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. Alum Parent and Board of Trustees President, Dave Knapp, sat down with us to talk about his experience at SWS.

What led his family to SWS…

My children are Tim and Mike and they graduated in 2001 and 2004. Tim was in the first class to go to 8th grade. They attended preschool through 8th grade. They were at SWS as long as they could be. 

We lived near SWS and my wife was participating in a breastfeeding support group and she had heard about the school there. She suggested it to me and I asked, “why would we want to go to a private school?” We had both gone to public school and did fine. I had concerns about how to afford the school. Then we came to an open house with Miss Linda and Boel Neville, both of whom are organizers of the original school. They just swept Tim into the room and embraced all of us. I was enchanted. Even as a guy who wasn’t easily enchanted at that point in my life, I was like “wow, this is pretty special.” Those two teachers were very special. There was a tangible welcomeness to the school. I remember the feeling that my child felt comfortable. He’s not someone that jumps in, he’s a watcher. He just got swept into it and was comfortable from the beginning which was very impressive to me. It really hasn’t changed. It’s only gotten better.

What made your family decide to stay through 8th grade?

Miss Linda was Tim and Mike’s teacher and the first student report that we received was incredible. She knew him better than I knew him at that point. It was so clear that she was completely aware of who my child was. That just brought tears to my eyes. I knew he was in the right place. Kindergarten was the next step and just as good. It wasn’t even a question after that. We just knew they were in the right place.

How did Waldorf education impact your children?

Tim is an architect in Philadelphia. The art part of Waldorf education really contributed to that. He’s a really talented person in terms of being able to design buildings. Mike is a senior managing director for a consulting group and he lives in Austin. I think people wonder about Waldorf schools, like reading and math. Well, Tim’s an architect and Mike was a business major. They were both academically and socially ahead of their peers in high school. They both went to good, independent colleges. Colleges love Waldorf students. Every admissions director I talked to said that was a bonus on their resume. What I’m most proud of, though, is the kind of human beings they are. They’re really good people in addition to having good jobs. I feel really proud and happy that this school helped get them to that point. I think our kids help the world.

Jen, Tim, Mike and their partners

How did SWS impact you as a parent?

It really had a profound effect on me and only in hindsight can I see it. No one is taught how to be a parent. We have role models. Good or bad depending on the family. I was fortunate to have good ones but in this case, we also had the role model of our school. I often say that this school has been as important to me as it’s been to my kids. And that’s high praise because it’s been spectacular for my kids.

I got involved in the board probably 2 years into my children being students. I was board president within a year after that. It was my first experience really giving to something. I found volunteerism at SWS and that has completely changed my life. The greatest gift that anyone can ever receive is the gift of giving. I’ve come to really believe that. I think part of the success of this specific school is that you have involved parents. Raising a child takes a community. It takes a village. The participation of parents helps the students, helps the teachers, and it also helps the parents. By participating, parents learn how to be better parents. I was fortunate that I was encouraged to be on the board here and grateful to have been invited back last year. The school has made me a better parent and a better person. The community supports our children and our parents. The school and the children are better for that. 

What makes SWS special?

I’ve often said that the single greatest thing we can provide for our children is self-confidence. If we can show them how to believe in themselves, all is possible. I feel that both of our boys have that. I think Jen and I helped to provide that, they came with that out of the womb, but SWS supported and nurtured it. I liked the way Lili put it: that every part of SWS (teachers, staff, parents) all support our children to become the best person they were meant to be. I also think critical thinking, learning how to work together, and believing deeply in themselves is crucial. We live in a world that is focused on separation and not working together and this school is all about working together. I think that we’re literally sending kids out into the world who can make the world a better place.