into the university of his choice, etc. But what is evident to his parents, grandparents and others is that he has developed an appreciation for learning as a noble pursuit on its own. Particularly as he gets older, he has sometimes expressed frustration that seeing 'the girls' in between classes and in extra-curricular settings isn't as much as he'd like. He has never objected to the pedagogical merits of split-gender classrooms (and socially seems to appreciate some benefits of that). But halfway through Grade 11, he sometimes says he wishes he could engineer more time with his female counterparts at school. Sometimes he grumbles about uniforms...but no different than I did as a teen in an independent school.
Our daughter joined Sacred Heart School as a shy student whose early years experience robbed her confidence and her joyful nature. She stepped into her Grade 4 classroom at SHSH as if into the arms of family. Her teacher that year (and in all subsequent years) showed a genuine interest in her as an individual person. Her teacher's ability to be lovingly kind while holding consistently high expectations for our daughter's performance created a safe pathway for our daughter's spirit to come back to life. Throughout her time at Sacred Heart, our daughter was generally a 'reluctant' student, more interested in the relational aspects of school than in academic pursuit. Her teachers journeyed alongside her in ways that respectfully nudged or pulled her to academic success beyond what we had imagined could be achieved while ensuring she had space and support to engage with others in ways that filled her relational tank. In Grade 11 our daughter was recognized for her contribution to the spirit of the school - an award that was fitting for the person she aspired to be and one that sums up perfectly her experience of Sacred Heart as a place where academic success matters and where contribution to others is rewarded.
My partner and I are parents of 3 girls. When our youngest daughter was ready to begin Primary we weren't happy with the school our older two children were attending, and we weren't ready to put our youngest daughter into a school that wasn't working for us. We had tried just about every option our town had to offer except Sacred Heart, but I have to say, after the first year we knew we had made the right decision. Our youngest daughter, who was shy and used to having her family and sisters nearby, blossomed under the guidance of a compassionate environment that made her feel safe and nurtured. She's now the first one out the door each day! That's a real transformation from those early first days, and it helped ease my concerns as a parent to know she was in good hands.