“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.”
Our Alumni: Where Are They Now?
Waldorf education was founded by scientist, philosopher, and researcher Rudolf Steiner as a response to the economic, social, and political chaos experienced in Germany after WWI. Steiner often visited and lectured to the workers of the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory about the need for social renewal, for a new way of organizing society and its political and cultural life. It became clear to Steiner, his colleagues, and those interested in his way of thinking that a unique approach was needed to prepare human beings for freedom in their thinking. This freedom would give them the capacity to make a difference in the world.
With Emil Molt, the factory’s executive director, leading the efforts, the first Waldorf School opened its doors on September 7, 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany for the children of the Waldorf Astoria factory workers. Today, there are more than 1,080 Waldorf and Steiner schools in 64 countries and 1,843+ Waldorf kindergartens in more than 70 countries. Portland Waldorf School is one of 250 schools in North America alone.
Thousands of children have had the benefit of a Waldorf education over the last 95 years including more than 400 graduates of our Portland Waldorf School So, how are they doing in their lives after leaving PWS? What did they value in being a student in a Waldorf school? How do they see their education making a difference in their lives? We asked three of our high school graduates to reflect on these questions.
Sophia Rice ‘12 graduated from Ursinus College, a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, in June 2016. Sophia majored in Peace and Social Justice with a Public Policy focus. Through the Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS), Sophia has been granted a fellowship for young adults who are committed to social justice, spiritual exploration, and living in community. She currently works full time here in Portland at L’Arch, an intentional living community for adults with and without developmental disabilities. In reflecting on her experience at PWS, Sophia notes: “The interdisciplinary approach in methodology helps students understand how the world works. I learned to appreciate all of my courses even if I did not focus on the discipline. Being a small school, the teachers were able to nurture and challenge me by taking me out of my comfort zone. I appreciated the process of taking in content in grades 9 and 10, and by grades 11 and 12 being giving the task of asking questions, thinking critically, interpreting, and coming to conclusions out of individual thinking.”
Tamlin Dawson ’10 graduated from Warren Wilson College in 2014 with a degree in chemistry. Within months he was hired by TOK America, a subsidiary of Tokyo Kogyo Company, which makes chemicals for the semi-conductor industry. He is currently working as an inspection chemist in quality control. Recently, at a PWHS open house, Tamlin spoke of his experiences as a Waldorf student. “The greatest gift about Waldorf is that it is broad and I was able to have a rich view of the world and connect with my peers. When I finally decided what I wanted to do in college, I built a very narrow tower (my major in chemistry) on top of a very broad plank (the diverse subject offerings I experienced in high school). Waldorf students enter life after high school knowing how to work because we learned that we are never done. There is always a next step, a deeper aspect to one’s work.”
Toby Thom ’08 graduated from Portland State University in 2012. He worked on the Obama campaign in 2012, worked with AmeriCorps in Washington DC and the Peace Corps in Morocco. Toby is currently a community organizer working on public policy for Airbnb in Washington DC. What does he think about his Waldorf education and its influence on where he is today? “The teachers were very thoughtful about how they structured the classroom experience, both in content and their approach. As students, we were provided with opportunities to think differently and be creative in problem solving. As an adult, I feel like I can meet life’s challenges with confidence in my ability to affect change.”
These are just three examples of the myriad and wonderful ways PWS graduates are building on their Waldorf education to make real and meaningful changes in the world around us. We are so very proud of them.
Please help us continue to nourish and strengthen our students so that they can make a difference in the world. Support PWS in this final week of our Community Development Campaign!
“Waldorf school education is not a pedagogical system but an art—the art of awakening what is actually there within the human being.”