May Adventures

As the school year begins to wrap up, we are reflecting on some of our adventures beyond the classroom. We were fortunate enough to participate in various academic and cultural excursions that line up nicely with our rich curriculum. Continue reading to learn more about what we’ve been up to.

Our Grades 11 and 12 French classes attended a performance of Laurent Gaude’s Écoutez nos défaites, produced by Theatre Français at the Berkeley Street Theater. Students lauded the play for its intense and thought-provoking exploration of history and humanity. Plus, they had the chance to see that they can indeed understand and communicate in a francophone setting!

For the second year in a row, a group of Abelard students competed in the 51st annual Ontario Student Classics Conference (OSCC). The weekend-long competition features various Classically-themed  academic, athletic, and creative events, from Ancient Greek sight translation to a javelin competition. This year, our team surpassed last year’s standard, with Abelardians winning a total of 10 awards in academic, athletic, and creative events. We placed third per capita in academic events, and the students returned with trophies and ribbons in hand and smiles on their faces.

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More locally, our high schoolers not only got the chance to see the Canadian Opera Company’s spectacular production of Otello, but they had the privilege of attending an exclusive pre-show workshop and behind-the-stage tour. Not only was this workshop tremendously fun, but it also helped us better understand and appreciate opera.

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May is also a special month at the Abelard School because it is when the high school Drama class performs their long-anticipated annual play, this year, Molière’s Les fouberies de Scapin. The cast  masterfully translated Molière’s humour onto the stage, leaving the audience in stitches throughout the production. Many thanks to the Drama class and our beloved Drama teacher, Cassandra Silver, for their hard work and dedication throughout the year. Bravissimo!

For the final weekend of May, Mr. Young’s American History class spent three days in Washington, D.C. immersing themselves in the history, culture, politics, and art of the United States. We visited countless famous landmarks, monuments, and museums, and we even went on a walking tour all about Abraham Lincoln’s assassination! From Arlington Cemetary to the National Gallery  to Ford’s Theater, students were able to study first-hand how the United States understands its history and identity. We were sad to bid farewell to this exciting excursion. Our thanks to Mr. Young for all his hard work in organizing this trip.

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Within the walls of the school, the excitement continues. As the end of term approaches, the courses are dealing with more advanced material which integrates what students have been learning throughout the year. For many classes, students are working on their culminating projects, advanced research projects that provide them with the opportunity to explore an interesting topic in-depth and to apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired since September. Good luck with the end of term, students – we know you will amaze us as always!

Alumnus Max Binks-Collier Wins Journalism Awards

Congratulations to our alumnus Max Binks-Collier who has been named the Best New Magazine Writer by the National Magazine Awards for his piece “Distant Relatives” published in Maisonneuve in February! Max’s accomplishments don’t end there, though – he has also won an editorial fellowship at The Walrus! We are extremely proud of him for these accolades, and we look forward to seeing what he will achieve next!

Max is currently finishing his Master of Journalism (MJ) at Ryerson University. Previously, he earned his B.A. in Literature and History at McGill University. As a student at Abelard, he constantly amazed his teachers and peers with his gripping, thoughtful, and evocative writing. It comes as no surprise to us, then, that he has had so much success in journalism.

Max is the second Abelard alumnus to be nominated for the award. Nicholas Cameron was also nominated for two awards – the Best Health & Medicine and Best New Magazine Writer – in 2015 for his piece “Life Sentence” also in Maisonneuve. He received an Honourable Mention. You can read both of their award-nominated pieces here:

Max’s: https://maisonneuve.org/article/2019/02/5/distant-relatives/

Nicholas’s: https://maisonneuve.org/article/2014/11/28/life-sentence/

Abelard Law Students Rank Top 3 in Ontario-wide Competition

Congratulations to Amani Chanda, Angelo Ilersich and Milena Loginova, Abelard’s Grade 11 Law class, on placing top 3 in the province for their entry in the Ontario Justice Education Network’s annual Spring Charter Challenge — Ontario’s only mock appeal competition for secondary school students.

Amani, Angelo and Milena formed the Abelard Law Firm to argue for the Crown in an appeal of Gindy J.’s decision in R. v. Barnett, a mock judicial decision that raised complex and evolving Charter issues involving Ontario’s jury selection process and systemic discrimination.
Students all over Ontario formed teams and chose one side of the appeal to ‘represent.’ They researched and wrote a factum with legal arguments in favour of the appellant or the respondent. OJEN staff and Osgoode Hall Law School  Faculty reviewed all the submissions and identified the best ones for each side. Abelard’s team was one of three   recognized and shortlisted by the judges for their “amazing work” on their factum.
Well done, Amani, Angelo and Milena!

Gold Medals for Molly Franssen Keenan

Congratulations to 10 student Molly Franssen Keenan for her spectacular results on various National Junior Classical League (NJCL) competitions. Molly won gold medals in the intermediate National Classical Etymology Exam, the level 3 National Latin Vocabulary Exam, and the intermediate National Roman Civilization Exam. Each of these exams is written by over 1,500 students every year, so we are extremely proud of Molly for her amazing results.

Molly also won a gold medal summa cum laude for writing a perfect paper on the level 3 National Latin Exam, also administered by the NJCL. Over 16,000 students took the exam this year, and Molly was one of only 37 students worldwide to write a perfect paper.

Furthermore, Molly participated in the ClassicaAssociation of Canada’s annual High School Sight Translation Competition, and placed third in all of Canada. We are immensely proud of Molly’s very well-deserved accolades, and, because she is only in grade 10, we look forward to seeing what she will accomplish next!

World of Myth

Our grade 7-8 Myth class was given the opportunity to do something creative about any aspect of Greek myth they were interested in. Some of the students were interested in specific figures like Poseidon, Sisyphus, or the Minotaur, others were more interested in narrative, with projects on Odysseus and the cyclops and Circe, and others in artifacts, like the Golden Fleece or the wings of Icarus. They all did an amazing job!

In the same spirit, the World History to 1500 class was given the opportunity to create anything they wanted in connection with Ancient Greece. Some wrote plays based on ancient themes, others created clay projects, one student was inspired by Plato to recreate Plato’s Cave, another the Shield of Athena, others the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena, and a kylix or drinking cup. What a wealth of interests!

Shai Maharaj Memorial Scholarship

As you know, the Abelard community has suffered a tremendous loss this year with the passing of one of the school’s founding members, Shai Maharaj.
To commemorate his legacy, the Abelard School is establishing a scholarship which will be awarded to students who show exceptional talent for math and science.
All of the proceeds from this year’s annual fund-raising dinner will benefit this scholarship fund.  Donations to the fund can also be made by contacting the school at abelardschool@gmail.com 

It is with great, great sadness that we share with you the loss on Saturday of one of Abelard’s founders, Shai Maharaj, who passed away far too soon.

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Abelard simply wouldn’t exist without Shai. He was our principal for many years, stepping courageously into that position when both he and the school were still in their infancy (he was in his late twenties!). He was a charismatic and remarkable teacher who had a profound love for his students, and they in return showered their adoration on him.

Shai was a colleague and extremely dear friend who lived with us through the professional and personal successes and crises of over twenty years at both Abelard and Thornton Hall, until he was sadly no longer able to continue to do so a few years ago. We were saddened by his loss from the school and our daily lives then, and are even more profoundly devastated now by this final, permanent departure.

Alumni, we extend our particular condolences to you, who were his students. We know how much Shai cared for you, what a mark he made on your development, and how proud he was of you and your myriad accomplishments after leaving Abelard.

Let all of us who knew him try to keep the many, many good things we learned from Mr. Maharaj active in our lives. May he himself rest peacefully.

Michelle Lefolii,
on behalf of Alina Rossinsky, Mark Young, Brian Blair and Inga Bratchuli.

Abelard’s Reading List

We tackle an ambitious selection of great works in our English courses at Abelard. Of course, we hope that students enjoy the books they are tasked with reading, but we also firmly believe that great literature informs other aspects of humanistic (and sometimes scientific) study. Further, as C.S. Lewis once observed, literature enriches human experience:

“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.”

And so, in grade 9 our students tackle three different Shakespearean plays, the poetry of Robert Frost, classic novels like Catcher in the Rye, Huckleberry Finn, and The Great Gatsby, and more. Our grade 10 students explore the roots of the European canon, reading the Bible, Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, the plays of Sophocles, and even Beowulf. Our grade 11 class pushes into contemporary literature, reading Hamlet against Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead; they also tackle other great works that facilitate connections to other academic disciplines, like Bartleby the Scrivener and philosophy, or East of Eden and students’ study of the Bible in grade 10. In grade 12, in addition to classical texts, students explore modernist and postmodernist greats like Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, and Ulysses by James Joyce. To this list, of course, we must add all the literature that students read in their second- and third-language courses, such as Hugo’s Les Misérables and Camus’ L’étranger.

One of the long-term benefits of this diverse and carefully curated reading list is that our students, upon arriving in at university, report back to us that they are immensely well prepared for the kind of critical discourse that is expected of them at a post-secondary level. After all, it is much easier to pick out a classical or biblical allusion if you’ve already read the source texts where so many great authors are inspired. We also find that our reading list affords our students the kind of broad cultural literacy that makes for better citizenship both while students at Abelard and once graduated and in the ‘real’ world.

As we look forward to the new school year, we are so excited to share all this great reading with our students!

Postcards from Paris

Our grade 11 and 12 French students have just returned from a week in Paris. On the flight back, they wrote some post-cards to the school. In no particular order, here is what they had to say about their trip:


The Paris trip was an amazing experience. The art was beautiful, especially in the Musée d’Orsay. The food was incredible; I recommend you try everything at least. My favourite part was going on a big ferris wheel with Madame and Ms. Silver. Chocolate: great. Macarons: great.

— Dominik


It still doesn’t feel real, I’m not sure we actually went to Paris. We saw so many things that I thought only existed on post cards, but we actually got to walk through them and take pictures. Being with my French class and getting to see everything with them made it so much more memorable. We got to walk along the Seine and tour all the museums and take some really great group selfies. The Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre were beautiful (I made Taz take about thirty photos of me in front of Olympia), my family is sure to be jealous. Speaking French with so many real French people was intimidating, but I learned so much on this trip, so much about the culture as well as the language. I’m so thankful for Mme. Rossinsky for organizing the trip and taking us to so many of her favourite places. This has been one of the best weeks I think I have ever had and I’m so glad I got to go.

— Willow


The trip to Paris was worth 4 years of French class and I’d honestly do another 4 years to go on this trip again. The trip was well worth the cost, even if my legs and feet were dying every day. The museums? Nice. The food? Nice. The sense of pride and slight fear you get when an actual French person speaks French to you? Nice. I’d give this trip 7.8/10, too much walking.

— Som-O


I adored visiting the city of lights! What struck me as interesting was that Paris, in its deceivingly monotonous colour palette of grey, comes alive in high flying buttresses and stain-glass windows that take your breath away. Its intimacy and meandering streets were something to revel in as well; on any given corner there could be a hidden gem of a bookstore or museum, or you might turn a corner and see a monument that used to reside within the confines of a post-card. And, of course, the food was amazing. Thank you to Mme. Rossinsky and to Ms. Silver for guiding us around the city.

— Carmina


Some of my best memories of this trip was just walking around and taking in the sights, being able to look at the monuments, landscapes, and architecture. Every building and even park has its own style and unique beauty to it. I also really enjoyed all the short moments of having a café noisette in some small cute place and having a laugh. We really got to feel fully immersed in the French culture. (We walked more than 110km!)

— Chloe


I really enjoyed being a guide and listening to my peers share their knowledge about different places in France. It was cool to listen to them talk about monuments they have never visited with such confidence. Although I loved all the places we got to go to, I would have to say my favourite was Palais Garnier. The opera has a very unique history and a very beautiful design; it truly feels as if you are in a palace attending a royal ball. Because I have studied Onegin previously, it was really interesting to see it brought to life through ballet. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see Paris and I can’t wait to come back!

— Jessica


The Paris trip was truly an incredible experience. There was so much to see, so much to do, but so little time. All the museums, art galleries, and monuments were breathtaking and just packed with so much history. Most of all, the memories made on this trip are ones that’ll last for a life time.

— Sara


Paris was amazing! Such a beautiful city with so much to see. I loved how even regular buildings would have statues and carvings on the outside which made them look that much more elegant. Wandering the streets was such a joy, especially at night when everyone would be at restaurants and/or bars. Such a fun time 🙂 Merci Paris!

— Anastasiya


Our trip to Paris was incredible! From walking along the Seine, and exploring various Paris neighbourhoods, to wandering through art galleries, visiting monuments, and exploring the history of the city of love, this trip was a whirlwind of highlights. I came to Paris full of expectations and they were exceeded. I left Paris and already greatly miss it. The streets, churches, charming bakeries and shops on every corner, friends with whom I traveled, and Mme. Rossinsky and Ms. Silver truly created this magical, amazing, charming experience.

I ❤ Paris.
Paris is AWESOME!
Go to Paris!

— Josh


Paris was an unforgettable experience. From the food, to the charm and the buildings and the history, and the baguettes… So many baguettes. We spent our days walking around Paris and learning from each other about everything around us. It was delightful. Stay in French, kids.

— Ariel


It was an unforgettable trip!

I really enjoyed the museums we visited, especially:

– Le musée d’Orsay (focus on impressionist art, but I really loved the sculptures).
– Le musée du quai Branly (which displayed art and artifacts from Africa, Oceania, Asia, and the Americas)
– Le Petit Palais (which displayed art gifted to Paris from around the world, and had a really peaceful and beautiful garden)

But I have to admit what really stole my heart was the Seine. I could stand at its banks and stare at the water for hours. It radiates such a sense of inner peace…

I wasn’t too excited about the churches, which were built with the same overwhelming extravagance as any building related to Napoleon. (Really, Napoleon, enough is enough…) But Sainte-Chapelle was really incredible with its floor to ceiling stained glass windows. For some people, Paris’s churches really are its most beautiful features. I chose this postcard because my mother, when she visited Paris, fell in love with Sacré-Coeur, which sits at the top of Montmartre. To this day, she still talks about how gorgeous it was.

I think many of my classmates (including myself) had a similar experience of having their hearts captured by the city of Paris.

— Taz


Our week spent in Paris was a fantastic experience! All the destinations we visited and opportunities we had opened my eyes to a different culture and lifestyle. Some of my favourite activities were visiting the musée d’Orsay and seeing the ballet Onegin at the Opéra Garnier. I’ll never forget the view of the city from the top of Notre Dame. I know one thing for sure: I’m definitely going back to Paris one day! Thanks to Mme. Rossinsky and Ms. Silver for doing an amazing job of planning/chaperoning the trip.

— Emma

Remarkable Students Keep Us Busy!

The teachers at Abelard check in with one another regularly to keep on top of our students’ academic and extra-curricular (but school-related) lives. Although our students will tell you that our curriculum is demanding and that they often have homework, we do make an effort to balance their workload and allow them to pursue things that matter to them. A recent schedule check-in reminded us of just how remarkable our students are; we’re looking at a busy month!
In the next month, our computer science students will participate in a competition to test the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired with their teacher Mr. Woodford. The competition is administered by the University of Waterloo, and we’re excited to see how our class fares!
We also have students participating in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario’s Model Parliament as representatives for their respective provincial ridings. Over three days, they will get to meet key figures in our provincial government, and take workshops where they will learn about the history of the provincial legislature and about the legislative process.
At the same time, one of our students will be travelling to Ireland to write university entrance exams. We are really proud of our graduates and their accomplishments at universities around the world, so we are really happy to support students whose ambitions take them outside of Canada.
Our students are also hard at work preparing a show for the Ontario Drama Festival (formerly known as the Sears Drama Festival). The play, written by one of our own students, is an ambitious ensemble number that will be performed at Harbord Collegiate on February 26.
We are also thrilled that a team of our students have placed as finalists in the STEM Fellowship Big Data Challenge, and will be presenting their work later this month. The Big Data Challenge is designed to introduce students to data science and to hone their analytical skills.
In early March, we have a few excursions planned. We are heading out as a school on a ski trip, where we will all have a chance to relax and enjoy the great outdoors before March Break begins. During March Break, our grade 11 and 12 French students will go even further afield on a trip to Paris.
As you can see, we have a very busy month ahead. But that’s what happens when you have such remarkable students!