Karin Almquist is a lifelong learner. She has received two Masters degrees and studied in a Ph.D. program. Her area of focus was international affairs and religious studies, but the learning she has found most meaningful is what she’s discovered while guiding her class through the grades at Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School.
“I was immediately attracted to the soothing nature of the kindergarten classroom, to the method and practice of Waldorf education on display there rather than to an abstract theory or philosophy,” she said. “But as I read more about Rudolf Steiner and the Waldorf approach, I was compelled by the easy manifestation of esoteric theories into beautiful simple practice, as well as the harmonious melding of Eastern and Western traditions into a spiritual impulse that underpins the human experience to forge meaning in life.”
That interest, combined with Karin’s desire to teach, led her to pursue her Waldorf Teacher Training Certificate from the Alkion Center at Hawthorne Valley and then in 2013 to accept the role of Class Teacher for the first grade class. During her training, she had the opportunity to participate in art classes, painting and sculpting for the first time since fourth grade. This practical experience strengthened her appreciation for a holistic education that feeds feelings and creativity while honing hands-on skills as a way into supporting intellectual growth.
“A central idea in the Waldorf curriculum is that all students are human beings and thus can make art; we are all called to lead a creative life. By doing so our intellects are better supported than if we were encouraged to develop in an unbalanced way.” she said. “Watching all the children develop as artists and create beautiful work—and the fact that they are all doing it—is so motivating.”
Karin’s class is now in seventh grade, and she has enjoyed the challenge of the middle school years and the opportunity to build on their knowledge and experience. As adolescence approaches, combating cynicism by appealing to the children’s imagination and keeping lessons engaging is all the more important. For her, one of the most important aspects of the work of a Waldorf class teacher is to prepare students to be truly free-thinking individuals.
“It’s a question of how to best prepare children to be the leaders our world needs by improving their intellect through emboldening their feeling, social, and practical lives,” she said. “Waldorf Education is one of the few places that is fostering free thought in this country and actually instructing children in a different way, an approach based on experiences, on slowing down and on opening the senses before encouraging the development of concepts and abstract theory. I have no doubt that this is exactly what the children need.”
This year, Karin is stepping into a hybrid role as Deputy School Director in addition to being a class teacher. She is committed to guiding her students through 8th grade, completing the usual Waldorf grade school journey, but felt compelled to take on the leadership role when the need arose. When her class graduates 8th grade in 2021, Karin will take on the school administration full-time.
She looks forward to working collaboratively with the school’s Council of Teachers and Executive Leadership Group to ensure excellence in education throughout the grade levels. She also is enthusiastic about using her perspective as a class teacher and a Waldorf parent to encourage and grow the school community.
“I see a lot of fear, anxiety, and indecision in families right now,” she said. “Parents wonder what the future brings and for what they should be preparing their children. I am excited to be part of a team that gets our story out there and connects with our eternal need to be the human beings we are destined to become. This kind of education provides a respite and an answer to the fears and anxieties many are facing in the world today.”
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