Calgary, AB | Grades 7 - 12 | Shortlist
My time at West Island College (WIC) was incredibly memorable and has been influential in shaping me into the professionally satisfied, emotionally balanced, and driven person I am today. The time in the classroom was interactive and engaging. Teachers going above and beyond was a standard. Although I am in no way engaged in biology today, I can still remember the way my biology teacher (who is still teaching there) described peptide bonds and the "specificity of protein binding sites". My physics classroom was filled with things to play with that really showcase motion and statics. Our language programs were interactive with different media and lots of opportunities to participate in debate, and prose presentations outside of class. Every single teacher would enthusiastically meet with me before or after school for extra help if or when I needed it. Academically, I felt amazingly prepared for university. I could tell I was well prepared by WIC because test writing was a breeze, studying was always effective, and I was able to really succeed in university academically with very little stress. The way my high school teachers treated me as an equal and with respect made it easy to interact with university profs, where many of my university peers felt nervous. What stands out even more than the classroom experience for me is the extracurricular and travel program. There were so many opportunities for leadership and participation in the community. The teaching staff was again very engaged in life outside the classroom, and I had lots of opportunities to gain a balanced worldview of events and people by travelling to Nepal, Tibet, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos islands. Every trip had cultural learning deeply embedded and a volunteer project we would take on that helped us give to the communities we visited and to meet local people. WIC provided me with a very balanced set of opportunities that helped me thrive academically in university, easily taking leadership positions in clubs and extracurriculars that has since led to a similar approach in my professional life. WIC put me on a path of success and opportunity that I am forever grateful for.
The attitude of teachers and administration at the school was something I came to appreciate after coming back to the school and talking with other students years later. All students are treated with respect and as equals. This approach over the 12 years I was there gives an incredible amount of confidence when engaging with people that have power or seniority over me. This has led to great confidence in seeking help and guidance from professors in university, and has led to advancement opportunities in my professional career. The attitude at the school was positive. There were no systematic bullying or harassment issues, only one-off confrontation events I would deem "typical" for teenagers to encounter. The school dealt with these events swiftly, fairly, and openly. I cannot recall anything specific that took place as it all seemed quite balanced. As a rebellious teen that was often having to explain myself and my actions to administration, I always felt I was disciplined appropriately and fairly. Beyond discipline, I felt I was given lots of guidance, trust, and help to get onto a better path.
Teaching was always engaging and creative. I can still remember some of the classes that we had because the teachers were so passionate about what they did. In class, all students were treated with respect. Some classes were quite formal, and some had very informal hands-on approach that allowed for creativity and exploration. The mix was well-balanced and led to a good recollection of material. Teachers were always available for extra help before and after school, to the point I thought this was a normal thing done everywhere. All the teachers were engaged and passionate, and the administration took student feedback on teachers very seriously and took action when teaching did not meet student or parent expectations. Mr. Smith's biology classes will always be remembered fondly, and Mr. Bennet's physics class set me on a path towards engineering.
Language classes included a great exploration of classics (Shakespear, Jane Austyn, Emile Bronte, J.D. Salinger, Great Gatsby etc.) and more modern works as well. We looked at books, poetry, movies, and plays. We were able to attend the theater as well! Science classes were well structured and creative. There were lots of experiments using slinky's, swinging weights, rolling cylinders etc. in physics. Chemistry was always backed by experiments or demos. Lots of the classes were very memorable. Math is a strong suit. I was able to complete Math AP (Calculus) in high school, which set me up well for university. WIC provides lots of AP classes, which provide preparation for university classes or complete credits I could apply, allowing me to have a lighter course load in the first year and contributing to my success.
There were lots of clubs at the school, and teachers were ready and willing to support new clubs starting up. This provided lots of opportunities to practice leadership in a safe environment. The schools travel program was also incredible. We were able to travel to "non-vacation" countries and volunteer our time (I remember teaching english in Tibet, and building an irrigation system in Peru).
We had a tiny class size. My graduating year was 60 people, and my class size in grade 12 was 14 people, because I was in the french stream. The student population was incredibly diverse both culturally and ethnically. Everyone there was passionate about something. Some people were heavily academic, some were very artistic, some were athletic. It seemed like there was an outlet for everyone to shine. Student's all got along well. The class size was large enough that everyone had their own friend groups, but small enough that we were all friends and would attend social gatherings (e.g. house parties) together. There were no cliques, bullying, or harassment at the school, and our uniforms made it easy not to worry about what I wore to school...
I really enjoyed going to school. Every day was very diverse and I had a lot to look forward to. The large range of classes I was able to choose from, and being able to participate in clubs during lunch and after school was great. There were "summative exams" held every 3 weeks for all courses. This helped me prepare for exam writing in university but did lead to some stress in having to study all the time. The school has since lowered the number of exams they are writing. Diploma exams were a breeze because of this. Other students seemed generally happy and excited to pursue their passion subjects. Some students seemed dark and edgy, but they also had their outlets (guitar club, and other similarly minded friends!)
I don't remember the school community while I was a student, however after graduating I came to learn a community exists and stays very engaged. Student's parents are treated as alumni too and there are lots of opportunities for parents to come together to contribute to the school. The alumni community is growing every day. As a "younger" independent school, the alumni community is still developing and gaining strength. I am still in touch with peers from my year and have lots of opportunities to connect with people from other years in the events the school organizes specifically for alumni. The school also gives opportunities for alumni to give back to the school by engaging with the students in talks, judging competitions, and attending speaker events.
The school is on top of the hill above glenmore park, where there are lots of shops, outlets and places to eat. It's generally a quiet location in a more industrial setting. Students arent allowed to leave the ground until they are in grades 10-12. There isn't much notable about the location. I don't feel it added to or took away from my experience.
The admission process made me a bit nervous to get in, as I had to complete an admissions test and have an interview. I don't recall doing any studying prior to the exam, and it was an exam to test my current knowledge. The interview asked me about my passions, aspirations, dreams. What I wanted to accomplish, and how I felt the school might be able to help me. Again I didn't feel stressed during the interview, I was more nervous not knowing what questions they would ask. The school was really good at walking me through the whole process and I felt quite confident on the other side of the interviews. Ultimately, I think the admissions wasn't about me proving myself to the school, but about making sure the school would be a good fit for me.
The school had a full time career and university counsellor, who had a great relationship with universities around the continent. There were several presentations given to us by universities. I know the school now has organized tours for students to visit universities across the country. They also have WIC alumni meet with the student's and give them a tour as well as answer any questions. I had a huge amount of guidance and help in the application process. We were given time during school to complete applications and had lots of support from our counsellor. I was able to get an early acceptance with multiple scholarships because of the help and support I received. We completed different surveys to help in selecting an appropriate post-secondary program that fit with our passion or ambition.