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Update to the GNS Society and Foundation Boards

From the Head

I am so grateful to live and work at our two beautiful campuses in this extraordinary part of the world.

This time last fall, we remained very much in the throes of a pandemic. We’d weathered the storms of 2020, but even in September 2021, many questions remained unanswered. I spoke to resiliency and adaptability, and to the willingness of everyone in our community to work together toward a common goal.

If last year’s address was about keeping focus and remaining on course, this year’s address was about achievement. About meeting and exceeding expectations. About celebrating where we are and dreaming about what’s still to come. Because, by any measure, the 2021/22 school year was a resounding success.

Let’s start with the numbers.

A little less than two months ago at the beginning of September, we opened the school year with near 800 students. To put that number into perspective, it’s over 100 students more than we had on opening day, just two years ago.

That number is a reflection of the strength of our school and of our community.

I’ve lost track of the number of times that someone in our admissions office has relayed a message to me about a prospective student that was referred to us by a longstanding GNS family. Enrolment isn’t just about putting bodies into seats. It’s about putting the right bodies into the right seats.

The students who joined us in September are academics. They’re athletes. They’re artists and advocates. And, like all of our students, they’ve come to GNS to build goals and aspirations. And to meet and exceed them.

In the process, they’ll contribute to helping create an experience that will benefit all of our students. Whether they’ve been Gryphons for eight weeks or eight-plus years.

The success of our enrolment number leads me to another incredible number,  27 million.

When we launched the WONDER campaign a little more than five years ago, we did so with a target that was ambitious. As a school, we had never embarked on a campaign of this magnitude in our 100+ year history. Now while I’d be lying if I said that this campaign didn’t come with its challenges, in my heart of hearts, I knew we could do it, and we did.

I knew that if we could harness the collective support of this community, anything was possible. I believed it then, and I believe it now. I can’t begin to express my thanks to everyone who was involved in this monumental achievement.

But I do want to recognize two people who saw what we were trying to accomplish from day one and who ensured that we were going to arrive at this destination. Chris Denford And Donja Blokker-Dalquist, our WONDER Campaign Co-Chairs.

I’m not sure that there are words to express how much I appreciate your support and your guidance. Your wisdom and your enthusiasm. Every time we approached you to ask for your input or your assistance, the answer was always “yes.” From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for everything you have done—and continue to do—for our school.

Now the truth is that numbers only scratch the surface of the last twelve months at Pemberton Woods and Beach Drive.

Earlier this year I spoke to the students at each of our schools and reminded them that every year is like a chapter in the story of GNS. And that every student holds the pen and shares responsibility as its author. It’s up to each of them to determine what type of a year it will be. And so I want to take a moment to list just a few of the highlights of the chapter of 2021/2022.

  • During the Grade 5 PYP Exhibition, students explored the interdisciplinary theme of how the world works to inquire into how humans use their understanding of scientific principles and the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and the environment.
  • Educators working with JK And K were honoured by receiving the Natural Curiosity Edward Burtynsky Award as runners-up in June, as well as the Outdoor Play Practice Award in the fall.  Both of these awards recognize teachers making a difference by including the environment and nature in their practice and we are so proud of these teachers for their passion as they set the bar for teaching across Canada.
  • Students were excited to return to activities such as swimming, the Grade 5 bike trip and overnight in the school gym. There was the Junior School musical theatre production of “Neverland.” This adaptation of Peter Pan was written by the students and included music by the Beatles Performed Live On The Wonder Stage.
  • The Grade 8 Gallery of Fame continued to be a highlight and the return to inter-school sport and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions allowed us to again provide a wide variety of athletic offerings to Middle School students: Ultimate, Futsal, Basketball, Cross Country, Track And Field, Badminton, Tennis, Rugby, Rowing, and more.
  • The Middle School production of Puffs featuring over 40 cast members was outstanding following months of preparation and rehearsal.
  • On the academic side, we had huge success with our IB exam results where one of our students obtained a perfect score of 45. This is just one of two students in the history of GNS to have met this milestone. It is worth noting that the average total score obtained by GNS IB candidates was 36 while the world average is 32.
  • Scholarship offers were the largest ever received—totalling over $1.8 Million—despite the fact that this was one of the smallest grad classes in recent years.
  • It was also a strong year for athletics with the Sr. Girls Soccer, Sr. Boys Soccer and Sr. Boys Basketball teams all taking silver at the Provincial Championships.
  • We had two phenomenal senior theatre productions: Radium Girls and Mamma Mia which showcased amazing acting, singing, choreography and tech.

I think it’s fair to say that GNS is a medium-sized school with plus-sized aspirations. And the reason we are able to think big is that we are built upon a base that is rock solid. That base begins with strong Society and Foundation boards, led by passionate and committed volunteers who understand the uniqueness of both our school and our community.

To me, the strength of GNS and the strength of our community are linked. You simply cannot have one without the other. In order for a community to thrive, it needs to be overseen by people who recognize the elements that set it apart and who are willing to make decisions that allow those elements to evolve and grow.

We are so fortunate to have not one, but two boards who see our school for what it is. And for what it can be. That support our leadership team, our students, our parents and our families.

We have two beautiful campuses located in idyllic neighbourhoods. These campuses are home to nearly 800 students between First Steps and Grade 12 who are inquisitive, thoughtful, compassionate and supportive.

Every step of the way, in every year of their journey, the students are supported and encouraged by the most committed, talented and inspirational faculty and staff I have ever had the honour of standing beside. This group of professionals come to school each day with a singular focus, to create a learning environment that celebrates success and transforms challenges into opportunities. I hope they know how much I appreciate them and their efforts, and how proud I am to call them my colleagues and my friends.

And I can never repeat enough that our parents also play an important role in the success of both our students and our school. I can tell you from first-hand experience that the reason why our unique brand of education is so successful is that, at its core, it is a partnership between the school and its families.