One College, Four Schools – A Journey of Learning with Joy and Purpose
Personalized education from toddler to teenager at Hillfield Strathallan College
They call themselves ‘lifers’ and wear the name as a badge of honour. They are the students of Hillfield Strathallan College (HSC) who have attended the progressive, independent day school since their first day of school. “As an HSC lifer, I’ve been lucky to learn in a place where my interests are known and encouraged,” says Myles McArthur, HSC’s Head Boy and Male Athletic Prefect for the 2020-2021 school year. While Myles has reaped the benefits of HSC’s academic environment from toddler through to teenager, many students come to HSC from other schools seeking the support of a tight-knit and nurturing community. “The strength of this community is second to none,” says Natasha Paikin, an HSC alum class of 2013. “HSC teaches both inside and outside the classroom to an unparalleled degree – their academic and leadership programs prepared me at an eye-opening level for university, and their focus on well-rounded personal success taught me how to incorporate extracurriculars and community involvement into every stage of my life thus far. "
HSC’s academic programming includes both traditional and Montessori curriculums that cater to the individual. All students are empowered to follow their passions through self-discovery and personalized learning. The key to ensuring students thrive from this approach is exposure. Starting at age six, students are offered broad co-curricular programming in arts, athletics, service, and leadership to see what sticks. From there, they get the encouragement of teachers with specialized training, knowledge, and skills propelling the students’ strengths into a lifelong passion and, potentially, a rewarding career. Elyse Creamer, an HSC graduate class of 2014, describes her enriched experience while at HSC. “I never doubted my chances of reaching my full potential thanks to the amazing teachers and coaches who provided me the opportunity to find my passions and to cultivate them into a career.”
In 2016, HSC looked to its student body to define the values that guide the College and its community. Five ideals – integrity, respect, community, determination, and individuality – were selected as those which guide HSC students to live and learn with purpose. Never more were these ideals proven true than in 2020 when students faced the challenge of COVID-19 with integrity, respect, a strong sense of community, determination, and the power of individuality. An HSC education prepared students to understand their new reality, inspire one another, and act with courage to overcome the adversity of a global pandemic.
The community proved itself a powerful force in the spring of 2020, with HSC faculty, staff, students, and parents rallying together (while physically apart) to launch [email protected] – an unparalleled remote learning program that ensured continuity of learning. As always, HSC’s goal was to provide a unique educational experience that upheld the hallmarks of its high academic standard with personal attention to all students and a safe and caring environment. HSC also moved swiftly to create an Emergency Bursary Fund for HSC families that found themselves in need of short-term financial support given the financial strain that the pandemic caused for many. “We were delighted to learn that we had a number of families donate their tuition credits back to the College in support of these efforts,” says Andy Kain, HSC Board member, and parent.
As some students returned to in-person learning in the fall, HSC was well-positioned to respond to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic with a team of 3 registered nurses and a certified counsellor. HSC’s Health Services team worked diligently to keep staff trained, monitor public health protocols, and ensure HSC families were informed of the most up-to-date precautions in place on campus. “The pandemic put immeasurable pressure on parents and guardians,” says Bob Neibert, Deputy Head of College, Student Wellbeing. “Our goal was to relieve as much of that as possible.” With a dedicated fleet of buses, HSC’s transportation team made getting students to and from campus stress-free. As for the College’s food service, the commitment to serving fresh, locally sourced, healthy meals remained unchanged, and individual serving stations for grab-and-go meals in the Junior, Montessori, and Senior Schools stood in for the traditional family-style dining at the College’s Lawson Hall.
For those back in class, HSC’s 50-acre campus provides an ideal playground for student-centred physical literacy – a key component of HSC’s holistic approach to education. Whether through competitive athletics or recreation during recess, students strengthen their physical development which, in turn, supports the growth of their social and emotional IQ. “Sport and movement are essential for encouraging and motivating students to reach for new challenges outside of their comfort zone,” says HSC Director of Athletics, Paul Masotti. “Through athletics and competition, students learn that failure is part of life and they develop the skills to learn from missteps.” More than 75 co-curricular teams represent HSC annually with space to train on four gyms, six play spaces, eight outdoor fields, a fully equipped weight room, and a brand new tennis complex.
HSC is a big place with a legacy beginning in 1901, that includes more than 7,200 graduates. Connected through common ideals and a shared sense of identity, HSC alumni benefit from a built-in mentorship program that lets students share expertise through career conversations, resume critiques, and mock interviews. One-on-one connections in this active group have helped alumni build valuable career networks. It’s the HSC gift that keeps on giving.
When asked about his focus as Head Boy and Athletic Prefect for the 2020-2021 school year, Myles highlighted the role that determination will play for him and his fellow cohorts going forward. “This year we have the chance to prove the strength of an HSC education,” he says. “We have the freedom to be bold because we possess the skills and character to be leaders of tomorrow.” With that in mind, some might say that the term ‘HSC lifer’ is better suited to any and all students of the College – the lifelong beneficiaries of an HSC experience.