Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School
Today we turn our attention back to the city of Waterloo, as the next school in the WRX Property Group Kitchener-Waterloo secondary school series is none other than Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School. Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School is named after Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first (and currently most controversial) Prime Minister. The school is most commonly referred to simply as SJAM (‘ess – jam’), so if you or you children end up going here, you could conceivably one day be stuck in a traffic jam, listening to “Jammin’,”eating peanut butter and jam, at SJAM (a selling point for people who like words).
Of Waterloo’s three public high schools, SJAM is by far the newest – it was opened in 2004, whereas Bluevale and WCI were opened in 1972 and 1960, respectively. It’s located on 650 Laurelwood Drive, in the growing northwestern region of Waterloo, near the lovely Laurel Creek Conservation Area, and a short drive from St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, Conestoga Mall, and both of Waterloo’s universities. It is a great place to live and go to school, with urban and suburban offerings in the immediate surroundings, and rolling rural hills to the North and West. The school has a student population of approximately 1400, and it has three primary feeder elementary schools: Centennial, Laurelwood, and Edna Staebler.
SJAM School Spirit
SJAM’s colours are Light Blue, Dark Blue, and White, and its school motto is audere est credere, meaning “dare to believe” (there is, alas, no Latin equivalent for ‘dare to beliebe,’ much to the chagrin of Justin Bieber enthusiasts). The team name is the Highlanders, and their mascot is Johnny Mac, a highlander with a blue and white outfit and bushy red hair and beard.
SJAM Awards and Certificates
SJAM has an exciting reward program that encourages students to be active, positive, engaged members of the school community. Students receive Letters (certificates) for various achievements in Academics, Activities, Athletics, and Arts. Collecting enough Letters allows students to earn a Silver or Gold Plaque, recognizing their contributions to SJAM, and ensuring that future generations of SJAM students (and their robotic simian companions, presumably) will look back with reverence and awe on those who came before them.
SJAM has an extremely positive reputation academically, and it consistently performs well on the Fraser Institute’s secondary school ratings, ranking far above Ontario’s overall average. In the 2015-16 academic year, it placed 57th out of 740 Ontario secondary schools, and it presently has a rating of 8.1/10 – all quite impressive. Of the three Waterloo high schools, SJAM has ranked 1st or 2nd each year over the past 5 years. The Fraser Institute’s ratings incorporate scores in literacy (OSSLT), numeracy (EQAO), and gender gap/incomplete tests.
SJAM Specialist High Skills Major
Run by Ontario’s Ministry of Education, the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program allows students to pursue credits and certifications in a specific career-sector, through Apprenticeship, College, University, or Workplace pathways. Different high schools offer different SHSM programs; SJAM offers Arts & Culture and Business. Students interested in a career in the arts, and students interested in entering the business world, would do well to consider these diploma programs during their time in high school.
SJAM System Designated Specialized (Magnet) Programs
Similar to the Ontario-wide SHSM programs, Waterloo Region District School Board offers ‘Magnet’ programs at each of their high schools. These are geared toward both augmenting and developing specific skill sets in interested students, and providing a quality education for students with specific exceptionalities or learning-requirements. SJAM has the Fast Forward program, which is for students who have struggled with numeracy and literacy in the past, are out of phase academically, have an IEP, and had significant accommodations to their education in elementary school. This program grants an Ontario Secondary School Diploma and provides students with valuable life skills. It is the only Waterloo secondary school with the program, and as such, many students from across the city who have struggled academically choose to attend SJAM.
SJAM Advanced Placement
SJAM offers quite a few Pre-Advanced Placement and Advanced Placement (AP) courses. The former aim to prepare students for AP courses, through more challenging lessons and assignments than standard equivalent courses. Pre-AP courses offered at include English, French, Math and Science. SJAM’s AP courses prepare students for post-secondary education, and the credits earned are recognized internationally, sometimes being accepted as full university credits at certain institutions. More details on SJAM’s AP courses here.
SJAM offers football, field hockey, soccer, cross-country, volleyball, basketball, golf, and badminton, as well as a few other opportunities. Teams and athletes from SJAM have performed well, qualifying for advanced tournaments, winning WCSSAA championships in multiple sports, and earning medals at OFSAA. Take a look at past SJAM glories on the SJAM Athletics Highlanders Twitter account here. Students for whom athletics is important will find plenty of room to flourish and shine at SJAM.
SJAM Activities, Clubs, and Arts
SJAM offers quite a few musical programs, both as courses and as extracurricular activities. Some such groups are Guitar Jam (again with the jamming at SJAM); Highlander Chorus; and Sax Quartet. SJAM offers the standard Junior and Senior Band programs, and it has a particularly strong Jazz Band (Junior, Intermediate, and Senior levels), which is renowned throughout the Kitchener-Waterloo region. Clubs offered at SJAM include Artists Anonymous; Dance Team; a DECA Business team (the largest in the region); Ultimate Frisbee; Muslim Student Association; and Juggling Club (because no other sport has defined the 21st-century as much as juggling has). At SJAM, there’s truly a club for every temperament, temperature, and timetable.
If you’re living in, or looking to move to, Waterloo’s vibrant, growing North-West corner, and you’re wondering if it would be a good place to raise a family: the short answer is ‘yes, it would be.’ And a big reason for that is the quality of education your children can receive from Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School. Academic excellence, and equal opportunities for students with a wide variety of strengths and needs, is at the heart of SJAM. So to go back to their motto, “Dare to believe” in SJAM, home of Johnny Mac and the Highlanders.
Written by Will Kummer