Roundtable Q&A Discussion About Toronto Prep School (2020)
Toronto Prep School alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Shai Mandel, Astrid Fischer had to say about the school.
Highlights from the Q&A discussion
Shai Mandel — student
Gr. 12 (current)
Day Student (Female)
Shai Mandel is a chef and entrepreneur whose work involves working with kids. She sees ‘intrinsic motivation’ as a big part of the foundation that students need for success. Shai did her Grade 12 year at Toronto Prep School. She was part of TPS’ first graduating class. She says that year at TPS helped her find her own ‘intrinsic motivation’, which had been missing. How did she find it? Through the relationships she made with teachers — which had also been missing for her up until TPS.
What I appreciated most out of anything else were the relationships that I built with each and every one of the staff and my teachers. That’s because, up until joining TPS in Grade 12, I was in high school in the public system. I had everything going well except my grades. I was the captain of this, I was the captain of that, I was involved in lots of clubs, but I just didn’t really care about my grades too much. And I never really bonded with any of my teachers. So I was apprehensive about coming to TPS. And then I built relationships that were the foundation for everything from then on. It created for me an appreciation for my own grades, and an intrinsic motivation to do better at school. It taught me to care.
What sets TPS apart is the attention they pay to the individual student, and their dedication to building a program around that individual. It’s that commitment to ensuring that they’re finding the right support, specific to that student, and seeing them as an individual.
I’d say what’s most surprising is, yes, it’s a small private school, but it’s actually quite large. And when you think about the fact there’s over 400 students at TPS now, it makes sense. Some people would consider TPS to be a very small private school, but then they come to know that actually they’ve got a lot more going on than they would have thought.
I do attribute where I am now very much to the fact that I was with TPS for that Grade 12 year, because TPS gave me something I didn’t have before, which was this intrinsic motivation. I was used to doing schoolwork because I was told to do it, not because I wanted to.
Children in general, the key for them is finding a way to develop an intrinsic motivation. It has to come from them. They have to want to be the best version of themselves. They want to go off and learn. They want to do this work. They want it because they want it, not because anyone else wants it. That’s what I gained at TPS.
Even though TPS is a small school, and was really small when I was there, as part of its first cohort, they still found ways to give me opportunities to get involved beyond academics. Extracurriculars and student initiatives, that’s what I was missing, coming from a public school. They supported me with my proposal to start a school store, and even though they didn’t have a rugby team — which I was really missing — they helped hook me up with a different school so that I could play rugby for them.
There isn’t really a single ‘best fit’ person for TPS. The school is like a chameleon—it changes to fit the student. So whoever the student is at the time they’re coming in, they’re going to be changed for the better, but they’ll be supported as an individual. But if I had to say who’s going to do well at TPS, who would really shine, it’s the students who want to contribute beyond just coming to school, and doing their work, and getting the grades, and applying to university. So I think those people will definitely shine.
Astrid Fischer — current parent
- Child 1
Gr. 7 - Gr. 12 (Current Day Student)
Astrid Fischer the parent of a TPS student in Grade 7. Her daughter recently started at the school, but her family’s connection to TPS goes back 11 years. Her husband is a teacher there. Astrid has the perspective of a parent, an insider, and as a former private school student herself, both in Toronto and back in England. Astrid says part of what’s remarkable about TPS is the leadership there. Instead of stuffy old-school educators, teachers and staff at TPS are empathetic and accessible.
From Day One, it was the warmest, kindest place. I’m so glad that my daughter is now a TPS student. I know how hard the teachers work. They care about the students. The feedback they give students, the communication. I've just been blown away.
There are some amazing success stories that come out of TPS. I love hearing them. Stories about students who struggled, who then come to TPS, and TPS turns them around. Those are the stories I want to hear. I don’t want to hear the story about ‘the genius, who is a genius, who is a genius’. I want to hear about the person who sometimes struggles—because most of us do—and finds their way. They were guided properly, and they came out strong and thriving.
Then you have a great leader, you thrive. When I first met Steve and Fouli [Tsimikalis, TPS’ co-founders], I found that they were really good leaders. They support their staff, so that nothing is done in fear. You can take risks. Because I think the school environment should be about taking academic risks and feeling comfortable enough to kind of explore different ideas. A place where teachers and staff are supported to do the best possible job. And Steve and Fouli are those leaders. They are truly such outstanding individuals. I have so much respect for them.
There’s a warmth about the leadership at TPS. They’re not stuffy. For example, I went to school in England, and the principals there were stuffy. You couldn’t access them. You were scared. But with Steve and Fouli [Tsimikalis, TPS’ co-founders], you can approach them, and that’s how it should be. But it’s not that way everywhere.
TPS had an impact on our daughter from Day One. She came home at the end of her first day and she just went and did her homework. I thought I was going to have to ask her if she had done it, or tell her to go do it. So to see that she was already doing it, that was a bit shocking to me in a very positive way.
I asked my daughter, ‘What is it about the school that you love?’ She said she loved her teachers. She said they really care. And it makes a huge difference. I think when someone cares about you, you want to work hard for them, you want to please them. She’s been very inspired by her teachers. We’ve been very blessed.
The three words I would use to describe TPS’s personality would be ‘hard-working’, ‘integrity’, and ‘kindness’. I think the school’s values are about fairness, inclusivity, working hard, and reaching your own personal potential. Doing the right thing. And I see those values echoed when I meet the parents of other students.
A really important part of what TPS stands for is support. It’s all about the support they give to students. The support before school, during school, support from the school’s resources, support in Math and English. Support after school and on Saturdays. This is a school that supports all their students. It’s no wonder they’re going to schools all over the world. It’s the support in the academics, and the encouragement.