Founded in 1852 by the Basilian Fathers, St. Michael’s College School is Ontario’s only independent Catholic school for young men in Grades 7-12. We spoke to the school’s principal, James McKinnon, about what makes this learning institution unique.
What’s your learning philosophy and how is that integrated into the classroom?
We educate the mind, body, and spirit with a Catholic, Liberal Arts, university-preparatory framework. St. Michael’s College School is also a member of New Pedagogies for Deep Learning (NPDL), a global partnership. The needs of students are shifting and the knowledge-based economy is now accessible to everybody, which means many of the skills today require students to be analytical, possess the ability to debate and synthesize information. Developing these skills—including character, collaboration, creativity, communication, citizenship and critical thinking—brings learning full-circle.
What’s one thing that makes your school unique?
At St. Michael’s College School, we are focused on the development of the whole child, in mind, body and spirit. Our motto is, “teach me in Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge.” While knowledge is important, goodness comes first. Goodness comes through in terms of community service and opportunities for students to give back to their larger community. Empathy is such a key component in being able to better understand the world and others.
What’s the best way to describe your school community?
This is a storied institution with a tremendous tradition that is rooted in strong values and faith.
“The idea of “be, belong, and become” is key to this philosophy.”
Being whole is about having an identity students can relate to, then they need to belong to something and feel they have the support and are part of something bigger than themselves. Finally, to become is to have a meaningful impact on the world.
What are some of the extracurricular activities students can be involved with?
There are over 60 after-school clubs and activities offered to students. There are a diverse range of clubs, from anime to model United Nations, to robotics to SMCS cuisine. Our supervised extracurricular activities help students develop new interests, build friendships, grow their leadership skills, and prepare them for post-secondary programs.
What’s the number one thing prospective students and parents should know about your school?
St. Michael’s College School is a foundation for life – inside and outside the classroom. It’s about being whole. Often schools are exit-oriented, asking students, “What are you going to do when you’re done?” But to get there, you have to know who you are first. That takes work. Foundation for life is also a natural connection to our faith and the messages that Christ taught. “We’re a large school with about 1,000 boys, but it really feels like a family. And families look out for each other.”
What are some of the ways you encourage students to be of service to the school or their community?
Students take on an additional 20 hours of Christian service in addition to the provincial requirement and many students do even more. We have students who work at shelters on evenings and weekends, sponsored by the Out of the Cold Foundation. Students have also made sandwiches, lunches, and delivered them to the Good Shepherd Ministry. At St. Michael’s College School, we have an ambassador program where volunteer students welcome new families. “These are just a few examples. Leadership development and service to a greater cause is part of what we believe in and practice.”
What sort of support do you have in place to help students who may be struggling emotionally or academically?
We have a wellness team, including a dedicated social worker and a spiritual coordinator who is a layperson. We also recently added a registered nurse to the school. Our team counsels and supports students, as well as answering questions from parents who ask how their son is adapting. The school has also brought in service dogs during exams, guest speakers and organized creative activities and also conducts an ongoing series of talks with guest experts, specifically for parents, called “ParenTalks.” Our wellness team gives students somewhere to go and once they leave school, students know it’s not foreign to receive help. It’s about developing a healthy identity.
university acceptance rate
active alumni spanning 34 countries
$20 million +
awarded in needs-based bursaries since 2020
of the student body is involved in athletics
of the student body is involved in clubs and activities
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