REVIEW OF St. John's-Kilmarnock School BY parent, Laura Armstrong
- Date of Review
August 28, 2023
- Child 1
JK (Male, Current Day Student)
- Child 2
Gr. 1 - Gr. 2 (Female, Current Day Student)
(4.5) Student Experience
Both of our children are in the Lower School and are having a happy and enriched experience at SJK. They both enjoy their teachers, homeroom, and specialty teachers alike. The smaller class sizes allow for personalized learning and extra experiences. Our daughter's class approached the Head of School for approval to find space on campus to plant a pollinator garden during their Honey Bee Unit. The garden is now thriving and this is a special memory for my daughter and her friends. The Outdoor Educational Experience class is a favourite with lots of time outdoors and on the beautiful campus, building shelters learning about animals, and making maple syrup in the spring. Both kids have made lovely friends and continue to grow friendships. Of course, being in the lower school they enjoy the playground facilities and field games during recess with a much-used Gaga ball pit. There are plenty of co-curricular activities after school that keep our children busy and engaged, Lego club and Ukulele club as favourites.
(4.5) School Leadership
The administration holds the school environment top of mind. There is regular communication between home and school with prompt response time. The anticipated Friday File is a weekly email publication written by the Head of School which includes activities of the week and upcoming events as well as a thoughtful and insightful message. Each day the Heads of School are seen at the entrance doors and directing morning drop-off traffic, always with a smile and friendly interaction with students and parents. There is a specific focus on the emotional well-being of students which is supported by the full-time school nurse, who holds a specialty in children’s mental health.
From our experience, the quality of teaching is high, with teachers regularly going above and beyond. Within the Lower School, there is an abundance of communication from teacher to parent. From the weekly emails of classroom activity and learning updates to the frequent posts using the onSJK app to share photographs of students at work, there are plenty of avenues of communication used at SJK. One of my favorites is the use of Seesaw which is a classroom-sharing tool that both teachers and students can share information. What a treat it is to hear the posts our kids have generated, reading or problem-solving as a recording in their own voices. Teachers also use Seesaw to share observations and remarks on students' work, which is helpful to have a constant and current view of how our kids are working in the classroom. Classroom and learning issues have been supported by the teachers with helpful responsiveness.
As an International Baccalaureate accredited school, SJK follows the principles of an IB continuum curriculum which starts in Junior Kindergarten. This is an advantage for families who have come internationally to Canada. Our children are part of the Primary Years Programme and we are already seeing the benefits of the curriculum continuum. This will be especially helpful through the MYP and leading to the DP years. Starting in Junior Kindergarten, our son's teacher hosted career day where parents were invited to the class to share information about careers, jobs, and passions. This was an influential day for the young learners to exemplify lifelong learning. At this point, it seems as though the academic strategies taught at SJK will prepare our children for post-secondary next steps, although it will be more evident as they progress through the grades.
SJK offers a variety of athletic teams and clubs as well as instrumental bands, choirs, and drama groups. The school puts forth several competitive sports teams as well as bands and choirs who travel to compete and perform. As a family with students in the Lower School, it is clear that post-pandemic times have allowed for a large growth in the co-curricular programs at SJK. There is an abundance of options for both after-school and even lunchtime activities which are in addition to the regular offerings of the school curriculum. There is a LEGO club, STEAM group, Karate, Mandarin, and science club, only to name a few. The skating club meets in the winter to skate on the idyllic pond on campus and in the spring the fishing club meets to cast rods into the same pond. The large variety of extracurriculars adds many exciting experiences to student life at SJK.
The student body consists of approximately 500 students, from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12. The students are spread across various sections and wings of the school which feels as though the Lower School and Upper School homeroom classrooms are independent from each other. The students come together in places like the dining hall, gymnasium, learning commons, and chapel where there is grade integration and mixing of students. These various spaces and interactions make for an academic community that learns together, spanning ages and grade levels. The small class sizes seem to encourage students who get to know and support each other. There is a boarding program for international students, for the Upper School Years. The Canadian students help to make the international students feel at home and part of the community.
(4.5) School Life
The high quality of school life makes for a great student experience! Both our kids are very happy attending SJK, they enjoy going to school and look forward to school activities. The school celebrates a variety of different cultural holidays and festivals throughout the school year. Many students take pride in sharing their family's cultural traditions and experiences with other students and school friends. The school's Chaplain heads the spiritual learning component at SJK which is an additional additive area of learning for students. To round out the year, SJK offers a summer camp for registered students and uses the beautiful campus through the summer months. The school is a welcoming and supportive environment with excellent teachers and caring staff. The full variety of activities, sports, and musical offerings help to make SJK a fun school and academic experience.
Community is an integral piece of SJK. The school hosts several large school-wide events each year to include and encourage families to connect with others at the school. In addition, there are frequent smaller events the school organizes to host parents on campus. A selection of music department performances, concerts during the holidays as well and closing ceremonies all invite parents to be on campus. An extra special day is Grand Friends Day when grandparents and special family members of students are hosted at the school with thoughtful details such as professional photos of the student and special family members. The Parent's Association has a small but active group that also organizes community events, several of which I have attended and enjoyed. Both the school, and the PA are making many efforts post-pandemic to continue to grow a solid and connected SJK community.
(4) School Location
The SJK campus is located between Waterloo/Kitchener and Guelph, in Breslau, Ontario. The sprawling 36-acre campus includes walking trails, several sporting fields, a deciduous forest, a pond, and even an outdoor classroom. Due to the location, the school is separate from any neighborhood. There are busing options for transportation. In the winter months, the location of the school can lead to school closures.