We are celebrating 35 years of Susquehanna Waldorf School this year! In honor of our 35th anniversary, we’re interviewing members of our community to share why they love SWS. We’re kicking off this series with SWS’s first teacher, Miss Linda. 

On how she became the first teacher…

I was here for 31 years as the kindergarten, parent/child and nursery teacher. I was the first teacher and it happened by accident. Another woman who was trained in Waldorf education backed out in August and, because I had a degree in early childhood education and I was going to assist her, all eyes turned to me. “You’re doing it, right?” Gulp, okay. Dorothea and Hal Williams were my mentors. He was an anthroposophical doctor based in Lancaster and Dorothea was a handwork teacher. Williams Hall and Dorothea’s Garden are named after them. 


What were the early days at the school like?

We started at the Friends Meeting house in Lancaster. It was so kind of them to offer their space. I didn’t know much about Waldorf education at the time except that it hit me right in my heart. I knew I wanted it for my children. It was a very loving, heart-centered community. 

Two years later, we had outgrown what they could do for us, we needed more space, and we moved to our current location. Coming here was a leap of faith. We kept growing. We gradually took room after room after room and ended up buying the building. We all pitched in and painted rooms. People made tables (we had a lot of woodworkers as part of our community). Some of the tables are still actually here. I always told the children, “I want the old tables. They have the stories.” The stories are in the tables. That’s the history of the school right there. 

We’re in an old building. In Waldorf education we talk about the being of the school and it felt like the being of the school shook hands with the building and agreed to do this. We had our ups and downs over the years but the school has always been such a light in the community. 

On the Susquehanna River…

The river called us to this place. As a kindergarten teacher the river was a place to go that had heaven and earth right there. All the elements were there: earth, water, sky. The children loved it. We would explore. This was before the rail trail was there and it was totally wild. We would bring bags and pick up junk. There’s such a calling to the river. It’s hard to put into words. 

The river’s big. It’s moving. It’s alive. The Susquehanna River is the very picture of life passing: it’s full of possibilities, it catches the light. It really is a metaphor for what a school could be. A lot of it is in your way of imagining what the school was and what it could be. 

I think that as the years went by and the rail trail was established, more of a relationship for the children developed. A lot of times it was in the teachers’ or administrators’ minds. But once all the classes found it as a place to go and relate to, it grew out of that. At the end of my teaching, we’d go down to the river every day. We’d say good morning to the river. “Good morning river!” We’d stand at the banks and salute the river. “Thank you river, goodbye river!” It’s hard to imagine the school anywhere else, to me. 

Favorite Memories…

I’ll cry. What I love so much about the school is the rhythm of the year. I can’t even say there’s one May Day that stands out. It was this collective sense of May is coming. We got a Maypole, we learned May Day songs, we made wreaths and we brought flowers. All of the festivals really spoke to what we were about and the beauty of being alive. The Advent Garden/Spiral. So many recollections of that, telling the story, sitting in the center, getting the greens. It was all so coherent. From my point of view as an early childhood teacher, the children sensed a coherency of the year and of being alive; to living and working to make the place beautiful and reflecting the fact that the world is good. 

I’ve met so many amazing people in these walls. Collectively there are so many amazing people that have come here. Because it’s different, because it’s alternative, people who came to check out the school were conductors, filmmakers, national level hockey players, the whole gamut of individuals who were curious about us. Those who found a home here brought all those talents as well. The community creates the school and as a teacher, the number one thing I’m trying to teach the children is community and how we work together.

Another memory I have is that a partner of mine died of brain cancer while I was here and that tree (points out window) was planted right there in his honor and it was just a little tree at the time. When I come here, the memories of my life are here. Dorothea’s garden at the back of the school used to be paved. There was a straight cement path of sidewalk and a chain link fence. We thought, “how can we change this?” We jackhammered it up. The playground was a parking lot when we got here. There was nothing, just a big parking lot. 

I’ve watched things emerge here. Children emerging into who they are is the same as watching the school emerge. The school became more and more what it is through those of us who saw what it could be. 

Final Thoughts…

Working here has been the greatest gift. People have worked so hard for an idealistic sense of how we can better be with one another. We had all of these different rules over the years, how to communicate with each other, we explored conflict resolution. There’s so much earnest striving. There’s a verse by Steiner, earnest heartfelt striving. That was here all of the time and I think in all Waldorf schools. That’s at the heart of it. Striving for something better for the world via the children and what they can do. 

What’s happened here has already changed the world. It happened from the very beginning, it made a difference. There’s so much love here. The teachers for their kids. There’s so much love here. And love is what changes everything. You need to be sharp-sighted and intelligent and set boundaries and love and commit fearlessly. 

I’m so appreciative. I couldn’t ask a better way to spend 30 years of my life. I can’t imagine it any better than the way it’s been here. I feel so grateful. I walked away with a greatly expanded heart. And it has nothing to do with me, it’s the community.