Victoria, BC | Grades PS - 12 | Shortlist
At Westmont, my daughters have felt safe, nurtured, and valued as individuals. They appreciate the freedom to explore what they are most interested in and to express themselves and their interests in so many unique ways. They value the incredible commitment of the teachers and love every one of them. They are excited to go to school and often want to stay longer. They love how they are encouraged when they develop an interest in a topic and are given the resources and attention to pursue it as far as they want. At the same time, they find the programs challenge them to think hard, communicate better, and interact with their peers in teamwork that I consider to be a good model for their future careers.
The Westmont teachers and staff are highly dedicated and committed. Not one of them is there just to pull a paycheck. They take an active interest in my daughters' welfare and the principal greets them personally every morning outside the school. They have had some challenging situations to deal with over the last year, not a little of which has been due to the pandemic, and they have handled them as expertly as I could have wished, including us at every step.
My daughters' teachers at Westmont have been completely supportive, knowledgeable and passionate throughout their attendance. At every stage, they have demonstrated the greatest caring for children that I have known. They have shown this in many ways, not least of which was being there when the public school system's teachers were on strike. They know every detail of my daughters' progress, challenges, and strengths and work with them personally and individually constantly. I have seen how hard they work on their reports, coming in to work on weekends in order to finish incredibly detailed and helpful papers describing how they have progressed through the term and what the best path ahead is. The teachers are thoroughly grounded in the Montessori philosophy, methods, principles, and practices.
The academic program at Westmont spans a wide gamut from mathematics to current events. I have been able to experience this so far from their preschool program through Grade 7, and am impressed with their ability to convey difficult subjects through the Montessori approach. Mathematics in particular is often challenging, and my daughters are excelling in this topic compared to my experience of many other children of those ages elsewhere. As a small school, they are limited in their facilities for teaching the more specialized subjects that appear in grades nine and higher, but this is a new area for them and I am confident that the plans I have seen and which have so far been realized through leading-edge information technology will address that.
Westmont is a small school and while this provides a cozy, intimate atmosphere, renders extracurricular activities challenging simply through the difficulty of achieving critical masses of numbers of interested students. Nevertheless, the commitment of the extraordinary parent body has resulted in after-school clubs in chess, coding, soccer, and Chinese being started within the last year alone and attracting enough students to fill them.
This is what initially attracted me to Westmont. My wife and I were visiting the school to evaluate it, and I was strolling through the playground. On the swings was a girl of around kindergarten age. Nearby were two girls of about grade seven, I would judge, talking together. The small girl fell over, and even though she wasn't crying or in distress, the older girls noticed, stopped what they were doing, and came over, asking if she was okay, and helped her up. This was radically outside my own experience in school when we five-year-olds would stay as far away as possible from the older children if we wanted to be safe. Right then I resolved that whatever this school was doing to create such values in its students, that was where I wanted my children to go.
My daughters are happy and excited about their time at Westmont. The quality of life there is driven primarily by relationships: with the teachers, the staff, and with fellow students. The teachers create such a safe and nurturing environment, with such individualized attention, that the students recreate these values in their interactions with each other. My daughters are never just a job to the Westmont staff. While the facilities at Westmont are limited due to their small size, they have never brought this up or complained. Nevertheless, I would like to see more athletic equipment and facilities and more playground equipment. I know that these are planned. Overall, the feeling of community that comes from being small enough for everyone to know each other counts the most.
The parent community at Westmont is amazing! This is a group of people who by and large are highly successful, resourceful, and capable; but not only that, they expend a not inconsiderable amount of their valuable time in supporting the school and its students. This goes far beyond the required dozen hours of volunteer time per year. The PAC is highly active, organizing events, contests, sales, and demonstrating the ability to think creatively. The school board is comprised of parents and meetings are popular, engaging, and constructive. They present such a model of cooperation and orientation for action that there are many spectators at each meeting. Parents have started and staffed several extracurricular clubs (Chinese, chess, soccer, coding,...) that the students have enthusiastically signed up for. We have made many friends in the parent community.
The school's location is amazing! It backs onto a park area that is forested and leads past a spectacular waterfall down to a secluded beach area which forms a destination for the students to hike to on a roughly weekly basis starting in preschool. There is little reason for the students to venture beyond the school grounds, although high school and middle schoolers have the option of going into the small "town" of Metchosin where there is a corner store and bakery.