Before I started teaching at Armbrae, I taught International Baccelaurate (IB) Physics for 3 years at the British International School of Budapest. I attained my IB training in Bratislava, Slovakia from Chris Hamper, an international leader in IB Physics education. In 2006, when I decided to return to the Maritimes and move to Halifax, the Halifax Regional School Board was introducing the IB Diploma to the largest number of high schools, at once, in North America. I felt the timing was perfect to find my dream job given my IB experience. In the Spring of 2006, I visited all the public high schools who were offering IB in the fall, as well as most of the independent schools. At the end of my trip, I received job offers from the 3 CAIS schools (Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS) is a community of independent schools who choose to meet and exceed rigorous National Standards that inspire continuous whole school improvement). After carefully considering my options, I chose Armbrae Academy. And Armbrae does not offer IB.
What made me say no to IB?
Making any educational decision is difficult, but making an informed decision is always best. If you are a student considering your own educational path, make sure you have all the facts and ask a lot of questions. I also strongly encourage parents to be well informed to help with the decision-making. I further recommend starting to conduct research early (Grade 9). Having 3 years of IB Physics experience as well as having visited all the schools, I had a good idea which school would best support my educational philosophy and encourage me to grow. It was Armbrae.
As a teacher, I found the IB Diploma program to be very strict and rigorous. In my experience, only the hardest working students thrived. Not all of our students at BISB were equally talented in all subjects and many struggled to manage the breadth of subjects with the intense workload. Also many of our students had passions outside of school, which made completing the extra work, like the extended essay and service component, very difficult and stressful. My school in Budapest did not offer a high school diploma, as a result, our students either attained an IB diploma or finished with a few IB certificates.
As a teacher, I disagree with the IB high-stakes assessment model. In Physics, 80% of the students' marks were based on 3 exams in 2 days at the end of the two-year course. I enjoyed working with my students to prepare for the exam, but I did not think such a limited assessment snap-shot was the best indicator of their talent or potential in the subject. I also could not fathom how the IB Physics curriculum could be completed in a semestered public high school. It just didn't seem to be enough time. Pedagogically, these issues were deal breakers for me.
Armbrae is not semestered and teaching at an independent school gives me the freedom to create a curriculum that is a blend of the best parts of the IB, Advanced Placement (AP) and our own enriched curriculum. Physics at Armbrae is advanced but there are a variety of ways students are assessed throughout Grade 11 and 12, such as: weekly assignments, multiple tests, practical work and two exams. If a student misses some class time to pursue an amazing extra curricular opportunity, I have flexibility and time to work with that student to help them get caught up. For those students looking for even more of a challenge, or an internationally recognized course, Armbrae offers AP Physics. Most people are not aware that AP courses are as internationally recognized as IB, if not more. At Armbrae, the Physics AP exam is optional and can be taken in May of Grade 11 or 12. Just like IB, if a student attains a certain grade on their AP exam, they are eligible to skip an introductory course, as per the university's policy or get an actual university credit for the course. At Armbrae, the enriched Physics course, along with the potential to take AP offers students the best of both worlds. And yes, if you are wondering, I did find my dream job.