Breslau, ON | Grades 9 - 12 | Shortlist
Woodland holds some of my best memories and is truly a special place. The staff go above and beyond and in the face of online learning, gave their very best effort. Now, after finishing my first year of post-secondary at Dordt University, I see how Woodland prepared me so thoroughly - maybe even over prepared. Not only was I taught helpful course content, but how to be a good student in general which was integral to a smooth transition to university. At Dordt, a chapel speaker once said, "a church should be more concerned with its sending capacity than its seating capacity". Woodland is a place of education not a church, yet their sending abilities are what made all the difference in my experience. It was privilege to attend such a school for four years that set me up for such success for the next four years.
Woodland is led by teachers and administration that care for each student and truly love what they do. Though this was evident for my first 3 years, it was strongly reaffirmed through the spring semester of 2020. In the face of many changed plans, disappointments, and unknowns, my teachers persevered with grace and endurance. No one becomes a high school teacher so they can teach through a computer, yet the WCHS staff tackled this challenge with their full effort. As well, through many tough calls and difficult decisions, they garnered an attitude of respect and compassion when it came to the countless cancellations and postponements of many school events and athletics. COVID-19 had a halting effect on the world, yet Woodland worked to keep the world turning for their students while keeping within guidelines and rules. Throughout my four years and especially within that last semester, the school continually kept communication with students and their families and their efforts are so appreciated. As they move into the future and have more hard decisions ahead, they have been open in communication and prayerfully leading the school in the midst of uncertainty, and doing so well.
The Woodland staff and administration put forth their best effort in the classroom, leading the school, and caring for the personal lives of their students. I found I was over prepared in many courses in preparation for university. I get to take many general education classes as I attend a liberal arts university and have had success in maintaining good grades in history, English, and science courses whereas my major is Social Work. This is all thanks to many great Woodland teachers who set me up for success while I was in high school and for the next part of my education. While I had many amazing teachers throughout my time at WCHS, most notable: Mr. Goossen for History and World Issues, Mrs. Sutherland for Chemistry, Mr. Hunse for Math, and Mrs. Wiebenga for English. These courses covered so much more than any government regulated curriculum could require and all for the betterment of the students. Because of such classes, I was taught many of the skills needed for writing strong academic papers at the university level, a staple in Social Work classes while becoming a well-rounded learner.
Woodland holds a high standard of academics and offers many different tracks for each student's personal needs. Per my time there, for grade nine and ten there were academic and applied courses and teachers were able to teach joint classes of each with success if needed. In grade eleven and twelve, there was even more options as students would begin to think about after high school and what educational track they would choose. I was challenged by my teachers yet they were always open to helping and I spent many hours in the homework room after school, getting individualized help for whatever I needed. Woodland has also grown their Academic Aid and programs and accommodations for any students who require those services. The staff are able to know each and every student because of smaller class sizes and want to see them do well.
Woodland has many extracurricular opportunities for the students and great variety as well. Though I have a lot of fun memories of being involved with soccer and basketball, there were many extracurriculars that though I personally was not involved, many of my friends and classmates enjoyed. Aside from fielding soccer, basketball, volleyball, badminton, track and field, ultimate frisbee, cross country teams, and a hockey team. Woodland's robotics team has grown in size and success, competing at the world competition many years in a row. The arts have also grown, visual art, choir, drama, are all favourites of many students. Woodland's extra curriculars are so helpful for making new friends, especially for incoming grade nine students and new students. Some of my best memories are from staying after school for different activities.
Woodland usually has 330-350 students and are growing in size, that I know of; my graduating class was about 80 students which is average. Many kids come from Christian grade schools but not all and that certainly is not a requirement. Usually, there are many exchange students and the student body gathers from urban and country areas alike. Though there are many students who come from many Dutch Christian areas, this does not take away or set a precedence for students who do not share that background. Woodland staff work very hard to be inclusive and welcoming of any students who walk the halls and there is a very special feeling of community, whether that is staff to staff, staff to students, or students to students.
I found student life at Woodland to be a great high school experience and am very thankful for my four years there. Of course it was not perfect but the effort put towards a good faith-based education, engaging extracurriculars, worship, chapels, and forming school community speaks for itself and is very much appreciated. I had a lot of fun and made many new friends by being involved in soccer and basketball despite definitely not being one of the strongest players. Through being involved, I got to go to tournaments and provincial competitions which made for many great memories. As well, by being part of an after-school activity, I began to learn time management and responsibility as missing small bits of school was a reality of being involved in an extracurricular. Often, the guidance counselors Mrs. V, Mr. Johnson, and Mr. Goossen stop and talk, as do all the staff, checking in with students and making sure everyone can handle what is on their plate. Whenever there are accomplishments in academics, arts, robotics, athletics, etc. there is always a short assembly to recognize the accomplishments and the students who contributed. This proved to be very special and contributing to school community as we celebrated when our classmates succeeded.
Woodland is sometimes called a 'bubble' but in all honesty, it is probably more accurate to describe it as a spider web. Once you have walked the halls you are part of the web of connections whereby teachers have taught your siblings, parents or parents have been in school with your teachers and it is a great game of "Dutch Bingo". Parents are a huge part of what keeps Woodland going, whether that is volunteers for hot lunches, chaperoning, supervising, donating, and generally giving valuable time and effort to keep the school running. Since graduating, I have kept up with some of my friends from Woodland as well; there is a unique connection between all of us as most were not able to move away from home as post-secondary plans had to shift. I have also been blessed to keep up with staff. As I go to an American university, I often email my former history teacher, Mr. Goossen and ask questions about politics or university things and he always takes the time to send me articles or thoughtful answers. Furthermore, one of my teachers, Mrs. Verstraeten sent cupcakes and balloons on my birthday, to my university which was completely unexpected and such a kind surprise. Little or big things like these are what truly speak to the Woodland community. I was a graduate and attending university 18 hours away, yet the reach of Woodland community never felt far away.
I live just outside Listowel, ON and was about 40 minutes from Woodland and was lucky enough to have a bus ride about the same length. I know many people from 'north' of Kitchener-Waterloo region who have much longer bus rides but Woodland does their best to reach all students who need to use the bus. Woodland appears like it is in the country yet it is not far from a busy street and is not too far from food or the rest of Kitchener-Waterloo. Because of Woodland's unique location, going into Kitchener often means driving so if students want to go out for lunch etc. then a car is required because of the busy street. Woodland is next to a bush area and fields and so when the weather is good, eating outside and outdoor sports are a lot of fun.
My grade school Community Christian (Drayton, ON) was considered a 'feeder' school, meaning many of the graduates attended Woodland. Admissions was very simple as all my older siblings had attended, and I received an admissions package after Grade 8 Day where grade eight students visit Woodland and have a tour and learn more about the school. I simply filled out the forms with my parents and we brought the forms back to the Woodland office. I did not find it stressful or difficult to apply for admission and I suspect that is the most common narrative. If otherwise, the administration office at Woodland is full of many kind people who will be able to help with whatever admission issues. There is always a back-to-school BBQ were further helpful information is given to parents and students, especially new or incoming students to make Woodland a smooth transition.
Woodland hosts many college and university fairs or welcomes admissions counselors from various post-secondary institutions to hold information sessions. Even through Coronavirus, grade twelve students did not miss out on finishing up courses needed for university nor guidance for the application process. I chose to apply to a local private university, as well as two American Christian schools and did not take the route where I would need to use my OUAC pin number. However, I can recall receiving those pins in person in the 2020 fall semester or at the beginning of the 2020 spring semester, and having meetings to discuss the application process. As well, the guidance staff was always open to meetings and answering questions, especially after school went online etc. There was always time for questions and discussion and the teachers were very supportive.