Mary Holden, Waldorf Certificate ’05

Educator Discovers an Inspired Way to Teach

“It may be a little difficult to understand me,” Mary said. “I just got back from camping with my class and I have laryngitis. We read the psalms of King David in a meadow and recalled what it must have been like to look up at the clouds in King David’s time. It makes me feel young again.”

Mary explained that farming, house building, and the Old Testament as an introduction to history are part of the third-grade Waldorf curriculum. What an inspired way to teach.

Mary became a public school teacher in 1972. She had always been interested in making the curriculum fit the child and in environmental education. She discovered that Waldorf education brought these interests together. Mary joined a study group in Louisville, Kentucky, and took courses to learn how to apply Waldorf concepts in public schools.

“At the time you could pull off some great things in your classroom if you were a motivated teacher. But then accountability and testing became oppressive and I wasn’t able to pull off what I felt was good teaching.”

Around that time Mary turned fifty and she asked herself, ‘What have I forgotten to do?’ Becoming a Waldorf teacher topped her list. So she retired from the public school, picked up a first-grade class at the local Waldorf school, and went to Antioch University New England to get certified in Waldorf Teacher Education. She already had a master’s degree.

Mary says “the Summer Sequence Program was great for her because she was currently teaching. But most of all it was her classmates, teachers, and the network of people she found that will stay with her. These teachers have dedicated their lives to Waldorf education. We tackled challenging material and learned a lot of good techniques and tricks. I learned to economize my energy and soul. Equally important were the contributions of her classmates. We each had unique abilities. Coming from public schools, I was strong in classroom management, but I struggled with musical things, tone memory. I sought out the students who were strong in that. I can still call any of them at any time.

Mary says that there are striking similarities between children who emerge from Waldorf schools. They are physically active and emotionally healthy. They can work through moral dilemmas, they are empathetic with each other and communicate comfortably with adults. I tell parents who are looking at our school, ‘Our parking lot has ruts to be fixed, your children will come home some days with muddy pants and rosy cheeks, and we’re the only school in town that will ask you to keep your children away from the media. But what is inside our school and inside your children is wonderful. We will keep all that good stuff alive.'”

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