REVIEW OF WillowWood School BY parent, Ayeh Hamidian
- Date of Review
March 30, 2022
Gr. 3 - 12
(5) Student Experience
My son was in another private school for a few years and also spend some time at a public school before we moved to WillowWood. He used to hate going to school and every morning was a struggle for him and us alike. WillowWood made him fall in love with school again. He has had amazing teachers in all his years at WillowWood from grade 3 all the way to grade 12. WillowWood's Pod program in the lower and middle schools is unique and the one-on-one support is amazing. He loves everything about WillowWood but I think having wonderful teachers is the best part. When the pandemic started, the school shifted and adjusted to online learning in a breeze. The transition was smooth and the kids didn't miss a day!
(5) School Leadership
The school leadership is great. There has never been a situation when we needed help or went to the principals regarding challenges or issues and they didn't handle it with grace and an extreme sense of responsibility. The whole school is like a big family. There is discipline but alongside that, there is also a sense of friendship between the staff and the students. Help is always available in all areas Mental, emotional, physical and academic. The school administration team is truly dedicated to creating a sense of community and belonging.
My son always had wonderful teachers at WillowWood starting from grade 3 all the way to grade 12. He loves asking questions and the teachers always welcome the challenge. Support is also available if he needs it. The teachers at WillowWood are passionate about what they do. They spend time explaining subjects and one-on-one support as well as a homework hub is always available for kids who need them. I believe the amount of challenge and support is well balanced at WillowWood. During the pandemic, the teachers worked tirelessly to make sure the kids were getting the support they needed. My son loves the fact that his teachers have a good sense of humour as well as knowledge and willingness to answer his questions and to make learning fun.
There are several strong academic points to mention. One of the definite academic strengths of WillowWood school is the Pod program for the Lower and Middle school students. kids can navigate different subjects at their own pace without getting either overwhelmed or bored. The school also provides a very solid one-on-one support program throughout all grades. In our first year at WillowWood (Grade 3), we were dealing with a very challenging health situation and my son had to spend a lot of time at the hospital. First thing in the morning, we had to take him to SickKids and by the time he was at school, it was already lunchtime! This went on for a good 4 to 5 months (if not more) every single day. When I discussed our situation with the Lower & Middle school principal (Jill Block), she said: "You take care of the hospital and I will take care of the school." And boy she did! I don't know how they did it but I know that I didn't have to worry about anything school-related during those months. My son got all the support he needed and he was loving going to school. We could NEVER go through that period without the school's support.
There are plenty of extracurricular programs available for kids to choose from. I can't name all of them but during our years at WillowWood my son has enjoyed participating in various activities including (but not limited to): Curling, Badminton, Table Tennis, Softball, Gaming club, podcast club, Volleyball, yoga, meditation, etc. He is not very art/craft oriented but those are also available during lunchtime, before and after school programs.
WillowWood feels like a big caring family and it sure has a positive spirit. classrooms are large and bright but the number of students are kept to a reasonable ratio which has been one of the reasons my son has always been more comfortable at WillowWood compared to other schools. Students, teachers, staff, principals and even the founder of the school, are all addressed by their first name around the school. The half-day visit policy for new students is a very delicate and fair process for the new student as well as the rest of the school. my son was delighted to be in the class on his first half-day visit but the principal asked me to bring him back for a second-day test visit because they wanted to make sure that the day before, he was laughing WITH the students and not AT the students and sure enough they concluded that he was laughing with the rest of the class and not at them. I was very glad to see how fair and strict they are about that matter and this has been a consistency at WillowWood during all our years there.
(5) School Life
My son was in another private school during JK, SK, G1, G2 and we switched him to public school at the beginning of G3. He hated going to school during all those years and his experience at G3 was so bad that we had to pull him out of the school and move him to WillowWood in the middle of the school year. On our way to WillowWood for his very first half-day visit, he told me: "what's the point? this is just another school!" and he went in with a frown on his face. when I picked him up at lunchtime, I could see him walking down the hall with the principal and he had a priceless happy smile on his face that I hadn't seen in many years. On our way back home I asked him, how did he like WillowWood and he said: "This is the best school ever!" His opinion has stayed the same during our 9 years at WillowWood. :)
The sense of community is super strong at WilloWood. The parent council is always welcoming and encouraging parents to get involved and it is a great way to be part of the planning or just be informed about what is happening at school. the weekly and monthly newsletters are also other ways for parents to know about what's happening at school. The end-of-year breakfast (before Covid) used to be a great opportunity for parents to get involved and help out at school and cook breakfast for all the students. It was a great big fun day followed by various school trips to celebrate everyone's hard work for the year. During Covid, the school staff and teachers did everything they humanly could to keep the sense of community strong despite what was going on. They planned trick-or-treat in the parking lot for Halloween and I think they called it Trunk-or-treat! :)) They also made banners and went door to door for each graduating student celebrating their graduation in front of their houses in the street. WillowWood News was also born during the pandemic which was like a morning zoom show at the beginning of the day where everyone was welcomed to contribute and all parents were welcomed to join in and watch.
(5) School Location
The school is located within walking distance of several plazas with plenty of food options available. Starting in Grade 7 (I think! or maybe earlier. I don't remember), students are allowed to walk out of the school for lunch (1 day a week with parents' permission in groups of 5) to get lunch. They can also walk to the nearby indoor swimming pool (Shendy's swim school) as part of their gym class. Bond Park is also within walking distance to school where the kids go to practice Softball or test their rocket ships as part of their physics class in high school. The school has permission from the next-door church to use their parking lot so there are plenty of parking spots available during drop-off and pick-up times.
(5) University placement and counselling
There is one-on-one support available for all the students to sit with their counsellor and go through the university application process. It was organized and well thought off. Ours fell in during the pandemic and everything was online for us as parents, which was not the best experience but that was not the school's fault. The school staff are always available to help out. The timing was appropriate and we had enough support to go through the process with ease. Again, it was a challenge to do things online and physical distancing protocols and other Covid protocols (which are thankfully taken very seriously at school) made it hard to navigate but the guidance counsellors, as well as the school principals, were always there for us when we needed extra help.