St. Michaels University School (SMUS): Outstanding Preparation for Life
Michaels University School
St. Michaels University School (SMUS)

British Columbia’s educational heritage is deeply shaped by its multicultural society. The province is known for its diverse population, and this diversity is reflected in its educational institutions. Efforts are made to promote multicultural understanding, inclusivity, and respect for various cultures and languages within the educational curriculum.

A standout role model in this deep educational heritage is St. Michaels University School (SMUS), a distinguished educational institution that has stood the test of time for more than a century, flourishing and evolving while remaining steadfast in its core values and commitment to providing its learners with exceptional preparation for life.

Although the school looks different from its early beginnings, its mission remains the same: ensuring students receive “outstanding preparation for life”—from starting their educational journeys in Junior Kindergarten to walking across the Grade 12 graduation stage to receive their high school diploma.

Fostering Values

The school prides itself on fostering core values of respect, courage, honesty, and service. These values are adopted and exemplified by everyone who attends SMUS, with the aim of graduating students mirroring those same values as SMUS ‘alumni,’ wherever life takes them.

St. Michaels University School is an accredited secondary institution and a member of the following organizations:

Exemplary Leadership to Ensure Excellence

Enshrined in SMUS’ core values is the importance of leadership and service, as evidenced in the school’s vision: To learn, to lead, to serve. Students graduate with these principles, confident in who they are, and demonstrating commitment to applying their values-based skills and talents in their aim to meet the 21st century’s challenges and make the world a better place for future generations.

SMUS’ distinctive academic programs and extensive extracurricular offerings are the cornerstones of its approach to providing unwavering support to its teachers and students, enabling them to deliver and receive truly inspiring and high-level learning experiences.

Full-STEAM Ahead

Academically, the school places a strong emphasis on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) and digital skills development. This holistic offering guides students’ thought processes for inquiry, two-way or group communication, and critical thinking while instilling a comprehensive understanding of design thinking, product iteration, and trial-and-error methodologies within an interdisciplinary framework. Such an approach empowers SMUS students with the problem-solving prowess essential for navigating the expectations, complexities, and to achieve successful outcomes for their futures in work and in life.

Additionally, the school focuses on forging connections between in-classroom learning and real-world scenarios. This innovative approach supports students with activities such as presenting hot-button topics to guest panels such as sustainability, —and offering entrepreneurial insights to local businesses, including collaborating with the City of Victoria’s museums and respective design exhibits. By bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application, students gain invaluable contextual insights and uncover newfound passions.

Through a myriad of inclusive initiatives and engaging activities, SMUS creates a robust community and environment where individuals feel valued, seen, and heard—by everyone from staff and faculty to Senior School prefects. Regular community-building events, collaborative projects, and shared experiences promote a strong sense of togetherness. Whether it’s through student clubs, sports teams, artistic endeavours, or special interest groups, every learner in any of the three schools (Junior, Middle, or Senior School) finds their niche within this supportive community.

The school’s commitment to open communication, mutual respect, and embracing diverse perspectives further reinforces the feeling of belonging. By fostering these bonds, SMUS not only nurtures personal growth but also facilitates a lifelong connection to a community that truly feels like home.

Encouraging a Balance of Core Academic Skills

The SMUS Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 program is an intentionally designed journey where meeting the personal needs of each individual learner is paramount.

The goal throughout the various stages of educational growth is to consider the ‘whole student,’ promoting a harmonious blend of fundamental academic abilities with artistic pursuits, sports, leadership, outdoor learning, community service, as well as individual and social interests. In addition, the school aims to foster a love of learning, which helps prepare students for post-secondary education and life in general.

SMUS’ graduates are purpose-driven individuals, empowered with strong academic fundamentals and the right balance of skills and confidence to tackle future challenges and opportunities presented to them.

The institution’s commitment to student support is constant and unique; SMUS has established specific programs and parameters within which every student reaches their full potential. In addition to a personalized learning approach and a dedicated teaching team, the school offers over-and-above academic assistance, counselling, and a wealth of learning resources. Further, its extensive array of extracurricular activities encourages students to refine their skills and explore their respective interests, with its goal of nurturing those ‘whole’ individuals who become prepared for excellence in all aspects of life.

Nurturing the Whole Individual

Naashkii Soler, Grade 12

Indigenous student Naashkii Soler’s AP English Language and Composition assignment achieved remarkable reach after a personal essay she penned drew parallels between her boarding school experience at SMUS and her grandmother’s history as a residential school survivor. The Globe and Mail published Naashkii’s story last February in its “First Person” section.

The piece eloquently captures the contrast between the two personal life stories, emphasizing the incongruity between the teen’s grandmother’s traumatic experiences and Naashkii’s access to top-tier education received through scholarships. Naashkii’s poignant writing reflects her commitment to reshaping misunderstood, or ignorant cultural perceptions, and fostering understanding and acceptance by Canadians.

Liam Pope-Lau and Fraser Tuck, Grade 8

Student inventors Liam Pope-Lau and Fraser Tuck achieved astounding success in the Science Fair Foundation British Columbia’s Youth Innovation Showcase (YIS). The pair secured both the Innovators of the Year title with the top prize in the 12 to15 age category and the People’s Choice Award, granting them a total of $5,200. This award helped to advance Pope-Lau’s and Tuck’s innovative self-heating life jacket concept, aptly named LifeHeat.

Their invention includes a pouch that, when submerged in water, triggers an exothermic reaction that emits heat. The latter element encounters cold water hypothermia and offers an awe-inspiring solution borne through personal experience. The students’ dedication to addressing a practical issue while sourcing a creative solution has garnered widespread media attention, with coverage by CBC, CTV, and Daily Hive Vancouver, among other news outlets.

Stewart Butterfield, ’91 Graduate

SMUS alum Stewart Butterfield, a Canadian entrepreneur and businessman, stands as a notable figure in the tech industry. Co-founder of the popular workplace communication platform Slack, Butterfield’s visionary leadership has revolutionized remote collaboration and communication.

Having previously founded the photo sharing website Flickr, which was later acquired by Yahoo, Butterfield’s accomplishments exemplify the impact of a St. Michaels University School education with respect to nurturing forward-thinking individuals who make meaningful contributions to global business and technology sectors.

Celebrating the Differences

At the core of the school’s academic approach is the cultivation of an inclusive environment where differences are celebrated and valued. “SMUS actively encourages open dialogue on cultural understanding and creates a platform for students to engage in meaningful discussions,” states Mark Turner, Head of School. Its curriculum is thoughtfully designed to encompass diverse perspectives, histories, and cultures, ensuring that students are exposed to a range of viewpoints that reflect the global landscape.

By nurturing an environment that values individuality while representing a cultural mosaic, SMUS actively seeks to dismantle cultural barriers and pave the way for current and future students to thrive in a world characterized by diversity. As such, the school’s educators and administrative staff receive training in cultural diversity, which extends to the addition of an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Coordinator as well as an Indigenous Liaison.

By weaving these three attributes into every facet of school life, SMUS not only prepares students to navigate a diverse world with empathy and respect, but the mirroring of that diversity among its learner and stakeholder population is emblematic of the institution’s commitment to reflecting on, and contributing to, a more equitable and forward-thinking society.

Instilling a Sense of Empathy

SMUS’ service initiatives are designed to bridge classroom learning with real-world experiences. The school encourages students to take leadership roles in planning and executing community service projects. For example, students collaborate with local organizations, volunteer at shelters, engage in fundraising campaigns, and contribute to sustainable development projects, to name a few service-led initiatives.

These hands-on activities not only allow students to develop a profound understanding of the challenges faced by various communities but also instil a sense of empathy, leadership, and, above all, a commitment to creating meaningful change.

Through its numerous student-led clubs and organizations, SMUS learners can propose, organize, and execute service-based initiatives that align with their passions and interests. Whether it’s organizing food drives, participating in environmental clean-ups, or advocating for social-justice causes, students are actively contributing to the betterment of their local, national, and global communities.

Community service and social responsibility are integral components of a well-rounded education. By providing diverse and meaningful opportunities for engagement, SMUS empowers students to become active, compassionate, and socially aware individuals who are equipped to make a positive impact in their respective communities, at home, and globally.

Elevating the Learning Experiences with Technology

SMUS recognizes the transformative role of STEAM, technology, and AI in elevating students’ learning. Through strategic integration, these elements enhance critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and creativity. The school’s STEAM programs encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and enable students to combine their expertise in various fields to uncover and apply innovative solutions with the application of technology alongside real-world challenges.

From coding and robotics to digital art and data analyses, students gain tactical experience while applying those real-world scenarios, thereby equipping them to navigate an increasingly technology-driven society. Furthermore, technology enhances personalized learning, which allows educators to tailor instruction to individual needs, thus, fostering a dynamic and inclusive-learning environment. By embracing technology, STEAM, and AI, St. Michaels University School equips students with the skills and mindsets needed to thrive in a complex, interconnected digital world.

Laying a Strong Academic Foundation

SMUS’ distinct and rigorous educational journey prepares students for higher education and future careers by employing learning themes of critical thinking, global awareness, and practical skills. The school’s academic programs and priorities, experiential learning, and personalized guidance contribute to students developing a strong academic foundation without limiting their personal passions and exploration.

The emphasis on leadership, community service, and real-life problem-solving arms them with resilience, adaptability, and an ethical mindset that is essential for success in an ever-evolving world. When these well-rounded individuals graduate, they are poised and ready to excel in their post-secondary journeys and contribute meaningfully and remarkably in their chosen fields.

In line with the Sustainability pillar of St. Michaels University School’s Floreat 2030 Strategic Plan, the SMUS Board of Governors approved the establishment of an Environmental Sustainability Committee to provide strategic guidance to the Board, the Senior Leadership Team, and other key stakeholders.

Ensuring a Sustainable Future

SMUS recognizes that for its next generation of leaders, engineers, and scientists, sustainability and environmental stewardship are critical issues. This extends to the school’s current responsibilities of ensuring a sustainable future for its physical landscape. In addition to academic programming, the school aims to improve the environmental/carbon footprint of its physical campus spaces, including its buildings and operations.

SMUS is equally committed to prioritizing environmental concerns with respect to facility upgrades and reducing emissions relating to the school’s energy usage. As of 2023, school executives were delighted that its stalwart sustainability efforts were confirmed, as evidenced by Eco Schools Canada, which awarded SMUS with its Platinum Award, the highest level a school’s eco-footprint can reach.

Pedagogically Equipped

St. Michaels University School upholds the delivery of high-quality education by diligently fostering the professional growth of its teaching staff. Through ongoing support mechanisms, including tailored growth plans and regular professional development opportunities, SMUS educators continually refine their teaching methodologies, staying attuned to evolving pedagogical approaches and best practices.

By nurturing a culture of continuous learning, collaboration, and innovative teaching strategies, the teaching staff is well-equipped to provide exceptional and up-to-date educational experiences that empower students to excel academically and personally.

“At SMUS, our community aims for students to graduate with passion and compassion, capable of leading, willing to serve, and dedicated to a lifelong learning journey,” says Mark Turner, Head of School.

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