School Spotlight: Bialik High School

Bialik High School is a secondary private Jewish high school, I-V, private high school that is part of the JPPS-Bialik school system, that was founded and based on a pluralistic vision of Judaism that offers an outstanding Jewish and secular education through both an English Section and a Section française. Together, they form an extremely well-rounded learning experience for students of every grade level.

Avi Satov is principal of Bialik High School, and said that he considers himself very lucky getting to spend his days helping change children’s lives. MList was excited to sit down with Satov and Naomi Blumer, Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations, for a candid chat about their school’s mission and their student’s busy and impactful academic year ahead.

What makes Bialik stand apart from other private schools?

Satov: The school is founded on four pillars. We value academic excellence – we became an authorized IB (International Baccalaureate) middle year school as of 2016, which holds us to certain worldwide standards put forth by the esteemed international organization. We don’t just offer the French language but the French culture, given we’re here in Quebec. We offer Judaic studies and teach the Hebrew language where conversation is critical – we were recently highlighted for a Hebrew program we just launched that teaches Hebrew through the lens of Israel. And then there’s technology: staying up on the trends (we have Smart Boards and an iPad program), and being at the forefront and cutting edge of technology.

We offer the Gesher Bridge for students who would like to join us from schools outside the Jewish day school system. We also offer enrichment and remediation for students at all levels.

We heard about the incredible upgrades you recently made to your athletics department.

Satov: Yes, we expanded our athletics this year. We’re number-one in terms of facilities, as we just put in a synthetic turf field and outdoor basketball court. We are teaching healthy living and eating, and getting kids active, so there are multiple opportunities for involvement in school and after school (our after-school program has exploded). We have competitive and non-competitive teams, boys and girls – the building is buzzing way after the bell rings.

We also hired an additional athletics person to coordinate everything, and in the first two months, it has paid in huge dividends.

Blumer: The raison d’etre for teaching students to get active to empower our students to cope with whatever may come their way. Our cafeteria always has healthy food options, and we encourage the students to eat well and bring in healthy snacks. Our students tend to have jam-packed schedules because they’re doing so many things, school activities, community service, social things, that we want to get that message across that taking care of yourself transcends into being happier and being able to cope with stress.

We know your students get to go on incredible service trips as well as retreats. Can you tell us about those?

In Grade 11, there is the March of the Living and students have an opportunity to go to Israel and Poland and learn about the Holocaust. This year our Grade 10 students are going to New York and Washington, which really ties into the curriculum. Grade 9 has a service trip – last year they went to New Orleans, and they’re going back to New Orleans to build homes following Hurricane Katrina. They get to meet the people who move into those homes. And then every grade level does a retreat of Jewish content.

Avi, we know you’re a dad as well. How do you balance taking care of other people’s kids all day long and then taking care of your own children too?

Well, I’m also involved in summer camp, so I was always tell people when they ask me that that I’m privileged to go to summer camp and still go to high school as an adult. It’s about your attitude and outlook, and trying to make change in the lives of kids. I truly believe it’s hard to be a teenager these days. There’s so much with social media, and kids are not interacting as much, fortnight has taken over lives, and we need kids to have conversations with each other. If we can be a positive influence on these kids during this five-year window and help them build relationships with their teachers and friends, we’re successful. We want them to leave the school and advocate for themselves and have confidence – that’s our mission. It’s what I strive to do every day. There’s bumps for sure but it’s about people and building relationships.