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WillowWood School:
The Our Kids Report > Reviews
Grades K TO 12 — Toronto, ON (Map)


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WillowWood School:
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Roundtable Q&A Discussion About WillowWood School (2020)

WillowWood School alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Adam, Julia, Ayeh had to say about the school.

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Highlights from the Q&A discussion

Adam — alum

Adam attended WillowWood School from Grade 4 until graduation in his Grade 12 year. While attending WillowWood, Adam was on a variety of sports teams, and was involved in tech crew. His unique learning needs were accommodated by WillowWood, and his time there prepared him well for his career in the entertainment industry.

  • “Yeah, I mean, I had accommodations throughout my entire lower, middle, and high school and it was different throughout. Within every level, every time I went to a course, I would be tested accordingly. So, whether that be using a computer to read, using an audio book, or I needed extra time, or I needed extra explanation, every teacher would accommodate that.”
  • “And also to add to that, I mean, throughout my time, starting in Grade 4, all the way to Grade 12, I got myself into the tech crew, and different extra[curricular] things which like helped build me, which also helps in the classroom, because it made me …want to go to school… it made me be like, ‘yeah, I'll go,’ you know.”
  • “So, you go through the front door and all the way [to the back of the school]. So you go through, and it was kind of a unique experience, the fact that everyone knew everybody, and everyone knew you. So, I'm saying hi to everybody, and they know that you need to be in first class, everyone knows it. You go there, I go to my class, I go to my locker (everyone gets lockers) and I put my stuff down, look at my schedule.”
  • “I was involved in everything. Even when I was in class, I was involved in everything, like setting up the smart boards… I was like, ‘okay, I'll go get the smart board.’” So, everyone knew me as the tech guy there. It’s kind of like it was a very busy day, as I kind of continued my life. When I came in [to WillowWood], I was very standoffish, because it was my first time in the school. It was very comfortable very quickly, because they kind of made me feel at home.”
  • “I think that what really made it was just the community. The classes were smaller and you went in and there were like 10, 15 people in the class.”
  •  “I had a [WillowWood teacher] at the time. I don't know if she's still there, but she was great in terms of just knowing each student. They help you grasp it whether you want to or not. And not in a forceful way… If you don’t understand it, they will stay all of lunch to help you understand. So, things like that kind of made it. I mean, and if [one teacher] wasn't available, X or Y [teacher] would be available to help you.”
  • “So Kurzweil is a text-to-speech software. I used it for everything. I got my textbooks digital, and I got an extra room to write my tests, and I got extra time, and I found that it really helped me, because I was not a multiple-choice person. I am not a ‘read this and write an essay [person].’ I always say, it kind of helps to know I can keep reading and reading and reading. In terms of my writing, I could even have a scribe, where I could have someone with me to type it for me, and even just write ideas.”
  • “And it kind of helped my confidence to go into a room when some people had an hour and a half or two hours to do a test or an exam. I had three and a half hours to listen to my text as much as I wanted. I listen to my text, have someone sit with me, and write what they need to write. I could sit there until it was done, instead of stressing about how much time I have left.”
  • “I mean, at WillowWood there's no 'conventional’ … everyone had their own ways of doing everything, and that to me is what made it unique. I could go into a room, and there's a laptop for me there every time … I have my headphones, and I would do my test, and I would sit there until it got done. Now, I always sit at my computer, and I read it out loud. When I get an email, I read it [out loud].”
  • “I mean, like everyone's been saying, it had a very big sense of community. When I walk in, you say hi to everybody. You go to class, and you do what you need to do. Honestly, what made the impact for me, and what differentiates WillowWood from anyone else, is that if you want to sing in the play, you're singing in the play, if you want to do tech, you want to do tech, you need one-on-one help, you got your one-on-one help. If a teacher needs to stay till 7:30 p.m. to make you grasp what algebra is, then they will. They will sit there and help. I'm pretty sure the longest I’ve ever stayed at school is probably 10 p.m. I stayed late, and it was not because I was trapped.”
  • “I was in one of those … groups with three students in a class and they'll go even more in-depth into the curriculum and stuff, and that also helped. [WillowWood] made me realize that you can do what you want. You could be what you want … I never thought I could be in the entertainment industry and make money and love it.”
  • “When I was applying for universities and stuff, I was like, “I'm going to business school.” But [a WillowWood teacher] said, ‘you know, we're going to apply to Ryerson, we're going to apply there because you can do media and business. You could do this and that because you can do what you want, right?’ You don't have to apply to business school just because you have 75 percent … . The grades didn't matter. I mean they matter, don't get me wrong, but they don't matter in the grand retrospect of things. You could be yourself [at WillowWood], you could do what you want, and be yourself, and it kind of transitioned into my life now because I say, ‘of course, I can do this.’ You know, I don't think of the devil's advocate in what I do, because I can do it.”
  • “I didn't get school credit for what I did for half of my time at WillowWood. … I was probably in the tech room more than I was in the classroom. I mean, I had 100 community service hours in the first year of high school. In Grade 9, I had all my community service hours, over 40. I didn't record all of them, but I did them.”
  • “I wouldn't change a thing about my experience [at WillowWood], because even when there were down times, and everyone has them, in terms of your academics or your extracurriculars, or your time management, or your organization skills, I had a lot of those. [My] time management and organization were not strong. Now they are, because of [WillowWood]. By the time you're done, it’s like a whole new world.”

Julia — current parent

Julia has one son who attends WillowWood School, who began in Grade 4. Julia credits WillowWood in playing a huge part in her son’s confidence in learning and in life.

  • “Well, my answer is the same as yours. And I'm not just saying this, but no, there's nothing I would change [about WillowWood]. We're so happy, and [my son is] happy. I look at Adam, and I can only hope that [my son] grows up to be a fine, well-adjusted young man, that's all we want. Grades don't define you, but they are important. Absolutely. People work hard for them. We are so happy, and I say it again from the heart, like it's such a sense of belonging and it's absent in far too many workplaces and schools."
  • “It's been three years [at WillowWood], and I have the same question. How can one teacher possibly adapt to so many different needs? I don't know how they do it, but they do it. And it's actually quite magical. I think the common denominator is they build on each child's confidence and that really, I think, opens a child up to being the best possible student they can be. I think when you have self-worth and self-confidence, it really plays out in the classroom.”
  • “I can't speak enough about it, and I think with how they approach each child, I think because it's such a small environment that each child sort of takes a little bit from the others, and I think it makes them stronger people. Understanding, my son learns visually and that's been diagnosed. So, they really do hone in on that, but not at the cost of the other students.”
  • “[WillowWood] really has transformed our lives as a family. Michael's a beautiful little boy who unfortunately required extra attention, for whatever reasons, and I won't judge. Catholic school is a public school, but even in the private school, they were not able to accommodate him.”
  • “There is accountability. There's a strong sense of self-worth. I can't come up with anything negative. I think what really is so important to me as a parent, and all parents there, want the best for their children, not at the cost of anyone else's children. There's community, there's inclusion, there's mutual respect and caring. It covers everything. It encompasses everything that I grew up to believe was what school should be for a child.”
  • “And [my son is] so happy, and we're happy as a family because there's nothing more, emotionally draining in a household, when you can't help your child at school. You can beg, you can plead, you can follow the chain of command, and hope that someone embraces your request… . It's such a gift, WillowWood, there's no negative. And I'm not just saying this … I speak from the heart.”
  • “I speak so loud and proud about it, and I can tell you, I think they should be consultants for public schools. They should be consultants because they can't make your child friends with everyone, but make sure that he's doing well, and he's not left out. And to me, at this stage, if we can't help our children while they're in school, that underlines so many future problems as adults. ... It truly is the best school … . You know, my husband and I both went to private schools in Toronto, and there's no comparison [to WillowWood].”
  • “There's nothing I would change [about WillowWood]. We're so happy, and he's happy. I look at Adam and I can only hope that Michael, you know, grows up to be a fine, well-adjusted young man, that's all we want. Grades don't define you, but they are important. Absolutely. People work hard for them.”
  • “But no, we are so happy and I say it again from the heart, like it's such a sense of belonging and it's absent in far too many workplaces and schools."

Ayeh — current parent

Ayeh has a son who enrolled at WillowWood in Grade 4, and is now entering the current school year as a Grade 11 student. Her son thrives academically and socially in WillowWood’s highly individualized program.

  • “I can tell you how I see it for my son. He's been at school at WillowWood from Grade 3 and now and he's in Grade 11. What I can tell you is that WillowWood is very adaptive. … So, I remember when we first came to WillowWood, there was this period of time that my son couldn't attend classrooms. I would say probably three months in the morning, completely, because we had to go to hospital. And I don't know how they did it, but what happened was that back then Jill, who is the Lower and Middle School principal said ‘you just take care of the hospital. I will take care of the school,’ and they did it. They did it completely. You know, they are very flexible in terms of when the child needs something, they will provide that, and they will change [the curriculum] around.”
  • “I have seen that during these many years that we've been at WillowWood, now [my son is] more interested in so many things, like he is participating. [My Son] is participating not because he has to participate, but because he wants to participate. It's fun for him. You know, that is really nice, because he wasn't like that.”
  • “The teachers care, they don't let the children fall behind everyone. And the pod [learning] program that they had, that was the best thing ever, because it's so mixed.”
  • “I've never seen anything like [WillowWood’s pod program] in other schools, it’s a fantastic program. No one feels like they are better or worse than anybody else. You know, it kind of gives everybody that feeling of, I don't know how to explain … it's such a comfortable feeling to be there.”
  • “Everybody, sometimes, can get overwhelmed in the classroom. … Let's say they just don't want to be in that class at that time, you know, these things happen. They do have the opportunity to get out and have a little bit of fresh air, you know, just change their mood, and it is not in a bad way, they're not being punished.”
  • “They can just get out and breathe, and when they are ready, they can always go back [to class]. It's a very comfortable environment for the Lower School kids.”
  • “And at WillowWood, they have this one day that your child can go sit down in the class from the beginning of the day till noon, and they just get comfortable and see how it goes. My son was going there hating school, and he was like, ‘no, this is just another school.’” He greeted [WillowWood] with a frown. And at 12:00 p.m., I picked him up. … When he came out, the smile on his face! I had never seen anything like that. He came out and said, ‘this is the best.’”
  • “[My son] always needs extra time for the exams and everything, and he used that. The good and the funny thing is that, like I said, it's like magic. I don't know how it happens. But as he has he progressed during these years [at WillowWood], and he's been at it ... he kind of gets better at everything. He's good at writing and typing right now.”
  • “The kids are allowed to be themselves and they're allowed to be human beings. They have strong points. They have weak points. And it's okay.”
  • “Teachers care. It is not okay for the kids to feel bad, and to feel left behind and to feel, you know, different. [WillowWood] does something about it. Other schools, they say a lot of things about it, but honestly, I didn't see anything being done about it. At WillowWood, they probably won't say much, but they do it.”
  • “I talked to [the WillowWood principal] about [enrolment], and the first thing that settled us down, was that she was so real. Then throughout the years, we realized that everybody [at WillowWood] has a good idea of what is real. You know, they're not sugarcoating anything. And when I went to these [other] high schools, you know, these fancy high schools with all these promising things and everything. I was thinking to myself, I don't think [my son] can survive a week in there. …I knew what it's like behind the scenes, and I was comparing it to WillowWood, and I was thinking, ‘Okay, you know what? No, this is not the thing,’ because it's not just about academics for us. It's not just about academics, he can do well anywhere he goes, but it's about that sense of community [at WillowWood].”
  • “That's what WillowWood feels like, you know, and they care about everything. They care about [my son's] mental well-being. Also, it's the curriculums that they are offering, and the teachers, honestly, they're the best … . They're really, really good teachers.”
  • “Is everything perfect? I don't know, but it's working, and we're really, really happy, and you see the fact is that I say I wouldn't change anything … but it's always changing. I think that's one of the reasons that I wouldn't change anything about [WillowWood], because it’s always evolving and changing in a good way itself.”

 

 

More about WillowWood School

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More video reviews

Alum, Yan Fu (2021)

Watch our alum interview with Yan Fu to learn about the unique experience of attending WillowWood School.

More written reviews

(5)

Parent, Ayeh Hamidian (2022)

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...

(4.2)

Parent, Mary Yuan (2022)

Our daughter came to WillowWood in Grade 9 after attending Toronto public schools since kindergarten. She had trouble fitting in with other kids up until then, came to WillowWood with low self-este...

(4.8)

Parent, Latha Raman (2022)

My child was not thriving in the public school environment and needed additional help and attention. WillowWood School saw the potential in my child and provided all the help and assistance needed to ...
See all written reviews (6 total)
 

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