Roundtable Q&A Discussion About Upper Canada College (2020)
Upper Canada College alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Bree, Robert, Kelly had to say about the school.
Highlights from the Q&A discussion
Bree — alum
Bree came to Montcrest in SK and graduated in Grade 8. Three of her four siblings also attended the school. Bree is currently doing her first-year social work placement at the school.
- “I most appreciated the community and especially the teachers during my time at Montcrest. I felt very cared for and seen by all of the teachers … . And now, as a Masters of Social Work student, and learning about the importance of connection, community, and having adults that care for you during childhood, it's really made me appreciate having that in my life at school. And I think that really did help me have this strong foundation to build my sense of self and my well-being throughout my childhood.”
- “A lot of the teachers are still there …. There’s definitely that same energy as the school is still filled with compassion—it's very welcoming. So I would say that it does feel very similar. It looks different; there’s some new additions that I missed out on. But it does still feel like home.”
- “[One word to describe Montcrest:] I say ‘dedicated.’ Montcrest … has always been so dedicated to the students, families, and even the community. They're always finding ways to better the school, and be available for the community that they serve, and striving for excellence.”
- “[Another word to describe Montcrest:] inclusive. Moncrest is very accepting of differences and celebrates differences. And I’ve also noticed with my work with teachers that they're always trying to make sure that all of the students feel included and welcomed.”
- “And then lastly … Moncrest builds with such compassionate staff and faculty as well as students. And there's such a strong sense of compassion and kindness all around the school. And it's something the school really does celebrate.”
- “I would want students to know that they are really cared for and that they matter at the school—the school is still open to new ideas and this is a place where they can be themselves.”
- “The school really values students’ social, emotional well-being and development, and … you get to go outside and play with the Grade 1s—they're playing with leaves and sticks. And it's really nice to see them interacting with nature and have that time to run around and be a kid throughout the school day.”
Robert — current parent
Robert attended Montcrest from Grade 7 to 8, and his son is currently in SK. His daughter is currently two-years-old, but will be attending Montcrest in the future. Robert’s sister and brother also attended Montcrest.
- “[What I appreciated most about Montcrest:] I think the sense of community is really front and centre because it is an intangible aspect of the school. You feel it when you speak to the parents. We speak to teachers. The teachers at Montcrest … truly enjoy what they do. And they enjoy interacting with the students. And they're not just trying to survive the day. The teachers themselves are thriving. The students are thriving as a result. And so if there's an enthusiasm for learning and enthusiasm for each other, I think that is remarkable about the school. And that was apparent when I was a student there, which was quite a while ago: ‘94, ‘95. And that aspect hasn't changed. Some of the teachers that I had are still there … . The culture has remained, it's consistent. And so coming back so many years later to find … the facilities are upgraded, there's a lot of things that are different, but it's still the same place … .”
- “[Three words to describe Montcrest:] I think ‘open-minded’ would be the first. ‘Attentive,’ ‘quirky’ For instance, my son went on a bee hunt at the school … . The kids all really got into hunting down these insects and killing it ... I don't think it's in the Montcrest curriculum to hunt insects … [but] I think it takes an open-minded person and sensitive person to [take boys out on a bee hunt] because frankly, if [the teacher] had said, ‘No, we're not going to do that,’ then my son Bennett and probably a couple other boys would have done it anyway, and it would have become a point of tension … . Montcrest is about honouring the individual, and I think that's how you honour the individual—keeping an open mind and being attentive to who you're dealing with … .”
- “[My advice to] an older kid … maybe Grade 3 or 4 or 5 is just really take advantage of all of the opportunities that are there and that the school is also quite open to new ideas … . I think it's a place where you shouldn't be afraid to be yourself and to share the things that you want to do … . That's the benefit of having all of these resources; kids can express what they want to do and can forge their own path.”
- “We didn't look at any other private schools because … me and my family, we had such a great experience with Montcrest, and we came to visit Montcrest, and everything just seemed improved. … Montcrest was a place where it served all sorts of purposes. I think it can be a place for enrichment, and it's also a place where you just have a lot of attention, you have a lot of eyes on you. And I think that was a big deal for my parents … . And I remember, distinctly, learning good work habits and having a sense of work ethic. And it served me well … I think [Montcrest] was a pivotal point for me … . Things really did change for me over those two [critical] years … when you're 12 and 13, and starting to figure out how you approach life … . My sister was at Montcrest her whole [time] from Kindergarten up. And my brother as well.”
- “[Montcrest’s personality would be] an open-minded, intensive, interesting, quirky kind of person … . It's hard to describe because Montcrest doesn’t fit any sort of stereotype of a private school … .”
- “The key value [that has] come out really intensely so far this year has been inclusivity, … just in terms of including everybody who’s in the group … . Like there's a rule: … you can't exclude anybody from an activity. If two or three kids decide they're going to play a game, you can't ever exclude any other kid from that game. And in fact, if somebody else comes up to you, the rule is if you're playing a game, the person who is arriving is supposed to say, ‘Hey, what's the game?’ That's the phrase that's drilled into the kids and taught … . They're supposed to come up and engage with the kids who are playing, … and the kids who are playing are supposed to think about what [they’re playing] ... and then they have to explain the rules of the game … . So that's a value that I think Monctcrest is in a fortunate position to be able to act on … . It takes a certain amount of resources to be able to actually create a structure where [inclusivity] works.”
- “When I left Montcrest [after two years] and went into high school, I went into the enrichment program at … my neighbourhood public high school … . [My parents wanted me to] get to a point where [I] can be self-sustaining, and also have enough achievement in terms of grades and … ability to be able to pass those tests that were, and still are, required to get into the enrichment program at a high school … . [In terms of switching schools,] you're going to a couple of schools anyway … . But if you're thinking about [Moncrest] for Grades 7 and 8, it's more of a tactical ‘What can I get from Moncrest?,’ which I think is perfectly fine … . It’s going to be less of a long-term community.”
Kelly — current parent
Kelly has three sons and her youngest, Cody, is currently in Grade 7 and has been at Montcrest since Kindergarten. Kelly is also the chair of the Montcrest Parent Association.
- “What distinguishes Moncrest is the community. It is the feeling … when we walked through those gates of Moncrest … it felt like home—the heritage houses, the soccer pitch in the middle. And then, when we took the tours with the kids, and hopefully you'll get to speak to some of the kids, you'll see that they're crazy passionate about this school, and they love this school. … And we learned about the facilities and we learned about all the things that were important to my son Cody in terms of athletics. I wanted a school band, that was important for me … It really comes back to the community.”
- “[Community is] important because you're not alone … You need to know that you and the school are on the same page. And the only way to do that is communication. And if the definition of community is all having the same one characteristic in common, then you and the school have that in common. … All the other parents have the same values. They're coming to the school with the same thing, so I don't see how you cannot have a strong community.”
- “[My son described Montcrest as] ‘zesty.’ … Here's the definition: having a strong, pleasant, and somewhat spicy flavor—lively and pleasing. So I leave you with that.”
- “We are all family, the teachers, the leadership team, the facilities team, Martha that you meet at the front desk. We're all family. And I think you'll find that as soon as the first week of school. You'll feel it, I promise you, you feel it … . And I saw from the very beginning that the Montcrest Parent Association really does help the school build that nurturing community ... . But I think you might actually be quite surprised as you progress through the first month of your child's year at school … . There's no other school with a Head of School that sits on top of a dunk machine, and lets the kids throw balls at [her] in like five-degree weather. That's just family, right? That's what you do. You do things for family.”
- “We chose Moncrest for the typical reasons in the beginning. Location … . We didn't want to go all the way to the West End. So location drove our catchment area. We were not a family of the school blazer private school. We wanted something a bit more casual, a bit more light. So that took out some of those schools as well … . We narrowed it down to two. We chose Montcrest based on what we knew … . We went to visit both and basically they delivered on both. But what Montcrest delivered to us was a feeling when we walked into the school, and we talked to Michael and his team and we talked to people, it was the feel. It was [also] the facilities … . It was the athletics [that made us choose Montcrest too] because Cody loves sports so much.”
- “[What else my son has to say about the school:] He said, ‘I like to go to school every day. My friends are there. I like all the teachers and I love all the events we have at the school, like the Mini-Marathon, Kite Day, Fall Fair, and Bingo Night. I also liked it when I broke my ankle earlier this year, and I got to sit in Miss Corbett's office and we would chat.’ Yes, that's why he likes the school.”
- “When I thought about all of the words [to describe Montcrest’s values,] … I added ‘flexibility’ and ‘trustworthy' because I'm sending my kid away to someone who is going to help me raise them. So, obviously, ‘trustworthy’ is a big part, but I really think Montcrest carries a lot of character values that I personally hope I carry, which are things like compassion and integrity and responsibility, because, again, we're sending our kids, our precious kids, to someone … . I hope that Cody learns them and begins to just show them as he grows. And so those are the kinds of character values that I think holds one together. … All the families that come to Montcrest, who join into the community, hold those same values because you can't be part of a community if you don't believe in what that community stands for … . … But I truly believe that is what you see at Montcrest, and … that's what all the parents have as a community. And that's why it's so strong.”
- “What we saw when Cody moved through each of the grades: ... The move to Grade 4 and 5 was like a different school for him, the way that everything, the academics changed. His teachers said to the classroom, ‘We're going to work on you guys being much more independent.’ … Even the uniform changes, or used to change, in Grade 4. And then when Cody went to Grade 7 for middle school, it's a very different school. They learn a whole lot more different, important things … . I think that's what's important; Montcrest [doesn’t] stay the same. It shifts as the kids get older and go through each of the certain stacks of grades.”