Q. When did you first become interested in Waldorf Education and why?
A. In 1996, I was introduced to Biodynamic Agriculture while studying Horticulture at OSU/ATI in Wooster, OH. I was pretty passionate about the Philosophy and spoke with everyone about it. I had just met my husband and he explained that he lived with his Aunt in CA for awhile who was and continues to be a Waldorf teacher. I fell in love with the approach to both Education and Agriculture. I discovered that a Waldorf School existed in NE Ohio and my mother (also a teacher) and I visited Spring Garden Waldorf School together in 1997. During my undergraduate work I studied in VT and CA interviewing Waldorf Garden Teachers. I compiled a garden curriculum and distributed it back to the teachers who shaped it. I worked and interned at the Sacramento Waldorf School and Rudolf Steiner College for 5 months before moving to Pacific Grove, CA for my student teaching semester and to finish my thesis.
Q. What is your teaching and education background?
A. I graduated with my BA in Education in 2001 and was offered a position to teach 4th grade at Monterey Bay Charter School (A Waldorf Inspired Charter). I met Cate Hunko at the 4th grade summer intensive training at Rudolf Steiner College. I taught 4th grade and then decided to begin my Waldorf Teacher Training at Antioch the following summer. I taught 4-6th grade at Monterey Bay Charter School. Then a few months before our Ohio wedding we decided we really wanted to be closer to our families again. We moved to Akron, knowing we would be close to a Waldorf School, were wed, I finished my summer sequence Waldorf training in NH, and then spent a semester writing my thesis and waiting tables. I completed my Master’s degree in Education in 2004.
I was then a substitute at SGWS and surrounding schools for 2 years before I took a first grade at SGWS in 2006. I taught a wonderful group of children from 1st – 3rd grade at SGWS until my eldest son was born.
Q. How do you feel about teaching the same group of students for 8 years?
A. I love teaching the same group of children over a span of years. It is a very special and unique task to hold a group and watch them change, grow, and succeed. Due to life circumstances I haven’t yet experienced the entire span, but I will consider it a special gift when I am able to complete a cycle.
Q. What do you most love or look forward to about teaching at a Waldorf School?
A. It is a beautiful curriculum! Every year I teach, I find joy in the stories and methods. I was so moved by the stories of 5th grade that I wrote my Master’s thesis about the Creation Myths from around the world and the influence of storytelling. As a Waldorf teacher we read stories all the time! Then we are blessed to experience the magic as we share them with the children and watch them work through the morals, concepts and themes.
Q. What is your favorite quote about teaching or education?
A. Rudolf Steiner has so many! Here are two from him:
“Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility—these three forces are the very nerve of education.”
“A healthy social life arises when the whole community finds its reflection in the mirror of a person’s soul, and when the virtue of each person lives in the whole community.”
Thanks for sharing Andrea!
The PC is a supportive body of the school that promotes community enrichment and communication. It also acts as a constructive link between the Board of Trustees, the Faculty, and the parent body at large. Each representative acts as the voice for the entire class he/she represents. The President and President Elect each serve on the Board of Trustees.
Each representative is responsible for communicating pertinent information gained at each monthly Parent Council meeting to his/her respective class.
Here are the Parent Council Representatives for each Class this year:
Ms. Kathy – Susie Yoder
Ms. Julie – Kara Hoffman
Ms. Olga – Debi Huselton
Class 1 – Susan Hudson
Class 2 – Lisa Friel
Class 3 – Still Needed
Class 4 – Kelly Urbano
Class 5 – Rocky Lewis
Class 6 – Robin Anselm
Class 7 – Ann Denney
Class 8 – Julie Norman
Parent Council spearheads volunteer efforts for each of the following events:
- Welcome Back Dinner
- Children’s Festival
- Annual Auction class projects
- Parent Appreciation event.
Parent Council also facilitates minor fundraisers such as the Renaissance Faire Lunch and Silver Graphics, creates forums for parent enrichment and community building, and coordinates the production of a yearbook.
In Part 1 of this series, Waldorf vs. Public School – Early Academics, we explored child development and testing in its relation to academics in Waldorf and Public schools. Now we’ll compare the academic philosophies of each education system, beginning with an in-depth discussion of Waldorf early academic pedagogy.
What is the objective of Waldorf Early Academics?
Waldorf educators believe test standards cannot be rigidly adhered to in a child’s early years. We all have heard stories of geniuses and other successful adults that “underperformed” in early grades. For example, a student’s inability to read fluently until the end of second or third grade could be due to a learning challenge, or it could be that the child has not reached the developmental milestones necessary for them to read and it’s important not to label or stress children in these early years if a love of learning is to be established.
Waldorf educators understand that most children taught academics in early years will learn academics, but at what cost? A growing body of current research indicates that early academics actually hurt the long term test scores of students. Also, Harvard research found that by eighth grade, Waldorf students outperform their early-academic-focused peers.
But why? Waldorf educators believe it is because our early academic curriculum takes a child’s development into account and focuses on more than one kind of intelligence, which is key to educating the whole child for long term academic success.
While reading and math is taught in Waldorf early academics, Waldorf teachers have, and take, time to focus on all the varying forms of intelligence as defined by Howard Gardner, American developmental psychologist and professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In his book, Frames of Mind, he discusses the different ways in which humans cultivate intelligence, which include: Verbal / Linguistic, Logical/ Mathematical, Body/ Kinesthetic, Visual/ Spatial, Music/ Rhythmic, Interpersonal & Intrapersonal and Naturalistic.
Waldorf students in Grade K-3, unhindered by test-centered curriculum and schedules, have the time to do what public schools used to accomplish. Students learn art and music for visual and musical learning, which studies show aids future learning of abstract mathematical concepts. They are given time to use their bodies during each of the three recess periods and during gym class, eurythmy, and main lesson movement to develop body/kinesthetic and spatial learning. Collaborative classwork and free play allows students to develop inter- and intrapersonal intelligence. Special subjects like gardening allow science curriculum to occur in a meaningful, naturalistic environment.
By giving young children time to learn and develop layers of important skills that go beyond the three Rs and testing concepts, Waldorf educators are fostering deeper learning that pays off in the long term.
The Philosophy Behind the Pedagogy
- The importance of standardized testing
- The idea the learning is linear and cumulative
Public school adheres to the ideas that testing is essential. As the old adage goes: “everything measured improves.” They also believe that learning happens on a linear incline and students ascend in measured time. If this is true, then making students walk up the learning incline earlier, even as early as Kindergarten, means that students will climb higher learn more in the 13 years before graduation.
A metaphor for Waldorf pedagogy would be better represented by a campfire. The imagination is the fire starter, sparked by genuine interest in academic topics (typically told through story). Then other skills, like those explored by Howard Gardner, layer on as small kindling and build up the flame of cognition. Only then, with a stable and hearty love of learning established, can students take on and fuel their intellect with the logs of heavy academic rigor that come in grades 4-12.
As one can see in this metaphor, measurement becomes difficult. Measurement of the kindling does not directly influence the growth of flame. And so, although Waldorf educators believe testing has its place in older grades as a benchmark for certain learning, they also feel it has no place as a measure of early intelligence.
In our article A Comparison of Waldorf and Public School, we broke down key elements that differentiate the two pedagogies by looking at the way each approaches early academics, curriculum, classroom environment, teaching methods, social learning, individuality, and relation to society as a whole. In the following series, we will look at each of these elements in more detail and explore the differences more deeply. We begin the series with a closer look at Early Academics – Part One and Part Two.
Waldorf Education: Child Development & Testing
When Waldorf educators consider their approach to learning in grades K through 3, they take special note of the completed transition children experience by Grade 3 — moving from Piaget’s Preoperational to Concrete Operational cognition. Piaget believed most children made this transition around age seven, whereas Waldorf’s founder, Rudolf Steiner, determined children transitioned closer to age 9.
Although some may transition a bit sooner, by some point in third grade, each child will awake from an egocentric worldview. They will begin to see that they have a place within a greater, expansive world. What this shift in thinking requires, in Waldorf education, is a shift in teaching method and rigor. It is then, and only then, that Waldorf educators think of young students as emerging from “early academics.” For the students who are more academically capable in the early years, the focus is on presentation, taking their time to do their best work, developing social skills, and physical abilities.
Many will say that “the rubber hits the road” as Waldorf students round out their third year of schooling. Homework may begin halfway through this year as children hone their capacity to focus and to take personal responsibility for their actions. While movement still plays a key role, children begin to be able to sit for longer periods and grapple with ever more complex and nuanced topics.
It’s important to note that Waldorf student assessments are not based on testing during early academic learning. Waldorf educators believe a child’s physical, social, and cognitive development at this age is too fluid and varied to be measured by testing early reading and math skills. Waldorf teachers assess the children daily based on participation, lesson work, social interactions, and physical abilities.
By the end of fourth grade, most Waldorf schools will allow students to take a standardized test, such as the IOWA test, although most do not share the scores with students to avoid the children having a specific impression of their strengths and weaknesses and comparing themselves to others in their class.
Public School: Child Development & Testing
While Piaget has been influential in public school curriculum in the past, regard for child development has been sidelined in favor of a more linear approach to learning, where educators and administrators reverse engineer what must be learned by a particular grade and then segment and downshift those lessons back to Kindergarten in order to “fill the pail” by a particular test date.
The Department of Education says it has, “designed [core standards] to ensure students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training programs.” They encourage parents to sort through the facts of Common Core standards vs. the myths. They counter skeptics’ claims, such as those who say that teachers were not consulted on test creation or that tests are not based on relevant international research.
Common Core advocates say, “Standards in ELA/literacy and mathematics provide a staircase to college and career readiness, building on the best of previous state standards and based on the best evidence and research; unlike typical standards prior, these standards help teachers understand exactly what is expected of each of our students at each grade level.”
But concerned skeptics like Dr. Megan Koschnick feel that many of the early childhood Common Core Standards are developmentally inappropriate for young students not yet reaching Piaget’s concrete operational stage. Her peers at the American Principles Project are concerned that no developmental or neuropsychologists were involved in the committees for creating the Common Core. According to Koschnick, there is also little, if any, scientific research supporting the aptitude recommendations at early grade levels.
As Koschnick said in this video, when standards are not developmentally appropriate, “Teachers are going to see typically developing children as delayed, parents may be informed that their children are behind and kids are going to get measured against inappropriate standards and might be held back or tracked into remedial classes that they don’t really need.”
Test vs. Non Test Culture — Who has the “Right” Research?
There is simply no research documenting the benefits of teaching the Common Core. It is too soon to measure the results of all this measurement. Research about testing in America and its result is mostly based on Iowa Testing started in 1935 and The No Child Left Behind Act started in 2002.
However, ten years on, the results of No Child Left Behind have begun to surface. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing claims that “NCLB failed to significantly increase average academic performance and significantly narrow achievement gaps as measured by the National Assessment of Education Progress. NCLB severely damaged educational quality and equity by narrowing the curriculum in many schools and focusing attention on the limited skills standardized tests measure.”
Many skeptics of Common Core, Waldorf educators included, feel it is the testing culture that is causing the problem, not the specifics of any given test. For a comprehensive history and review of varying tests, check out this Frontline article: Testing Our Schools, A Guide for Parents.
Click to Continue to Waldorf Compared to Public School — Early Academics Part 2 as we compare the academic philosophies of each education system, beginning with an in-depth discussion of Waldorf early academic pedagogy.
These classes will introduce you to the ways watercolor painting is approached throughout the grades, including subject matter, materials, and techniques. Participants will produce two or three watercolors in each session. These classes are open to adults only, not students or siblings.
Cost is $30 per session. Attendees can Sign Up for any or all sessions and pay at the door by check or charge to your SGWS MCA. You may sign up for as many sessions as you wish, but because space is very limited, please Sign Up only for sessions you are sure you will attend.
Painting through the Grades with Cate Hunko. All Sessions 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
- August 11: Grades 1 – 3
- August 12: Grades 4 & 5
- August 13: Grades 6 – 8
Ms. Hunko has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and printmaking, and has automotive design experience. Ms. Hunko completed her master’s degree in Waldorf education at Antioch University, and her master’s thesis was on Color Theory and Painting. Over the years, Ms. Hunko has participated in a number of Waldorf Teacher Intensives on painting and has conducted research on Steiner’s color indications. Ms. Hunko has taken two classes through the cycle of Grades 1 through 8 at Spring Garden Waldorf School.