Roundtable Q&A Discussion About Toronto Prep School (2021)
Toronto Prep School alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Shay Mendel, Astrid Fischer had to say about the school.
Highlights from the Q&A discussion
Shay Mendel — alum
Shay is a TPS graduate. She pursued undergraduate degrees in kinesiology and teaching. Later, she earned her chef training certificate and now is working as an instructor for the culinary program in Waterloo. She’s grateful for the strong TPS academic support she received.
- “I would say what I appreciated the most out of anything else [is] the relationships that I built with each and every one [at TPS], [especially with] my teachers, because up until joining TPS, I was in public school from Grade 9 to Grade 11, and I was doing well with everything except my grades. I was the captain of [many things] and I was the chef of [the cooking] club, but I didn't really care about my grades too much. And I never really bonded with any of my teachers. And I just thought that was just me. So I was apprehensive to come to TPS and obviously jump ship [and put] all of my efforts towards my social standing, leave that behind and come to something brand new.”
- “I would say that I appreciated the relationships that I built, which were the foundation for everything from then on, [that contributed to] my appreciation for my own grades, my intrinsic motivation to do better at school, to care. It came from the relationships I built with [TPS].”
- “So what I've gathered from my personal experience and also just from my experience observing schools up until this time, I would say that [TPS gives students what they need]. [For example], TPS’s attention to the individual and its dedication to building a program around that individual and ensuring that TPS is finding the support specific to that [certain] student [by] seeing them as an individual and calculating the best way to support a person, [as well as] not just seeing them as another student and another number, but really see them as who they are and what they need.”
- “[If the school were to be represented as a person, its personality would be] inviting, welcoming, warm, but also kind of like type A and supportive.”
- “[My] graduating class was so small and yet they did it so well. They've evolved so far from that point. And at that time I think I could have used more extracurriculars because that's what got me going. I think I even forced TPS to let me start a school store and TPS was fine [with it].”
- “And what I really like about the setup of the school is that you have all these little pockets for community-building for the students, too. I guess I'd say what's most surprising is that it seems like a small private school, but it's actually quite large. And there are over 400 students now, so it makes sense.”
- “It's not even about my success, but I do attribute to where I am now based on the fact that I was with TPS. TPS gave me this intrinsic motivation, and it did not come from an angle of the teacher forcing me to do my work, which is what I was so used to. And I'm sure many parents’ children have felt that way. With regards to motivation, the key here is you need to find a way to develop intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from the children themselves, when they 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 is the key to the success of youth. I'm a stubborn Taurus and I don't even know how, [but] they got me to come to school [even if] I was so against private schools. And then I fell in love with it and I'm going to school. And it was the best decision I ever made in my life. And I'm serious about that. And I really appreciate everything that TPS did for me.”
- “So whoever they are at the time they're coming in, they're going to be changed of course, for the better. You support them as an individual. If I had to say who's going to do well at TPS, I think maybe everyone would. But the people who would shine are the people who, for the most part, are more confident, and who want to contribute beyond just coming to school and doing their work and getting the grades and applying to university.”
- “And TPS is just very supportive when they ask, “What do you want to do here? What are you all about? And we're going to help make that happen for you."
Astrid Fischer — current parent
Astrid’s spouse works at TPS as the head of the math department. Her daughter, Ariana, just started Grade 7 at TPS. Astrid has experienced private school education on three different continents and claims that TPS has excelled the most at strong leadership and support.
- “My husband Steve has been at TPS for 11 years. He landed his dream job of teaching physics and math. [When my daughter] was four months old, I used to come and pick him up with the car and then drive her into the school. And from day one it was the warmest and kindest place. And [the TPS director] Steven Fuli was just so nice and all the staff were just always so welcoming. And it's been 11 years, where I've seen the school expand from 90 students to 423, and now my daughter is part of those 423 [students]. I know how hard the teachers work, how many hours they put in. They care about their students and there's feedback. I'm just blown away every day for 11 years just by the communication and the feedback that these teachers are giving to the students and their parents.”
- “And there's some amazing success stories. I love to hear where students struggle and when they come to TPS, it turns them around. Those are the stories I want to hear. I don't want to hear about the genius who was always a genius. Most people have struggles and they find their way if they were guided properly, were cared for, and came out strong. I've heard many stories like this. And those are important to me.”
- “I knew TPS was going to be amazing, I expected that and I wasn't wrong. It [turned out to be] actually even more amazing. I knew the staff were incredible, I knew the teachers were amazing, I knew this was the right fit for Arianna. Eleven years ago I knew that this is where I would like my daughter to go to school.”
- “The community itself, the parents, there's so many things that I love, but [they are] working better than I ever imagined that they would work.”
- “I didn't see [great leadership] in England at boarding school, but I found it in TPS. And when you have a great leader, I think you thrive, the teachers thrive, the students thrive, and this community is [getting] built, and you hope for that for yourself as an employee, you hope for that as a student. And when I met [the director of the TPS], Steven Fuli, 11 years ago, I found that they're really good leaders. They support their staff, so 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.”
- “And you're supported [at TPS]. I think that it's important that you support your staff and your teachers so that they can do the best possible job. And I think that's where the real learning comes about. I've never seen those kinds of leaders like Steven Fuli in any other school except for TPS. And I think it's important for us to be around a very strong leadership. Those are just outstanding individuals. I have so much respect for them. [They are the] hardest working people and there's a warmth about them. They're not stuffy, unlike the principals in England whom you couldn't access. But with Steven Fuli, you can approach them and that's how it should be. And it is that way, but it's not that way everywhere.”
- “I think the school impacted her on day one when she came back [home] and she was just sort of shocked. I thought I was going to be like, “Please do your homework or have you done your homework?” [But the first thing she said was], “I've got to get my homework done.” So that was a bit shocking to me in a very positive way. And then the second day she came back, [she said], “I'm going to push through the tiredness and get this [homework] done.” And I think she's doing the work because she wants to. I asked her, “what is it about the school that you love?” She told me that on day one she loved her teachers and she said they really care. And it makes a huge difference. I think when someone cares about you because you kind of want to and you're doing it for a reason, you want to please them. You're being supported anyway. And she's very kind of inspired by her two teachers. We've been very blessed.”
- “[When my daughter gets home, she says], “I love TPS.” And I did know she would love it. I knew it was the right fit for her, but it's nice to hear that. She's genuinely excited to go to school every day to see her teachers and her friends. And I don't know how they've managed to make it work in this cohort of 16 [students].”
- “There are six girls in the class and one of them is [studying] online. The six girls are living in Switzerland. They've included her in everything, like, for example, in the games on the weekend.”
- “[If the school were to be represented as a single person, its personality would be] hardworking, [full of] integrity, and kind. I'm seeing that human side that’s coming up more and more.”
- “I think the school is about fairness, inclusivity, working hard, and reaching your own personal potential. And I think that is kind of echoed amongst the parents that I've met. For example, the parents of the six girls are very much included and everyone gets involved. There's a high level of kindness, thoughtfulness, and then they want to work hard and do the right thing. Now is the best time to keep doing the right thing. People are starved of people doing the right thing. This is when we can all step up and be better people.”
- “A really important part of what TPS stands for is the support. It's all about the support. You have support before school, during school, with your resources, [with] math and English, and [you also have support] after school, [and on] Saturdays. This is a school that supports all their students. No wonder they're going to cooking school, culinary school, or music schools all over the world. It's the support in the academics and just the encouragement to sort of do the work.”