Interview with The Maples Academy PARENT, Stephanie Milone
Highlights from the interview
As it was getting time for our eldest to start Junior Kindergarten, we started looking around at the schools that we could put him into, and it surprised us that what we were looking for wasn't there in the public system. We decided to reach out to Maples Academy, and we didn't know anything about it or know anyone there at the time. Our very first meeting with the principal was like night and day from the previous interviews with the other schools, and we instantly felt that it was the right place for our kids.
I was looking for a small enough class size that my son’s school could really get to know what he needed, and then ideally cater that to that individual style of learning or abilities. I think that is the strength of Maples Academy.
Once Maples Academy realized that math was a strong point for my oldest child, I got a phone call home from the principal to say, ‘I found out about this math contest, and we're going to put your son in it. I'm going to see if other kids can do it, and I'm going to start a lunch math program,’ which is one of the ways they achieved their tailored approach.
All three of my kids are strong in terms of academics, but they all learn in completely different ways. I think that's a benefit of Maples Academy’s smaller class sizes and teachers that are experienced with teaching different groups. They can cater to how each student learns, versus just teaching to the crowd.
Now that my oldest has graduated from Maples Academy and is in a public high school, we have started to realize how great it was that he had that tailored approach That tailored approach at Maples Academy made sure that he learned everything he needed to prepare for high school There weren't any deficits. He started Grade 9, and within five days of school, I got a phone call home from the school, and we had a bit of a panic when we saw the call display, because, of course, I assume he did something wrong, and that wasn't the case. It was actually one of his teachers just calling to say, ‘how does your son already know how to write an essay?’ and ‘how does he have that vocabulary, or know how to spell those words’ I'm like, ‘yeah, I don't know, they do essays from Grade 4 at Maples Academy,’ and she was quite impressed, enough that she called me.
Seeing how well my child is doing in high school solidifies that we had made the right decision for the elementary school years, sending him to Maples Academy.
The relationship my family has with the teachers and staff at Maples Academy is unique. Maples Academy is a little country school, there's no airs about it at all Because of that, the teachers also have that feel to them. They're perfectly fine coming to chat with you in the parking lot, or sending a quick text. There's a lot of communication back and forth, Maples Academy is a small enough school that they're able to do that.
My son that's going into Grade 8 is involved in local theatre, and all three of his Maples Academy teachers all came in the summer to watch his show, which I thought was really nice. They didn't have to do that. They're off the clock as such, but they made a point of coming to watch him.
The close relationship between teachers and students is what helps make Maples Academy’s tailored approach, especially for my middle child. He learns in a different way, and Maples Academy gets that. The school gets that he loves theatre and art, and they incorporate that into his learning, which is unique. I think that perhaps if he was in a different school or larger class size, that teachers might not have the time to take the interest in him. When you have someone that's interested in you that wants to know what's going on It makes you like being there.
Maples Academy is still very much a small country school, which is a bit unique, because it now has this International Baccalaureate component to it, which is all about global, culturally aware students, and somehow it works. Students have all their outdoor time, and often when they're playing outdoors and the farms are around, they can smell lots of barn smells around the area. So you do feel like you're in the country at Maples Academy. There's nowhere else that the kids can escape to. They're there on the property, and it's a nice property. It's a nice small school.
When all the Maples Academy kids play outside, every grade plays with each other. Recently, we had friends over and their child said to my youngest daughter, ‘Wait a second, you play with the kids in Grade 8?.’ She's like, ‘yeah, why wouldn't we?’ And that was shocking, because the other child said, ‘well, you know, you'd only play with your own grade level at our school, you'd never play with the younger kids or older kids. My kids were kind of shocked at that, because there'll be times where they play with the Junior Kindergartens, pushing them on the swings, or the big kids. As they say, ‘everyone plays with everyone.’
I thought the IB program was only for high schools, so it wasn't even something we were looking for, let alone thinking that we would be able to find such a thing in Orangeville. It was a welcome surprise when we found out that Maples Academy’s new owner was connected with an IB program. The previous owners had created a strong academic environment, and the IB part complimented the original program well.
Everything is always connected to what else students are learning at the time with the IB component at Maples Academy. For example, the French teacher will find out what the kids are learning in science. If students are learning about how plants grow, their French lesson will be in French on how plants grow, which is a great way for them to learn.
Maples Academy’s strength is the rigorous, high academic standard they try to maintain. Time and time again we have graduates from high school come back to say how well prepared they are, which gives current students confidence. Starting out high school is always a tricky transition, and I think that the more we can help them with that, the better.
By the time that Maples Academy students are in Grade 4 or 5, each kid has their own Chromebook. They use it primarily for Google Classroom, and associated apps. What that’s done is make sure students were already set up for online learning during Covid-19 It was a seamless transition. When we went to online learning, and it wasn't students teaching themselves, there was actual teaching happening from teachers. I wasn't feeling pressured as a parent to do a lot; it was more about making sure our kids knew how to maneuver through the system. Maples Academy was doing all the work, and the teachers were doing an amazing job too. The art teachers still did art every week when they were supposed to. There was nothing that they missed during the pandemic at Maples Academy.
Maples Academy is a small community. People know that the school has strong academics. So when parents choose the school, they know that ahead of time It's nice that when you're at Maples Academy interacting with other parents, everyone believes in that same philosophy, and is on the same page.
Parents who don't go to Maples Academy will ask, ‘where do your kids go?’ Because they see the kind of work that my kids are doing and realize, ‘wait a second, my kids in that same grade, that's not the kind of work that they’re doing.’ That often will spark a conversation about Maples Academy and many times has caused kids to transfer into the school.
The occasional time that I'll ask Maples Academy teachers or administration to chat about something, they will stop everything to make that phone call, and help with whatever situation it is. It's nice to have that back and forth. Maples Academy knows that I'm committed to the school and my kids' education just as much as they are committed to my kids' education.
We'll have been at Maples Academy for 16 years by the time our youngest is out. There's been a lot of change, and we've made a lot of friends there. Luckily, we still live in the same community, so we'll see them all, and they often go to the same high school after It'll be a little bit sad leaving Maples Academy.