REVIEW OF Toronto District Christian High School BY parent, Carlene Bellsmith
- Date of Review
June 20, 2023
- Child 1
Gr. 9 - Gr. 10 (Male, Current Day Student)
- Child 2
Gr. 9 - Gr. 12 (Male, Day Student)
- Child 3
Gr. 9 - Gr. 12 (Male, Day Student)
(4.5) Student Experience
Our oldest son graduated three years ago from TDCH and continues to count his high school friends as his close social and spiritual community despite all of them being in different universities and colleges. This kind of school community amongst peers is actively fostered and developed within the halls of TDCH. Our sons will tell everyone who asks that the teachers at the school make all the difference and ranks highly as one thing they appreciate the most. They feel 'seen' and known by the staff. They also feel a high sense of confidence that the majority of the staff are truly at the top of their game in their respective fields and bring that sense of excellence and passion into classroom learning. Even teenagers can appreciate that! Our sons would say there are always things that could be improved upon at TDCH, but overall they are deeply grateful for their years at the high school.
(5) School Leadership
TDCH is a truly unique blend of academic excellence balanced with an unwavering commitment to meeting students where they are in their learning journey. TDCH’s staff and leadership recognize the value of heritage and tradition, while intentionally creating a relevant, cutting edge and authentic culture of learning for today’s youth. Social justice, community, and ‘lifelong learning’ is in the air around this school, and it makes all the difference! The staff and school leadership place a high priority on the partnership between school and home, and this is reflected in the strong communication networks and family opportunities to interact with the school community during the school year.
Our three sons have been fundamentally impacted by many of the teachers at TDCH. While there are high educational expectations on all staff at the school, there are many who have made it their practice to go the extra mile in their student's learning. We saw it often in the 'extras' such as intentional field trips (eg., service trips in urban centers, French language exchanges, French theatre trips in the evenings, physics lessons taught at the local creek outside of classroom walls, visits with the local Muslim Imam and Hindu gurdwara for perspectives class), and report cards that were thoughtful, discerning comments about our sons which demonstrated that their teachers truly knew them. Our sons knew that their teachers were always available to them for help, clarification, or even just interaction around the foosball table in the commons. This balance of connection both academically and relationally allows/allowed for a higher level of effective teaching and learning in our son's lives.
The academic program at TDCH works seamlessly with the Ontario Ministry of Education expectations and guidelines, and this gave us as parents confidence that our sons would be fully prepared to enter any post-secondary institution after TDCH. It came as no surprise that our two sons currently in university often mentioned that their first-year engineering classes had not been as potentially difficult because they had been so well prepared. This was confirmation that TDCH teachers had chosen excellence, both in passion for their subjects and being knowledgeable in their fields, to properly prepare their students. We also appreciate the creative approach TDCH has taken in providing subject 'blocks' (eg. Engineering Block) which allowed for a more engaging and fulsome experience with specific subjects.
Extracurriculars span the gamete of music, theatre arts, sports, and STEM at TDCH. The theatre program and extracurriculars are award-winning (eg. Gold at the Canadian Improv Games) and have a very strong tradition at the school. The TDCH leadership has taken responsive steps to include building up the sports extracurriculars in their long-range strategic plans. All 3 of our sons have enjoyed being a part of various sports teams and have been able to do so because of the strong community of families willing to share driving duties due to the large geographical catchment area TDCH pulls from. TDCH staff/coaches are intentional about finding a balance between being competitive and fostering an environment of fun, sportsmanship, and teamwork.
The overarching consistency of the TDCH student body is the sense of ownership and leadership within school life from the students. We have never seen an assembly, membership meeting, or evening parent meeting that does not have students presenting, MC'ing, praying, or leading devotions. A student's voice is counted and valued at TDCH. The high school is small enough to have a sense of connection between grades and students, and yet large enough to allow for momentum and breadth of experiences. Racial and cultural diversity within the student body continues to grow and this adds to the richness and relevance of the TDCH student experience. It is our observation that while there are the expected social groupings within the student body, there is a culture of valuing all that is fostered and intentional.
(4.5) School Life
Due to the large geographical catchment area of TDCH, School Life is, by necessity, a thoughtful and intentional creation. The school hosts numerous Grade 9 events during the first week of school to help students get to know new friends. Spirit Weeks are the norm throughout the year and help to add that sense of school spirit and fun. Grade 12's are deeply honored and celebrated with special school-sponsored events (eg. breakfast on their last week) as they close the chapter of their high school experience. Students are consistently given opportunities to play a significant role in school decor, fundraising, and event planning which elevates student participation and engagement in the life of the school. Our three sons each say they have loved/love their time within the student body of TDCH.
From the administration to the Board of Directors, to the staff and students themselves, we feel that parent engagement and participation in TDCH is welcomed and even essential. The school requires volunteer hours over the course of a school year which helps to give accountability to parent participation. TDCH works tirelessly to help families have many different opportunities to engage with the school (eg., Presentation Days, serving refreshments at evening meetings, Will Clinic resource evenings). In our experience, families work together as a matter, of course, to share driving duties to facilitate extracurricular teams, and most are eager to create connections between families as well as students. We have felt a consistent expectation that our input as a family into the life of TDCH is appreciated, expected, valued, and pursued.
(4.5) School Location
TDCH has been in its current location for 60 years. They have seen much change in the surrounding neighborhood and within the building itself. This is where we have observed deep valuing of the school's past and heritage and an unwavering commitment to being relevant and active within the current surrounding neighborhood. The school has a large geographical catchment area and as such has representation from local families, rural families, families from numerous surrounding regions, and international families. TDCH hosts community gardens and has recently launched Fire Hall Thrift as a joint community resource and learning opportunity for specific classes. It is our experience that TDCH has a commitment to being relevant and integrated into the region and community around it.
Admissions at TDCH is a relatively painless process! The website and splash page provides useful information about the school and gives clear directions on how to start the process and whom to connect with. The multiple Open House evenings provide everyone with numerous occasions to see, feel, and experience the school prior to starting the admissions process. We appreciated the interview with the principal when we first applied to TDCH as it was our chance to ask questions and get a sense of what leadership was like at TDCH. Even though it was our firstborn that was starting grade 9, the principal made a point of engaging our other two younger sons in conversation signaling a commitment to engaging the whole family. We found the admissions process clear, authentic, and supportive.
(5) University placement and counselling
One of the most useful events for families at TDCH is the Future Directions evening held for grade 11 students and their parent(s). This event is hosted by the guidance department and consists of interviews with a student panel already into their post-secondary application process and full demonstrations of how to use online sites to research post-secondary options. The most impressive thing about the guidance department's approach to the students and their families is a very strong commitment to supporting ALL post-secondary paths from gap years to apprenticeship and colleges to top university programs. Support for parents and students is readily available via the TDSplash page and for students with intentional one-on-one guidance planning sessions. We have found the guidance team to be knowledgeable, proactive, and approachable at TDCH.