“We are the change.” The slogan that appears on North Star Academy Laval’s website truly represents the school’s philosophy. Students and teachers are at the heart of these changes. Laval Families Magazine chatted with Josée Pepin, North Star Academy’s Director, who revealed how the school made the most out of a very challenging time throughout the pandemic while looking towards the future.

When it comes time to choose a private high school, parents typically have certain criteria they are looking for—a checklist of sorts. At the top of this list is often an enriched academic program, smaller class sizes and student-centered approaches to teaching and learning. North Star Academy (NSAL) checks off all these criteria and more. Through its Signature programs, a focus on bilingualism and the option to do grade 12, this private English high school—the only one on the North Shore—has the winning recipe for preparing your child for post-secondary studies and a professional career.

The pandemic hasn’t changed NSAL’s mission, and your child will always be at the heart of the school’s philosophy.

Use of Technology
Well before the pandemic, NSAL was proud to put technology to use in order to facilitate students’ learning. “We find that it’s added a positive element to education,” says Pepin. “Some people are afraid of change, but we embrace it. Our slogan on our website is We are the change. We welcome change, such as new technologies, with open arms.”

The use of certain platforms has actually allowed NSAL to distinguish themselves with their programs. It also helps to showcase different learning styles. “We all learn in different ways. It’s something to take into consideration for the students’ well-being,” says Pepin. “For example, technology helps those who are visual learners by showing images or videos, which renders certain concepts more concrete.”

Pepin explains that using technology in education is a sign of the times. Students will need to use it more and more for their studies and in their professional careers. Students need to be familiar with these platforms and it will also help them become more independent in university.

Communication to Reduce Anxiety
Because class sizes are smaller at NSAL, it’s easier to get a pulse on how students are doing. If certain students are struggling, the administration and teachers can intervene quickly. For example, if a student doesn’t turn in homework or seems to be struggling with a certain assignment or exam, the teacher will meet with the student and the pedagogical consultant. The goal is not to punish, but rather to understand what is not working so that the student can be better supported going forward.

With the goal of reducing student anxiety, teachers take the time to explain the plan for each lesson, the subjects and concepts to be covered, the exercises, when quizzes will be given, etc. In this way, students are never left in the dark. “Communication is always the key. We all have to talk to one another from teachers to students to parents,” says Pepin.

Projects By and For Students
In the current era of returning to normal, NSAL alternates between virtual activities and in-person outings. For example, students had the opportunity to virtually visit the Montreal Holocaust Museum right from their classroom with a guide that showed them around certain sections of the museum. Other activities have returned to in-person events. For the past 12 years, NSAL has participated in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup program. NSAL students clean up the Mille-Îles River shoreline and were able to participate again last September.

International Students at NSAL
NSAL also attracts many international students. In 2021, approximately 10% of the student body were international students. Before the pandemic, the number of international students could be as high as 20%. Several of them come to NSAL to participate in the hockey or soccer program.

In fact, NSAL is proud to be part of the Somang Hockey program, which trains qualified hockey players who travel the world to participate in camps, schools, programs and specialized leagues in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Asia. Members of this program learn and develop their skills with one of the best technical trainers in North America, François Landreville. These students benefit from a flexible schedule with all school material available online, as well as the option to have tutoring everyday to complete their studies.

As for soccer, NSAL has partnered with the Rocco Placentino Soccer Academy. Talented soccer players not only develop their soccer skills but are provided with an environment that supports their academics as well.

Happy Students
Despite the pandemic context, Pepin says no students have fallen behind at NSAL. The students are doing well, and they’re happy to be back in their classrooms with their peers in a school where they are the center of it all, the star.

To learn more, visit northstaracademy.ca or our previously featured articles in the February-March 2021 and September-October 2021 issues of Laval Families Magazine.