REVIEW OF Star Academy BY parent, Chala Dincoy
- Date of Review
May 28, 2019
Gr. 2 - 4
(5) Student Experience
Logan loves to go to school again. He gets mad when I'm late leaving the house to drop him off. Things were different when he went to a public school though. He spent most of his time in avoidance. Avoiding going to school, avoiding doing his homework, avoiding studying for tests, avoiding talking about everything that was going on and mostly how he was failing to learn how to read and write - and this was in Grade 1 only! Needless to say, the whole family is relieved that we found Star Academy to help him learn and grow not just academically but also socially and emotionally. He has become a very mature-sounding, adult-like person in only two years at Star. Socially responsible, friendly and confident. I can hardly recognize the reluctant, angry student that he was. I am very grateful to the whole staff at Star Academy and to our paediatrician who recommended them to us.
(5) School Leadership
The new leadership and administration has left the old one behind by a mile. They started their reign by taking the pulse of all the constituents. From the parents to the teachers and the kids. They then meticulously incorporated all their findings into new programming and created many new opportunities for the kids. Everything from new food programs to enhanced learning for the teachers has helped my child become more well-rounded and better-adjusted. Discipline issues haven't arisen a lot with us but the few cases that we did have, the principal and director were factual and fair as well as helpful. Communication between the staff and parents are excellent. Not only do we get a weekly newsletter from the Principal but a weekly one from Logan's teacher as well as regular updates (with pictures!) from his Orton-Gillingham reading specialist!
Logan's teachers at Star Academy are all characters onto themselves. One is passionate about art and can write reams of content about her love. Another one loves to DJ. Yet another one is crazy about film. They all bring their unique selves authentically to their students, sharing their own loves with young minds ready to absorb everything creative. Their passion comes through the uniqueness and creativity of the projects they create such as the Art Crawl or the DJ table at the Fair Day. Another great example of their passion is how they document the children's activities with illustriously edited and filmed movies and presentations. I feel that Logan gets a lot of support from all his teachers in a varied number of subjects and forms. He loves all his teachers and the bonus of being at a school like Star is that they all know and love him, often fighting over his home-made brownies that he bakes frequently to take to them. We have loved every teacher we have met at Star Academy. From his home room teacher to his gym teacher, they have brought innovation, passion and humour to the classroom. For example, Mr. Shao, the gym teacher recognized when he first came to the school last year, that building teamwork was more important than teaching them sports skills. He has since used the daily gym classes as a platform to do that instead of letting it become a competitive landscape, which sports is usually known for. Ms. Smith, who has been his teacher for almost 3 years works with us seamlessly when we implement rules for Logan. Such as the time we hired a tech detox specialist and in tandem, Ms. Smith covered the dangers of too much gaming and electronics in class, reinforcing what we were doing at home. It was very helpful to have a sandwich approach to this problem that we have now largely overcome thanks to everyone's help.
The academic program at Star Academy was ideal for us when we came from the public school system because my son was a whole year behind in reading and writing and he was only starting Grade 2. There were no tests and no homework to bring home at night (due to the after school homework club where students can complete their homework with the guidance of a teacher). In addition, without having to go looking outside the school, I was provided with subject matter expert tutors who helped Logan improve every subject he was lagging in. The academic structure at Star allows each child to build and catch up at his own speed. It eliminates pushing students through, even when they are failing (as had happened in his public schooling). We are so proud of the accomplishments Logan has made through the academic culture of loving to learn at Star.
Sadly, I can't keep up with the number of clubs that Star Academy offers. All I know is that my child who has eaten the exact same food for 7 years started to experiment with food when he joined a cooking club. He became an avid skier because of the extracurricular ski program that was offered for the first time. In addition, with the new school management the sports clubs were expanded and new trips (such as to Ottawa) to local museums were arranged. Logan couldn't stop raving about his trip to a treatment plant and to Casa Loma. There are so many opportunities to teach outside of the school and Star Academy certainly makes use of this fact frequently.
One of the biggest influencing factors for us choosing Star Academy was its small size of student body. Logan's reading and writing difficulties had fallen through the cracks in the public school system because he was one of 33 kids in one class. And that was only Grade 1! When we got here, he had 2 teachers who were equally qualified and had only 7 kids in his class. Similar numbers and structures exist for all grades, ensuring all eyes on the kids and adequate help. The other students at Star are all what I call 'learning refugees' from the public school. All of the parents I meet are ones who had to take action and find a proper environment for their children because they couldn't thrive or even survive in some cases, in the existing public school system. We were no different. We love the other students and parents at Star and often have playdates with them. It's like an extended family.
(5) School Life
I may have mentioned before that Logan gets mad at me every morning if we're not out of the house by 7:30 am because he wants to go to school early. He joins the outdoor time before school with his friends. I think this is a great indicator that he thrives greatly in the school life at Star Academy. As for improvement suggestions, I do not have a perspective yet about the older grades but limited choice of friends due to smaller class sizes in later grades could prove to be a challenge. As of now though, Logan shudders in horror at seeing teeming masses of students playing outside in regular public schools because he treasures the small, family-like school life culture at Star Academy.
The parent community at Star Academy is top notch. Most have become our friends. We share common interest and concerns with respect to our kids' sensitivities and special needs. They are very involved in the school. My husband built a wood stage for the school gym. He also brought a massive hydraulic truck to the school to demonstrate the effect of lifting and hydraulics. One parent took the initiative to gather used uniforms and re-sell them to raise funds for charity while recycling clothing to help reduce the carbon footprint. The Primary grades have yoga classes with their parents at the school. It is very common to see this kind of thing at Star Academy and the staff are constantly looking for more opportunities for parental involvement.
(4) School Location
The location is a quick 5 min drive for us but isn't accessible by Uber due to some glitch in the GPS coordinates. The Leadership was having that looked at but it was an issue last year. Other than that, the school is a secure, friendly and clean building. The neighbourhood is a developing one so there is some construction from time to time.