Inside King's-Edgehill School

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 37

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Jun 11, 2021 5:03:56 PM

Dear KES Family:

I can hardly wait for tomorrow. At noon on Saturday, our Closing Day Ceremony movie will be released. A “Faucher” production, it promises to be well crafted and sprinkled with a unique mix of formality and humour. For the first time I have no idea what our Valedictorians are going to say. Typically, I would read their speeches well beforehand but as   Sarah and Righo  are off campus and have filmed their speeches separately, their parting words are joys to be revealed.
 
 
Additionally, many of our endowed scholarships will be presented by family members who have recorded their part of the ceremony. These promise to be lovely and meaningful additions. That the main recording takes place in Convocation Hall makes the whole production extra special.
 
The date has been set for our in-person   Graduation Ceremony, as we look forward to welcoming the Class of 2021 back to campus on   August 20th  for what should be a day long celebration of their educational journey.  I look forward to that happy day and excited “send-off” just a few weeks before they start their university careers. (Oh…and   Righo and Sarah  will have another Valedictory to give!) Students on our high-performance teams will soon be returning to campus for training, and summer courses in Physics and Calculus are about to begin.  Hooray!
 
Most of all, I look forward to a return to “normal” next year. Staff have already received their first (and in some cases, second) vaccination, and as children 12 and over in Nova Scotia are eligible to be vaccinated, many of our students have already been jabbed. I am also thrilled that we have the ability to vaccinate students onsite next year. Most of all, I was reassured when Minister Hadju announced yesterday that in the near future, fully vaccinated travellers to Canada will not have to isolate for two weeks when they arrive. This is great news for our international students who have access to vaccine at home. Those who don’t, we will look after when they arrive. As the school year gets underway, Nova Scotia should be in Phase Five of its opening plan and all public health restrictions will be optional.
 
The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter.  What a wonderful feeling to start the summer with!
 
It has been a memorable and remarkable school year. My heart bursts with gratitude for everyone’s hard work. The students were exceptional, the staff happy and professional, and the School’s population of wildlife, of foxes and deer, crows and ravens, of turtles and raccoons, remains as healthy as ever.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 36

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Jun 4, 2021 5:31:22 PM

Dear KES Family:

There is something very exciting about seeing a brilliant idea.  The creators of last evening’s Arts Gala, Toven MacLean, Jeff Smith, Sandy Stewart, Sven Dietrich, Karlee Sinclair, Stephanie Cummings, and Jonathan Cheverie had several but this one struck me as genius: rather than have the ceremony dominated by adults, why not hand it over to our most creative students and alumni. As a result, our wonderful host Victoria Dubois, invited alumni from the Class of 2020 to present the special awards. It was fabulous seeing current students and their performances recognized by our Arts superheroes of yesteryear on screen.  Hearing them speak about their experiences at KES before making the presentation to their friends and former schoolmates was magnificent. My heart leapt when Class of 2020 graduates Mya Snarr, Ella Brown, Ohemaa Ofori, Katie Goddard, Max Cole, Eva Redmond, and Annalise Emery appeared on screen. Better than at any Academy Awards ceremony, the presenters were eloquent, gracious, and hugely enthusiastic. Be it in dance, drama, music, voice, visual art, the media arts…it was obvious that the Arts programme at KES occupied a special place in their hearts and memories.
 
I also realized how much these young graduates hold a place in our hearts.
 
Mya Snarr described how fondly she remembers Ms. Sandy Stewart’s hello every time she entered the Art room. I love this. Being greeted warmly each day says so much about the connection between teacher and student, the connection between space and creativity, and the joy of feeling welcome and safe. I know that Sandy greets everyone warmly. She has made her studio a cozy and comfortable oasis separate from the high energy hubbub of the main campus. For Mya, a boarding student for six years, I am sure the Art Studio was a place not only to create but to re-create.
 
How we greet people is important. Saying hello is such a simple thing but done well it has a lasting impact. It may have seemed like a simple bit of fun for Mr. Faucher, Mr. Walsh, and Mr. Chandler to put together their own award ceremony for the morning screening, but that daily ritual for all students and staff arriving on campus welcomed everyone and never failed to put a smile on our faces. And how much fun it is to recognize Sean Hurley’s chivalry, Natalia’s daily jokes, or Mr. Trace’s perfect hair!
 
I hope we don’t have to do morning screening next year, but somehow we have to ensure that every student carries memories with them of being welcomed warmly every time they came on campus, entered a class, stepped into the theatre for rehearsal, or joined their team for practice.
 
The Arts Gala can be found on YouTube.  Make sure you watch right through to the finale – best song ever!
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 35

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 28, 2021 7:55:15 PM

Dear KES Family:

Surprisingly, this has been an eventful week. Here are three highlights:
 
  1. Dr. Kevin Walsh, a local dentist and parent of two wonderful alumnae, has for many years looked after students needing emergency dental care.  He is a good friend and part of our KES family. This week he successfully summitted Mount Everest. His twenty glorious minutes flying the Nova Scotia flag on the highest point of our planet represent a rare accomplishment. Interviewed by CTV Atlantic from Base Camp last night, I was struck how uplifting his success is for all of us.  It is a great story for our School, our town, and our province.
  2. There are only seven students left on campus. Our Canadian boarders have gone home and almost all of our international students have been tested, loaded up with official travel documents, and have made their way home already. Online courses continue but with such a diverse student population, the difference in time zones is a challenge. David Curry reported to me with great admiration that during his ToK class, Stanislav Matkovskyi and Gleb Proshkyn zoomed in from Ukraine and Ben Bednaraand Lukas Schmidt did the same from Germany, despite it being midnight their time! The continued commitment to learning is remarkable.
  3. One of the reasons our campus always looks so beautiful is because our groundskeepers are so good. Be it flower beds, lawns, or our many shrubs and trees, Chris Northup looks after pretty much everything that grows. When we constructed the turf field a few years ago, Chris had Jakeman Field’s topsoil scraped off and saved in a massive pile behind Vair MacMillan House. It was a brilliant idea because every time we need topsoil we have our own supply. With the recent construction of the new Learning Pavillion, we needed to level and shape the ground around it. True to my mother’s old saying, “Waste not, want not”, this week Chris has used topsoil from the old Jakeman Field to even out and seed the ground. It seems like such a little thing, but we live in a time when everything is disposable, and few things get fixed. This kind of forward thinking seems rare. For us, even “dirt” has value and shouldn’t go to waste.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 33

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 16, 2021 4:33:04 PM

Dear KES Family:

Here we are.  It is a beautiful sunny day.  Blossoms are bursting forth, grass is being cut, the new Learning Pavillion’s main structure assembled (gorgeous!), and every single test result has come back negative.  Whether it is on or off campus, staff and students or close contacts of the original positive test result, every result continues to be negative.
 
This morning I asked our very happy   School Nurse, Sue Cole, what this means. Her answer was immediate and simple. “It means we are awesome!” 
 
It means that the affected staff member was awesome at sticking to health protocols before and after learning of the positive result. (It is still a mystery where the infection was picked up.) It means that since September the cleaning staff has been awesome at sterilizing high touch areas and keeping the School safe. It means that everyone, from staff to students to visitors, have been adhering to the rules just in case we had a positive case. It means that all this effort since September was worth it. Imagine that…a boarding school with in-person classes and full daily sports and clubs programmes, has a confirmed case of COVID-19 amongst its residential faculty and no one else gets the virus.  It is awesome indeed.
 
Our close contacts remain in isolation but having just received their second negative test result, we are pretty confident their release to freedom on Wednesday at midnight won’t be extended.
 
It has been a record year for admissions. Be it Canadian students or International, we have been receiving more applications for next year than ever before. The pace has not slowed in recent weeks despite the third wave which has rushed through most of Canada. This week I interviewed a thoughtful young woman from Nova Scotia. When I asked her why she wanted to come to KES she replied: “I want my high school years to be ones that I remember with fondness and excitement, and not simply a period of time that I have to endure before I get on with my life.”
 
Our Head Boy this year is   Righo Etou. Before he departed this week for his new home in Montreal, he came to my office to say goodbye.  We took a moment to reflect on his journey here. “King’s”, he said, “has been my home for so many years.” 
 
Righo came into boarding from Congo when he was ten years old, speaking beautiful French but very little English. Despite being the youngest in his class, he was always the tallest and the gentlest and kindest soul around.  It was with fondness and excitement that we reminisced over his time. Righo had just turned 12 when we summited Mount Kilimanjaro together. He was always “up” for anything. Be it battling hard with   Mackenzie Smith  in basketball, playing percussion and rugby alongside   Jem Logan, or ordering calamari at every opportunity, Righo’s high school years were anything but a ‘period of time that he had to endure’.
 
Outside my office window right now is   Tammy Lazo de la Vega (Class of 2021). She leaves for Mexico soon and is taking pictures of her home: Jodrey House. Like so many students at our School, she has immersed herself into everything and created a rich and multi-dimensional experience that she will be able to look back upon with fondness and excitement.
 
The pandemic has changed the way we thought the school year would end. However, each one of our students can look back upon this year and be immensely proud of how much they have done despite every challenge they have faced.  From shattering all previous records for our Terry Fox Run to having the only Remembrance Day service in the province, having two theatrical performances and a spectacular Arts Review and Cultural Fair, winning Silver at the national debating tournament and placing fourth in the world in robotics, we have done things safely and to an exceptionally high standard. 
 
As online classes will continue into June, each day brings another departure for home.  While I am sad to see each student leave, I am proud of all they have accomplished. Keeping their friends safe is perhaps their biggest accomplishment of all.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 28

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 9, 2021 5:48:54 PM

Dear KES Family:

Batman has his utility belt stocked with special gadgets. Superman has his superpowers. Spiderman has his spider abilities and some cool tools (like the web spinner he attaches to his wrist). Although I have asked Santa numerous times for a crystal ball and a magic wand (both would be awesome to have!), like Santa himself, these items only exist in my imagination.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 27

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 2, 2021 5:17:05 PM

Dear KES Family:

It has been a week of Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs, of environmental action, of Chapel and IB and sport and drama and cadets and robotics and art and math circles and science fair regional preparation.  Even though it has been a short week, it has been packed.
 
Meanwhile, all our day students and boarders who left campus over the March Break have been Covid-19 tested. It is incredibly convenient to have the ability to test on campus, and getting results back lickety-split is very reassuring to all. This was the third time I have been tested, and I was quickly reminded how invasive and uncomfortable the procedure is. Our Health Services Coordinator, Sue Cole, told me that all the students were amazing when they had their test. I love thinking that our students have grit. From the youngest ones in Grade 6 to our graduating students, there were no whiners.  That says a lot, I think.
 
On that note, Thursday afternoon was miserable. Heavy rain and heavier winds drove the April Fools Day cold through to our bones. Horrible conditions for a track workout and yet there was coach Phil Hadley with Aria MacDonald and Francois Richard (both Class of 2021) and Katie Goddard (Class of 2020) running laps and literally “going through their paces”. As they worked through the driving rain on the track, thirty-five boys were getting their first taste of fifteen-a-side rugby, and the turf was seeing its first rugby in twenty-five months. Considering that the rest of the School was on Easter Break at the time, it was an impressive display of commitment.
 
Grit is what helps our students persevere when life is tough, when work builds up, and when obstacles threaten to get in the way. Grit is the passion that fuels dreams and the desire for success. It is the energy that keeps us motivated and moving despite challenges. It is what builds resilience and lays the groundwork for success.  After a week like this one just past, I am thrilled with what I am seeing on campus.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 26

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Mar 26, 2021 5:24:30 PM

Dear KES Family:

It all happened very quickly.
 
My daughter and I were waiting outside Sobey’s in the car when an elderly woman tripped forward, crashing her head into a parked car and landing hard onto the pavement.  We rushed out to help her, all our first aid training kicking into gear. Being the first to the scene and the only ones to witness her fall, we took charge. She was conscious but clearly in pain and shock. As a small crowd gathered around us it was clear that she was embarrassed too. She said her name was C…
 
As we attended to her and called her son and then for an ambulance, a woman in the crowd handed us a fleece blanket. I wrapped it around C…, noticing that it was very soft and in a Nova Scotia tartan print.  It was perfect, like a warm and fleecy Nova Scotia hug should be. I could feel C… relax.
 
The ambulance came quickly, and the attendants were friendly and professional. After we lifted C… onto the gurney I looked for the woman who had given me the blanket. I could not see her. Someone in the crowd said she had gotten back into her car and left.
 
I hear daily from students and staff and parents about how lucky we are to be in Nova Scotia. This last year has been challenging for all of us, but in some ways the pandemic has exposed the warm heart of this province and Atlantic Canadians in general. I don’t know who this woman was who gave me her Nova Scotia tartan blanket for C… but I am beyond grateful for her act of generosity, and beyond proud that there are people in our community who are so thoughtful and generous.
 
Despite the circumstances it was definitely a Nova Scotia Proud moment.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmasters Weekly Newsletter -- Week 25

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Mar 12, 2021 5:16:57 PM

Dear KES Family:

Preparing students for university must include preparation for life. Living and acting independently is part of the university experience. Universities won’t communicate with parents. Their students are considered adult clients, and all privacy laws are in full effect. Parents don’t get report cards or permission slips or invoices. Whether a student lives with their parents or in residence is immaterial to the university.
 
For some recent high school graduates this is a shock. They need to advocate for themselves, and speak with professors and registrars, coaches and tutorial assistants, on their own. At KES we try and reduce this shock by gradually increasing our expectations of students to communicate to us directly and not through their parents. For example, in Grade 6 it is normal to receive an email from a parent that their child will be missing school for whatever reason. By Grade 11 we hope to receive this kind of communication from the student directly. The student should be communicating and collecting work from his or her various teachers.
 
Speaking for oneself can be difficult for teenagers, especially when they are used to their parents speaking for them. If there is an exam conflict, or too many tests in a day, or a personal issue, it is hard for a teenager to speak to a teacher and let their concerns be known. However, it is essential that our students learn how to do so, and to do so in a respectful and dignified manner.  Coaches and teachers (and headmasters), would much rather hear from students than from parents. When a student takes responsibility and ownership for their life, it confirms that we are preparing them well.
 
This week River Qi (Class of 2021) was in a quandary: he had a table tennis practice and a rugby practice scheduled for the same time. For various reasons, River felt he should attend table tennis instead of rugby practice. His rugby coach is Mr. Verryn-Stuart, who can be an intimidating presence for some students.  River prepared his arguments in advance and in a perfectly gentle and articulate manner explained to Mr. Verryn-Stuart why he should go to table tennis practice and skip rugby. The conversation went a bit like this:
 
“Mr. Stuart I would like to miss rugby practice today so that I can attend table tennis.”
 
“Why is that River?”
 
“You see, it is a bit like this.  If the rugby team was a house, I would be a brick.  If the table tennis team was a house, I would be the foundation. I am needed there today.”
 
Teachers and coaches live for moments like these. River went to table tennis with his rugby coach’s blessing and respect.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 24

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Mar 5, 2021 5:09:05 PM

Dear KES Family:

Although we are doing a great job following all the prescribed health protocols (masks, arrows, limited group sizes, etc.) the inevitable but wonderful reality of life at KES is that we are a close community. The result of all our classes, shared dining facility, daily sports, diverse clubs programme, dormitories and activities, is that we enjoy constant contact with each other. We have a vibrant and healthy and active “family” on campus.
 
The realities of the pandemic constantly intrude. While we are grateful that the province acts swiftly to ensure our collective health, and while the students and staff are showing tremendous resilience in quickly adjusting to each new challenge, there are times when we need to take stock of our emotional state. Like the background music which plays in shopping centers, it is to easy to ignore the background hum of anxiety that everyone is feeling. However, we do so at our peril.
 
This week the faculty at KES took some time to focus on how we are all feeling and coping. Being able to get together as a faculty and then to break out into smaller groups was immensely therapeutic. Everyone has their own unique challenges (elderly parents not seen in over a year, grandchildren in another country, a death in the family but no funeral, a family member who is immune-compromised…), but somehow we all ended up feeling like we are sharing the same experience. Telling stories about how we are coping, what helps and what doesn’t, felt really good. Ironically, by taking some time to share the worries we shove into the background, instead of making them heavier they became lighter.
 
It is easy to forget that we live on a knife’s edge at KES. One positive case in our KES family of students and staff and we are all subject to isolation and testing. All of us. However, because we share in this experience together, we are able to gain strength and stamina from each other.
 
And so today we celebrate the lifting of restrictions in the HRM, negative test results,   Dylan’s  birthday (our new Highland mascot turns one year old!),   Mr. Bouwman’s  birthday, and the wonderful feeling of living and working with a group of people who are so caring.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 22

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Feb 19, 2021 5:31:41 PM

Dear KES Family:

I have never started a newsletter by quoting Einstein but here goes: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination circles the world.”
 
If we are to harness the incredible energy of the tides of the Bay of Fundy, we will need creativity and science to find a solution. (So far every attempt has failed, sometimes in spectacular fashion!)  If we are to find a way of mopping up oil spills, or ridding our oceans of plastic, or reducing carbon emissions, we will need the imaginative powers of present day and future engineers.
 
The creative and scientific brains of our Junior and Senior School students were on full display this week as the annual Junior School Science Fair and the Grade 10 mousetrap car challenge took place.  No two projects or cars were the same. Science teachers Ms. Hannah Sinclair and Mr. Sandy Forsyth create the same mouse trap guidelines and then their students’ imaginations run wild. Some mousetrap cars had two axles and four wheels, others one axle and two wheels. All of them were creative efforts to maximize the potential energy stored in the mousetrap spring, minimize rolling friction, overcome inertia, and create momentum using different combinations of lever arms and wheels.
 
The Junior School Science Fair is always awesome.  Mrs. Belliveau and Mr. Kershaw do an incredible job stewarding the projects, and the Grade 11 judges are always excited and enthusiastic about their responsibility.   One student judge, Justin Day, was describing to me how impressed he was and went on to say that Fox Sullivan’s (Grade 9) project on genetics covered topics that they were just beginning to study in IB Biology!
 
Everyone has their favourites, and the Grade 11 judges have energetic debates amongst themselves about whose are the best.  I remember my children’s Science Fair projects, and I know how much goes into each display board and how much they mean to the individual students. The projects become extensions of each students’ interests and imaginations. From colonizing Mars, to imagining the earth without people, to testing the reliability of eyewitnesses over time, the projects are as diverse as our student body.  As one passes through the different displays one cannot help but feel that it is this kind of exercise which will give us solutions for current challenges and hope for the future. 
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

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