Our School

Halifax Independent School is a diverse community of enthusiastic educators, students, and their families. We are a private day school for students in pre-school through grade 9. For 40 years we have been learning and loving it – achieving academic excellence at every level of education in a co-operative and respectful environment.
 
In addition to the warmth and depth of our programme in class, children broaden their horizons with specialist instruction in French, Music and Swimming. We dedicate ourselves to offering children a joyful and meaningful educational experience.
 
We'd be pleased to have you and your child visit us to explore our classrooms and discover our love of learning. Please call or email admin@halifaxindependentschool.ns.ca to set up a tour or a visit-for-a-day.

At Halifax Independent education is focused on the whole child: intellectual, emotional, physical and social. We understand that a happy child learns best and that each child learns and develops in many different ways. Our small, multi-age classes allow teachers to challenge and support each child in ways that recognize the uniqueness of individuals while emphasizing co-operation and respect for others. Learning and loving it happens hand-in-hand with a sense of discovery and enjoyment. 

Our curriculum is thorough in all areas, solid and time-tested allowing each child to fulfill her or his desire to know, see and do more – and to consistently reach their potential along the way. The theme-based learning we pioneered forty years ago, and which is now major international approach in education, is the core of our academic programmes. It emphasizes active, experiential learning as a means to ingrain the basics and explore the world.

We know that an integrated approach and a love of learning are the best ways to address the needs of the whole child. A Halifax Independent School foundation bears fruit as our students become confident, socially adept and motivated learners – a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Theme learning is the in-depth study of various topics, under the umbrella of a larger “theme topic” and in which all the traditional core subjects are integrated. The themes are of broad interest, appropriate for any age group and are chosen to reflect a balance of science and social studies sub-topics. Language Arts and math skills are built into all topics as students report and explore. 

Using the theme approach, children see no barriers to their learning or interests; one interest and one subject discipline can naturally flow into the next. Each theme study involves an extensive investigation of concrete situations and materials including use of community resources. An essential goal of our theme studies is to foster an appreciation of the community and environment in which the children live.

In working through theme, the children learn how to question, analyze, classify and communicate their discoveries. The sense of ownership and pride that naturally flows from these learning experiences benefits our students for life.

To discover more about the Theme Learning education model we pioneered 40 years ago as the Dalhousie University School read Learning and Loving It: Theme Studies in the ClassroomRuth Gamberg (Author), Meredith Hutchings (Author), Winniefred Kwak (Author), Judy Altheim (Author) published by Heinemann Educational Books Inc., 70 Court Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801 ($17.50). ISBN-10: 0-435-08454-2 ISBN-13: 978-0435084547

The school day at Halifax Independent runs from 9:00am to 3:15pm (3:35pm for Middle School). Children are supervised from 8:30am to 3:15pm (3:35 for Middle School), lunchtime included. All children in the Pre-Primary and Elementary school have a half hour "snack" time in the mornings and a one hour lunch time. On both breaks children have an opportunity to play outside. Middle School students have a 15 minute break in the morning and a one hour lunch period. Optional hot lunches are served several days per week at a small additional cost.

In addition, the following programmes are offered to Elementary students:

  • Early Morning Care: 8:00am - 8:30am, Monday through Friday (except on school holidays)
  • After School Care: 3:15pm - 5:30pm, Monday through Friday (except on school holidays)
  • Parent Teacher Conference Childcare: 8:30am - 3:15pm on every Parent Teacher Conference Day
  • Inservice Day Childcare: 8:30am - 3:15pm on every Inservice Day

The aim of these childcare programmes is to provide an environment consistent with the goals of the school. The focus is on developing social skills, independence, cooperation and respect for oneself and others. The programmes are recreation-based and often involve the adventure of an off-site activity. Childcare staff are selected for their training, skills, experience and love of children. Parental input and participation is encouraged.

Designed by local architectural firm, Lydon Lynch, Halifax Independent School is a welcoming, bright, two-story structure set on almost two acres of landscaped grounds including two playgrounds, a playing field, and picnic area. It sits comfortably in Halifax's residential west end, and is easily accessible from all areas of HRM.

The building is a teaching model of environmental efficiency, and fulfils the goal of "educating our children through example, by taking responsibility for the environment we share". It is heated with geothermal heat pumps eliminating the need for fossil fuels, and is "super insulated." Large, energy-efficient windows capture an abundance of natural light, contributing passive solar energy.

As well as ten classrooms and six co-operative workrooms, the special features of this 16,300 square foot building include a double height music room, a library, a lunchroom with a mini-performance stage, and a teaching kitchen. Every room is fully wired for technology, and the common areas are decorated with student artwork.

Cate Allen

Cate Allen
Head Teacher
BA (Nottingham), PGCE (Trent), M.Ed. (Nottingham), 2 years Doctoral Studies (East Anglia)

After being inspired to have fun and enjoy school by one particularly wonderful teacher, Cate has spent the last few decades working to make that experience happen for others. Originally from the UK and at HIS since 1991, she is now the school’s Head Teacher. Both of her daughters attended the school and since graduation, have worked as school monitors. Cate delights in the emphasis on relationship-building at HIS and the respect for children as people, first. She enjoys watching children have the opportunity to relax into who they are and witnessing, daily, the incredible enthusiasm for learning that both teachers and students display.

Heather Johnson

Heather Johnson
Deputy Headteacher, Middle School Teacher
B.A. (Mount Allison), Certificate in Environmental Education (Algonquin), B.Ed. (Mount Saint Vincent), M.Ed. (Acadia)

One of Heather’s first days at HIS was substitute teaching on “9-11”. In the days following, she witnessed how thoughtfully teachers responded to students—some with parents working in New York—and how naturally and intuitively the members of the school community interacted with each other. It is this community’s respect for the broader world, including the environment, that Heather most enjoys. And it is the learning that she has garnered from the natural world and animals that has prompted her to share her farm, where she raises sheep and grows vegetables, with the children of HIS. For Heather, who also directs the senior students in their theatrical productions, some of her best moments come when HIS Alumni drop by for a hug, share their continued achievements, and let her know how fondly they remember their time at the school.

Leigh-Ann Bishop

Leigh-Ann Bishop
Middle School Teacher and Head of Middle School
B.Sc. Chemistry (UNB), B.Ed. (Mount Saint Vincent)

Leigh Ann was born into a family of teachers, and as such, knew what she wanted to be from a young age. She loves the maturity and respectfulness of the HIS Middle School students, and their daily “aha” moments, as they learn. Originally from Truro, Nova Scotia, Leigh Ann has a deep appreciation for learning and understands the importance of a teacher engaging with students and showing genuine interest and enthusiasm. As someone who is physically active herself, she enjoys running the school’s Hiking, Ski & Snowboard Clubs. Leigh Ann recently received her certification to coach tennis, loves travelling and photography, and is a “mean” cake decorator!

Christy Elliott

Christy Elliott
Elementary Teacher and Head of Elementary
B.Sc.K. (Dalhousie), M.Sc. (Oregon State), B.Ed. (MSVU)

HIS is such a second home to Christy that she often pulls out her house key to get in the front door of the school! Originally from Dartmouth, Christy also spent some time in Connecticut, working at a therapeutic boarding school for children with special needs. It was there that she realized that teaching was her calling and, since 2008, has been teaching elementary school and Phys. Ed. at HIS. Christy also heads up the school’s Running Clubs and in her off-time, volunteers with the Girl Guides of Canada.

Lee Baker

Lee Baker
Elementary Teacher
B.Sc. (Dalhousie), B.Ed. (UPEI)

A stint as an ESL teacher in Korea convinced Lee Baker that he’d like to return home and become a teacher in Canada. He taught for six years, at a rural school, in northern Manitoba, before landing back home in Nova Scotia. Since 2010, Lee has shared his teaching and athletic skills with HIS students, running the school Ski Club, and coaching track & field and badminton. Impressed by a high school teacher who always made a point of getting to know his students outside the classroom, Lee makes a daily effort to talk to his students about what is happening in their lives. On the weekends and in his off-time, you’ll find Lee travelling or hiking with his wife and their young daughter.

Heather Beall

Heather Beall
Elementary Teacher
B.Sc. (York), B.Ed. (Colorado)

Heather always knew she wanted to work with children and has spent time on both the east and west coasts of Canada and in Colorado doing just that! She taught preschool, ran a day care from her home, and worked at a treatment centre for emotionally challenged children before arriving at HIS in 1990. For Heather, who loves Nordic walking, cross-country skiing, and yoga, it’s the caring and empowering environment of HIS that she believes is most unique. Her own kids, now grown, benefitted from the multi-age activities, the connections to the broader community, and the integration of subject areas into theme that are some of Heather’s favourite aspects of the school.

Shawna Bennett

Shawna Bennett
Lead Teacher, Preschool
B.A., SMU; Two-year Diploma – Early Childhood Education, NSCECE

It was the experience of having a child, herself, that led Shawna to the realization that she wanted to teach children. She went on to study at the Nova Scotia College of Early Childhood Education and was hired in one of their lab schools as a lead pre-school teacher. Since landing at HIS in 2012, Shawna has been most impressed by the sense of community on which the school is built, with parents and teachers working together to create beautiful opportunities for fun, growth, and education. Shawna loves watching children apply what they are learning to their work and play and when she is not teaching, spends cherished time with her partner and son at their family cottage.

 

Tania DesRoches

Tania DesRoches
French Teacher
B.A.Hons. (King’s), B.Ed. (SMU)

Tania comes by her profession naturally, as most of her family members are teachers! She has taught French in both Halifax and Fredericton, and English in Lithuania. Since 2004, she has been enjoying the sense of community and collaboration at HIS and is grateful for the way her own teaching philosophy melds with the school’s. Tania loves the opportunities for creativity that permeate the classrooms of HIS. She feels most rewarded when she witnesses students pushing themselves to express thoughts in French, even when they are not confident. In her own life, she continually sets new goals and reaches for more growth, recently adding a half-marathon to her list of accomplishments, which also include playing the French Horn and portraiture.

Laura Dowling

Laura Dowling
Elementary Teacher
B.A. (Kings), B.Ed. (MSVU)

Laura’s favourite moment at HIS happened on a field trip to the new Halifax Farmers’ Market. After time spent talking to farmers and tasting delicious food, the class of 6 and 7-year-olds happened upon an accordion player and began dancing their hearts out. It’s this sense of joy that Laura finds most inspiring in children. This native Nova Scotian brings some diverse experiences to the school including time as a deckhand on the Schooner Bluenose II, many art and design courses, ukulele playing, and Flamenco dancing! When she teaches, Laura encourages laughter, kindness and the children’s natural inquisitiveness. Her goal is to foster a caring community and instill a lifelong love of learning within her students.

Maggie Duinker

Maggie Duinker (on academic leave)
Music Teacher
BA Music (Western Ontario), Diploma (Kodaly Institute, Hungary), B.Ed. (Dalhousie), ECE (St. Joseph’s)

Maggie wanted to teach music to children for as long as she can remember and has managed to achieve this dream for most of her adult life. Originally from Sudbury, Maggie and her family chose Halifax as home in 1998, the same year she joined HIS. As a mother of four children, now grown, she truly enjoys the hope and daring of young people; how they approach new challenges and their displays of delight and wonder. Teaching at HIS has also enabled Maggie to learn much about herself, life, and others, and she considers it an honour to work in such a caring and respectful environment.

Nelle Duinker

Nelle Duinker (Term Teacher, September –June)
Music Teacher
B. Mus., B. Mus. Ed., Memorial University

Nelle comes to teaching and to music naturally. Her mother—Maggie Duinker—has been the music teacher at HIS for the last 14 years and is currently on a year’s leave. Nelle is ably filling her mom’s shoes this year and and feels honoured to be a part of the HIS staff team. As a first year teacher, she has felt a warm and supportive welcome. Nelle most enjoys children’s enthusiasm and passion for music, their fearless sense of wonder in the world, and their ability to overcome challenges in many different and amazing ways. When not at school, Nelle sings in various choirs and plays her ukulele.

Michelle Hatch
Teaching Assistant
B. CYS, MSVU

As someone who has worked in a day care, taught in a pre-school, substituted as an EPA, and raised two children of her own, Michelle brings a wealth of experience to HIS. One thing she has learned is that kids often see the world more clearly and more simply than adults do and because of this fresh view, they have some great ideas! In her off-time Michelle manages her children’s hockey teams and volunteers as a Girl Guide leader where she is routinely inspired to see young girls contributing to their communities. 

Sandra Keating

Sandra Keating
Elementary Teacher
B.A St Mary’s, B.Ed U of Calgary

Sandy flew all the way from Calgary for her HIS interview, and, promptly, fell in love with the school. Luckily for all, she was offered a teaching position! Sandy brings her love of children’s energy, honesty, imaginations, and creativity to her work and is grateful for the value HIS places on collaboration supported by a strong sense of community. She loves that teachers, students, and parents all work together to make the education of the students engaging and meaningful. Working with children on a daily basis continually reminds her of what is important in life: friendships, family, learning about ourselves, and learning about the world around us. On Thursday nights, you’ll find Sandy spending time with her own family - bowling, with three generations!

Liam Knox

Liam Knox
Elementary Teacher
B.A., B.Ed (Saint Thomas University, New Brunswick)

Inspired by the kindness and steadfastness of his Grade Three teacher who faithfully delivered assignments and get-well cards to his house when he was out, ill, for half the school-year, Liam decided he wanted to be that kind of teacher. After training in New Brunswick, he taught Kindergarten for two years before coming to HIS in 2011, where he was touched to receive such a warm welcome from teachers and parents alike. Liam is constantly astonished and rewarded by watching children push themselves to their limits in order to accomplish goals. He looks forward to more of these wonderful moments and more teaching, and learning, at HIS.

Tina McDonald

Tina McDonald
Resource Teacher
B.A.(Memorial University), B.Ed.(University of Maine), M. Ed. (MSVU)

As a child growing up in Newfoundland, it wasn’t unusual for Tina to come home and find other children, students of her parents, hanging out at her house. For her mother, a Grade Three teacher, and her father, a guidance counsellor, teaching was definitely not a 9-5 job. It was no surprise to anyone when Tina decided to become a teacher, specializing in the area of Resource. Her first stint as a Resource teacher, in 2007, convinced her that helping and supporting children in literacy was her passion. At HIS, she loves that students are encouraged to learn at their own pace and in the ways that best fit them. And she deeply values the commitment of fellow teachers and HIS parents who continually give, helping the school thrive.

Mandai Mohan

Mandai Mohan
Art Teacher
B.Sc. (Acadia), B.Ed. (MSVU)

The Primary teacher who told her she was drawing grass the “wrong” way is the one Mandai inwardly thanks for her desire to become an art teacher. This experience inspired her to create a positive classroom atmosphere that encourages children to try new things, be proud of their unique ideas, and think “outside of the box”. Some of her favourite HIS moments involve witnessing a child’s joy sketching in Nature; watching her students stand up in front of hundreds at a community consultation session to speak, persuasively, about why we should protect wilderness areas; and helping an HIS student enter an innovative bike rack contest and win, beating out several professional designers. Best of all, though, is the excitement that she hears in the children’s voices when they declare “I love art!”

Jill Morgan

Jill Morgan
Middles Teacher
BAACHYS (MSVU), B.Ed. (University of Calgary)

From the minute Jill started part-time work at HIS back in 2004, she knew it was the school for her. Both her own personal learning philosophy and her teacher training at the inquiry-based University of Calgary, made the school a perfect fit. As someone who has always adored children, Jill considers her job a privilege. Some of the highlights include their full-belly laughter, their eagerness to learn, and how each day contains hundreds of funny and inspirational moments to draw on and share. Jill creates a respectful and caring environment where children are nurtured to become who they fully are and where they feel safe sharing ideas and expressing themselves.

Neyah Selva
Kitchen Manager, School Cook and Nutrition Mentor
Diploma in Pastry Arts, George Brown College

Neyah comes to HIS from Vienna, Austria, where she managed a restaurant for six years. Originally from Colorado, Neyah is grateful for the opportunity to bring both of her true joys together—the art of cooking and also working with children. As well, as making some of her favourite meals for the children, she is enjoying the opportunity to teach some cooking classes to HIS students. Neyah has found the strong sense of community and the holistic approach to education at HIS to be inspiring and uplifting. She enjoys witnessing children’s natural inquisitiveness, their creativity, and their ease with being in the moment.

Valerie Walker

Valerie Walker
Administrative Assistant
B.A. (Dalhousie)

For many, Valerie is the “face” of HIS, working at the front desk, and, daily, welcoming adults and children to the school with her warm smile and big heart. She home-schooled her three boys before enrolling her eldest child at HIS and quickly fell in love with the school. A job opened up at just the right time and soon, all three boys were enrolled. Each one flourished at Halifax Independent and the last has just graduated! She loves witnessing a child tackle a personal challenge and feels joyful with them, when they celebrate a triumph. Valerie has two second “homes”: her All Nations Church family and Halifax Independent School, both, treasured sources of care and encouragement. In her off-time, Valerie enjoys knitting, writing, cooking and spending time with family and friends.

Halifax Independent School is part of an exciting community, locally and beyond. The school values interactions within the community and encourages involvement in a wide range of social, cultural, professional, and ecological activities. Halifax Independent students interact with students from local schools through clubs and other projects.

Being a member of the Atlantic Conference of Independent Schools enables our students to take part in cultural, recreational and sporting events. The Conference also offers our staff professional development opportunities.

Participation in the Duke of Edinburgh programme allows our Middle School students to volunteer in the community in an area of particular interest. HIS is a member of Peaceful Schools International and has been a working site for the Ecology Action Centre Urban Garden Programme.

Halifax Independent also encourages children to feel part of the wider global community. Activities such as penpal programmes, supporting community development projects in other areas of the world, hosting exchange students or sponsoring an endangered mammal all help bring the world into our classrooms. A portion of all money raised by the children (eg bake sales) is designated for a charity to be determined by them.

We welcome international students and find that the highly collaborative learning environment, small class sizes and warm school community greatly enhances their English language development and cultural experience. ESL is provided based on the student’s needs and international students are often able to secure a home-stay placement within the school community.
Our Resource specialist assesses the needs of each student at the beginning of each school year and arranges for resource sessions, as needed. This work happens in small groups or individual resource meetings, and can address a specific need in the short term, and provide ongoing support or curriculum extensions. Great care is taken to provide continuity from year to year, and the high level of coordination within the teaching staff allows for synchronization of resource activities with classroom work and smooth transitions. Our thoughtful approach to academic instruction within the classroom emboldens children to meet with areas of struggle unselfconsciously and to embrace extra challenge with enthusiasm. This fosters an invaluable confidence and internal motivation that accompanies our alumni into high school and beyond.

We can't be a community without you!

Board
Halifax Independent School is a registered charitable society in which parents and staff govern the school. Almost from its inception, the school has operated on a cooperative model with the gifts and skills of parents influencing every aspect of school life. Our Board is comprised of elected parents and staff members who meet monthly to oversee the direction of the school. Parents and staff, all of whom are members of the Society, gather together for three general meetings during each school year. These meetings provide an opportunity for parents to be well-informed and to have a voice in important discussions. Policies and practices are set and modified as needed with the input of the membership.

Committees
Committees deal with many different aspects of school life and consist of parents and teachers working together. An active Landscape committee has designed and planted gardens and trees to beautify the expansive grounds. Other committees such as Parent Support, Finance, Policy, Governance, Facilities, Public Relations, Information Technology and Library provide volunteer opportunities for parents. All committees report to the Board of Directors. With such a varied selection of committees, every interested parent can find a way and a place to contribute to the life of the school.

HIS Strategic Plan 2013HIS is a vibrant, sustainable and financially strong school community that is recognized for its excellent learning environment, and is attractive to students, parents and teachers.

Our Strategic Plan sets our direction for the next five years to ensure that we continue to be successful in fulfilling our mission.

Halifax Independent School is enriched by volunteers, both members of the community and parents. From parents who invite classes into their labs or studios, to members of the Board of Directors, to helpers with pizza lunches on Fridays, parents are a valuable resource for the school. We actively encourage them to share their skills and expertise with the students.

Those interested in a career in education hone skills and gain valuable experience through volunteer work at the school. In addition there are opportunities for paid employment in our lunch monitor and after school programmes.

If you are interested in pursuing a volunteer opportunity at the school please email us at: admin@halifaxindependentschool.ns.ca

In 2012, Halifax Independent School celebrated 40 years of excellence in education - 40 years of fostering a lifelong love of learning!

HIS started in the early 70s as a tiny laboratory school housed in Dalhousie University's Department of Education. Called the Dalhousie Experimental School, many future teachers received part of their training there. During the 1980s the school was expanded, the word "Experimental" was dropped, and the theme approach to teaching was developed. The school's team of teachers pioneered their own version of theme studies and established four of the five themes we still use today. Many of the activities fundamental to our life today originated then: Mini-Society, the Plays, Fair, and the whole school Meeting. The book "Learning and Loving It: Theme Studies in the Classroom" was written by these same teachers, (Gamberg et al.), and it is widely read in the education field. The school was also designated a Centre for Excellence by the National Council of Teachers of English (USA).

By 1990, there were about 35 students from Youngs (Primary) to Olds (grade 4). It was still operating under Dalhousie's School of Education with one full-time teacher and two part-time teachers. When Dalhousie closed its School of Education as part of the Nova Scotia government’s “rationalization” plan to restructure the province’s universities, teachers and parents began to look for ways to preserve the school and its unique philosophy.

The school was incorporated as a cooperative in 1992 (Dalhousie Co-operative School) and soon moved to rented accommodation on South Street where it expanded to include a Littles class (pre-primary) and an Elders class (grades 5 and 6). During the next decade, it grew to over 100 students, prompting plans for a Middle School. As the school continued to expand, a portable classroom was added, the name was changed again, and staff and parents came together, to plan a permanent home. After several years of intense fundraising and planning, Halifax Independent School obtained land on Connaught Avenue for its present purpose-built structure. Since its September 2004 opening, the school has reached its planned enrolment of 150 students and proudly graduated its first Grade 9 class in June 2006.

The close-knit nature of Halifax Independent School means that we keep in touch with our former students long after they have left the school. We are very proud of our graduates; the first class to graduate from grade six graduated from high school in 2004. Of the seven students, 6 graduated with honours or with distinction. All continued on to enrol in university programmes, several with scholarships.

An Alumni Association has held several reunions over the years and was instrumental in fundraising for the new school building. Newsletters keep members up-to-date with the activities of the school and with news of one another.

If you are an alumnus who would like to receive our newsletter, or would like to share news about yourself, please email us at: admin@halifaxindependentschool.ns.ca

We love to hear from our former students and their families! They enjoy a standing invitation to our “End of Year Celebration Picnic”, held each year, in June. We lean on recent graduates to visit our Grade 9 class and give them a firsthand reflection on life as a new high school student. We gladly share news of our former students via the school newsletter and have had the pleasure of receiving them back into our immediate school community as B.Ed practicum students, as after school staff, as guest speakers and parents!

If you are a graduate or a former student, your child will qualify for a tuition reduction from Primary through Grade 9. Please contact us for details.

From time to time Halifax Independent School looks for teachers to join its enthusiastic and dedicated teaching staff. With competitive salaries, a generous benefits package, stimulating curricula and small class sizes, the school is a wonderful teaching environment for creative, hard-working individuals. Eligible teachers must have a minimum of a B.Ed (or equivalent) and be eligible to be licensed in the province of Nova Scotia. Teachers in the Pre-primary (Littles) must have a Level 2 Early Childhood Education (ECE) Classification.

We also offer substitute teaching opportunities for qualified teachers, which occasionally extend into long-term contracts. Potential substitute teachers should submit a resumé, and then plan to spend a morning observing in the school and meeting with teachers before having their names added to our substitute list. 

Our active after school programme offers part time employment opportunities for people interested in working with children in a recreational setting.

If you are interested in applying for an after school position, please send your resumé with references to: childcare@halifaxindependentschool.ns.ca

Halifax Independent School has enjoyed a long and close relationship with the universities in the region. It originated as a "lab school" at Dalhousie University, and was an important part of its teacher education programme for many years. After Dalhousie moved away from teacher education, the school formed a relationship with Mount Saint Vincent University, and there have been few years in which there was not at least one student teacher in the school. The school has also been involved in numerous research projects with regional universities and is proud of its record as a partner in research. Students have benefited from the extra learning opportunities involved, as well as from the expertise of university personnel.