Nikki HillWe 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. Alum and Kindergarten teacher, Nikisha “Nikki” Hill, sat down to talk with us about her time at SWS. 

On her Early Years at SWS…

I started at SWS before pre-k because my older brother went here and my mom was an assistant to Miss Linda. So she always brought me along. I was exposed to the school from a young age and started pre-k with Miss Linda and was here through 5th grade. The school felt like an entire family. There were at least 5 or 6 families that had children in my class who had siblings in my brother’s class. So when we had birthday parties I would see everyone. Our classes were always together even though we were two years apart. 

It was such a tight-knit school. The people I met in Kindergarten are still my best friends. It’s so wild to think that’s how long we’ve known each other and it all started in this building. The community here is so strong.

Favorite Memories…

We had so much fun at the events and festivals. I remember when the gym had a hundred gingerbread houses the parents made and a bag of candy for all the students to have. As a kid I looked at that and thought, “Yes! Bags of candy!” but someone created that. It’s incredible to think about how much the parent body did to make festivals happen. 

The Winter Faire was pretty big. It was such a big deal. The pocket lady and all of these fun things. I’d get so giddy as a kid about it. May Faire was a big one too. I glorified that day as a kid. It was so magical and fun. Making wreaths and having flowers everywhere. I remember that my desk was full of flowers and I picked whatever I could to put in my crown. “I got a rose! I got a tulip!” It was so magical to build this special crown that I got to wear all day. 

I think, too, of the relationship I have with Waldorf education. I went to public school for my middle school years and I was really excited for a bigger, more diverse setting but I was disappointed and surprised by some of the things I ran into. I remember going to my art class and they were putting stickers on a stock card. The teacher told us to make a scene with the stickers and I was like, “What? This is art class?” Students weren’t able to sing in harmony together and I was like, “we did that in Kindergarten!” There is a depth and quality in Waldorf education. It was interesting to compare Waldorf education to public school in my young brain. 

How her View of Waldorf and SWS has Changed Since Becoming a Teacher…

I’m just blown away by the commitment here. The academic rigor and intentions of why we do things are amazing but it’s the extras, the small little details, the intentions of putting feeling and love into all that we do that makes me think, “Oh my goodness, that is so big and so magical.” That takes time. It blows my mind to think of all the things that were catered to me as a child and recognizing that, as an adult, those things were given to me by adults. All that love, care, and little extra moments were given to me. That’s what inspires me as a teacher. To know those tiny gestures make all the difference. The reverence that goes into what we do here is so incredible.  

I think it’s beautiful that I’m still in touch with my kindergarten teacher, that my brother is still in touch with his kindergarten teacher. It’s amazing to think, “oh my goodness, they have seen us evolve, and change, and grow.” I think it’s rare in the world we live in now. There’s not a lot of time to foster those relationships or the reverence of noticing, or finding the simple but we do it here. 

Skills Learned From Waldorf education…

I think about why Waldorf education speaks to me and a lot of it is the life skills I was taught. It wasn’t a question of “did I just do it to get it done?” but rather “did I understand it? Did I question it? Did I put love and my effort into something? Did I do it well?” That starts in Kindergarten. How we feel, how we sing. Are we using our beautiful voices? Are we noticing the tiny snowdrops coming up? All of the tiny gestures are life lessons. It’s not just to learn about plants or to sing at a certain octave level. It’s this life skill that carries us through what is purposeful and what is meaningful to us for the rest of our lives. That’s the awe I have in Waldorf education that I’ve now recognized as an adult was given to me as a child. It’s the simple things that carry us. 

It’s funny because if you were to talk to my teenage self, there is no way I would be back here in Waldorf education. “I will never wear wool socks, I will never wear linen. I won’t do it. You can’t make me. I won’t knit socks, I just won’t do it.” It’s funny how things come full circle. As I’ve matured, I’ve realized the deeper purposeful and meaningful life skills I was exposed to at such a young age that I just took for granted as a kid. 

I studied special education in college and just felt like there has to be more, there has to be more than just this very standard, very superficial do’s and don’ts of education. There was no questioning, there was no deeper understanding of why those are the things and why we do those things, or any of the whys. So I had all of these questions which then led me back to Waldorf education, curative education and social therapy. I felt like those questions were being answered in a broader lens. I learned to go deep into the individual and the diagnostic while also asking why and expanding on that. I think Waldorf education, just if I look at what I’m doing in Kindergarten, is allowing the child to have an imagination. Later in life that child learns to ask why. That’s something that’s incredible. If we allow our children to play with the impossible and the imagination, that gives so much more opportunity later in life to go deeper. 

What Makes Susquehanna Waldorf School Special?

SWS is a small school with a huge heart. We’re a little school in the middle of a valley, hidden by the river, but it’s a powerful place. When you walk in, it’s alive and there is so much warmth here. It’s blossoming, it’s growing and pulsing with people who genuinely care. They care about everything. It’s not, “did you learn this today?” checkmark, it’s “who are you and how do I get to meet you as a person? How do I get to support you as a person?” That goes for colleagues, for students, for families. It’s just incredible how much care and love is dedicated in and out of this school. It’s tangible. You walk into this school and it feels different. It might be a diamond in the rough, it might be small but it’s so full.