REVIEW OF The Priory School BY parent, Kelly Winter
- Date of Review
March 28, 2023
- Child 1
Gr. 4 - Gr. 6 (Male, Day Student)
- Child 2
Gr. 3 - Gr. 6 (Female, Day Student)
- Child 3
K - Gr. 6 (Male, Day Student)
(5) Student Experience
As a parent, I cannot express how grateful I am for the wonderful experience my children had at Priory School. This gem of a school, with a wonderful tight-knit community, used innovative and fun approaches to learning that challenged my kids in the best way possible. And, in the end, they all were more than prepared for success in middle and high school. When I asked my kids what they liked best for this review, they all had a hard time choosing just one thing. I was peppered with accolades about "the best coach ever" and cherished teachers, stories of favorite overnight trips, exciting drama production memories, and lovely traditions that made the experience very special. The bottom line is, The Priory is a place they all loved going to and where they developed a true love for learning. It’s also a place they felt safe and cared for.
(5) School Leadership
The leadership at Priory School is tough to beat. From admissions to the teaching staff to the administration -- including a fantastic Head of School - everyone is extremely approachable and kind. This group communicates and works very well together and you can tell they really respect one another. They are open to new ideas and when challenges come their way, they always handle them with compassion and professionalism. One of the best examples is how quickly the school pivoted to online learning during Covid. Priory students didn’t miss a beat. Not one beat! The kids were up and running and engaged immediately. Within two days collaborative software was rolled out, schedules were communicated and Zoom classes were in full swing. It required tremendous support and effort behind the scenes to make this happen. But that's indicative of the leadership team at Priory!
The teachers at Priory School go above and beyond. They skillfully (more than) fulfill all curriculum requirements but do so in a way that ensures the students have engaging and memorable learning experiences. They incorporate a lot of experiential learning into their lessons, which helps to bring the material to life. For example, cooking in the classroom, gardening outside, volunteering in the community, visits to Mount Royal, etc. In addition, the school offers a range of extra support for students who need it. For instance, two of my kids attended French club after school, which helped them develop their language skills in a fun and supportive environment. The school also provides reading help (in French and English) for struggling readers, which makes a tremendous difference for some of the students. Overall, the teachers are exceptional, and they create a learning environment that is challenging, stimulating, fun, and supportive.
The teachers at Priory School are passionate about what they teach and how they teach it. Although lessons can be fun, expectations are high and the curriculum is challenging and appropriately rigorous at times. It’s balanced, though, so it isn’t overwhelming. Outside of the two languages (English and French) and core academic subjects, there is also a full music program (including band instruments), art classes, gym classes, and time dedicated to developing socially and emotionally. (The school has specialists in this field.) Homework varies by class and teacher and, as the students progress into upper grades, learning opportunities grow. For example, the students are involved in more group projects, plus they are required to complete tougher assignments like a variety of advanced writing projects and multi-step situational math problems. The school’s comprehensive curriculum absolutely prepares the kids academically and socially for middle/high school.
From drama productions to art classes, a knitting club, and chess tournaments, there is something for every student to explore at Priory School. Sports are surprisingly strong for a small primary school, especially soccer, and basketball. Coach Gentile is second-to-none and provides opportunities for everyone to play (intramurals, less competitive “tournament teams” and competitive teams). He approaches coaching as a mentor and trusted adult utilizing positive reinforcement and encouragement to develop amazing players (and amazing little human beings). He really is special! In addition, many weeks at school have themes. For example, "I Love to Read" week is a fantastic initiative that encourages a love for reading. As the kids get older, the kids get to participate in overnights that are always a highlight of the year. The active after-school program is also a great way for the children to stay engaged and have fun after the school day is over.
The student body at Priory School is very diverse, with children from all over the world attending the school, and every time a new country is represented, a new flag is hung in the gym and a special assembly is held. It’s intentionally not a big school and this fosters a strong sense of community because, with fewer students, the teachers and staff can form close relationships with the kids and their families. (“Everyone knows your name.”) This also allows for a lot of opportunities for the older children to team up and work with or mentor the younger ones; grade 6 students spread out and sit with younger kids during assemblies, and there are reading partners, hand holders for walks to the mountain, lunch buddies, and more. However, with just one small class per grade, it does mean your child will be with the same group of kids for many years. That said, families move and new kids join the school, so there is always someone new to meet. Lastly, school spirit is very strong. Go Panthers!
(5) School Life
I was the parent that jumped in and volunteered, so I got to see school life firsthand for many years. At The Priory School, my kids felt welcomed, safe, supported, and happy. Overall, the learning environment was perfect for them because, in the smaller classes, they got personalized attention from their teachers. Outside of the classroom, I can verify that my kids were very busy. The school offers so many things to do beyond academics. There are countless extracurricular activities, leadership opportunities, sports, and clubs. I truly feel that each experience helped them grow as individuals and become good citizens inside and outside of school. They also really enjoyed the afterschool program as well -- it is the perfect extension of the caring environment the school fosters.
Priory School believes that “happy children learn best” and fosters a caring community. These aren’t just empty words, it is part of the culture (there is even a beautifully written song about it that you hear at assemblies from time to time). Priory School is an academic, yet supportive environment where students are encouraged to try hard and do good things. The school reinforces the importance of kindness and empathy and does some very special things to recognize positive behavior - everyone wants to earn a Priory Pencil! All this extends to the parents as well who are welcome to participate from day one. There are many groups you can join and events to be a part of, but there is no pressure, you can be as active (or hands-off) as you’d like to be. My children aren’t the only ones that formed lifelong friends at Priory, I have, too.
(5) School Location
The neighborhood surrounding Priory School is beautiful! It's a fairly quiet, residential area close to downtown Montreal and within walking distance of expansive Mount Royal Park. A few other private schools are also nearby. The school grounds include playgrounds, playing fields, climbing equipment, and more. They are safely protected by a stone wall, a beautiful black fence, and a secure gate. Students typically stay on campus during the school day, unless there is a supervised planned outing which happens often. Only older students with a signed permission slip are allowed to leave school on their own to walk home.