March 2, 2015

One might not think that attending a free-learning school like Banbury could prepare a person for military service; one would think wrong. Yes, at first glance, there’s an apparent conflict in ideology; self-discipline vs. external discipline, heterarchy vs. hierarchy, suggestions vs. orders but these apparent contradictions mask the real truth of the matter.

The military –as I’m sure you can imagine- has rules for everything. Sometimes this makes life difficult, but it has its advantages; All the examples I give below are drawn verbatim from a document called ‘Leadership in the Canadian Forces’: Published under the auspices of the Chief of Defence Staff, it is a guiding document for Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and anyone else in a position of leadership within the Profession of Arms in Canada.

Without further ado, here’s how leaders in the Canadian Forces are directed to comport themselves. I think the benefits of an open, creative and spontaneous education will be obvious.

Firstly, we are expected to ‘Achieve professional competence and pursue self-improvement’ we are directed to do so ‘through self-study, experiential learning, formal training, and education.’

You never stop learning in the Navy, and after basic training, you will not have your hand held. Self-Motivation in learning is one of the most valuable skills a Leader in the CF can possess, and Banbury prepares its students to excel at it.

We are also Directed to ‘Solve problems; make timely decisions’ and ‘…where time and circumstances allow… involve others who possess relevant experience...’

Leadership in the Military goes far deeper than Orders and Obedience. We have a tradition of encouraging consultative decision making, and Banbury taught me how to work as part of a group and how to elicit advice from others.

We must also ‘Keep subordinates informed; [and] explain events and decisions’ because ‘...Candidly explaining events and decisions often reduces tensions created by uncertainty, and is critical to maintaining the trust relationship between leaders and led.’

The philosophy Banbury employs encourages Teachers to explain the benefits of learning and achieve buy-in from students towards their education. We trusted our teachers and believed in the goal of self-education. We employ that same strategy with our subordinates; they need to believe in the mission and I need to act as my teachers did and explain why we do what we do to form an effective team.

As a leader, you have centuries of collective experience to draw from amongst your subordinates and must “Learn from experience and those who have experience… leaders must constantly review performance… and ask if there isn’t a better way. Learning from… the experience of others is critical to ensuring high reliability, performance, and maintaining a competitive edge.”

Learning in a consultative environment helped me learn to respect my teachers as people, not just authority figures. I learned how to approach my superiors as mentors and engage them on human terms. I also learned to treat my subordinates with the same respect that my teachers treated me with and to engage them in the decision making process.

As you’ve probably noticed, there are some common threads through these statements; Self-Motivation, flexibility, and independent thinking. Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen are not machines; we are encouraged to think critically, act independently and achieve results without direct supervision. You cannot lead people like this with a one-way conversation. Banbury encourages these traits in its graduates and at the same time teaches them to respect and nurture these traits in others.

Iain Richardson

Lieutenant (Navy) | Lieutenant de Vaisseau
Naval Personnel and Training Group (NPTG) | Groupe du personnel et de l'instruction de la Marine (GPIM)

National Defence | Défense nationale
Victoria, British Columbia, CANADA

January 22, 2015

Dear Banbury Crossroads

Like most parents we wanted what was best for our daughter. After having a satisfactory public grade school experience we started to become concerned with the public education system in middle school as class sizes increased, teachers in general seemed overwhelmed adding to the increased pressures of children's social insecurities, limited one on one, lack of awareness, stress and anxiety. Our first encounter with student issues concerning our daughter was not handled in the most sensitive and productive manner in our view motivating us to seek alternative educational opportunities. Banbury Crossroads was one of the schools we researched. Once our daughter's good grades started to drift to average and with much natural uncertainty but confidence, due to Banbury's proven philosophies and history, we made the move to Banbury. Within weeks our daughter had become motivated to learn again and with no influence from us she excelled beyond expectations allowing her to advance with no limits but rather received encouragement and support allowing her to be the best that she can be. Now in her final years of High School every opportunity in the world is open to her with application processes now beginning to apply to the top universities in North America. On top of this is the positive development in character, kindness and understanding she received from attending Banbury which is priceless. Like most parents who want what is best for their children, to Banbury Crossroads we will be forever grateful.

Tessa and Greg

June 2012

I have had two children attend Banbury Crossroads Independent School from pre-school until grade twelve, graduating with excellent results in the provincial diploma exams and going on to success in post-secondary studies. In addition to their academic success Banbury Crossroads fostered and enabled their achievements in the arts and community involvement. Banbury provides a unique environment and a unique philosophy: that children are naturally inclined to learn and enjoy learning -- and have their own learning agenda which should be respected. Conventional teaching fails children because it demands that they learn -- as a group -- the things the teacher is interested in teaching them, at the pace the teacher sets, regardless of whether the children are interested or the pace meets the children’s needs. Banbury Crossroads’ teachers respect the child’s individuality, unique giftedness, and personal goals. The Banbury teacher’s job is first to avoid dampening the child’s enthusiasm for learning, second to teach the things the child is interested in, and third to introduce additional ideas building on the child’s interests that will result in meeting the goals of the Alberta Education curriculum. That cannot be done in an overcrowded classroom, or a classroom where the whole class must learn the same things, so the teacher-student ratio at Banbury is 1:10 or less, and individual learning is the norm. The school makes extensive use of fieldtrips, often to everyday settings like the grocery store or a neighbourhood park, to increase the children’s learning opportunities as they engage with curiosity in their everyday world. At Banbury when my four-year-old wanted to learn to read, no-one told her it was developmentally inappropriate. They helped her learn to read. When my high-schooler wanted to put off working on Social Studies so that she could curate an art-show, they taught her how to make business arrangements with a gallery and helped her pull off the show. Banbury sees nothing wrong with a child who is "too old" for Kindergarten sometimes needing a nap or down-time; or with an active spirited child who listens and learns while moving around the classroom. And the result is happy engaged children and youth who retain their enthusiasm for learning throughout their schooldays and take it with them into their futures.

Pamela Mclean


I think that’s the feeling that came to me when I was asked to write this letter. I wanted it to be, first and foremost, significant to communicate something great. To fill this page with words that would leave you with a wow; because, I was there in 1980 when Diane started Banbury Cross Roads. It was my first school and perhaps the most important thing in my childhood, as something beyond the Banbury. I wish I could write down how important a good school is…but I think that fundamentally it is a thing to be experienced. I don’t think I can actually tell you what going to BCrS was like…but it was significant; for me, for the people that I was with, for my friends and family.

Choosing Banbury Crossroads is a good choice, because, I believe, that for Diane and the School, children exceed important and pass into treasured. I always felt valued as a student at BCS. It is rare to find an environment that treats children as adults in training, and not as lesser versions of adults. To treat a child as something that is important and something to be respected, unto itself, brings that something to be someone. Perhaps, even someone great. I loved going to that school mostly because of the environment which could be described as: loving, nurturing, open, outward-looking, and full of real life learning.

This letter is a pale end empty version of what I would like it to be because I cannot write down eight years of collected experience on a single page, or even a stack of pages and do it justice. I cannot let you know what it feels like to go to this school or to be in a long term relationship with it. I can say that it was significant for me, enough to drag me back across 3033 Km of dirt and I still treasure it for what it was…great.

Respectfully and with Great affection

Aaron A. Patella

April 1, 2005

Before the school year enters the hectic schedule of May and June, I wanted to take a moment to thank you, all the teachers, office staff, volunteers and students at Banbury Crossroads for the way you have all supported my son, my son in both his learning challenges and his gifts.

You may recall that he was born prematurely and had many challenges both physically and emotionally. As parents we were very confused by a son who, at age 9, still could not understand simple addition. To the extent that he still argued that 2 + 3 is not 5 every time! When we finally had him screened for learning disabilities he tested above the 90th percentile for most areas. However, he was below the 8th percentile for visual perception. Due to weak eye muscles his entire universe bounced and shimmered which meant he could not experience the one-to-one correspondence necessary for arithmetic.

We made the decision to Banbury school him for a few years so that we could focus on the medical and physical areas he needed development in, while continuing his academics.

When he decided, half way through grade seven that he wanted to try school again we toured the local public school. The principal there, when she learned that at age 12 he was only just starting to be able to do math said, “if you send him, we will have to take him but we can’t do a thing for him. He is far too diverse in his abilities.” Many other schools we explored either were only interested in what the students could achieve, expressed concern about how much “work” he would be or were far too costly. Thank you for not being an elitist school. It is the warmth of the learning setting that enables my son to relax, gain friends and achieve academically.

When we found Banbury you told him that you would start wherever he was in any subject and help him achieve the next marker of learning. He agreed to try the school out for two days. On the second day the students told him he had to come the next day because they had written him into the play. After the play they told him he had to come the next day because they were going to the opening of Lord Of The Rings. And on Thursday they told him he had to come Friday, because then he would have come for a week! Every day he came Banbury more excited about having found a “great school.” This accepting attitude of students in their early teens shows excellent life-skills modeling by the staff at the school and it is something I have appreciated over and over again.

Math was begun at the Grade Five level; all other subjects at either the grade six or seven level. He thrived and gained in confidence. Thank you for never making him feel stupid for being behind in his subjects; rather he was strongly supported in his writing gifts. This encouragement made him more and more willing to tackle his weaker subjects.

He is now 17 and although he still has difficulty in carrying a full academic load he is achieving marks in the 80’s and 90’s, including his grade seven math! Although he will finish high school a little later than some, he will finish with a solid understanding of all the core subjects because of the school’s insistence on mastery learning. He has appreciated the multi-age groupings because students can be working on multiple subjects at multiple grade levels and no-one feels they are in “the wrong grade for their age.” They are just learning the next thing they need to learn.

Two years ago he discovered he loved writing and was supported in the development of a 200 page novel. An amazing achievement for someone who couldn’t spell very well, nor use punctuation when he began at Banbury.

Because you are a principal with an open door policy for everyone from kindergarten to grandparent, I know that you are aware of my son’ progress. However, I wanted to put in writing my appreciation of the impact Banbury Crossroads has had on my son. You have all made it possible for him to get the academic, emotional and social skills he needs to create a successful future.

Again, many thanks to all of you for all the ways you support my son’s growth, dreams and academic learning.



May 17, 2005

Dear Ms. Swiatek

I am writing to thank you and the staff of Banbury Crossroads School for the excellent job the school has done with my daughter, Stephanie.

Stephanie has managed to excel herself in elementary, junior high and now high school largely as a result of her hard work and also the crucial role that Banbury Crossroads has performed during her early cognitive years starting at close to four years of age.

Stephanie intends to attend medical school with the aim of becoming a trauma surgeon in a large hospital and by all indications, she is well on her way.

Without hesitation, I would recommend the professionals at Banbury Crossroads School to parents who are interested in their children’s development, especially in the early years where children are most impressionable and vulnerable.

Again, my thanks,


May 20, 2005

Dear Diane;

Congratulations on the 25th Anniversary of Banbury Crossroads School. Thank you for the invitation to attend the festivities, unfortunately we will be unable to.

We appreciated the opportunity to have Casey and Corey receive their senior education at Banbury. We believe that the individual attention that they received from teachers like Gary, Melissa, Karen, Christina, Alistair, Kathy and others as well as the leadership that Diane provided was central to their success. Their achievements on their final exams, for example Casey 99% on his Math 30 final, and high marks all round for both Casey and Corey were a direct result of the teaching practices and one on one instruction they received at Banbury.

The close association with the school allowed us to keep track of what the guys were doing. The interaction with students of all ages was an added benefit to our boys, it gave them an opportunity to be examples to the younger ones, we hope that their behaviour did have positive influences, although we are sure there were times when they weren’t exactly ideal role models.

We are proud to say that both our boys have gone on to higher education and were able to because they attended Banbury in their senior high school years.

Casey has a dual degree in Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering. He attended Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland and is now working in Vancouver for West Bay Sonship Yacht Company.

Corey started his Bachelor of Sciences at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia for 2 years. Upon our return to Calgary in 1999 he continued at the University of Calgary and is now completing a degree in Finance at the Mount Royal College.

Thanks for opportunity that was given to our boys. We wish you every success in the next 25 years.

Kindest regards to everyone.
Don & Jo-Ann

May 27, 2005

Dear Diane,

One of the joys of Banbury Crossroads is the look on Anne and Rachel’s faces, when some uninformed adult commiserates with them over the end of vacation and the resumption of school, or expresses the “fact” that no child likes lessons—a look of bemused acceptance of adult ignorance.

Far from disliking lessons, Anne and Rachel find them everywhere: they turn a trip to the Stampede, or a detour around a construction site or a family vacation, into adventures in intense, focused learning. Time and again I’ve seen them watch workers until shift change—while their long-suffering parents restlessly indulge their curiosity—asking pertinent questions or just sitting and taking note of every detail. In this way they watched the tilers at North Hill Mall until the self-conscious young journeyman began explaining his movements as he worked.

After the first hour the paleontologist at the Tyrrell started letting them give his commentary. And the leather worker at the Western Living show had to tell them to leave so that he could take his break.

You see, they have never known learning to be a chore. Their earliest school-lessons were in how to get help for their own learning agendas, rather than in how to follow someone else’s agenda. From the days when you took Anne through the Red Reader because she wanted it, to teaching Rachel to make an appointment—at 3½ years old! for the private coaching she wanted, you’ve been empowering our girls to learn!


Banbury Crossroads

25th Anniversary

May 2005

Twenty-five years ago, when we transplanted our family from Ontario to a newer community here in Calgary, we were confronted with a crowded, unsympathetic education system that offered our children a long bus ride to a distant school in a mundane curriculum with no challenges. Ron and I started searching for alternatives to this dilemma, and became acquainted with Diane’s Banbury Crossroads Private School. We instantly liked her, and agreed with the methods she employed to instill values, self-esteem and a genuine love of information gathering into each of her charges. In the open-concept schoolroom, she made learning fun, by introducing the children to first-hand experiential situations. Apart from learning the compulsory ABC’s, they went camping in the wilderness, traipsed over the hoodoos in dinosaur country, spent a day at a farm, made menus from scratch, learned ballroom dancing, wrote, directed and acted in plays, produced woodworking marvels, and had a hand in animal husbandry right in the classroom, caring for rabbits and guinea pigs. The kids were encouraged to investigate, plan, execute and evaluate the ideas they wanted to explore. Nothing in their imaginations was too weird or out of reach. The varied experiences offered at BC made our two girls eager to go to school, and confident in their learning capabilities.

Diane’s teaching methods encouraged children to think and grow outside the ordinary parameters of grades and other measured standards. Students were allowed to progress at their own speed of comprehension, employ critical-thinking skills, and follow their internal drives and desires, and were not kept back because of age restrictions. The low teacher-to-student ratios meant that instructors were always accessible and available for questions and individual attention. As an extra bonus, the younger kids were helped and tutored along by the older classmates.

The vast majority of Diane’s graduates have emerged as confident, well-adjusted adults who place a high value on the importance of education, and early introduction to real-life experiences and adventures. Our own girls, Delaney and Rhiannon, are examples of successful individuals who possess high personal standards, confidence, integrity, manners, and are goal-oriented, all attributes of a combination of good parenting and exceptional education.

On behalf of our children, we are grateful to Diane and her staff for their generosity of spirit, and for exposing the Banbury students to a safe learning environment of love, sharing and caring.

Ron and Joy

May 27, 2005

Dear Diane

My sincerest regrets at not being able to attend your celebratory evening. I was very honored to be asked to attend your function, however, I am not able to do so.

Diane, I am proud to be your friend and am very encouraged with this milestone. Twenty-five years at anything is tremendous, but to have envisioned, promoted, grown and established a firm foundation in such a unique educational endeavor for that length of time is amazing. You all—Diane , the staff, the supporters, the parents and above all the students—must be commended for your commitment to this little school that could. Obviously, you are meeting a need and as a result, the young people profit.

Perhaps what is most exciting is that you have been willing to ask for assistance, you have all been unafraid to deal with the challenges of growth and as your graduates are recognized at this function, you can reflect on a solid history. You have all learned something precious—there is a wonderful entrepreneurial and passionate undercurrent to your school. That undercurrent is recognized through the desire by those who work within this school to engage young people in developing a ‘spirit’ which is respectful and opens them to life-long learning and a ‘can-do’ attitude.

I have enjoyed our friendship—through personal interactions, our time on the Association of Independent Schools and Colleges in Alberta (AISCA) Board, and my opportunity to be part of the Alberta Education Review Committee that assessed your needs for growth several years ago.

May the next 25 years be a wonderful adventure for you.

My sincerest congratulations and best wishes.