Welcome to The Mabin School
I fell in love with Mabin over 20 years ago when I first came to visit as a young teacher; the school’s magic was evident, and the emphasis on student-centred learning along with the strong commitment to integrating the arts immediately appealed to me. The Mabin School seemed like an incubator of creativity, a warm community where the joy of learning and curiosity were actively nurtured.
To me, it has always represented an educational oasis where children are permitted, even encouraged, to learn through play and experience the joy of exploring, imagining, and wondering.
I have been a school leader for almost 20 years, both in the public and independent systems. For 10 years, I was a principal in inner-city schools in the Toronto District School Board, and recently I completed a two year secondment to the Ministry of Education where I worked with principals and teachers across the province to improve student achievement.
Previous to that, I spent 12 years in independent schools, first as a teacher at Branksome Hall, then as Academic Coordinator/Junior School Head at Royal St. George’s College, and finally as Assistant Principal (Academics) at Montcrest School. As a school leader, my focus has been on working collaboratively to provide rigorous and responsive programs for students, while at the same time establishing systems within the schools to support high quality learning for students, staff, and community members.
As you can see, I have worked in a variety of settings – public, private, all girls, all boys, co-educational, K-5, K-8, K-12 – with a plethora of excellent educators who have taught me so much. I must admit, though, that coming to The Mabin School feels like coming home. I knew from the beginning of my career that Mabin was a place I wanted to be, and I am glad to have finally arrived.
Please drop in to introduce yourself and help me understand The Mabin School more deeply. I look forward to many conversations, the occasional debate, and always the opportunity to learn from you, your children, and the incredible staff at The Mabin School.
An Overview of The Mabin School
I have always hoped for an opportunity to join the Mabin community, and can see endless possibilities in terms of its potential as a centre of excellence for inquiry-based learning and holistic education. Mabin has much to contribute in a world that requires schools that teach children “how to think, not what to think".Nancy Steinhauer
“Since my son started at Mabin, and became more comfortable with the kids, teachers, and routine, we’ve seen an enormous shift. My son is himself again. He’s not worried about being himself because he knows that no one is going to make fun of him (he may in fact be praised), he can make mistakes without embarrassment and shame, and he can explore his creativity knowing that differences are good. I’ve seen a calmer, happier boy since he has started at Mabin and I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I am at this change.” Grade 3 parent
In the beginning, there were two main challenges to be faced, finding families who would be willing to take the risk of putting their child in a brand new school and of finding a building and equipping it on a small budget. Gerry asked Joanne Fleming to join as a teacher and Julia Zachary as business manager.
We embarked on what Jack Creed, who had then become part of the Support Group, called the ‘Dog and Pony Show’ rounds. Gerry would go to friends of friends' houses and talk about this new school. When asked where it would be located, she was unable to answer this for several months but was able to describe the essence of the philosophy. Children learn and thrive best in an environment in which their natural curiosity is nurtured and in which they feel encouraged and empowered. The original logo embodied this. Their imagination is their key to discovery (the unicorn in the logo) and enlightenment (the sun) is the outcome of meaningful engagement. The early risk-takers signed up.
By then, Gerry had gathered Dorothy Medhurst and Paola Cohen to be the art teachers. Gerry would teach Grades 1 & 2 and Joanne would teach JK and SK.
Eventually 506 Jarvis Street was acquired, a Victorian ex-National Ballet School residence, complete with a lock on the fridge and a single ballet shoe in the bushes. The school was furnished eclectically, mostly with other people’s discards that became Mabin School treasures, such as book shelves, chairs and many, many milk crates. The latter became shelves, seats (with padded tops made by another supporter), and storage containers! The night before garbage days would see Gerry and Joanne driving around Rosedale and Forest Hill looking for goodies…. And finding them.
From the start, The Mabin School experience was to address not only the academic aspects of kids’ development but the social /emotional aspects and to recognize and provide for each individual. The goal was for graduates to have maintained the love of learning and to be a positive contributing member not only to the school community but in general.
The school opened in September 1980 with 25 students from JK though Grade 2. The following year the numbers increased and continued to do so over the years. The school ended at Grade 4 for a number of years then, once the philosophy was felt to be well established, Grade 5 and then Grade 6 were added.
During the summer of 1983, the Poplar Plains building became available and a brief but intense period of renovations took place before the start of that school year! Everyone who could paint, clean and fix was called in and many parents were among them. There was a swimming pool in the front yard. This was filled with rocks from a room downstairs, also being renovated, and turned into a sand pit with a climbing frame on top.
Nestled on a tree-lined street in downtown Toronto, our wonderful home provides an intimate setting where students feel safe, supported and comfortable taking risks.
Inside The Mabin School are: 8 classrooms, a full size gym, music room, French room, and science lab. Our brand new, fully accessible Community Learning Lab contains our library, art studio, and Junior & Senior Kindergarten classes. Outside is a 360-degree wrap-around play space that includes a separate playground for Kindergarten students and a playground for older students..
Classrooms can be transformed into mission control for a study on flight, a Medieval castle that hosts a feast for knights and squires, a rainforest, a mock United Nations, or anything else the children can imagine.
The Mabin School’s central location is ideal. We are within walking distance of some of Toronto’s most treasured landmarks, including Casa Loma, The ROM, The Hydro Park (directly across the street), Roycroft Park (200 metres northwest), Sir Winston Churchill Park and the Nordheimer Ravine (less than 1 kilometre away).