Category Archives: Alumni

Close Encounters of the Alumni Kind

img_0699When I was a student, I would see my teachers outside of school quite a bit. The fact that I was from a small town with one mall and two grocery stores was the main reason; there were relatively few places to go so you were bound to see people you knew. During my first summer of university, I would frequently serve former teachers when they were looking to cool off as I was the proprietor of the “Tin Roof Ice Cream Hut” and also worked part-time at the Brewers’ Retail.

I have enjoyed several alumni encounters and heard of others recently. Myna was my waitress at a local restaurant (earning money to pay off student loans accrued while getting her MBA). Virginia popped into the school today to tell us that she is the head coach of the U of T cheerleading team. I congratulated Shahir on his new gig as a co-host of the CBC show “The Goods” when he tweeted a photo of himself with Peter Mansbridge (who was a part of our school for a few hours as a participant in our “Speaker Series”. While I was umpiring this summer, I re-connected with alumni-turned-slopitch-players Shawn (now a lawyer) and Mitch (who at 28 years old is the senior staff member of an online app company with almost 100 employees!).

It wasn’t just me; three of our high school teacher had this happen to them as well. Mrs. McRae enjoyed a night with some members of the high school Class of 2006 in August, Mrs. Zorec ran into the three Paterson sisters at a restaurant in Niagara and Mr. Miller, while participating in a Tough Mudder race on the weekend, found himself being helped over a wall obstacle by his former student/wrestler, Gianni.

In each case, the former students remember their time with us fondly and always ask about their “old” teachers. We encourage them to return to the schools for a visit and in some cases, they stay for more than a quick chat. The teachers in the photo (Ms. Towey, Ms. Benak and Ms. Brownridge) are just the latest in a growing list (nine) of former students who now work here!

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School

A Tale of Two Siblings

I was having a nice chat the other day with a group of five parents and during the conversation, the talk turned to the “preparedness of Mentor’s high school students for university”. One of the parents has been a longtime Mentor Dad with three children who have graduated from Grade 8 in the Intermediate Division. Each child was given the choice to go to any high school with the first two choosing Mentor and the youngest opting for a local public school. The stories of the first and third children were particularly interesting.

Dad reported that the eldest was in a residence apartment of four roommates in first year university with similar (eg: excellent) entrance averages but at the end of the year, two were asked to leave the school because of their poor academic efforts. Two of the roommates were Mentor grads and the other two were not.

The youngest is doing very well at the public high school and has an excellent average. Dad is not surprised (genetics!) because of the solid academic skill set acquired at Mentor but he is really surprised at the student’s request to return to Mentor next year. Why would a teenager getting 90s (“and doing nothing!”) ask to return to a place where we ask more of our students (and get it)?

Based on the experience of the eldest sibling, the youngest has reasoned that having a high average and loads of free time is just a short-term gain. The Mentor grads couldn’t figure our why university roommates wouldn’t work harder but the other two must have felt that their 90% Grade 12 marks would be enough to get them through. We have said for years that “it’s not the marks to get you INTO university that are important, it’s the skills to get you THROUGH university that count.” If you want a 95% grade in math, we have a growing list of schools who will give that mark to you with little to no effort. But if you want a solid academic base and real skills like time-management, homework completion, communication and studying, our list of schools is pretty small…

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College / TEAM School

We Love Hearing Your “What A Small World” Stories … Share Them With Us!

When I first started working here over 25 years ago, I found that when I told people that I worked at Mentor/TEAM they would very rarely know about the school. My guess is that this was because there were “only” 575 students in all grades back then and we were considered a well-kept secret.

Now when I am first introduced to people and they ask where I work, I find that we have a much greater recognition in the community:

“Oh really? You must know so-and-so…she is a teacher there!”
“The kids next door to me go to school there and they love it”

and the most popular answer this past year…

“I see your field and your dome from the GO Train! That’s a really nice facility.”

Sometimes the conversations are started by someone else, though. Across from the Main Campus, there is a house under renovation. While I was on traffic cop duty one afternoon this week, one of the construction workers came and asked “Is TEAM School still around?”

Long story short, it was the father of a boy named James who attended TEAM in the early 2000s from Grade 6 to 8. He said that having his son join TEAM was the best decision he ever made and that James would have been lost in high school without us. He told me that he still recommends TEAM to anyone who asks (and was a bit upset with us for not having the TSS programme back then!). The next day, I took a yearbook over him and he got a kick out of seeing 12-year-old James in Ms. Salo’s class. When I told Ms. Salo about the encounter, she was tickled to hear that James is now managing a company that installs trade shows all over North America and told me that the stone sculpture James gave her at the end of the year still sits on her desk!

I love hearing “it’s a small world” stories about who people meet who have a connection to the school. Let me know if you have one to pass along!

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College / TEAM School

Wear it With Pride

As the administrator of the Mentor/TEAM alumni page on Facebook, I get to connect with former students who are anywhere in their life journey from 1st year university to parents with kids already old enough to be in high school. One post this week caught my eye.

The former student started by talking about the difference between university and working full-time and said “university is not a substitute for real-world working experience”. I was intrigued and started messaging with her. After university, marriage and her first child, she decided that she would find a job that would not tax her brain too much but still benefit from her psychology degree. Her job? She is a parking control officer in a major city! When I asked her how she deals with her “clients”, she says that she knows that even when she is not actively ticketing vehicles, she is a target because of her uniform. “Every move of a uniformed person is scrutinized because we are so visible.”

When I think about it, this quote applies to our school as well. The black watch tie lets everyone in the neighbourhood know the return location of our high school students when they go off-campus for lunch. The interpretive guide at Fort York and the Port Credit branch librarian know who we are from the crest on our blazers. This “brand-recognition” actually works to our detriment at times; our students stopped wearing their uniforms during judging at the Peel Region Science Fair many years ago because (reportedly) the judges had been told to “let other schools win some awards as well” after a few years of Mentor-dominated podiums.

Our school uniform brings with it a sense of responsibility but more importantly, it is a source of pride. So tuck in that shirt, do up that top button and show the world how you “lead by example” and “inspire excellence”!

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College / TEAM School

A Well-Anchored Education

It has been a fun week for me with our alumni Facebook page as a number of students who graduated in the early 1990s have been posting and commenting on old photos. In addition to a few confessions about things that happened that they thought the administration didn’t know about, there were comments like Alba’s saying,”those were the best years of my life”.

The whole thread started with a “share” called “25 Normal Things You Do in Private School”. Some of their favourites included:

3. You own inordinate amounts of summer clothes, because that is the only time you can wear your own clothing.

5. “Free” dress days (which you definitely had to pay a dollar for), caused you endless anxiety, because this is probably the only time you’ll get to show everyone at school how great your sense of fashion has become.

There was only one “negative” comment. One girl who spent 15 years with us says she will never wear a kilt ever again but it was quickly pointed out to her by her classmates that nobody else has either! What made the trip down memory lane all the most memorable was that current Mentor HS English department head Mrs. McGivern was in a homeroom photo with her first class. The alumni noted that it was her first class when she was fresh out of teachers’ college so I pointed out that her son Chris (a Mentor grad) is now on track for teachers’ college as well. They thought that it made THEM feel old!

Our SK to Grade 8 students will be presenting their speeches in a few weeks. If you take a look at the end of the “What’s New?” items this week and you will see that one of our Grade 8 grads still fondly remembers her time with us (over 20 years ago), saying “Speech Night was my favourite night of the year”. Listen closely to those speeches…maybe we have another TV news anchor among us?!?!?

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College / TEAM School