Category Archives: Arts

First Impressions?

Whenever I try to explain to people what our students are like, I sometimes have trouble. I have spent my entire career as a teacher/administrator here so I really have no way to compare the typical Mentor/TEAM student to those in other schools. I do know that I am spoiled in this way but I sometimes need a reminder from someone outside our walls.

On Friday, we received a message from a personal email address with the subject entitled “Mentor College visit to Shaw Festival”. As you can imagine, the initial tendency is to take you to the worst-case scenario (kind of like when your teenager phones you late at night and starts the conversation with “Dad, the important thing is that I am not injured!”). As I read this email, however, a small smile turned into a huge grin:

My husband and I were seated in the middle of a group of Mentor College students at the Shaw Festival yesterday. [Aisle 2, Row D Seat 7]. I was placed beside a young student (we did not exchange names), however we had snippets of delightful conversation. She was friendly, interested and engaged. It was a pleasant surprise for this 77 year old Grandmother! 

My husband and I also observed that all your Mentor students were well behaved. It was interesting to watch their interactions with each other. They were thoroughly enjoying being together and even those who were sitting at the far side of the theatre came to visit their classmates during intermission.

I must admit that when we saw the school buses outside and realized that it was a student performance, we had visions of previous experiences (at Stratford), of less-than-well-behaved students. There was absolutely no hint of that from your students. My young friend parted with “It was nice to chat with you.” 

Please thank that young lady and all your students for making, not only the play, but our entire day refreshingly enjoyable. Best regards to all your staff and students, 

Dr. Richard and Laurine _____________ 

So if someone asks me what our students are like, I now have a fresh anecdote to share with them. More importantly, I would point out to them that the one special mystery student that the writer mentioned could have been one of ANY of the high school students on the trip.

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School

A Time For Endings And Beginnings

June is a time of both endings and beginnings.

I was at my oldest daughter’s convocation in Halifax on the weekend; having your first child graduate from university makes you very sentimental. Even though she has been on her own for the better part of four years, I finally saw that she was an adult. She showed us the place where she got her entry-level job and talked about the pros and cons of the non-student apartment she is getting in September. Despite all of this mature conversation, however, I still saw my little girl from Mentor. The same four-year-old who hid under one of Miss Kane’s tables in JK (and wouldn’t even come out when Mrs. Philbrook was called in for the extraction!) still likes her alone time. The Grade 4 student who beamed for two months straight while she was playing “Wendy” in the Primary Campus production of “Peter Pan” had that same smile as she strode across the Dalhousie stage to receive her diploma. The Grade 7 student whose poems were kept by her teacher as samples for future classes to read was the editor/publisher of the arts journal this past year and the HS student who was asked to compose some songs for the spring play still takes out her guitar and uploads originals and covers to her YouTube channel (not to be “discovered”…just because her friends and family love to hear her). In her Grade 12 yearbook (photo above), she wrote

It’s odd to think that next year will be the first year of my life that I cannot call myself a Mentor student. I’ve been through a lot in these buildings and I know in some way it will always be a part of my story. Thank you to all my teachers and friends; even when I’m not walking down these halls every day, these years will always be with me. I love you all! DFTBA

She has gone through a number of endings already and is starting another one of her beginnings.

Just as she is still going through endings and beginnings, so too do our students still here at the school. The ending part is pretty obvious as young students go on their last field trip, elementary students have their final rotary class, and high school students have their last day of classes. These next two weeks are particularly meaningful to the “graduates” (Mentor Grade 4s and the Grade 8 and 12 students of Mentor/TEAM/TSS) as they spend their last few days as the senior students of the division. The year is capped off with a diploma and/or report card. In that report card, it says that a year of academic accomplishment has been completed and that the student is ready for the beginning of the next year of their academic life. For most students, it is simply moving up one grade but for others (like the Grade 12s heading to post-secondary education) it means a new school entirely. No matter what the situation, each student has a great set of academic tools and a wonderful year of memories to equip them for whatever the future holds.

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College / TEAM School

Taking On The World

The one thing that has been a constant from when I was a student, a teacher, and an administrator is my involvement in athletics. As a student, I played hockey and t-ball in Woodstock, soccer in Windsor, and every sport available in Goderich. When I was hired as a supply teacher at Mentor/TEAM, I wasn’t expecting to have much contact with sports but fate placed me in a PE class on the first day of school in September 1990 and I ended up coaching 10 different sports. Even when I moved to administration and traded my t-shirt and shorts for a blazer and tie, I continued to coach and I still play volleyball and softball throughout the year.

While I have nothing but fond memories in sports, the one thing I would tell my 13-year-old self (if I would have listened to an old guy like me!) would be to get involved in the arts. In high school, I never set foot in a music room, an art studio, or on the stage. I got so focused on everything to do with sports that it was only later in life that I found out how much I enjoyed performing. In my opinion, one of the big selling points of our school is that our students have a wide variety of choice when it comes to activities. Starting with the “Memories to Music” concert this past week and continuing next week with the “Festival of the Arts” (and even on through to the year-end musicals), I see students with a wide range of interests taking part in arts-related activities. Yes, some students get involved exclusively with arts but I see way more students on our stages who are just as actively involved in athletic and academic competitions. To be sure, these students are learning time management skills as they juggle their school activities, homework/studying, and (as I sometimes forget) their life outside of TEAM/Mentor.

Public education is becoming increasingly focused on specialized and regional learning as the Catholic and public school try to out-do each other with arts schools, IBT (International Business and Technology) programs, and SHSM (specialized high skills majors) streams but our students get the benefit of having a broad base of knowledge and activities. This really hit home with me during the Intermediate Division morning announcements this week when principal Ms. Findlay boasted about the fact that one-quarter of the Peel Region Science Fair team going to the Canadian finals this year will come from Mentor! The same thing happens with our HS students (like Sagar Kothari, who last week represented Ontario at the world championships for the business competition DECA) and younger students when they take part in the choral division of the Peel Music Festival. When we go head-to-head with students in regional programs designed for success in a specialized area (like Science and Technology), our students not only compete, they excel.

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School

One World, One Gym!

_rt_2137For those of you who have been born and raised in the GTA, cultural diversity has been part of your life. For people like me who were raised in small town Ontario, it was not…in fact, I was thinking this week that if they held a Celebration of Cultural Diversity at my high school, they could have held it in a classroom! I had no friends who were of a different culture, skin colour or religion and even if I counted in the entire high school, there would have been 3 students in one of those categories. It wasn’t until I got to university (and even more so once I started working at TEAM/Mentor), that I realized what a vacuum I had lived in all those years!

At the conclusion of the Culture Show concert last Thursday, Mentor high school principal Mr. Whyte noted that it was one of his “favourite nights of the year” because it involved every student of the school. All JK to Grade 8 students had the opportunity to tour the pavilions during the day where they were guided around the world by what ended up being almost 1/3 of the high school student body! The concerts included dance, vocal and instrumental performances by students from all four divisions of the school. Mr. Whyte then also pointed out that this was an event where PARENTS also play an active role; whether they are sewing costumes, coaching dances, cooking desserts, or delivering toothpick-pierced treats, they are proud of their heritage (or in the case of some students, an “inherited” one as they represent a country of which they simply have an interest).

The biggest takeaway for me (and hopefully for the hundreds of volunteers, performers, and guests) at the Culture Show is that our school is like Canada in miniature. Almost 40 countries were not simply represented but they were celebrated. The ability to celebrate everything that makes us different is what makes us the same.

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School

Mentor/TEAM Guest Blog: The Sound of a Musical

wilkinson-kSomething very special has happened to me during the rehearsal process for The Sound of Music. As we have been working to portray the von Trapps and their story of music uniting them as a family, I’ve come to realize that we as a school are doing the same thing. I’ve had so many comments from teachers and parents expressing the same sentiment: “I love The Sound of Music – it’s been my favourite since I was a child.” Mr. Macdonald even mentioned that at one time as a young boy, he pretended to play the pipe organ processional for Maria’s wedding on the arm of the Macdonald living room easy chair!

I am told that it was only in the very beginning of the school (when there were under 100 students in all grades) that students young and old have been involved in the musical. Watching the young actors look up to the older ones and seeing the teenagers take such care of the children has been heart-warming. Knowing that there are 27 students who want to take part in the pit band is incredible. With all four divisions involved in the show, it’s hard not to feel the ever-present sense of community and love for this music surrounding me. We all seem to connect with this show in one way or another.

Throughout this rehearsal process I’ve felt a sense of family here at Mentor more than ever. I hope you do too as you watch the show. After all, you are a part of the Mentor family, and family is what Mentor is all about.

Where can I get tickets?

Kara Wilkinson
Head – Theatre Arts Department
Mentor College