Elmwood School (Ottawa)

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Elmwood School
Summa Summarum
Highest of the High
261 Buena Vista Road
Ottawa, Ontario, K1M 0V9, Canada
Coordinates 45°27′5″N 75°40′47″W / 45.45139°N 75.67972°W / 45.45139; -75.67972Coordinates: 45°27′5″N 75°40′47″W / 45.45139°N 75.67972°W / 45.45139; -75.67972
Headmistress Cheryl Boughton
Grades JK - Grade 12
Mascot Squawk
Team name Eagles
Founded 1915
Homepage www.elmwood.ca

Elmwood School is an independent day school for girls located in Rockcliffe Park in the city of Ottawa, Canada. It was founded in 1915 and is an International Baccalaureate World School. Elmwood School was the first school in North America to be accredited for all three levels of the IB Programme - the Diploma Programme for students in the final two years of secondary school, the Middle Years Programme (MYP) for students aged 11–16, and the Primary Years Programme (PYP) for students aged 3–12. The school is also a member of the National Coalition of Girls' Schools and the Canadian Association of Independent Schools.

The faculty provides education to 400 students, ages 4 to 18. Classes are small, with an average class size of 12 and a student to teacher ratio of 7:1. The current Headmistress is Cheryl Boughton who took over the leadership of the school in 2008. Prior to joining Elmwood, she served as Deputy Head at Bedford School in Bedfordshire, United Kingdom, an independent boarding and day school for 1,100 male students. A Canadian citizen, Cheryl Boughton spent a considerable part of her educational career at single gender independent schools in the UK.

Like many other private schools throughout the Commonwealth, Elmwood's traditions are based on similar schools in Britain. Senior formal leaders in their graduating year are called prefects, the students must wear uniforms, and each student is a member of a house.

100% of Elmwood students go on to university. In 2009, 95% students attended their university of choice and 88% were accepted into their program of choice. Recent graduates have matriculated to prestigious universities such as McGill University, Queen's University, University of Toronto, University of Western Ontario, Bishop's University, Acadia University, Mount Allison University, University of Ottawa, University of Waterloo, St Francis Xavier University, University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of British Columbia among many others. Other graduates travel further afield to study at colleges in the United States, the UK and across the globe including University of Oxford, Imperial College London, University of St Andrew's, Exeter University, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dartmouth College, St Lawrence University and University of Rochester.

Each year, over 80% of graduates have received highly valuable scholarships to post-secondary institutions such as the prestigious Greville Smith Scholarship from McGill University, the National Excellence Award from the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, the Sesquicentennial Scholarship from St. Lawrence University in New York State, the Undergraduate Research Scholarship from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Science, the Richard Lewer Scholarship from Carleton University and the President’s Entrance Scholarship from the University of Western Ontario to name but a few. In 2010, Elmwood's class of 43 graduates were offered over $1,000,000 in scholarship awards. The largest single scholarship awarded in 2009 was $125,000 US; an additional $25,000 was awarded because the student completed her IB diploma.

Philosophy of Education[edit]

Elmwood is the only school in Ottawa to offer all three International Baccalaureate programmes. The PYP, MYP and DP offers a continuum of high quality education that encourages international-mindedness and a positive attitude to learning. The three programmes form a coherent sequence of education by promoting the education of the whole person through an emphasis on intellectual, personal, emotional and social growth. The programmes are inquiry based and concept driven rather than content driven and are examples of best practices in education. This approach is based on constructivism learning theory which argues that humans generate knowledge and meaning from their experiences.

In all three programmes, the education of the whole person is manifested through all domains of knowledge, involving the major traditions of learning in languages, humanities, sciences, mathematics and the arts.

Facts and Statistics[edit]

Over the past decade, Elmwood School has excelled in math and science. More than 50% of Elmwood's graduates go on to study math, science and engineering at university. This is significant considering that although women now account for a majority of undergraduate students at Canadian universities, female enrolment in engineering, math and science faculties has never exceeded 20%.[1] Women who pursue non-traditional careers, earn 150% more over their lifetimes. Considering that in 2003, women earned 71% of what their male counterparts made, girls who pursue math, science and engineering are more likely to have careers paying higher wages and have more opportunities for advancement.[2]

Elmwood has long been recognized as a globally diverse learning community. Elmwood's students represent more than 30 different nationalities and many say that one of Elmwood’s paramount strengths is its diversity and cultural inclusivity. Elmwood is known for educating children of important political and diplomatic figures. Many diplomatic families choose Elmwood for their daughters' education and there are many links with embassies and consulates located in and around Rockcliffe Park. Roughly 20% of the student population are members of the diplomatic community.

Academic Program[edit]

Elmwood's high academic standards, small class sizes and multicultural student base combine to create a rich and unique learning environment. Elmwood’s faculty draws on best practices, specific to all girls’ education, as they challenge students to be principled, knowledgeable and reflective lifelong learners.

Elmwood regularly surpasses the Ontario Ministry of Education and International Baccalaureate curriculum guidelines and enhances students’ learning through field trips, guest speakers, co-curricular activities, and individual opportunities for leadership. Elmwood staff and parents connect the School with Ottawa’s educational, political, professional and artistic institutions. Students interact with influential and accomplished women from many walks of life. These inspiring role models reinforce Elmwood’s mission to equip girls and young women to generate positive change in the world.

Elmwood's IB Diploma pass rate is 100%. Students may choose the full Diploma Programme or may choose to complete IB Certificates in specific subjects. Elmwood's IB results are strong and Elmwood students consistently score above the Canadian, American and world averages.

Bilingual Certification[edit]

Students who follow a prescribed sequence of courses and achieve fluency in both English and French are awarded a Bilingual Certificate. Elmwood also offers opportunities to study Spanish, Latin and Mandarin.


Elmwood School was one of the first schools in Canada to introduce a 1:1 laptop program in the Senior School. All students from Grades 9-12 and all faculty have their own personal MacBook which they use to enhance their learning. All but a few classrooms are equipped with a SMART Board and students are fully accustomed to technology. Students in the Junior and Middle Schools use computers in purpose built labs or utilize mobile laptop carts in the classroom.

Global Connections[edit]

Elmwood is twinned with St. Charles High School; Seboche, Lesotho. This twinning is helped by the organization Help Lesotho. Alongside being twinned with a school in Africa, Elmwood has two sister schools. Calrossy Anglican School for Girls in Australia and Otago Girls' High School in New Zealand. It is not uncommon to have incoming and outgoing student exchanges.


Although Elmwood School is relatively small in size, it has a comprehensive athletic program. Teams compete against other Ottawa area schools, both public and private and many teams perform at the highest level. In 2009 the Senior Girls Basketball team were the Ottawa Tier 1 ‘A’ Champions. The 7/8 volleyball squad took gold at the Ottawa Independent Schools Athletic Association (OISAA) tournament as did the Grade 7/8 soccer team. There is also a high participation rate in the Athletics program. For example, over 70% of girls in Middle School represented the school on a team last year.

The Junior School has its own Athletics program geared towards the age of its students. Girls compete against other schools in various competitions including swimming and soccer. There is also a gymnastics and ballet program offered as an co-curricular activity

Here are the sports offered at Elmwood's Middle and Senior School. The program varies slightly from year to year depending on the interests of staff and students. The core sports are always represented.

Duke of Edinburgh Award[edit]

Elmwood School has one of the most successful Duke of Edinburgh award programs in Canada. The Duke of Edinburgh Award is a universally recognized award and the program is considered one of the best programs for the personal development of young people. It is non competitive, available to all and it offers a progression of growth and personal challenge through the categories of Bronze, Silver and Gold.

Elmwood School requires all grade 9 students to participate in the Bronze Award program. The vast majority of students go on to receive their Silver and Gold Awards. Elmwood School has the highest number of Gold Award recipients per capita in Ontario.

The Elmwood Story[edit]

Theodora Philpot stood out from the crowd in her time. She had seen some of the far corners of the world. She was not afraid to defy convention. She was capable of hard work and, even as a respectable married woman with children, she had plans that went far beyond her own front door. She was an entrepreneur, and her dream was to create a great school.

Elmwood—originally the Rockcliffe Preparatory School—opened for business in 1915 with only four students, aged four to seven. The educational ambitions of the first Headmistress were high. She wrote: “The discipline of the school and the instruction are in accordance with the best modern methods, and constant care is given to the proper development of each pupil and the fostering of good school spirit.”

Theodora Philpot’s vision rang true with many parents. Even in the first few years, there were exponential increases in enrolment. Within ten years, Elmwood School had a student population of eighty students, served by a faculty of twelve teachers.

After founding the school, Theodora Philpot retired to England leaving Elmwood in the capable hands of Edith Buck. She donated a Bible Box, inscribed with the words “Pactum Serva” meaning “Keep the Faith” to the school, and it came with a plea to carry on the work she had started.

And the work she had started did carry on to make Elmwood the school it is today. Modern methods, academic excellence, personal development and strong school spirit are still the cornerstones of the Elmwood experience.[3][4]

School Symbol[edit]

The daffodil is the symbol of Elmwood School. Inspired by a poem by William Wordsworth, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud also known as Daffodils, our founding Headmistress, Theodora Philpot, adopted it for the Philpot Token Award. Each year, the student who embodies the spirit and ideals of service, fellowship, freedom and fair play is presented with this award.[3]

School Hymn[edit]

To be a Pilgrim by John Bunyan

Famous Alumnae[edit]

Many Elmwood students have gone on to have remarkable careers and successful lives. Canada's first female Senator, Cairine Wilson, attended the school and was Head Girl in her final year. The school's Wilson House is named in her honour. Canadian television broadcaster Catherine Clark, daughter of the Right Honourable Joe Clark, also attended Elmwood. Poet Elizabeth Smart, author of the prose poem 'By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept', attended Elmwood from 1922-1929. Children's television writer, Mary MacKay-Smith attended Elmwood in the mid-1960s and was Head of Nightingale House. MacKay-Smith has written for many children's television series including Caillou and Polka Dot Door. Gemini Award-winning Canadian screenwriter Tassie Cameron spent her formative years at Elmwood. She is currently a writer and co-executive producer on the hit CBS/CTV television series Rookie Blue. Tassie and her sister Amy created the 2009 CBC television series Wild Roses. Mimi Lee, an American chemist, served as First Lady of Maryland from 1977 to 1979.[5]

Over the years, Elmwood has admitted boys in its early years program. Actor Hume Cronyn, Adrian Harewood, host of Ottawa's favourite afternoon program All In A Day, and entrepreneur Ben Barry are all 'Old Boys' of Elmwood.


There are many strong traditions that have been upheld at Elmwood over the years. One of the most striking traditions is the practice of the Grade 12 graduates wearing white dresses to their Closing (Graduation) Ceremony rather than the black caps and gowns found at other schools. The graduates traditionally have their photograph taken on the staircase in the Front Hall, the oldest part of the school.

The Rose Ceremony is a more recent graduate tradition. Each year a girl in Grade 12 is given a rose by a student in Grade 11. At this time, the graduate's accomplishments and contributions to the school are celebrated through a short testimonial given by a Grade 11 student. If the graduate has a sister in a younger grade the sister is permitted to make the presentation.

Another tradition which has existed for over 20 years is the annual Father Daughter Dinner Dance. This formal event takes place in February and gives Elmwood fathers and their daughters in Grades 6-12 an opportunity to socialize with each other and celebrate the bond between father and daughter. More recently a Mother Daughter weekend has also been added to the social calendar as well as a Junior School Tea for Elmwood's youngest students.

House system[edit]

Elmwood students are divided into four Houses, each named after a prominent and inspirational woman in history: Elizabeth Fry, Helen Keller, Florence Nightingale and Cairine Wilson.


Bio: Elizabeth Fry (1740–1845) is remembered for her pioneering work in prison reform in Britain. She was chosen by the students in 1927 "because of the great work she did among the poor and unfortunate and in the prisons...In this house our aim is to follow her example of love to all humanity and to try to have some of her courage and determination to do the right thing."
Motto: Societas Huamana – Friendship for All
Pin: circle, with a red letter “F” on a white background
Colour: Red

Charity: Humane Society


Bio: After a childhood illness, Helen Keller (1880–1968) became both deaf and blind. Despite her handicap, she made phenomenal progress learning to communicate with the outside world. Her determination and success paved the way for other handicapped people to find hope and help in their struggle to achieve success as well.
Motto: Fair Play
Pin: Diamond, with a green letter “K” on a yellow background
Colour: light blue

Charity: Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind


Bio: Florence Nightingale (1820–1910) was well schooled having studied Greek, Latin, French, German, and Italian, history, philosophy and mathematics. In adulthood she became a nurse and is best known for her struggle to improve the quality of nursing care of the sick and wounded soldiers during the Crimean War.
Motto: Non Nobis Solum – Not for Ourselves Alone
Pin: circle, with a navy blue letter “N” on a white background
Colour: Navy blue

Charity: Make A Wish Foundation


Bio: Cairine Wilson (1885–1962) was named Canada’s first woman senator on February 20, 1930. A leader in Women’s Liberal clubs and youth groups, President of the Canadian League of Nations Society, Chair of the Canadian National Committee on Refugees and a delegate to the United Nations. Cairine Wilson attended Elmwood School and was "head girl" in her graduating year.
Motto: To Give Ourselves and Never Count the Cost for Others’ Greater Need
Pin: “ W” shape, with a green letter on a yellow background
Colour: Yellow

Charity: Max Keeping Foundation

Each student is placed in a House upon entering the School and stays in that House until graduation.

House meetings are held regularly during assembly period. House games are held during the lunch hour. The Spirit Afternoon in the fall and Sports Day in the spring are structured around House teams. Attendance at all House activities is compulsory.

Houses also choose a program of social service each year and are responsible for designing and carrying out fund-raising activities.


  1. ^ http://www.cdnwomen.org/PDFs/EN/CWF-GirlsCanada-Report05.pdf
  2. ^ http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/060307/dq060307a-eng.htm
  3. ^ a b Voices from Elmwood School 1915-2000 Janet Uren and Annette Bellamy(Rockcliffe Park, Ont.) Baird O'Keefe, 2000
  4. ^ A QUIET,PRIVATE LIGHT Lilias Ahearn Southam, 1888-1962
  5. ^ Rasmussen, Frederick N. (2011-08-13). "Mathilde B. "Mimi" Lee, former acting first lady of Maryland, dies at 91". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2011-09-08. 

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