A MESSAGE FROM THE DEAN OF SCHOOL
September 16, 2013
Dear KWS Community,
I would like to welcome you all to our new monthly newsletter, and to the new year at Kimberton Waldorf School! On Labor Day, I spent part of the day walking the KWS campus from the Rosebud Garden through the High School and visiting the teachers in their classrooms as they prepared for the start of school. It was so confirming to me to witness the whole scope of the school, as well as the thought and care that each teacher puts into his or her room and the activities that they have planned to do with the students. I saw teachers organizing their classrooms, doing blackboard drawings, dying curtains with plant dyes, and preparing for academic, artistic, and practical courses. I saw the dedication that our teachers have to bringing truth, beauty, and goodness to the children and young people in their care. It reminded me of why I became a Waldorf teacher 28 years ago, and made me proud to be a part of this school. This education truly is unique---full of depth and meaning that gives the young people who experience it a well-spring of inner richness to take with them for a lifetime! I see that in my own two sons who are now embarking on their college experience, and I am so grateful for it.
On the second day of school, Kindergarten through High School students, faculty, staff, and a number of parents gathered together in front of the Lower School building to mark the beginning of a new year at KWS. We stood there together, as a whole school (the Rosebud Garden program was there in our hearts) to honor the moment of the beginning of a new school year. It is a time of year that I love, because it is full of possibility. We have so much to be grateful for at KWS, and so much to offer to each other. As I begin this new position as Dean of School, my goal is to see us continually do better: to improve our programs, our teaching, our communications, our relationships, and our outreach into the community. I believe through its approach to education, this school has something special and unique to offer to children and young people. I know that more and more, parents are, and will be, looking for an education that offers an alternative to the high stress, test-focused approach to education that we have been witnessing---an education that honors the nature of the developing child and young person, and seeks to nurture capacities of clear and independent thinking, warmth of heart and an inner moral compass, and the ability to put one’s ideas into action. It is an education that understands that imagination, and the healthy fostering of it, lays the foundation for thinking. It is an education that understands that giving children the experience of goodness and beauty at a young age sows the seeds for the discovery of truth through thinking in adolescence. It is an education that understands that the arts and practical activities in concert with academics help students develop their full human capacities. I believe that it is an education that is a gift to the world.
And yet, our school, and its mission and uniqueness, is largely unknown to many people in our surrounding community. Imagine if many more people in our area knew about Kimberton Waldorf School and what it has to offer! I have a number of goals that I would like to achieve over the next couple of years. I want to redouble our outreach and marketing efforts. We recently hired a new Outreach and Marketing Director, Emily Shaker. She brings knowledge and experience in outreach, marketing, and development in independent schools, and enthusiasm for Waldorf Education to her job. Emily has been working with me to develop an outreach and marketing plan. She has been meeting with parents and faculty members, has updated and improved our website (with the help of parent and Board chair David Hunter and 11th grader Nick Hunter), has redesigned the Midweek Messenger and the Kimberton Star, has expanded our presence on social media, has visited several of our regional K-8 Waldorf Schools, and has pounded the pavement introducing the school to local real estate agents, among other things. She has great ideas and lots of energy, but she needs our support! Emily will be forming an Outreach and Marketing Committee and is looking for parents, alumni, alumni parents, and friends of KWS with interest in this area to help. If you have any desire to help, contact Emily at
. Additionally, one of my intentions is to provide more staff support in this area in the future. I would like to grow this department as I see it to be crucial for our school’s growth and sustainability. I intend that both Emily and I will be out of our office, meeting groups of people through our outreach and marketing efforts. All of us are ambassadors for the school, and Emily and I will be looking for your support to help us spread the word about KWS. We want more children to experience this education! It’s worth noting that this summer we enrolled 44 new students in the school. At the writing of this letter we have 314 students enrolled, with a goal to increase our mid-year enrollments, and to increase enrollment again next year. Help us achieve that goal by spreading the word about KWS! We have a number of admissions events coming up including a Discover the High School event on October 21 and our All-School Open House on November 10.
Our Early Childhood Program continues to grow. This year we are at capacity in our Rosebud Garden program and nearly full in the Kindergarten. This is so significant and positive, as the fruits of Waldorf Education are all the more plentiful the younger a child begins. I would like us to begin planning to expand our Early Childhood program, which will provide a stronger base for our enrollment throughout the school. And, I would like to explore the possibilities of a boarding program for our high school. There are a number of Waldorf schools without high school programs in our region and we could potentially draw students from those schools. We also have a growing international student population which could also benefit from a boarding capacity. Additionally I want to continue to build on many of the exciting changes that we have recently made in our high school program. Last year we launched a new Main Lesson in Economics and we are continuing that this year. Last February we also sponsored a conference on social entrepreneurship, called the Tempus Conference, which was the first of its kind in our area. It was a great success and we will be sponsoring the conference again. At the end of last school year the High School faculty held a retreat to work on developing the High School program to better meet and engage our students. Some of the additions to the High School program that we have made are as follows: a math-based science elective for 11th grade, an elective in entrepreneurship, English electives for 11th and 12th graders, a full year of orchestra and instrumental music, and two new experiential education experiences for 9th graders and 10th graders in geology and navigation. We also will continue with our week-long practica experiences in each of the high school grades: an agriculture practicum in 9th; an artisan practicum in 10th; a social service practicum in 11th, and a career elective practicum in 12th.
The Task Force for Change and Renewal has been working with me to develop goals and actions to help us do better and achieve our four over-arching goals of financial sustainability, pedagogical improvement, improving communications, and welcoming parents as integral partners in the school’s mission. In the next couple of weeks the Task Force will be sharing these goals and action plans with you.
We also are taking steps to provide for more opportunities for parents, alumni, alumni parents, and friends to get involved in the school under the umbrella of our Association of Parents. The article, "Volunteering at Kimberton Waldorf School" in this edition of our newsletter has more information about that.
Sometimes change happens in big, dramatic ways. But change also comes through taking small, positive steps everyday. They may not be so noticeable in the moment, but over time their effect is multiplied. When I taught painting and a prospective parent would ask me how a student coming into the school without any art background would do in my class, I said that all I needed from that student was a willingness to try. We would start where that child was, and move forward in small steps. My job was to encourage and support. Doing better, improving what we do, is an accumulation of daily, positive actions. And the great thing about a learning community like ours is that we can support and encourage each other in making those steps every day.
Finally, thank you for your support of KWS!
Dean of School