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Local school a place of warmth

June 25th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Essex Jr. and Sr. beloved by parents, teachers, and students

By Susan Stewart

Looking for a school for your children is always nerve-wracking. We wanted a well-rounded school, strong academically as well as in the arts, where leadership and good social skills are nurtured. We were surprised to find how much Essex Jr. and Sr. Public School offered. The school felt very friendly when we walked in. Ms. Hutchison, a grade seven teacher, agrees.  “Essex has a really warm feeling—the warmest feeling of any school I’ve been in. I think it is because we are small.”

The small size may be one reason why the academic scores are so good.  Ms. Hutchison claims that the smaller population allows staff to be aware of each student’s strengths and weaknesses, which is beneficial for their academic performance.  “With small classes everyone’s voice gets heard.  For the first time in my teaching career I can have discussion circles where each student can express their views.  This doesn’t always happen in larger classes.”

“Next year, Essex will be following a full rotary schedule for grades seven and eight, thus allowing teachers to specialize their instruction,” says Jim Stathopoulos, the principal, who was once a student at the school. “This is crucial. If a teacher is focusing solely on mathematics they have the time to hone their lessons and meet the needs of all learners.”

Education Quality and Accountability Office scores at Essex are higher than we thought. The school has two special education classrooms which participate in the EQAO assessment. These students have had amazing successes, of which the school is very proud, even though they are cognitively three to four years behind their peers. Scores are between 80 and 90 once their results are removed.

Jim Stathopoulos, became principal at Essex last year after winning one of Canada’s Outstanding Principal of the Year awards. He says: “We have amazing teachers who are passionate about kids. Teachers share best practice with one another at regular professional learning sessions throughout the year. They are encouraged to take risks and to do things differently to ensure student success.” My daughter came home laughing because the principal was wearing her classmate Thomas’s small T-shirt.  Thomas explains: “The principal is a Leafs fan and I am a huge Montreal Canadiens fan so we made a bet over who would win the first game of the year.  I won so he had to wear my Habs’ jersey for a whole day. It was very small on him and he looked silly. I thought it was brave of him.”  Mr. Stathopoulos remarked, “I do a lot of fun stuff with the kids because I don’t want them to worry about coming in to the principal’s office.”

Our daughter is thrilled about the tap dancing class, and there is also jazz, swing, drama, and music. Ms. da Costa, the drama and dance teacher, was a professional music theatre performer and actress. She says: “Tap dance lets students stomp and laugh and have a lot of fun. Essex is the only school in the city that offers tap.”  She leads the Essex Glee Team, which won four awards at the Show Choir Canada Competition.

We were delighted to see that students are exposed to a wide variety of performances, including Ballet Creole, and Second City with a piece on anti-bullying. And Essex has hired a new music teacher who brings a lot of excitement to the program.

I wish I had been taught the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that Essex students are learning.  Mr. Stathopoulos explains, “Ten years from now who knows what jobs are going to be out there. We want our kids to be thinkers.  So we give the students different types of problems and scenarios that provide them with the ability to solve problems. School is not just about academics. We want students to have the skills to be good people.”

Essex has a lot of sports including basketball, ultimate frisbee, track and field, cross country, badminton, and softball, as well as glee, chess, drama, tap, and knitting clubs.  There is also an active students council.

We are pleased that regular and special ed students share some non-academic activities such as music and phys ed. For our daughter, differences are normal. The principal says, “Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is an extremely important skill that with practice kids learn. When children are comfortable with differences, which comes from the integration of the regular and special ed students, children have more empathy. Kids learn best from one another.”

For us, the school’s success is reflected in our daughter’s words: “I love the Essex. It is amazing. This is the best year of school ever.”

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Vivien // Jun 28, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Stewart is right. Essex public school is amazing. I myself is still attending this school and I loved it ever since junior kindergarten. I don’t know what school to attend for highschool, no other school will be just like Essex!