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The Maples Academy:
The Our Kids Report
Grades Preschool TO Gr. 8 — Amaranth, ON (Map)

The Maples Academy:

Leadership interview with Aaron Sawatsky, The Maples Academy

  • Name
    Aaron Sawatsky
  • Title
    Head of School (since 2014)

Aaron Sawatsky has been the Head of School at Maples Academy since 2014, where they offer top-quality education for students from preschool to Grade 8. Since acquiring the school, he has enjoyed the 5 acres of land that the school is built on, and the energetic and curious students. As the sister school of St. Judes, Maples Academy aims to promote healthy competition to sharpen students' skill sets and motivate them to do their best and work hard. The IB program the school offers ensures that students go confidently into high school and university and that they are good global citizens. Aaron feels that students must learn to use technology responsibly and as a tool for learning. He also feels that it is important to educate students about social issues at a young age so that they learn to be empathetic and make positive changes in the world.

Video Contents

Highlights from the interview

  • The first thing I love about Maples Academy is the drive to Orangeville, where we have five acres of land on the edge of town, it's so pastoral. The second reason is the kids. They have to be the greatest, the most energetic bunch of kids I have ever seen. The third thing would be the staff. The staff has such a close relationship with the students and each other.

  • Maples Academy used to always have a child care center, but the former owner decided to wrap that up a few years before I purchased it in 2014. We reopened the child care center at Maples Academy, and it was successful right away Having a child care center is a great feeder for Maples AcademyA lot of families may not have even thought about enrolling their child in private school in the future, but when they see what's going on in that Grade 1 classroom because it's right across the hall, they start to consider it. That's one of our greatest marketing tools, having the parents come in and see what's happening across the hall, and it's worked out really well.

  • Maples Academy does have a childcare center, but we look at it as an extension of the school. We start off with school as much as we can and incorporate learning into their day. So it's not just open play, it’s more play-based learning. Especially when they get a little bit older, just before JK, students learn numeracy, and letters so that they can be ready for JK.

  • The thought when purchasing Maples Academy was to have a sister school to St. Jude's, here in Mississauga. Competition is one of the fantastic things about school. Being able to compete against someone else really does sharpen your own skills. Maples Academy holds its own for being only a quarter of the size of St. Jude's. It's amazing how often they win. Friendly competition is a fantastic way to learn.

  • Competition motivates students to try very hard. The speech competition is probably the greatest thing that Maples Academy has. Students will spend months working on those speeches beforehand Many of the kids will then take their speeches to their local county competitions, and they always do extremely well. The trophy cabinet at Maples Academy is quite stacked.

  • Maples Academy offers an IB program straight from JK through the Grade 8. We still focus on the basics of reading, writing and math and making sure that the kids are extremely confident, competent, and ready to go for high school. Then the IB program portion of it teaches students global citizenry.

  • Maples Academy teaches social issues that I may not have been aware of until I was in late high school or University. Maples Academy starts to work on those things while students are young, and hopefully, we can help the world change and be better.

  • There's a unit in everyone's class called the ‘Unit of Inquiry,’ and in that Unit of Inquiry, it's a broad ‘catch-all’ for teaching about social issues. It's important to learn about society, and what's going on around us. At Maples Academy we think it's important to look at any group who feels disenfranchised. We ask the kids to ask questions, such as, ‘why do you think this is happening?’ and ‘what is it that we can do about it?’ As opposed to just preaching an answer, we ask them to search for the answer themselves, which helps them internalize it, and hopefully, that breeds a more empathetic student.

  • If you asked all universities, they would say that the IB students are able to discuss things at a much broader, deeper, greater level than the average student. The people that I believe are really going to lead the way in the next generation and make positive changes are probably going to be IB students.

  • Maples Academy asks the kids, of course, to put their tablets, their phones and things away for certain things. Then immediately we're asking the kids to bring them out. When Maples Academy students have a question, they don't want to wait to find out the answer What we don’t want to do is pour water on that fire Curiosity is the greatest thing, and we have the Internet, so we can answer questions immediately, about anything That is so important to the kids because devices and the Internet are not going away. It's only going to increase more and more, so we have to integrate that into the curriculum.

  • The type of family that's drawn to Maples Academy is somebody who wants more or feels they are not getting everything they can get out of their child.

  • We don’t labour students with too much work or anything, but there are a lot of programs around that just don't challenge kids If students are not challenged, they're going to get bored, and when they get bored, they're going to cause issues Maples Academy knows that keeping them stimulated, asking questions, and engaged is so important, and that's what we do Having a lot of fun is important as well.

  • I purchased Maples Academy in 2014, and I can honestly say that I can't come up with an example of a student who hasn't excelled here. Everyone who's come to Maples Academy has excelled because of the nature of the IB program, and the calibre of the teachers.

  • Maples Academy loves to sit down with the parents and have conversations about any student conflicts and try to say ‘what is the underlying cause here?’ Not everything is that clear-cut, especially now with social media and things. There are some things that can happen in the home that filter back into the classroom or start in the classroom and can filter into the home. Maples Academy has a great relationship with the parents and the students, and is able to sit down and talk about any conflicts, and have discussions to see what we can do. We don't think punitive actions are helpful We try to come to the root of the issue and see, ‘is there somewhere we can go from here?’

  • A lot of Maples Academy’s culture is driven by the school’s principal, Mr. Playford. What we love about Greg Playford is that he's wacky and crazy. Maples Academy’s assembly in the morning is always filled with excitement, which always gets the kids really excited for the day, about learning, and coming into school.

  • Maples Academy is a very competitive place. The students are more competitive than any other school I've seen, even though it's a small school. Whether it's a spelling Bee competition, an essay writing competition, or just running to see who can get outside first at recess, Maples Academy students seem to be competing with each other all the time. Maples Academy likes that healthy competition, because it fosters a healthy spirit between them.

  • If the Maples Academy was a person, they would be very strong, independent, and kind. I'm projecting the community of Orangeville onto Maples Academy, and the community of Orangeville is a very kind, upstanding citizenry. They're quite astounding people for a small town. It is small-town Ontario, and I love small-town Ontario, so that's the type of person Maples Academy would be.

  • Families can come in and check out Maples Academy. The most important thing is to see who the teachers are, who the other students are, and how the administration works. We'll have trial days where you can come in for a few days, however long it takes you to feel comfortable with being here. A trick is to be there during drop-off and pick-up time, and see how chaotic it is. See how the administration handles those things, how the other parents are with each other, and how they interact with each other. That's a good way to see Maples Academy at our most dishevelled. At the beginning of the day or the end of the day, an impromptu drop by is great, and we encourage that.

  • Since we purchased Maples Academy, we've more than doubled the student population. It's a small country school. We've got a great staff and really good students, but we're not looking for it to become a big mammoth school. We're looking to keep a good, solid daycare to Grade 8 program. We're looking for quality over quantity at this point.

  • Kids are using technology all the time, but how do we teach them how to use it properly? How do we teach them how to be responsible with it? That is where that's the greatest challenge or opportunity we have for this next generation. They know how to use all these programs and apps and devices better than any of the parents do. It's important to teach students how to use it responsibly so that we're not using it for hurt or hate. Kids have to have a critical mind more than they've ever had to before, so we have to figure out how to do that with technology. That's Maples Academy’s greatest challenge, and we're up for the task.

  • There are no real private high schools in the Maples Academy area, but there are some really good public high schools. If you want to make sure that your kid is going off to high school with the most solid background that they could possibly have, Maples Academy is where to go. What students learn by Grade six to 8, they will actually use in high school, but it's really more for that first year of University. By the time a Maples Academy student leaves the school, they will know how to write an effective essay, and how to make a presentation. They know how to speak publicly, which a lot of people have said is the greatest fear that adults have. Maples Academy students have no problem speaking publicly because they all have to do it so often.


THE OUR KIDS REPORT: The Maples Academy

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