REVIEW OF West Island College (Calgary) BY parent, Jing Li
- Date of Review
May 22, 2020
Gr. 7 - 12
(5) Student Experience
We have two sons in WIC, both of whom started from grade seven. My older son is graduating in June 2020 and my younger son is in grade 10. We think what they appreciate the most is the faculty and staff, which is the heart and soul of any school. Every year, my children would meet mostly new teachers, but their feelings of being inspired and supported are exactly the same, thanks to the combination of a high academic caliber and a well-developed culture of professionalism. During the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the faculty are facing their own challenges in life, they have been responding promptly to all my children's questions. My children really don't feel that their learning has been hindered in any way. With the help of technology, they even receive feedback and quiz results quicker than usual. Over the last five years, my children have received a great deal of attention and support for their individual needs, at every stage of their school life. All of those moments where they go the "extra mile" are especially appreciated.
(5) School Leadership
The WIC leadership and administration are incredibly responsible and strategic. No school is problem-free, but the WIC leadership responds to the student or staff-related issues swiftly and communicates to parents in time, all while respecting the privacy of the people involved. I don’t recall any cases where I would disagree with the approach or decision that the leadership took. I would say the school culture is collaborative, respectful, and professional. I commend the WIC leadership team for a positive environment. Over the last few years, the leadership paid a great deal of attention to the development of IT capabilities and gradually deployed several learning tools and platforms. In Jan/Feb this year, when COVID-19 pandemic was still at its infancy in Alberta, the leadership team had already begun to prepare for potential impacts. Early in March, they encouraged students to bring their essentials (books, electronics, etc.) home and asked teachers to load their notes, assignments, and quizzes online. When the provincial government announced school closures, WIC was ready to function online right away. As a parent, I highly appreciate the forward-thinking and proactive efforts of the leadership team.
I am impressed with the quality of instruction. I would describe the teachers at WIC as passionate, experienced, and dedicated. The teachers are not only knowledgeable about their subjects, but can also effectively pass on their knowledge to students. Even though both my wife and I are engineers, our children said it was easier for them to grasp the math and science concepts through their teachers’ instructions and extra help. I find that the teachers at WIC are effective communicators inside and outside of their classrooms while talking with them during many occasions, including parent-teacher interviews, after school assemblies, or sports events. The teachers never wait for the parent-teacher interviews to provide suggestions or feedback; they always make their expectations and advice clear to students early on. As a parent, one of my biggest concerns was my children wouldn’t like a certain subject because they didn’t like the teacher. I am happy to say that it has never been an issue in the last 6 years. This tells us something about the teachers’ care and connection with the students. In the same class, there are sometimes wide gaps among students’ abilities, but at WIC, teachers pay individual attention to each student’s needs. They don’t just provide extra support to the ones who are behind, but they also give more challenging work for advanced students too.
One of the key reasons we took our children to WIC was their French immersion program. In each grade, there is at least one class dedicated to French immersion, about two classes with French as a second language program, and about two other classes with Spanish as a second language program. The French immersion program is rigorous and high achieving. Even compared with Francophone schools, WIC French immersion students are outstanding in terms of their performance on the Grade 9 PAT, DELF, AP French Exam, and Grade 12 Diploma Exams. By the way, most of these students, including our children, are from non-Francophone families. WIC is also strong in other academic areas such as math and science. WIC does not simply follow a regular curriculum, it goes the extra mile. WIC established several academic-focused institutes, such as health sciences, liberal arts, engineering, and business. These programs are managed by dedicated teachers and provide students with hands-on learning experiences and real-world connections. WIC students also participate in various competitions, such as CASE business competitions under teachers’ guidance. All of these fun and engaging activities cultivate students’ interests and prepare them for university or their future careers.
WIC offers a wide variety of extracurricular opportunities. Our two children participate in many school sports teams (volleyball, badminton, track and field), school bands (concert and jazz band), as well as Students’ Council, the WIC Athletics Association, the Prefect Council, newspaper club, engineering club, peer support and many more. If you are passionate about something and the school does not have a club for it, you can certainly create one with the support of the school. My two boys just created a Comedy Club this year and they have received great feedback from both students and teachers.
There are about 100 to 110 students in each of the six grades at WIC. Typically, there are five to six classes in each grade and each class has about 20 students. The student community is small enough to have individual attention and big enough to have a wide variety of sports and arts programs, etc. There are lots of formal peer support/mentoring activities, as well as informal study assistance among students. Students develop many friend spheres, through athletics, classes, and extracurricular activities. WIC also has a Students’ Council, which involves all students from grades seven to twelve. Every year, students vote for the Students’ Council executives and grade representatives. The school encourages strong academic, athletic, and music performance, whilst also focusing on character and leadership development, providing awards for each grade every year.
(5) School Life
Both our boys enjoy going to WIC. We feel that school provides a safe and caring environment in which kids can be themselves, try new things, and fail without embarrassment. They have easy access to classroom teachers if they have any questions related to their courses, to post-secondary directors whenever they need help on university applications, and to school counsellors if they feel the need to talk about just about anything. WIC has a “Focus Friday” block on every Friday. This provides students with opportunities to explore, discover, and pursue their interests through hospital visits, courthouse visits, creative writing seminars, and business case competitions to name a few. Also, WIC has “TA groups”, in which one teacher is in charge of 10-15 students from the same grade. They meet once every week and provide a small, intimate environment for discussions about many topics and build relationships with their peers and this teacher. This small group stays the same from grade 7 until graduation.
We understand that at junior/senior high school, the direct parent involvement will be less compared to elementary school as students become more independent. WIC still provides opportunities for parent involvement. The Parent Guild is a parent volunteer hub, which organizes a few events over the school year, such as the Parent Social, WIC gala, etc. The one we really enjoyed is the annual staff appreciation dinner. Many parent volunteers came together to prepare a theme-based dinner for all staff to enjoy, from donating cooked food and drinks to decorating the room and cleaning up afterward. This is a fun event and was very well received and appreciated by all school staff members. The school is very open to parent suggestions and opinions through coffees with the headmaster, surveys, and board meetings. WIC also sends out a weekly newsletter email to all students and families announcing anything that happened in the past week and anything planned for the next week so that students and parents can stay on top of what’s going on around the school.
(5) School Location
WIC is located at the Blackfoot Trail and Glenmore Trail intersection. It is very convenient to drop off kids then go to work either in downtown or other areas. The school is also next to a vibrant Farmer’s Market. Students can walk to the market on Thursdays and Fridays for freshly prepared lunches or afterschool snacks. The Deerfoot Meadows shopping area is very close as well. Parents can go grocery shopping after dropping off kids. For students who can drive, they have access to a wider variety of lunch options nearby every day. With the Glenmore Trail construction almost complete between Sarcee Trail and Crowchild Trail, access from West Calgary has become a lot easier.
We did a lot of research on junior/senior high schools as early as when our older son was in grade five. We attended WIC’s open house for two years in a row. We also toured other private schools in SW Calgary and Okotoks. At the WIC open house, we were met with passionate staff and enthusiastic students. All of our questions were answered. Our boys felt very comfortable and welcomed. As parents, we wanted them to continue their French immersion education; we wanted an academically rigorous school with either an AP or IB program; we hoped to find a great school for music, arts, and sports programs; we looked for strong support in terms of university placement and counseling; we wanted a caring and close-knit community…and we found all of the above at WIC! During the summer after our kids finished grade 6, we submitted their applications and we were confident that we made the right decision. In the fall, our kids did the entrance test and the admissions staff took the time to review the results with us and we signed the contract. The whole process was very smooth.
(5) University placement and counselling
Our older son is currently in grade 12. We just went through the whole university application process. Since grade 9, they started to talk about the transition to high school, helping students map their high school courses. From grades 10 to 12, they organized different events including university admission officer visits and scholarship application seminars, providing guidance on application essays and interviews, and spent many hours on recommendation letters. Both post-secondary advising directors are very approachable: we had booked a few family meetings with them and my son had one-on-one meetings with them numerous times. Just before Christmas of 2019, my older son got an early acceptance letter from Yale! It is his dream school and we are all very excited and thankful.