Roundtable Q&A Discussion About St. John's-Kilmarnock School (2021)
St. John's-Kilmarnock School alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Kate, Hannah, Sacha had to say about the school.
- 2:50 - What did you appreciate most about SJK during your time here? And how has your perspective on your SJK experience changed now that you've had a little bit of distance from the school?
- 8:17 - What do you think differentiates SJK from other schools?
- 10:22 - If SGK were to be represented as a single person, what would its personality be like?
- Show Full Video Contents
Highlights from the Q&A discussion
Kate — alum
Kate attended St. John’s-Kilmarnock School from Junior Kindergarten up until her Grade 12 graduation in 2018. During her time there, she appreciated the many opportunities that were offered, from sports, to travel experiences, to being the editor of the school magazine. She credits the school with instilling and fostering her love of writing, which led to her choice of program for her post-secondary education, and future career. She is currently in her 4th year at Carleton University studying journalism, and her writing has been published several times in various publications.
I have most grown to appreciate the opportunities that I got when I was at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School. I got to do some really cool things, like play field hockey with the US women's Olympic team. I got to travel to D.C., to Cuba, and to Los Angeles.
There are quite a few things that differentiate St. John’s-Kilmarnock School from other schools, but what I think made the most impact on me was the size of the school. It's relatively small, so not only do you get a lot of one-on-one time with the teachers, which is awesome, you also know everybody.
St. John’s-Kilmarnock School really lets you try things that you might also not be good at, but there are people who are patient, and willing to take the time to teach you. I found that that's really what differentiates St. John’s-Kilmarnock School. Especially from university, where there are so many people that you kind of feel like a number, instead of someone who's valued and appreciated.
St. John’s-Kilmarnock School is a really academic environment. You're really encouraged to do the best you can and to push yourself in all of your classes. This is done in such a compassionate way. I never had a time where I asked for help and it didn't get returned in spades. Whether that was academic or even in my personal life.
I still have my close friends from St. John’s-Kilmarnock School, and we still check in on each other, even if I haven't seen some of them since graduation. When I was first published, I got really caring messages from old classmates and teachers saying, ‘We're so excited to see you succeed at something that we got to watch you fall in love with and hoped that you could pursue.’
With St. John’s-Kilmarnock School, I was never pitted against anyone. I never felt like there were people who didn't want to see me succeed. It's not an elitist environment in my opinion.
The focus isn't on academics entirely. What I love, and what I think is surprising, is that St. John’s-Kilmarnock School would much rather that students be a well-rounded person than someone who is strictly focused on academics and excels only in that area. There's a lot of support.
You can miss a day of class and your teachers at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School will help you make up for it. They really want to see you develop yourself, not only on the academic side, but also in your communication skills. Teamwork, leadership, and those kinds of things are just as valued as the academic side. I think it also helps take the pressure off students because you know that you're not only there to get the best grades or to pass all your tests; you know that you're getting more out of the experience and that that's preferred. Then at the same time, if all you want to do is focus on your academics, that's okay, and you'll be supported no matter what.
I think I would have to say for me, the biggest thing that inspired me at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School was writing for, and editing the Aqua Line, which is our student newspaper. Ever since I think Grade 7, when I had something published in it people have been saying, ‘When you get to high school, you're going to have to be the editor. You're going to edit the paper.’ In Grade 11, I ended up being the editor.
The friendships and the connections you make will last you a really long time.
Hannah — alum
Hannah graduated from St. John’s-Kilmarnock School in 2020, and is now in her first year at McMaster University studying mechanical engineering. While attending SKS, she appreciated the close bonds that she made with many of her teachers and classmates. She feels that the school community is tight knit, and like a family, which she attributes to the small size. Hannah believes that the school fostered her love for leading, and helping people through all of the opportunities to travel, and working in teams.
I was a very different person before I joined St. John’s-Kilmarnock School. Academically, I did not enjoy school. Since coming to SJK, I've learned to love academics and pretty much everything to do with the school environment. I think the one thing I appreciated most about SJK are the teachers. I don't think any single student at SJK would be able to go through their school life without building a strong connection with at least one of their teachers.
I've now done a year of university, and there's nothing quite like St. John’s Kilmarnock School. You can't have those relationships that you get to build at SJK anywhere else, and I think that's really special.
The opportunity to do anything and everything you want is always there at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School. The teachers are the most compassionate people I've ever met, and they want students to succeed. They'll do everything in their power to make that possible, and you can't find that anywhere else. I've been to quite a few schools growing up, and there are always barriers or restrictions when it comes to clubs you want to join, and the classes you want to take.
Students are pushed to their limits but are so supported the whole time. So you get to do anything you want. You can work as hard as you need to, and that's part of the IB program, but also it’s the teachers and the support you get from everyone in the school.
Students can be friends with everyone at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School. I remember walking down the hall and stopping and just chatting to every person from Junior Kindergarten all the way up to Grade 12. It was an incredible environment to be in and to feel loved. You are able to be yourself and are supported in that.
I really enjoyed my time at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School. I loved the school and still do. Class sizes are amazing at SJK. You get one- on-one time with teachers all the time.
I was overwhelmed by the support at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School. I really felt like I belonged in the community, and it was just almost an extension of my family by the time I graduated.
While St. John’s-Kilmarnock School is quite a small school in comparison to a lot of other schools, we have a huge impact when it comes to competitions. For example, athletics. We have gone to OFSAA in all of our sports, several times, and we have even won a couple of times. Also in arts, drama, and music, and in everything in academics. I think that really pays tribute to the well-roundedness of the school, and how you are encouraged to do the best you can and be as well rounded as possible.
I'm very, very passionate about sharing culture, and at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School, I was able to go to Nepal in 2019, during my Grade 11 year. We spent three weeks trekking around Nepal, visiting schools, which was probably the most physically exhausting time of my life, but while there, it was that final stand that reminded me I wanted to help people.
When it comes to one special memory that stands out for me at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School, it would definitely be some of the bus rides that you'd have to take, whether it was with your class, or sports team, choir, or anything. I think those are some of the times where I bonded the most with my teammates, or friends, or just my class in general. We would sing, we would dance, we would annoy the bus drivers, but I feel like those are the memories that I have that really remind me, ‘Okay, SJK is my place, and I have friends here.’
You might find something that you love at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School and it's going to become a new passion for you. It's incredible to see what you can try, and experiment with. The teachers at SJK are there for students. They will do everything and anything they can, and if you say one single word to them, they'll be right there to help. Everyone at the school will be willing to support you, and that's how you're going to become part of the community.
Sacha — alum
Sacha graduated from St. John’s-Kilmarnock School in 2018, and is now studying at the Smith School of Business at Queen's University. While attending SKS, Sacha felt that his teachers were dedicated and influential and wanted to see each individual student succeed. He appreciated all the different opportunities that were offered there, and feels they taught him teamwork and leadership, and informed his values and worldview. These opportunities helped him get out of his comfort zone, become well rounded academically, and make many close friends within the school community.
I most appreciated the care and dedication from the teachers at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School, which is something that's unrivalled at any other school or place I've ever been. Really how much they want you to succeed, and what they will do to help you succeed is something that's really unique.
Almost every single teacher at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School participates in extracurricular activities and sports and goes on long journeys with the teams. You don't get that experience anywhere else, especially in university, and especially in public schools. I found the care and dedication really informed me of what I valued. My worldview has really grown and expanded because of these opportunities.
I think the access to opportunities is really the biggest differentiator of St. John’s-Kilmarnock School. Being able to pursue any sport you want, and not having to worry about tryouts because you had never played the sport before is great. I had the opportunity to start a French club for a year, which I thought was quite entertaining. All the different unique opportunities at SJK really deepen your learning. And not just your typical academics, but learning teamwork, leadership, and developing skills that you didn't know you were passionate about.
Three words that describe St. John’s-Kilmarnock School if it were a person would be caring, encouraging, and spirited. The teachers genuinely care about you. You aren't, like in university, 1 of 50,000, or however many thousand. You see the same teachers every single day in small classes; they want students to succeed.
Students are really encouraged to try new things and go out of their comfort zone to learn at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School. Whether that be academically or with extracurriculars, I think it shows up in all aspects of SJK. Anyone who's been to SJK can't deny the unbelievable school spirit we have, whether it be through our house competitions or the incredible sports teams that we always cheer on. In general, the school has an unbelievable spirit to it that has been unrivalled even in my post-secondary education.
It's not a stuck-up group of kids who have only had the same experiences. St. John’s-Kilmarnock School has a very diverse group of students, who have had a diverse set of experiences, and bring a lot of unique perspectives.
I think the really holistic approach to learning is something that is quite unique about St. John’s-Kilmarnock School, and pretty surprising about an IB school. When I think about IB, at least when I was coming into the program, I thought very rigorous academics, which it is, but that you would be spending all night studying and doing homework and preparing for your tests, essays, etc. When really, there is a strong encouragement at SJK to make sure you're taking time to pursue athletics, pursue the arts, pursue clubs, and do the things that help you grow as a person, not just academically. I think that the Grade 9 to 12 period is a very important area of growth, especially for learning those soft skills.
My chemistry teacher at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School in Grade 11 is the single most influential person on my career path thus far in my academic career. I guess the story kind of starts at the end of Grade 10. I had decided to take standard level chemistry, as I thought I had heard that higher-level chemistry was a challenge and that it was difficult, and I kind of just steered away from the challenge. During our parent-teacher interviews, she suggested to myself and my parents that I consider switching to higher-level chemistry, as she didn't think that I was being challenged enough in standard level. Of course, being a Grade 11 student, wanting to have an easy ride, I was a little bit averse to that concept at the start, but after a bit more thought, I decided, ‘You know what? Let's give it a try.’
I went into high-level chemistry in Grade 11 at St. John’s Kilmarnock School. Of course, it was a challenge, but I found after a couple of months when I was actually being challenged and forced to put the effort in and learn, I was actually doing way better in the course than I had been at standard level. I was learning a lot more, not only academically but also about myself and about the strategies that helped me succeed. I think the real learning I had during my time at SJK was that if you want to be successful, you really need to push yourself and challenge yourself, and not just take the easy path through life, because those are never going to help you grow.
If you go in looking for the most from the experience at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School, whether that be in terms of taking advantage of extracurriculars, putting yourself out there to meet new people, or being willing to attend club events, and different school events, you'll have an amazing time and you'll really be able to form such a strong support network extremely quickly.