Principal's Blog

March 1, 2018

From the Principal's Desk

Did you know that teachers do classwork much like they ask their students to?  It doesn’t look exactly the same, although a room full of teachers can be just as hard to control as one full of enthusiastic kids.  At NorthStar Academy, our teachers are part of a collaborative group within our school division that has us looking at best practices for online and home education.  On January 31st we got together with the other online school in Golden Hills to spend the day working on how to make our classes more engaging for our students (online instructional design).

As well, as a part of our focus on Powerful Learning, we are also engaged in making our classes and our school into places of thinking.  Sounds pretty simple but it turns out we have some things that we need to “unlearn” before we can go forward.  Ron Ritchhart, the author of Creating Cultures of Thinking, spells out some of the challenges we face:

  • Focusing students on learning vs. the work
  • Teaching for understanding vs. knowledge
  • Encouraging deep vs. surface learning strategies
  • Promoting independence vs. dependence
  • Developing a growth vs. a fixed mindset

Online learning and home education can make some of these challenges even more difficult to overcome, but our staff continues to work on making ourselves and our students into better thinkers.

NorthStar will have a new program for the 2018-2019 school year.  We will be offering our families a blended program.  A blended program combines the benefits of parent-directed home education with the advantages of teacher directed and online programming.  In the past NSA parents have had to choose either a traditional home education program (parent directed) or a fully aligned program (online or teacher directed).  We will now be able to offer the opportunity for a student to be a part of both of these worlds.  There are some boundaries, so we will provide all the details in the days ahead, but here are the basics:

  • Grades 1-9 – home education portion of the program must be 50% or higher
  • Grades 10-12 – home education portion of the program must be 20% or higher

Stay tuned for more details as we will send out guidelines for the NorthStar blended program in the near future.

Yours in Christ,

Randy Wood


December 4th, 2017

From the Principal's Desk

Feedback is at the core of good education, both for learners and for schools.  Alberta Education provides feedback to its schools through the Accountability Pillar which includes data from sources such as diploma exams, high school completion rates, and Rutherford scholarship eligibility.  Stakeholders are also surveyed on their views in regards to areas such as how safe and caring schools are, how well students are prepared for the work world, and the degree of parental involvement in schools.  We at NorthStar use this data to craft our improvement plans so we can better live out our slogan “Connected by Christ, Committed to Learning”.

We continue to excel receiving the highest rating in all seven of the survey areas: Safe & Caring, Parental Involvement, Citizenship, Work Preparation, Education Quality, Program of Studies, and School Improvement.  As well, we had strong results in our Physics 30 and English 30 diploma exam result, both of which were above provincial average.  However, the number of students achieving the standard of excellence declined slightly in Biology this year.  Our teachers look at all these results with an eye to determining opportunities for improvement.

GSAs are once again in the news in Alberta with the introduction of Bill 24 – An Act To Support Gay-Straight Alliances.  There is cause for concern for Christian schools, in part because the minister of education does not appear to understand our position.  He is rightfully concerned for the well-being of LGBTQ students, as their rates of self-harm are very high.  Christian schools share this concern but this is not fully recognized by some.  They don’t see how we can be supporters of LGBTQ students when we are not promoters of the LGBTQ lifestyle.  This is possible.  The Western Canada Director of the Association of Christian Schools International, Phil Hills expresses this better than I can. 

"Firstly, we believe that all students are created in the image of God and have innate value.  But adding to this is the belief that all of us are sinners.  Our shared brokenness is a powerful reality that can create a humble and inclusive atmosphere in a Christian school.  We aspire to deal with the log in our own eyes before focusing on the spec in the eyes of others.  Finally, we believe that Jesus offers all people an opportunity to find forgiveness, freedom and the hope of a glorious future."

While this debate is not likely to affect a home and online school like NorthStar Academy, please pray with us that our political leaders may see the truth.

Yours in Christ,

Randy Wood


December 1, 2017

On November 30th and December 1st, the Law Society of Ontario and Trinity Western University are presenting arguments to the Supreme Court of Canada.  The Law Society wants to be able to refuse to recognize graduates from TWU’s proposed law school.  Their objections began on the basis of TWU’s community covenant which includes a commitment to reserve sexual intimacy to marriage of one man and one woman.  Those objections now appear to have grown to include the “distinctly Christian” environment of Trinity Western. 

This case has relevance for me both personally and professionally.  I did my Masters in Leadership program at Trinity.  The school does an excellent job of staying true to a Biblical worldview, while at the same time being welcoming of people with different points of view.  Some of my classes had students who were from different faith backgrounds and some who would not profess any faith.  The personal relationships I built as we wrestled together with some very demanding topics, allowed me to share my faith as I learned how to better lead a school community.  Professionally, as principal of a publicly funded Christian school, the Supreme Court’s decision on the place of religion in the public sphere will have an impact on our community here at NorthStar Academy.  Not immediately, but it will shape policy for years to come.

I am reminded of the words of Eric Liddell, the Olympic athlete and missionary to China when he was called before British officials who wanted him to compromise his principles.  “God made countries, God makes kings, and the rules by which they govern.”  I ask you to pray with us at NorthStar that the Supreme Court will uphold the religious freedoms that God has granted us here in Canada.

Randy Wood


November 27, 2017

Dear NSA Parents,

I have some information to share with you today on a couple of topics:  diploma exam accommodations and home education reimbursements.

Diploma Exams

  • Alberta Education has made available to all students writing diploma exams the additional time accommodation. 
  • Diploma exams are released with a time frame of 2.5 to 3 hours, depending upon the exam.  All students may now take up to double the set time for their diploma exams. 
  • This means that the total time available will be 5 or 6 hours.  Alberta Education has not changed the exams so the expectation is that most students will finish within the allotted time.
  • 5 or 6 hours is a long time for an exam but the same exam supervision conditions will remain in place.  This means you can’t bring your lunch and there are no coffee breaks.  The usual bathroom breaks, sealed drink containers (no open coffee cups), and unobtrusive snacks such as candies and gum (stuff that won’t get on your fingers and onto the exam papers) are all that will be allowed.

Home Education Reimbursements

  • Alberta Education has provided us some feedback on the last yearly audit of traditional home education reimbursements.
  • They indicated two specific ineligible reimbursements:
    • Butterfly Life Cycle Kits
    • Shipping costs from the NSA office
  • We are seeking clarification on the concern over the butterfly life cycle kits as these are closely tied to the grade 3 Science learning outcomes.  Unless we receive the go-ahead from Alberta Education, we will no longer be able to reimburse for butterfly kits.
  • Materials that we occasionally had shipped to our offices and then sent out to families will now have to be shipped directly to families.  This should not be a significant concern.

On an unrelated note, the Trinity Western University case on their law school application will be adjudicated by the Supreme Court of Canada on November 30th.  These kinds of decisions have great impacts on all Christian schools.  Please be in prayer that the court will continue to recognize the religious freedoms that we have enjoyed in Canada and will find in favour of Trinity Western University.

Yours in Christ,

Randy Wood