Brief history of the Waldorf teacher education and CfA Programs in New Hampshire
It all began in 1980 with a question put to David Sobel, at the Education Department of Antioch New England in Keene, by a visitor at his office in Keene: “Would Antioch University be willing to provide a program dedicated to Waldorf teacher training?” David answered by meeting with the faculty at the Pine Hill Waldorf School in Wilton, NH, who who soon assembled a stellar adjunct faculty to serve the program: Danilla Rettig, Ann and Swain Pratt, Craig Giddens, David Mitchell, John Root Sr., Alan Howard, and Francis Edmunds. Shortly thereafter, in 1982, the Waldorf Teacher Training Program began, co-sponsored by Antioch New England and Pine Hill.
But when their school suffered the second fire in 1989, the Pine Hill faculty felt unable to carry on with their dual responsibilities and asked for help from a wider circle. Enrollment in the Antioch program had dwindled and was in danger of closing its doors. Out of an emergency meeting of New England Waldorf school delegates, called together by Ann Pratt, the program co-ordinator at the time, came a strong impulse to preserve this valuable resource, and so a “New England Waldorf Teacher Training Council” was formed. The founding members were James Pewtherer, Sue Demanett, Ann Pratt, Torin Finser, Craig Giddens, and Georg Locher.
In 1991, we had a strong class of twenty-two trainees, and New England Waldorf Teacher Training was accepted as a full member of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. At the end of that year, however, it became apparent that many applicants interested in Waldorf teacher training did not have the background necessary to start. Generally they had done very little reading in anthroposophy, very little work in the arts. In response to this need, CfA developed its first Foundation Studies program, with the help of Margaret Chambers.
At the same time, Torin Finser, now Director of the Waldorf Program at Antioch New England, realized that the full-time, year-round format of teacher training did not suit many working individuals (or schools that hired teachers at the last minute), and thus the idea of a “Summer Sequence” program came to life. This new format started in 1992 and took new groups every other year. Eventually this program became so popular that it could inaugurate a new cohort each summer.
A couple of years after Antioch had started this summer sequence program, a major donor to the Waldorf School movement, recognizing that Waldorf schools needed more teachers and that summer teaching programs were a good idea, gave a generous donation to the Association of Waldorf Schools to support summer teacher training. As a result, most of the other Waldorf institutes started summer teacher training, too.
Then came another moment in the history of our program, which occurred in 1994 when Leonore Russell proposed a Pedagogical Eurythmy Program, which we all knew was much needed. It is one thing to do four years of artistic training to become a performer; it is quite another to train to become a teacher. We enrolled 12 eurythmists in the first group and took them through two and a half years of the program. They graduated, were hired to teach in Waldorf schools, many of them were still teaching years later. We took a second group through and then Eurythmy Spring Valley took up the task by integrating pedagogical work in their artistic training.
One day Torin had a visit from Dr. Douglas Gerwin, who had taught for years at High Mowing School in Wilton, NH, was well known in the Waldorf School movement for his support of high schools that were starting up across North America, and had a plan to help those schools find and prepare their teachers. I have said again and again that if you have the right teachers almost everything works. So, the high schools needed teachers, and Douglas, in his usual way––well organized and clear and thoughtful––set about his plan. Once again, we met with our colleagues on the Council, and Douglas even wrote a grant proposal, secured funding to start up a new training program, and we took in our first high school group in July 1996, which graduated three summers later in 1998. Since then CfA has graduated 25 successful groups of high school teachers.
Innovation, the hallmark of CfA, has continued with the birth of multiple programs in the last quarter-century:
- Renewal Courses, with Karine Munk Finser at the helm, began in 2000 for practicing Waldorf teachers and those seeking professional development and renewing inspiration
- Building Bridges, led by Torin Finser, was started for public and independent school teachers wishing to pursue their Waldorf teacher education onsite (we have offered the program in AK, CA, NH — and soon in FL and MD)
- Explorations, re-launched in 2017 out of our earlier Foundation Studies program, was designed for those new to Waldorf education and anthroposophy who were seeking foundational work in the philosophy and the arts through the lens of contemporary issues. During the Covid years, Explorations became a fully online program
- Waldorf Leadership Development (WLD), reformulated by Torin Finser, became available for administrators, board members, and pedagogical leaders. In an earlier iteration, this program served schools as Collaborative Leadership Training in the 1990s, then became Waldorf School Admin Training at Antioch from 2010-2016, and now exists as WLD sponsored by CfA.
- Kairos Institute, launched in 2022 under the direction of Karine Munk Finser, serves those seeking professional development in art therapy, speech, emergency pedagogy, and trauma intervention (in collaboration with the Parzival School in Karlsruhe, Germany)
(See “program” pages of our website for more complete descriptions and registration options.)
The common thread throughout our programs is a long-standing commitment to collaboration: Collaboration between Antioch University New England and the Center for Anthroposophy for teacher education, between both institutions and our school partners, and among our programs. For example, in 2021 we designed our leadership program to include an Explorations component for those who needed it, and in 2022 we began requiring Building Bridges participants to take Explorations as the first phase of their program (unless they had completed the equivalent experience elsewhere). Likewise, our high school teacher education program offers an online supplement in conjunction with the weekend Explorations classes.
The old social patterns of mistrust, institutional self -interest, egotism, racism, and environmental exploitation need to be replaced through heightened collaboration and whole-hearted partnership. When guided by self-awareness and a conscious inner path, each human being on this earth can make a difference. Our institutions are meant to serve rather than exploit, collaborate rather than dominate. So, although each CfA and Antioch program serves a particular niche, our overall effort is to demonstrate collectively that there are new ways to work together and meet the ever-present needs of our time.
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