As I walk down Broadview Avenue on a chilly November Tuesday, I’m looking for my destination: Montcrest School. I’m surprised when I find a collection of houses brought together to make up the Montcrest school campus. I enter into the main lobby and I’m immediately struck by the familiar hustle and bustle of your average school day. I’m a few minutes early for my appointment, so I sit in a comfortable leather chair placed next to a banner displaying the many generous donors of the school’s community. As I sit, students, staff, and parents alike come through the lobby, each one giving a welcoming smile. On a grey day like this one, the warmth of this community is immediately apparent.
I’m soon greeted by Michael Dilworth, the Director of Marketing and Communications, with a warm and polite smile. He guides me up to the principal’s office, where the Head of School, Patti MacDonald, awaits us in her office—a repurposed sitting room with bay windows looking out onto Broadview Avenue.
Our interview begins with a bit of background information about both Patti and Michael. Patti is relatively new to the Montcrest team, having started in July, while Michael has been a member of the Montcrest staff in some way, shape, or form for the last twenty years. Immediately, Patti begins by discussing the advantageous location of the school, right next to Riverdale Park and the Don Valley river system, and how this helps to support the students’ connection with nature (something that can be quite elusive in an urban educational setting).
Patti and Michael were both drawn to the strong sense of community, and the emphasis on building strong relationships between teachers and students to reach the individual needs of each child. Patti called it “the home of unparalleled relationships” a place for all students to be reached, challenged, and understood in their individual learning journey. Back in 1961, the school was founded on the belief of providing personalized education to a variety of learning styles, which they practice to this day.They believe that the more a teacher knows their student’s personality, interests, and goals, the better informed they will be on how to provide the best educational experience for that student. Michael spoke at length about how students have celebrated the fact that they feel seen and understood by their teachers, and how that has helped to support both their life and learning journey.
Patti and Micheal continued on about how the physicality of the campus being a collection of houses helped to build a sense of community with the surrounding neighbourhood. They mentioned that something as simple as crosswalk duty can help them get to know the members of the community more deeply. In addition, students have opportunities for community engagement and leadership through reading programs with childcare groups, school events in Riverdale Park, and becoming ambassadors for their school.
When asked about what makes them proud to be a part of the Montcrest community they both spoke to the foundational pieces that make Montcrest unique. Patti elaborated on how the school community comes together to help each other out. The students, the staff, and even the parents—they support each other in everything they do. They were both very proud to see that, because of their focus on relationships between community members, everyone feels a sense of belonging to Montcrest School.
We wrap up the interview and Michael guides me out. As he heads up to the front porch and walks through the door, I can faintly hear him greeting those inside the building. As I make my way back to the Danforth, I’m taken with the sense of warmth and community that has been present. “The magic of Montcrest,” as Patti called it, has certainly made a chilly November day feel warmer.