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Center & Periphery

Autumn 2023

In This Edition...

Alumni Profile – “Deciding to Follow Your Heart”

Autumn 2023

By Diana Tesni

Ruth Olson, Antioch Class of 2010
Ruth Olson, Antioch Class of 2010

Ruth Olson has always been a teacher. She recalls playing “school” with her dolls and neighborhood friends when she was a young child, and she was always the teacher.

As an adult working in the tech industry, Ruth (an Antioch/CfA teacher education alumna from the Class of 2010) was previously a corporate trainer, which seemed to appease her inner teacher––at least for a while. But then she became a mother, and she knew she was being called to reconsider her life’s direction.

“I knew that I was looking for a different education for my children,” Ruth said. “I wanted something connected to the arts that wouldn’t become outdated and would support them to be skilled thinkers. I wanted a school where kindness and compassion were at the core and where my children would be seen and appreciated for who they were.”

It was with these goals in mind that Ruth scheduled a visit to a Waldorf kindergarten. After one visit, she knew that she had found what she was seeking. The Waldorf school spoke to her not only as a parent, but also as a teacher. Soon thereafter, she became a volunteer in the kindergarten at Ecole Parsifal School in Ottawa, Ontario. Before long she realized that she wanted to become a Waldorf educator herself.

Eventually, she parlayed her volunteer work into a teaching position at Parsifal, contingent upon commencing her Waldorf teacher training. With partial financial support of the school, she promptly enrolled in the teacher training program at Antioch/CfA.

Then, due to irreconcilable fiscal realities, Ecole Parsifal School closed its doors and Ruth found herself at a threshold moment. “It seemed my only option was to return to the corporate world,” she said. “I called CfA to explain I would be withdrawing from the program, due to funding difficulties.”

It was a surprise phone call from a person Ruth knew only as prominent Waldorf educator and esteemed author––Torin Finser––that changed everything. “Torin, having heard of my withdrawal from Antioch, called me one sunny Sunday morning (that I’ll never forget!). He said, “The world needs you.” And then promised that they would find a way to keep me in the program. With support from CfA, she was able to keep alive her dream of becoming a Waldorf teacher.

In search of teaching and schooling opportunities that included a Waldorf high school, Ruth and her family relocated to Chestnut Ridge, New York, where she led a Grade One class at Green Meadow Waldorf School. “Joining a groundbreaking school that had nurtured the first anthroposophists in North America, and that was also a center for eurythmy, biodynamic agriculture, and teacher training, provided a rich experience for my family, and for me as a teacher,” Ruth said.

She took her class from first through eighth grade to complete a full teaching cycle, at which point she found herself on the brink of another threshold. “I knew I wanted to remain connected to Waldorf education, but not as a class teacher,” she said. “I felt myself called to the administrative side of the school, but I didn’t know in which capacity.”

Again, it was one of her children who guided her. “My daughter, who was finishing tenth grade, expressed a desire to try something new by experiencing life in New York City, so I reached out to the Rudolf Steiner School NYC.” Not long after, her daughter was an eleventh grader at Steiner, and Ruth was supporting the first and fifth grade classes in various capacities. In year two, Ruth became the Lower School Chair, holding that position for three years.

“That was a wonderful opportunity to support the teachers, who are the heart and soul of any Waldorf school,” Ruth said. “It was such a privilege to help run Rudolf Steiner School NYC and to support their amazing faculty. It was the perfect culmination of my years in the classroom.”

Today, Ruth continues her work supporting people on their life’s journey, having taken her role as a teacher and a mentor to another level in what she calls “soul coaching.” Through her own brand of life design coaching, she is working to support people in their own threshold moments by helping them listen to their hearts and connect with their own brightest destinies.

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