Mary Johnston Public School
Greetings, and a very warm welcome to the WRX Property Group website and blog. We’re in the midst of a new series on the top-rated elementary schools throughout Kitchener-Waterloo. In this series, we’ll be providing overviews of each of the top elementary schools in the public Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB).
Today we’ll be looking at Mary Johnston Public School, one of the WRDSB’s top schools in the City of Waterloo. Let’s begin!
Mary Johnston Public School (or Mary Johnston PS) is located at 475 Brynhurst Boulevard in Waterloo. This places it right in the heart of the popular Beechwood area of Waterloo (specifically, Mary Johnston PS stands in the southeast corner of the Upper Beechwood neighbourhood).
This is a beautiful, upscale part of Waterloo, which offers the quiet stability of suburban life while also providing residents close access to parks, shopping, and community areas. The specific zoning boundaries for Mary Johnston PS can be seen here, but essentially, the cut off points are Columbia Street West, Fischer-Hallman Road North, Erb Street West, and Erbsville Road.
Mary Johnston Public School serves children from Kindergarten to Grade 6; one of its special programs is French Immersion. For Grades 7 and 8, students will move just a few blocks east to Centennial Public School (Centennial is a senior elementary school; it also offers French Immersion, as well as Congregated Classes for Gifted Learners and Life Skills students).
For high school, Mary Johnston PS students are currently zoned for Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School (SJAM for short), a few minutes’ drive to the northwest. SJAM is the newest high school in Waterloo, and it offers many unique opportunities – you can read all about them here.
Note that the WRDSB’s Magnet Program allows students to transfer to a high school outside of their zoning area if they’re pursuing a specific class offered there. Mary Johnston’s school hours are 9:10 am – 3:30 pm; its office hours are 8:30 – 4:00.
The office phone number is (519) 747-1620.
One of the ways in which Mary Johnston PS distinguishes itself, and demonstrates its commitment to providing a safe and nurturing environment for students, is through its ‘balanced school day’ schedule. Each day has two nutritional/activity breaks, during which times students can exercise, play, and maintain their energy levels through healthy, nutritionally-balanced snacks.
Furthermore, Mary Johnston PS is a dedicated advocate of the WRDSB’s Safe, Caring and Inclusive Schools (SCIS) guidelines and principles. What this means in practice is that Mary Johnston strives to guarantee an open, positive school experience for each of its students.
This goal is achieved in part through an SCIS team, which consists of administrative staff, faculty, a Child and Youth Worker, parents, a community member, and 4 student members from Grade 5 and 6; this team looks for areas in which to improve, and develops and implements new plans and ideas.
The balanced school day and SCIS initiatives mean that at Mary Johnston PS, the whole child is supported: on the basis of both physical and emotional wellbeing.
One of the first things you learn about a school is its name. Some schools simply bear the name of the street upon which they’re located (such as Keatsway and Wilson Avenue Public Schools), while others are more descriptive of the area surrounding them (Lackner Woods, Millen Woods, and Vista Hills Public Schools, for example).
Some schools, however, are named after specific, noteworthy people, and Mary Johnston PS is one such school. Mary Johnston acquired its name in 1987. So the question is: who’s Mary Johnston? Well, she’s a very important figure in the history of Waterloo Region education: she was the first female principal of a Waterloo public school.
Mary Johnston’s career as an educator lasted for nearly 4 decades. Though originally from Edmonton, she attended Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational Institute for high school, and began working in the Waterloo Region as a teacher in 1950.
By 1968, she was the board’s first female principal, and from that point forward she worked tirelessly to promote and improve educational opportunities, reach out to students and members of the community, and serve as an inspiration and trailblazer for other women hoping to follow in her footsteps.
Mary Johnston is a huge figure in WRDSB history – indeed, friends and family called her ‘Biggy’ – and she was inducted into the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame in 2009. Mary Johnston passed away in 2017, but the school, and her legacy, remain an indelible facet of the Waterloo Region and its educational aspirations.
The Fraser Institute is a Canadian organization based in Vancouver that, among other things, compiles and analyzes publically-available data regarding schools in Ontario, Québec, British Columbia, and Alberta. The source of this data is the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO)’s Grade 3 and Grade 6 testing.
These tests assess students on performance in Reading, Writing, and Math. Each year, the Fraser Institute creates a Report Card for every school, using average performance in each of the aforementioned criteria, as well as taking gender gap, tests written below average, and tests not written into account.
As for Mary Johnston PS, it ranks right near the top of WRDSB schools: it is tied for seventh overall in the WRDSB (including Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge, and the surrounding Townships). Its rating in 2017 was 7.4/10, placing it at the top of the second-tier of schools, and well above the Ontario-wide average of 6/10 (note that the wide variety of schools throughout Ontario, including private schools).
The Beechwood area of Waterloo is sought-after for a reason: its location means it’s close to many of Waterloo’s finest features (Uptown and the universities are not too far away), while being insulated from the hustle and bustle, and thus, for some people, a great place to raise a family.
Mary Johnston Public School, located in Upper Beechwood right near the neighbourhood’s border with Beechwood West, means any families choosing to call Beechwood home will have one of the best schools in the WRDSB within walking distance (or, at the very least, a short drive).
It’s a wonderful school, and it proudly bears the name of one of Kitchener-Waterloo’s most famous educators. Mary Johnston was an innovator; is it any wonder that Mary Johnston PS is proving to be quite innovative, too?
Written by Will Kummer