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Toronto Prep School:
The Our Kids Report > Reviews
Grades Gr. 7 TO Gr. 12 — Toronto, ON (Map)


Interview with Toronto Prep School Alum, Shai Mandel

Shai Mandel was in Grade 11 at a public high school. She loved her school. She was involved in all kinds of clubs and teams. But the strengths she displayed outside the classroom weren’t reflected in her grades. Looking back, she says she was a hands-on learner — a ‘do-er’ — in an environment that didn’t match her learning style. Then she applied to TPS. The founders visited her house. As educators, they won her over — but they chose her as well. Shai attended Toronto Prep School for her Grade 12 year. She was part of the school’s first graduating class. Today she is a chef and entrepreneur. She remains involved with TPS, and loves how much she has seen it grow over the years.

Video Contents

Highlights from the interview

  • I was part of the first graduating class. There were like 20 of us in the grade. It was all one floor. They had just opened the school. All brand new. And you would think, at this stage, there would have to be some mistakes made, some details to iron out. But the experience was just the best it could possibly be.

  • What sets TPS apart is, first of all, they’re so positively intentioned toward people. They’re good-hearted. They care so much about their students and families. They treat you like family. They care for you like you’re family and will do anything for you. I go and visit every single year. Over the years, their hearts have just grown, because their student body has just grown, and that’s the beautiful thing about them. That’s why what they do is so unique.

  • The teachers are all such unique individuals. Not only are they the cream of the crop in terms of educators, but they are great people. The school is very selective about who they bring on, who they work with, who they do business with, because they want to be working with good-hearted people, and that’s a necessity. And so the students are treated like gold and treated like family because everyone who works at TPS has that same heart.

  • I’m hands-on. I’m a visual learner. I’m a big ‘do-er’. Reading and writing are not my strengths. So as a kid growing up in the conventional school system, I always felt like I was dumb, because my learning style wasn’t supported. I knew I wanted to go to university, and have always been interested in science. But to get there, I needed to have just the focus. I needed the attention, I needed to be supported as a learner, as someone who didn’t have the skills, who didn’t have the drive to sit there and study. And I got that support at TPS.

  • What I found at TPS was, you’re not just going to ‘get the grades’ — you have to go and work for them.

  • When I went to TPS, it was a given that I would be believed in, and supported from an emotional standpoint and an intellectual standpoint. And that’s what TPS does. They’re not just here to teach you. They’re here to inspire you. They’re here to give you the confidence that you need to grow as a learner. They make you feel like your education is in your hands. They take who you are, and they say, ‘What do you want to accomplish? What are your goals?’ And they figure out how they’re going to help you get there. So what they bring to the table is the individualistic approach and the heart, the support and the academics.

  • There was never a dull moment, with the extracurriculars or the energy they put into making it fun at school, building a community. I was given opportunities. Any initiative you as a student would take, they’d be like, ‘Okay, when do we start? Let’s do it’. There was no pushback, no hesitation. It was, ‘Great idea. Let’s talk about it. Let’s see how we can make this a reality for you’. It’s going back to you and who you are as a student. You’re not just coming to school. You are part of a community. You have a voice. You can really shine as bright as you want in that community.

  • The class sizes are small — maybe on-par with other private schools or a little bit smaller. The facilities themselves are unique, because their space is part of a larger building. So the classes are quite close together. It’s not like other high schools where you’re running around, getting lost in the hallways, trying to find your next class, or getting distracted by friends in the hallway. People are kind of like, head down, ‘Let’s go, let’s learn when it’s time to learn’.

  • TPS has really nice spaces, where it’s just like ‘chill’. So they have really nice couch set-ups with TVs. I think it brings together the feeling of being at home with being at school. So facility-wise, I think the facilities are top-notch, and they’re always making improvements. I’m there every year, and it’s always something new.

  • The class sizes, the number of students, the teachers, more attention paid to students, the actual facilities — these are all things that set TPS apart.

  • Everyone goes to TPS for similar reasons. You get a lot of students who have had trouble in other schools, both private and public. And they excel there. That’s got to say something. They excel because the whole space supports them as a learner, as an independent learner. It’s the dedication that the teachers and administrators provide in seeing each person through to success. It’s the care and attention and the support that they provide to their students. I think they set the expectations from the get-go — the expectations are clear that you’re here to buckle down and do what you got to do.

  • They have a homework club on the weekends. It’s great for the students who want to spend their time after school doing extracurriculars, or for the students who have not thrived in typical education systems. To go home and do homework at the end of the day is a lot to ask after eight hours of sitting in school, trying their best. The homework club is a great resource for them. It offers alternative times to access support, even on the weekends. What school is open on the weekends?!

  • The instructors go above and beyond to be there for their students, whether it’s coming in early, staying late, maybe even offering alternative worksheets — just treating each student as an individual and making changes to their own lesson planning to fit the needs of their students.

  • The art program at TPS is phenomenal. Like, incredible. I love the way the school allows for creative freedom in a school. There’s a lot of amazing political art pieces. It’s not like ‘You must be this way, you must conform’. It’s very much encouraging to flourish as an individual, and celebrating that.

  • At TPS, they work with you and they try things out with you, and the feedback they base it on is you and your performance. It’s never like ‘You didn’t do well on a test’. Instead it’s ‘Why didn’t you do well on a test? Let’s figure that out. Let’s look into how you studied and then make some changes and see how you do next time’. There’s an emphasis on working with you rather than ‘Here’s the information, now go study’. There is no single way to study. They taught me how I needed to study.

  • I came to TPS because I was in high school, and my parents said we should consider private school, because I wasn’t getting the grades I needed to do well in university. I was very against it. But then Fouli and Steve [Tsimikalis, TPS’ co-founders] came over to my house. We had a great conversation. That’s when I bonded with them. They let me know what they stand for, and those values aligned with me too. I think at the time, what sold me was their heart. I could see it in that visit, and they didn’t disappoint.

  • You have got to be the cream of the crop to get to TPS. They are very selective. It’s a two-way street: they’ve got to choose you too.

  • Their mission in general is to prepare their students for what comes next in their life — whether that be university, whether that be entrepreneurship, whether that be college, whether that be taking a year off. It’s about making sure the individual student is emotionally, socially, and academically prepared for what comes next.

  • What has clearly changed over the years at TPS is the facilities. When I went there it was the school’s first year, and it was all on a single floor of the building. That was it — it was just the one floor. I think there were about ten classrooms, small ones. There were only about four grades at the time, Grade 9 through 12. But since then the facilities have expanded. They’re now on multiple floors, and the floors have been expanded, with multiple classrooms. Because this expansion has been so recent, everything is state of the art. Everything is top-notch, high quality and brand new.

  • What I gained in TPS was the confidence that I can do anything that I put my mind to. They proved to me, through my own experience, that you can go from being ‘not very smart or academic’ to being successful, by changing the school environment away from one that doesn’t support you as a ‘do-er’. Going to TPS reversed the lessons I had been taught for years in the conventional school system. In one year I made that giant radical shift of mindset.

  • They give back whatever you give. I encourage anyone considering TPS to come into yourself as a TPS member, like an actual community member, and put in whatever you have to the school. Because you will get that back ten-fold — not only in your learning environment and your skills, but also moving forward in your life. They will always be there for anyone who puts that sort of energy into the school, because they’re that type of people.

  • If you want to be treated like an individual and you want to have the support that you need, then I feel very confident recommending TPS. They’ll work with you. You’re not just coming into something that’s like ‘this is the way it is’, and trying to fit into that structure. Come into yourself, come in as who you are, and they will take that and they will help you get to where you’re going to go. They’re not going to try and change you.

  • They’re always innovating and they’re always asking, ‘How can we be better? How can we grow? How can we be better for our students? It’s never going to be stagnant. You’re always going to be thrown new and better opportunities in TPS.


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The 50-page review of Toronto Prep School is part of our series of in-depth accounts of Canada's leading private schools. It provides a unique and objective perspective on the school's academics, programs, culture, and community.

  • Toronto Prep is a modern prep school in every way, giving students the skills and confidence they need to succeed at post-secondary study.
  • Family run, the feel is close knit, both for students and staff.
  • Toronto Prep offers a high level of student support. 
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More video reviews

Roundtable Q&A (2021)

Watch our Toronto Prep School Q&A discussion with Shay Mendel (Alum), Astrid Fischer (Parent) to gain fresh insight into the school’s culture, values, and strengths.

Roundtable Q&A (2020)

Watch our Toronto Prep School Q&A discussion to gain fresh insight into the school's culture, values, and strengths.

THE OUR KIDS REPORT: Toronto Prep School

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