Foothills Academy Society
Our Story Why We Exist
“My son never felt like he belonged in a school setting before Foothills Academy. Right from the first day the teachers and staff made him feel like he was understood and he has since felt very welcomed and comfortable. He also had trouble making friends before Foothills but now has the best group of friends he’s ever had. I will never forget our first parent/teacher interview at Foothills Academy. I was in shock as I heard the teachers say encouraging words that my husband and I have been wishing other school teachers had said (at least once) in the past 7 years of my son’s schooling. Finally, we have found a haven where people understood our son!
I truly believe Foothills Academy has changed our lives for the better. I almost feel I cannot put into words exactly how grateful we are that Foothills Academy exists. We now have a happy 18 year old who will graduate high school this year and go on to post secondary education with confidence and the tools for success.”
For parents whose child is struggling with learning, it can be difficult to find the right help. Learning Disabilities are an invisible disability that can affect academic skills, social skills, self-confidence and self-esteem. With the right identification and supports, these individuals have unlimited potential. Without the right supports, the outcomes can be grim – school disengagement and drop out, involvement in crime, poverty, addiction and homelessness are just some of the potentially negative outcomes.
Foothills Academy was born of the frustration experienced by Bill and Beth Mackasey as their search for an appropriate academic setting for their son, Patrick, proved futile. Knowing how capable their son was, yet recognizing how little special educational programming was available for Patrick to be successful, the Mackaseys’ approached Gordon Bullivant and Tom Aylesworth, who were already working with special needs students, for help.
Over the next two years, from 1975 to 1977, a major research project documented the services available in Calgary and across North America and concluded there to be a need for a segregated school for students with Learning Disabilities. Mr. and Mrs. Mackasey, Gordon and Tom, decided to continue to pursue the idea of a segregated school, and formed a society whose purpose would be to start a private, non-profit school and centre. Financial support was sought and in September of 1979 the first 33 students began their school year at Foothills Academy, located in the old St. Pius School in Capitol Hill.
For the next 35 years (1979 – 2015) Foothills Academy thrived with Gordon Bullivant as the Executive Director and Tom Aylesworth as the Business Administrator. The current centre was built in Parkdale in 1990, and expanded in 2012 with a burgeoning student population which will reach its maximum this year at 285. The expansion also provided a greater number of counselling, assessment, and individual instruction rooms, facilitating significant growth in all of those areas as well. In 2013 the Learning Disabilities Association of Alberta – Calgary Chapter was absorbed into Foothills Academy, bringing with it the social skills program and Camp Amicus.
The vision of these founders and the commitment and dedication of the employees over the past three and half decades has had a profound and positive impact on thousands of young people and families. The impact of Gordon and Tom cannot be understated, as they always wanted to ensure that no child or family would be turned away due to financial need. In accordance with their vision, Foothills Academy Society continues to raise close to $1 Million annually to support the bursary fund, allowing access to our school and community services for all.
In 2015, with Tom’s passing and Gordon’s retirement, Foothills Academy entered into a new era, yet still focused on the incredible vision of these founders.
Our Impact What We Do
A School and So Much More! Foothills Academy Society started in 1979 to meet a unique need in Calgary for children diagnosed with Learning Disabilities. The Society has two mandates: to serve children and youth with Learning Disabilities in a School Program and to serve the greater community through Community Services.
Foothills Academy School is a non-profit private school for students with diagnosed Learning Disabilities in grades 3 - 12. The school offers a safe haven to children who have been frustrated by traditional schooling, disheartened by a lack of support for their unique learning style and perhaps been bullied because they just don’t fit in.
Estelle Siebens Community Services assists children, youth and adults who are experiencing difficulties in their school, work and/or home environments as a result of Learning Disabilities, ADHD and/or social/emotional challenges. Community Services provides programs and services to residents of Calgary and beyond on a year-round basis. We offer psycho-educational testing, individual and group counselling, intensive reading/writing/ mathematics/study skills individualized instruction programs, summer camps (Camp Amicus), year-round recreation (Amicus Recreation), parent education, research, and training for pre- and in-service educators.
It has always been part of Foothills’ philosophy to never turn someone away due to financial circumstances. As a result, close to $1 million must be raised each year to support the bursary program at Foothills. Donations are always welcome to help support the needs of individuals and families affected by Learning Disabilities and ADHD.
“(Foothills Academy) is perceived by the learning disabilities community across North America to be an excellent role model for private education for children who need special help. The success of the school’s graduates and their loyalty to the school over the years speaks volumes. I think everyone in Calgary knows that a child is lucky to be admitted to this school.” - Dr. Bonnie Kaplan, University of Calgary
ANNUAL REPORT HIGHLIGHTS 2015-2016
Our school growth is at capacity, with a forecast of 275 students, our focus was on two areas. First, we will continue to deliver the most effective teaching for students with Learning Disabilities. Second, we will transfer our research, knowledge and excellence out wider through Community Services. With our new collaborative approach, we are dedicated to securing successful growth, development and equity in the School Program and Community Services.
- 285 students were enrolled in our School Program (grades 3 to 12) who received accomodations and supports according to their individual need.
- 123 or 45% of our school families recieved financial assistance through the Foothills Academy Bursary Fund.
- We've reached the maximum number of students that our building will accomodate and have started a waiting list (a complete school performance report and three year plan is available on our website).
Our Programs How We Do It
1. Foothills Academy School is a Designated Special Education private school serving over 285 students with Learning Disabilities from grade 3 - 12 following the Alberta Education curriculum. Classes typically have no more than 14 students with a teacher and a part-time assistant. We focus on a wide range of strategies to help students find success - ensuring students reach their full potential. The aim for our students is to go on to successful and meaningful post-secondary education. We build on students’ strengths to enable them to become the great individuals whom they are capable of being.
The School Program focuses on the well-rounded child ensuring academics are of a high standard as well as putting great emphasis into the social and emotional side of our students. The high school completion rate and zero dropout rate are testimony to the safe and caring environment both socially and academically that is fostered by supportive staff at Foothills Academy. It is the goal of Foothills Academy Society that any qualified child should be able to attend the school program regardless of a family's financial circumstances. Therefore, while Foothills Academy is a private school, it is also a charitable society that raises money every year to support its bursary fund. In order to support this goal, all families of children attending Foothills Academy are required to participate in and support the fundraising efforts of the society.
2. Estelle Siebens Community Services offers year-round programs and services to support people affected by Learning Disabilities and ADHD. In 2016, more than 800 children & youth accessed our programs and services. We also provided parent education to over 310 parents increasing their knowledge of how Learning Disabilities and ADHD affect their children. More than 2,500 educators (reaching over 50,000 students) increased their knowledge and skills for working with the diverse learners in their classroom by participating in one of our Professional Development workshops.
- Assessment & Counselling: Psycho-educational assessments and counselling for challenges related to Learning Disabilities, ADHD & related conditions are available for children, youth and adults. Small group programs are offered during the school year that focus on social skill development, executive functioning skills, study skills and leadership. Currently, we offer Let's Be Social, Survive & Thrive in Jr. High and Girls Only!: Empowering & Connecting Girls with LD/ADHD.
- Camp Amicus & Amicus Recreation: Camp Amicus is a specialized camp for children & youth with LD/ADHD with a focus on developing social skills, self-esteem & self-confidence while having a lot of fun. Overnight and day camp options are available. Amicus Recreation offers recreational opportunities through the school year with the same emphasis on developing positive social skills while engaging in fun, recreational activities.
- Read/Write & Math: We provide remedial assistance for children, youth and adults experiencing reading, writing and/or math difficulties. Our trained, qualified and experienced staff works 1:1 to provide personalized assistance for learners from 6 through to adult. The Read/Write programs teach effective research-based strategies (using the LiPS methods). Math tutoring is based on Alberta Education curriculum and often uses Chisanbop Math as a calculation strategy.
- Parent Workshops: In-person and online workshops for parents on topics related to LD, ADHD and related issues.
- Educator Workshops: In-person and online Educator professional development workshops are held throughout the year. Foothills’ Professional Development workshops and training focus on strategies and programs to assist educators and support staff in meeting the diverse learning needs of all students.
- And more...Foothills Academy Society participates in research and advocacy efforts at a local, national and international level.
Our Requests What You Can Do
Foothills Academy Society's philosophy is that no individual with Learning Disabilities should be left behind irrespective of their family's financial circumstances. To support this bursary fund, close to $1 Million is needed each year. This is why we reach out to corporations, individuals, foundations and service clubs for support. As well, all school parents, students and staff work together each year to fundraise. Donations are also accepted to support specific program, capital purchases and sustainable funding. You can be a sponsor or donor to:
- Calgary Marathon Charity Challenge
- Gordon Hoffman Charity Golf Tournament
- Family Fun Night
- Fall Funtasia Gala Event
- Car Raffle
- General Bursary Fund
- Endowment Funds
“Foothills Academy has created an environment where teachers have the expertise to understand children who have not been able to learn in larger classrooms…Sean’s success has not only been very gratifying for us but he is fulfilling an important function in our society. His success demonstrates the impact Foothills Academy has on the lives of individuals who learn in different ways.” - The DeWiel Family