Roundtable Q&A Discussion About St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School (2020)
St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Andrea, Yvonne, Zara, Aliyan, Fatima, Feng had to say about the school.
Highlights from the Q&A discussion
Andrea — alum
Andrea graduated from SLI in 2009. Since graduating, she has attended two middle schools, high school, and then university. She is currently coding full-time.
- “So what I appreciated most about the school was that my classroom experience here, both social and educational, made class feel like a second home. ...Teachers at the school somehow managed to create a wholesome and nourishing, yet competitive and driven, atmosphere in their classes.”
- “As a student, I remember feeling very comfortable being myself, speaking my mind, sharing my work and ideas aloud and making mistakes, which is a huge part of growing up and a huge part of my growing up.”
- “I've never been made to feel inferior or like I was doing something wrong. Like I said, teachers here are supportive and nurturing, and have always taught their students the meaning of healthy competition.”
- “Through small teacher-to-student ratios, teachers are extremely good at catering to the individual learning styles of every child, and one-on-one help is 100% available, and push for it to support a no-failure and open atmosphere. And that's something that I can't even begin to explain how important it was, and I appreciate it so much.”
- “I've experienced quite a bit in terms of different curriculum-style school policies and teachers. Firstly, my fellow SLI classmates and I were always way ahead of the material taught at schools post-SLI because students here learn most material a lot earlier than most other schools and at a faster rate.”
- “More importantly, though, there is a level of importance SLI places on subjects like critical thinking, problem-solving, reading comprehension, grammar, and tons of other tiny little subjects. … I remember the critical thinking and problem-solving lessons were my favorite.”
- “I also remember going into Grade 7 already knowing how to write multiple different kinds of essays, which in my experience is a bit uncommon at that age. … So I think the average student that comes out of SLI is far more prepared, not just for things like high school and university applications, which sound shiny to parents, but also just to making life decisions. And that's what sets the school apart from others.”
- “[Three words to describe SLI would be] ‘intimidating,’ ‘empowering,’ and ‘attentive,’ and I'm comparing the school at this point to layers of an onion, cue the Shrek joke … at first glance, the school and curriculum seems intimidating because it really is academically advanced. But peel off a layer and it's empowering. Due to this, students really are pushed to achieve their maximum potential and advance like crazy, both in academic and social capacities. And peel off the final layer, and you get to the core; an attentive atmosphere where students can be honest, have their voices heard, and learn a lot about themselves, and what makes them happy.”
- “You'll also be surprised to see how much stronger your children will become, here, at actually using their brains to think of solutions, and solve problems from scratch with the creativeness that it's actually pretty astounding, as opposed to just regurgitating information. …”
- “I would say open up all your senses because this school provides an experience that is so far beyond what you're probably expecting. When I was a student at SLI, we've done things like international potluck, party days, talent shows for the whole school, putting on plays for parents, school field trips, and I even remember one year, we received eggs from a farm and watched them hatch into little chicks.”
- “In my last year, my classmates and I were incredibly sad to leave, so we came up with a crazy idea to have a sleepover at the school for the graduating class, and we managed to persuade the staff to support it. So much so that this actually became an annual thing. Graduating students spend the night at the school—supervised, of course—for a night of fun, games, and spooky stories. Thus, your voice will always be heard, your ideas will always be considered, and you will always have fun.”
Yvonne — alum
Yvonne graduated from SLI in 2017 and is currently Co-President of the Sidney Ledson Institute Alumni Association.
- “[What I appreciate most about SLI is] the great community … I was raised in. I've been at the school since pre-K … and so not a very large community, but a very loving and friendly community that has probably raised me into the person I am today. The community definitely strives for competitiveness, yet you want to respect your opponent. ...It's been a great community.”
- “I do have many fond memories of the many friends I have made on the way and over this time. I don't think I've ever been to a better school.”
- “[My first word to describe SLI] would be ‘fun.’ So as in a lot of comics, you see school as a dreary place you don't want to be in. However, this school changes that—it's not the dreary place you would expect, but instead a fun place where you get to learn, you get to do what you want … you get to be with other people, your friends [and learn with them]. [The second word to describe SLI would be] ‘competitive’ because, not all competition has to be so cutthroat or evil. ...The competition here could just be slight competition like, who gets a higher mark on the test. [The last word to describe SLI would be] ‘supportive.’ Just because we were competitive doesn't mean we hated each other. We were actually supportive. We helped each other out to get better marks if we did bad. We all support each other after a bad mark, where we felt sad.”
- “I would say the most surprising thing is the amount of customization for the course. Unlike other schools where they have a lined out course, where there's not much deviation if one kid’s ahead or one kid’s falling behind. I would say that this school actually puts you where your level is at.”
- “If you are ahead and you're finding Grade 6 a little too easy … [you would be put in] either Grade 7 or even Grade 8 if you're really good. And this customization definitely allows much better learning.
Zara — alum
Zara graduated from Sidney Ledson in 2017 and is currently Co-President of the Sidney Ledson Institute Alumni Association.
- “I really appreciated the people and the community at the school because the amount of students at the school is pretty small. So I found that you get to really know and bond not only with the students in your grade, but also students who are in different grades.”
- “I think [bonding with students in different grades is] really important because it really built this amazing community, and it felt like one big family. And specifically for me, somehow I ended up being the only girl in my grade for several years. So I ended up becoming friends with a lot of the younger girls when I was in Grade 6. And I was friends with a lot of the older girls when I was in the younger grades.”
- “I found that even with the staff having smaller class sizes, it allowed such good relationships between me and my teachers, and I got to really know them well. And I think, in some ways, my perspective hasn't changed because at my current school, which is much larger. I really miss being close with the entire student body.”
- “One of the reasons my parents switched me to Sidney Ledson was because they preferred the teaching and the teachers at Sidney Ledson. So I think all the teachers are really great at what they do, and all the teachers work really well with the kids. So the learning goes pretty smoothly, and the work is hard and challenging, and the teachers really push you, but they teach in a way that's engaging and interesting.”
- “I didn't struggle too much in class, and when I did, I could always go to my teachers. I never felt uncomfortable going to them, and asking them for help or if I needed support.”
- “I appreciated that when we learned, it wasn't just memorization. They didn't just make us memorize things from textbooks. Teachers made sure we were constantly learning and thinking, and … using critical thinking and problem-solving. So I think that was really important.”
- “The first word I would [use to describe SLI] is ‘hardworking’ because every student and staff at the school works so hard. I remember, in class, teachers were always working hard with the stacks and stacks of workbooks, or if it was planning grade events and things like that. The second [word I would use to describe SLI] is ‘caring.’ I think that all the students and staff really care for each other. And you can always count on students and staff to look out for you and have your back. And the last [word I would use to describe SLI] is ‘welcoming.’ … The students are so friendly, and that helps new students feel comfortable and not too nervous.”
- “I think something that is really surprising is the amount of bonding between the younger and older grades because there are a lot of opportunities for younger children to get to know older children…I was in clubs with a lot of kids that were different ages after school and before school, [such as] the school shows like the gala and talent show, and even events at like Halloween and Easter, where older students would organize activities for younger students.”
- “In Grades 5 and 6, when I did SSAT prep with Ms. Shivji, she pushed us really hard and she always kept us on our toes. But I'm grateful for that because the outcome was really great. But it was stressful at times. And there are times where I felt overwhelmed or I felt upset because I wasn't doing as well as I wanted to. So trying to stay positive, that helped me a lot.”
Aliyan — alum
Aliyan graduated in 2019, and is currently in Grade 8 at Upper Canada College.
- “One thing I really enjoyed about the school was the opportunities in the community to explore leadership and [SLI] really gives an opportunity to really know the students, younger … and older. I first went to SLI in Grade 4 … and I didn't really know anybody and it didn't take long for me to really know everybody.”
- “Throughout the three years I was there, I really enjoyed the people who were around me and I really got to learn them and learn things from them. And hopefully, I taught them something.”
- “The space we were given for leadership, whether it's creating clubs, joining the newsletters, the broadcast, the school gives lots of opportunities for us to outreach and do things that you can't do at a bigger school because a lot more students competing for the same role.”
- “I think what really differentiates SLI is...the size of it, how everybody knows everybody...and you know peoples’ likes and dislikes, and you feel more comfortable when you talk to them, and that really helps when you're socializing, or if you're working together.”
- “[One word to describe SLI:] Probably ‘educated’ because a lot of students that graduate or even just attend really [take education] seriously there. So even in all the topics that we do, like grammar, spelling, and all those small, little things, a lot of students are ahead of [their] grade level.”
- “[Another word to describe SLI:] ‘Informed’...because with current events, we're very informed about what's happening with world politics, and even in the country. … And I think that's a really good thing, even with young children, because we need to stay current, and know what's happening in the world.”
Fatima — alum
Fatima graduated from SLI in 2019.
- “I think there's so many things that I loved about SLI, but if I had to choose three, I would say number one, the advanced academic level. Also, I really appreciated how small the class sizes were. And number three … I had some of the most dedicated teachers … I feel like it was mainly the academic rigour of SLI that allowed me to be accepted in many schools for Grade 7. It made my transition to my new school very smooth and successful.”
- “There were so many leadership opportunities, and that really boosted my skills and leadership. ...Whether it was starting a club or joining the newsletter or being the House leader. And that's definitely going to help me in my new school and will also help in the future.”
- “So I joined SLI in Grade 3. … And I think that the small number of students in each class, also the advanced curriculum, and there was really a tight sense of community. And all those things really make the SLI students and school stand out from the others.”
- “We were introduced to competitions in Math, English, and other community-based projects at an early stage, as young as Grade 1. Some of these competitions were like Mathematica Centrum, the Caribou Math Contest, and there were much more. And I think that really makes the SLI students not only ahead of other students academically, but also socially.”
- “One thing I really liked about the school is that we all knew each other regardless of grade level, and each student had a chance to take a leadership role, often at an early age.”
- “I think the three words I would choose [to describe Sidney Ledson] are ‘hardworking,’ ‘academically inclined,’ and ‘aware of their environment.’ … And we were taught many important skills that help in life, such as note-taking, time management. And we were always encouraged to do our best and work hard. As I got older, we learned more about social justice … and why it's important to give back to the community.”
- “So I think that most families that join SLI, they know about the advanced curriculum. But the thing … I [experienced is] … the sense of community that students actually feel. And I remember … the small things [at SLI] … we all shared success stories and student achievements during every Monday assembly. And we were also put into house teams, and these are teams that are composed of students from different grades along with two supervising teachers.”
- “There's really nothing much to worry about because all the teachers are very kind and they go above and beyond to help you. And in a short time, you'll know almost everybody at the school, and you would likely make very close friends.”
- “Even though you feel behind in one subject, you really don't need to get discouraged. … When I was there, the curriculum and the small classes allowed for more personalization towards any of the students’ needs.”
Feng — current parent
Feng’s eldest son graduated from Sidney Ledson, and his youngest is currently attending SLI.
- “We were very fortunate to actually have stumbled upon Sidney Ledson by looking at [our] neighbourhood … one of the things we really appreciate as parents is … academic rigour, which could be said for not a lot of schools these days, unfortunately.”
- “.Both teachers as well as the principal and other staff … just seem to care more about the well-being of their students. … [The students] received a lot of guidance, they received on top of academic challenges.”
- “We felt that [our son] needed the individual focus that [Sidney Ledson] provided an abundance of … the individual-catered curriculum focused on him was something we deeply appreciated.”
- “Because he was able to go from somewhat … behind to, actually, I would say ahead of the curve, that's definitely something that cannot be understated. But additionally, I think that this individual focus, ‘Oh, maybe I’m good at something,’ the nurturing that was provided and the guidance provided by the teachers and the staff that allowed him to gain confidence as well as maturity.”
- “[My first words to describe SLI is] motivational. … It's one thing to see your child who is coming home and doing his homework. ...The fact that [SLI] encourages our children to come home and do what they need to do to do their own homework, to study, maybe a little bit of competition [helped]. [Another word to describe SLI is] approachable. I could come by to speak to Ms. Shivji or Ms. Tran, or any of the teachers at any time, whether it's about which school I would like Yvonne to go to, or … life in general. … A lot of guidance is provided, they're very helpful. [My last word to describe SLI is] professional. It's not just a job for them. They truly care about education.They truly care about the children as well as their well-being.”