Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School

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Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School
Centre for Self-Directed Learning
MWCSS Logo.svg
Mary Ward CSS.jpg
Because We Believe
3200 Kennedy Road
Steeles, Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, M1V 3S8
Coordinates 43°48′46″N 79°18′18″W / 43.8127°N 79.3050°W / 43.8127; -79.3050Coordinates: 43°48′46″N 79°18′18″W / 43.8127°N 79.3050°W / 43.8127; -79.3050
School type Catholic High school
Religious affiliation(s) Roman Catholic
(Loretto Sisters)
Founded 1985
School board Toronto Catholic District School Board
Superintendent Kevin Malcolm
Area 7
Area trustee Mike Del Grande
Ward 7
School number 544 / 730882
Principal Andrea Magee
Vice Principals Benito Di Millo
Kelly Breen
CSAC Chair Karen Lue Tam (2013-14)
Grades 9–12 (Non-semestered)
Enrollment 1115[1] (2013-14)
Language English
Area Northwest Scarborough
Colour(s) Red and Blue         
Team name Ward Wolverines
Newspaper Mary Ward Planet
Public transit access TTC:
North/South: 43 Kennedy
West/East: 42 Cummer
Rapid Transit: Kennedy
Parish Epiphany of Our Lord
Specialist High Skills Majors Health Care and Construction Technology
Program Focus Extended French
Self-Directed Learning

Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School (abbreviated Mary Ward C.S.S., MWCSS, MW, Mary Ward, or simply Ward) is a Roman Catholic secondary school of the Toronto Catholic District School Board in Scarborough, a district of Toronto. Also called the Wolverine's Den, Mary Ward is a unique centre of self-directed learning and a member of the Canadian Coalition of Self-Directed Learning.[2] It is one of only two self-directed learning schools currently in Ontario and seven in Canada. The school is named after Mary Ward, a seventeenth-century English Catholic nun who founded the Loreto Sisters.


We should be such as we appear, and appear such as we are

— Mary Ward

The nun[edit]

Main article: Mary Ward (nun)

Ward was born to Marmaduke Ward and Ursula Wright. Mary's first word was "Jesus", which was a sign of things to come. Mary was born at a time of great conflict for Roman Catholics in England. She was born in Ripon and in 1595 saw her family home burned down in anti-Catholic rioting. As the home was burning, Mary and her sisters knelt down and prayed for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary; the children were saved by their father. In 1599 she moved to the house of Sir Ralph Babthorpe at Osgodby, Selby. It was there at the age of 15 that Mary felt called to the religious life. She entered a monastery of Poor Clares at Saint-Omer in northern France, then in Spanish Flanders, as a lay sister in 1606 and the following year she founded a new monastery of the Order for English women at nearby Gravelines.

At age 15, Mary Ward was called to become religious. Since religious communities had been dispersed decades previously in England, and on the continent cloistered life was the only option for women at that time, she left England to become a Poor Clare. Through special graced insights God showed her that she was to do something different and greatly to God's glory. Mary Ward was declared "Venerable" by Pope Benedict XVI on 19 December 2009; this is the first of three steps on the path to being declared a saint.[3]

Establishment as the school[edit]

Former South Campus of Mary Ward on Greenfield Avenue (now Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts) from January 1985 to 1986.

Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School started out as two campuses known as the "Tin Can", one which later became Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts and a demolished relocatable. It was founded on January 23, 1985, during the 400th anniversary of Mary Ward's birth[4] as a conventional high school in northeast Toronto under the leadership of the first principal, Mary Anne O'Leary with 200 students.[5] The school came to existence due to overcrowding population at Francis Libermann and Senator O'Connor. The North Campus of Mary Ward was situated on 25 Canongate Trail at Birchmount and Steeles near the current building with 102 students in relocatables and the South Campus is located at the former St. Edward Catholic School on 36 Greenfield Avenue near the Board offices on Sheppard and Yonge (later the site of Cardinal Carter) with 47 students until they were consolidated in the Canongate campus in 1986 with 400 students.

By 1987, another "South Campus" was built with 600 students and 70 portables on the present site at 3200 Kennedy Road in the northwest corner of Kennedy Rd. and McNicoll Ave. where the current parking lot stands next to the Mon Sheong Nursing Home. The physical building for 861 students was built and completed by September 1991 as the school was opened and blessed in January 1992, designed specifically for its self-directed learning program (formerly called Direction 2000[6] established in the late 1980s.) By the 1992-93 school year, the school had grown to over 1,000 students.[7]

Originally, there was another school that was to be called Mary Ward near St. Elizabeth Seton, that was later changed to Blessed Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School by then-trustee Harold Adams.

In 1995, Mary Ward CSS became a founding member of the Canadian Coalition of Self-Directed Learning Schools (CCSDL). The CCSDL is a grass roots organization of secondary schools across Canada that shares a similar vision and philosophy. CCSDL schools strive to build learning communities that embrace several core beliefs about teaching and learning. These beliefs serve as “the pillars and the foundation” of the program. The school, however by 1996, had an independent learning system. Sandra Gionas of the Toronto Star stated in 1996 that "Mary Ward is the only school outside Calgary where this experiment in independent learning has succeeded."[8] According to Gionas, "There are no classes or classrooms at Mary Ward. It's sometimes said the teachers don't teach. There's no first period or second period, no semester system or terms. And students decide when to write exams. "[8]

A case of Tuberculosis was confirmed at the school on September 26, 2013. It was said that about 20 people came in direct contact with the person. The school offered to meet with parents about the problem.[9][10][11]


The current Mary Ward campus shares 26 acres of land with the L'Amoureux Community Centre that is also attached to the school. With Mary Ward built for the self-directed learning program, the existing configuration shares with the community centre that has five English classrooms, three mathematics classrooms, five Canadian and World studies classrooms, five science labs and classrooms, three ESL classrooms, six French classrooms, four business and tech studies classrooms, three home economics rooms, five music rooms, a test centre room, a visual arts room also used for the Arts Administration course, a drama room, six religion classrooms, four special education classrooms, three gymnasiums with the larger one that can be split into two small gymnasia, an exercise room, a larger cafetorium with a couple seats fitted, an atrium, a student services area, several technological labs for communications that has four, manufacturing, and construction that has three rooms, five video studio labs, an Aces room, four computer labs with one for the Inspire program, a circular chapel, and the day care room that is attached. It also has three staircases as well with the students entering and exiting the school using the front entrance.[12]

A large parking lot is on the eastern side of the property where the portables previously stood. The school has a 400m race track and soccer/football field with a baseball diamond on the northern side of the school.

The system[edit]


School starts with a 20 minute meeting period with your TA (Teacher Adviser). During that period the announcements plays the national anthem. As opposed to having a structured timetable, the emphasis is instead placed on the students to structure their own school days in conjunction with advice and guidance from their teacher advisor. Through encouraging the development of self-directed learning, Mary Ward attempts to ensure that students are actively engaged in shaping their own experiences and education. Each student completes up to 8 courses per (non-semestered) year of 18 "units" each (20 in the old curriculum, which was terminated in June 2003). Each unit is a learning package consisting typically of readings, study questions, seminar attendance and/or tests—so long as the activities add up to an average completion time of about five to eight hours. Thus, the recommended amount of time of work for finishing a course is 110 hours. The 18th unit usually consists of a final examination (an exam, portfolio, or other assessment) and generally, it is worth 30% of the final grade.

Guidance and support[edit]

Each student at Mary Ward is assigned a "teacher advisor" ("TA"), who acts as a mentor, guide, and support for the students throughout their time at the school.[4] On average, a teacher advisor group consists of 18 students from grades 9 to 12. The TA meets with their TA group typically three times per day: before classes, after lunch, and at the end of the day. The TA will schedule an interview with each "advisee" on a biweekly (once every two weeks) basis. At these individual interviews, the student and the TA complete an update form that is organized by course, showing: completed number of units at the previous interview, completed number of units presently, and grades to date. TA comments, student goals, and other relevant information may be added. The TA forms are then sent home to be reviewed and signed by the student's parent or guardian.[citation needed]

The front foyer of Mary Ward with the cafetorium viewed from the western side of the building and the motto "Because We believe" inspired message.

Teaching staff[edit]

Teachers at Mary Ward act in several roles. In addition to being responsible for the planning, the creation, and the evaluation of all the units for the courses of approximately 150 students to which they are assigned, they deliver seminars and assist all students on a daily basis within subject resource centres. Each full-time teacher is also a teacher advisor. There are currently 72 TAs.[citation needed]

Students at Mary Ward are still required to attend school despite the "self-directed learning" system. The school year usually begins on the day following Labour Day, and it ends the last week of June, with statutory holidays and winter breaks in between. At school, students either finish their readings, attend seminars, finish tests, or other activities in order to finish their units, and eventually, their courses. Teachers are present at their scheduled time and subject resource area ("on the floor") to provide extra help, guidance, and seminars. Tests are taken in the "test centre" once the student receives a test authorization, which is usually given once the student complete the respective unit. Students have the option of when they will do a test (within a 6-school-day window). Several versions of tests are available for the same unit, so cheating is minimized and discouraged. Students plan their daily schedule in a school agenda book that has been custom-designed for the school. Each day, the teacher advisor will check the student's daily schedule, and may require the student to verify that they followed their schedule by obtaining initials from teachers in the resource areas where the student plans to work. Certain areas such as the library and the computer lab require a signature from the student's teacher advisor if they want to work there.


In addition to the ten months of unit work, a student is allowed to take extra time of up to three weeks in the summer (summer school) or two months in the subsequent fall in order to finish a course without penalty. Finishing the course in the subsequent fall is known as a "carry-over". However, taking extra time delays the beginning of the next set of courses.

Conditional Zero[edit]

At three checkpoints throughout the year (units 4, 8, and 12) when students are NOT “on track” with their Target Dates and no extenuating circumstance is present, the subject teacher will enter a Conditional 0 for any unit or parts of units that are incomplete at those checkpoint dates. The Teacher Advisor will continue to monitor and intervene on behalf of students whose extenuating circumstances or particular learning needs may exempt them from this process. These Conditional 0 checkpoint dates are published in the school agenda.

As a result of a Conditional 0, the student’s running average will be affected, and the next TA interview form which comes home will reflect this change. The student is expected to immediately consult with the subject teacher and make arrangements to discuss and submit the incomplete work. As soon as the work is submitted and marked, the Conditional 0 will be removed and the running average will reflect the newly submitted work. Staff encourages students to remove the Conditional 0s as soon as they are able. It is not intended that these Conditional 0s are ever permanent.

General Policies[edit]

The lockers seen from the west side of the north wing (200s floor), leading to the religion and special education resource area to the north, library to the west, and daycare to the south. Unlike all high schools, there are no traditional classrooms and have larger open resource areas for each department, special-purpose rooms, and large lecture theatres for seminars as well as the test centre.

Code of Conduct[edit]

To comply with the Safe Schools and Education Acts in Ontario, students are intended to ensure that students consistently demonstrate respect, courtesy, and responsibility. Students of Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School must learn to work individually and with others. Co-operation and sharing are important values in any social experience. The ability to work with others and for others is an important ingredient in the learning process. It is to this end that these formative years must emphasize:

  • Respect for self
  • Respect for others
  • Respect for property
  • Respect for staff

Electronic Devices[edit]

Cell phones must be kept out of sight and inaudible or they will be confiscated. In the case of an emergency, parents are to call the main office and the student will be paged.

The use of MP3 players and other electronic devices is discouraged and not permitted where teachers deem them to be disruptive. Violation of such policy and misuse will have their device confiscated from the student. It is unwise to bring expensive items to school, as the school cannot be responsible for stolen items. Computers, laptops and other electronic devices may be acceptable within school property or premises as long as they are in use of the students course or subject.


In an effort to mandate the TCDSB Uniform policy and provincial code of conduct, attention to outward appearance is an important part of an individual’s social development. The purpose of the school uniform is to ensure that students maintain a pleasing appearance and, therefore, foster an academic atmosphere in the school. Students are expected to be in full uniform at all times and to keep their uniforms in good repair. Additions to the uniform, e.g., coloured or printed T-shirts worn under shirts, are not permitted. The school uniform is a requirement for all students of Mary Ward at all times during the day, as well as at all school-related functions and activities. Students will not be permitted to attend classes (areas/seminars) if they are not in full uniform that is in presentable condition. It must be worn in the halls, the cafetorium, the library, and classrooms at all times.

Students who do not comply with the school uniform policy may be sent home to acquire the necessary uniform if they are unable to resolve the issue at school. A return to school will be permitted as soon as the student complies with the school policies. All new and returning students must have their full uniforms in acceptable condition for admission in September.

All students at Mary Ward are required to wear a student identification badge on a lanyard for the full day.

The uniform provider for Mary Ward C.S.S. is Halpern's.[citation needed] Other general policies shown in regards of uniforms:

  • Hats of any kind, bandanas and scarves [i.e., any type of head gear] are not to be worn in the school at any time, civvies days included
  • Boots (i.e., footwear that goes above the ankle), overly ornamental jewelry, leggings, gloves, non-leather or ornamental belts, key chains, pins, handkerchiefs hanging from the pant or shirt pockets are not permitted
  • The School Administration reserves the right to judge the appropriateness of any item not specifically listed in this policy
  • Mary Ward counts on the full cooperation of parents in ensuring that the standard of uniform is respected, from the very beginning of the school year
  • Parents are also expected to ensure that excessive jewelry, unsuitable make-up or extreme hairstyles are never worn.


  • Plaid Mary Ward kilt (length 13 cm from knee)
  • Grey Halpern’s slacks only
  • Undershirt (solid white, grey or navy only-no design or imprints)
  • Navy Mary Ward embroidered fleece top, vest, sweater or cardigan
  • Mary Ward embroidered long or short sleeved golf shirt blue or burgundy
  • Mary Ward embroidered 3/4 sleeved white blouse
  • Navy knee socks or navy tights (no footless) with kilt
  • Closed toed black shoes (slippers, sandals or flipflops are not permitted)
  • Black running shoes are permitted


  • Grey Halpern’s slacks only (pulled up at the waist)
  • Undershirt (solid white, grey or navy only - no design or imprints)
  • Navy Mary Ward embroidered fleece top, vest, sweater or cardigan
  • Mary Ward embroidered long or short sleeved golf shirt - blue or burgundy
  • Closed toed black shoes (slippers, sandals or flip-flops are not permitted)
  • Black running shoes are permitted

Religious Life[edit]

All students are expected to participate in various aspects of the school’s religious life: community masses, reconciliation, religious studies, retreats, and Advent and Lenten service projects.[citation needed]


Mary Ward, alongside Loretto Abbey, and Marshall McLuhan operates on a non-semestered schedule as the school runs on a Self-Directing Learning system. The term "no movement" refers to students remain in class without going in the hallways.[13]

Like most schools, the day typically begins at 8:30 AM as opening exercises begin at 8:40 AM with O Canada, morning prayer, and announcements. At the same time, students can proceed to TA Check-In at their respective homerooms before heading to period 1, which also applies to after lunch and dismissal. There are 5 periods and schedules 1-3 and 4 in schedules 4-5, but each period is 50–75 minutes long.[citation needed]

School publications[edit]

  • MW Planet – School Newspaper
  • Mary Ward Yearbook – Yearbook
  • Mary Ward Happenings - Parent newsletter

Feeder Schools[edit]

  • Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Academy
  • Holy Spirit Catholic Elementary School
  • Our Lady of Grace Catholic Elementary School
  • Prince of Peace Catholic Elementary School
  • St. Aidan Catholic Elementary School
  • St. Bartholomew Catholic Elementary School
  • St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Elementary School
  • St. Florence Catholic Elementary School
  • St. Gabriel Lalemant Catholic Elementary School
  • St. Gerald Catholic Elementary School
  • St. Henry Catholic Elementary School
  • St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Elementary School
  • St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Elementary School
  • St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic Elementary School
  • St. Maria Goretti Catholic Elementary School
  • St. Rene Goupil Catholic Elementary School
  • St. Sylvester Catholic Elementary School
  • The Divine Infant Catholic Elementary School
  • St. Lawrence Catholic Elementary School

Notable alumni[edit]

Musicians Amanda Walther (left) and Sheila Carabine (with Dala) are alumni of Mary Ward.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School". 
  2. ^ Membership of the Canadian Coalition of Self-Directed Learning
  3. ^ Promulgation of 19 December 2009
  4. ^ a b Mary Ward C.S.S. – Program
  5. ^ Mary Ward Planet, Spring 2009
  6. ^ John Del Grande (Spring 2006). "WARD 7" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-05-27. 20 successful years of the specialized Mary Ward Self-Learning Program – Direction 2000 
  7. ^ "Deal afoot to save Altona." Toronto Star. February 18, 1993. Scarborough/Durham p. SD.1. Retrieved on August 22, 2013.
  8. ^ a b Gionas, Sandra. "Educational revolution stirs Mary Ward staff, students." Toronto Star. March 8, 1996. Scarborough p. SC 2. Retrieved on August 22, 2013.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Mary Ward Agenda, 2012-13 - back cover.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Raposo, Nelia (2005-10-20). "Tuneful twosome". Retrieved 2007-05-27. 
  15. ^ :: Dala
  16. ^ 2006 Commonwealth Games Melbourne
  17. ^ Director's Annual Report 1998. Retrieved on 2007-05-27. "Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School student Craig Kielburger received the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship."
  18. ^
  19. ^ 2005 Top 20 Under 20T Award Recipients
  20. ^ 1998 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships

External links[edit]