“I immediately felt it was a great fit, there were people who would look out for me even though I’d only known them for about six hours,” says the Grade 12 student. “This essentially made me feel like I was welcomed there. And it was an environment that I could actually thrive in.”
Getting to the point of flourishing academically, however, would take work.
“I did not score so well in my entrance math test coming from the public system to a more advanced private school system,” recalls the 17-year-old. “There were a lot of things I hadn’t seen.”
He soon met Rose Bastien, the Lower School Principal at Hudson.
“She took me through the test, showed me where I made my mistakes and what I can improve,” he recounts. “I immediately felt that, hey, this is somewhere where they actually care about my development.”
Sam’s quest to improve his math skills did not end there, and proof of progress showed in the numbers.
“I remember with Mr. Hunt in Grade 7,” continues Sam. “He would take me outside of school for an hour on Tuesdays and we would work on extra problems. And it took me from a student who was averaging 70s to a student averaging 90s, just in that little time. And [with] that little effort, he was able to just set me on the course for the rest of my academic career.”
It is a nexus of support that is intentionally designed and delivered at Hudson with individual student success at its core.
“What I want to develop in a child is this idea that they are absolutely, fundamentally capable of learning, and that they are able to be enriched,” explains Bastien, who is also Head of Curriculum for the Lower School.
“Every school offers some enrichment, but we do more. It’s different. There’s an underbelly to our school that happens that parents probably don’t see: the teacher meetings; the fact that we do learner profiles at the end of the year where every teacher must provide the next teacher up with a summary of that student; the fact that we truly know each child at a fundamental level.”
For Hudson students like Sam, that support has translated into strengthening his love of learning, growing his confidence in subjects where he previously struggled, and setting and achieving academic goals.
“Being a great student means you’re very dedicated, which is only going to serve you well in the future,” says Sam. It’s also very important to learn how to learn, learn how to work. These are valuable skills you'll use for the rest of your life. And because of that, being a great student is really important to me, and I think it is to most people at Hudson.”
With nearly two decades as an educator, Lui Veleno practices a holistic approach to teaching Grade 8 at Hudson.
“Our perspective as Grade 8 teachers is we’re looking for a release of responsibility,” says Veleno, now in his tenth year at the school. “We’re there to monitor, we’re there to mentor if needed, but we’re really looking for a certain maturity level and students to take ownership for their own learning.”
“Once you have students who are happy and grounded, then you have students that are actually academically successful as well,” he says. “As teachers we're hyper focused on academic achievements. I think academic achievement is important, but understanding the whole student is also important and understanding that students come from a lot of different backgrounds, and there’s a lot of things that impede academic performance. It's about being empathetic and understanding. What we want is happy kids that are settled in a classroom, where they can truly reach their full potential. As teachers, we have to take into account everything that’s going on in their lives, not just the academic component.”
It’s an orientation toward learning that comes from the top down – one that Rose Bastien, now in her sixteenth year at Hudson, also values, practices and prioritizes.
“Part of schooling and part of education is the emotional component, right at its core,” she says. “It is having children feel first good about themselves, surrounding them with people who are equally caring, who want to be in an environment together, who want to create a community. Those things I hope never, ever go out of fashion.”
Feeling that support from dedicated teachers inside a close-knit community of learners has made all the difference in Sam’s journey from Grade 7 onwards at Hudson College.
“Coming into the school, I very much disliked mathematics and I didn’t really even feel I was good enough,” he says. “But that experience I did have in Grade 7, with my math teacher Mr. Hunt, sort of opened up that avenue to say, hey, this is an option for me. It’s something that I believe the door was already closed to, and he kind of flung it wide, wide open for me. That’s something I value very much because now it just brought me down this path that I never thought I would have been on. And I think I can safely say that if I didn’t go to Hudson, I wouldn’t have had that door open.”
That open door Sam is walking through will likely include pursuing university studies in engineering or business: two industries with a heavy focus on math. New avenues made possible by his Hudson experience.
“If you actually took a photo of me side by side from where I was in Grade 7 or 8, and compare this with me now in Grade 12, you’d be like, that’s a completely different person.”
Hudson College is a coed, non-denominational private school in Toronto, serving students from Junior Kindergarten through Grade 12.