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Grades Preschool TO 8 — Toronto, ON (Map)


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Roundtable Q&A Discussion About Waldorf Academy (2020)

Waldorf Academy alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Danielle, Ali, Dasana Rose had to say about the school.

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Highlights from the Q&A discussion

Danielle — current parent

Danielle is currently a co-chair of the Waldorf Parent Council, and also has two sons in Grade 1 and 3.

  • “I'll start with why we chose the school originally. So when I thought back to my school days, I realized that the years that I had made connections with my teacher, I remembered the year very well and I usually enjoyed it … . And when my children came into the world, I saw that they had a lot of personality traits like myself, and I knew that they were going to need a place that had ... had connection … . And the fact that the Waldorf teachers were often with their students for more than one year was also very attractive … . And over the years, there were even more features that drew me in further.” 
  • “I would say that the school exceeded my expectations in terms of the level of commitment and caring of the teachers. It has been absolutely phenomenal. They really try to understand my child at a deep level and see what's operating for them, and how they can help that child engage and overcome the obstacles.”
  • “As a Waldorf parent, I've ended up doing so many things that I would have never, ever thought that I would do, from baking to making costumes to organizing events. And it actually has been really great because I love that stuff, and it's given me opportunities to learn and grow with my kid.”
  • “For both of my children, the [biggest impact] has been seeing how they get the confidence to take on things that are difficult, and to struggle with them, and to make it through that struggle, and come out the other side having mastered something. And the things that they've mastered ranged from reading to knitting to acting in a play to public speaking to writing. Many of those things were very challenging for them initially. …  They really are starting to feel, especially my older son, kind of unstoppable. And that's really exciting for me as a parent.”
  • “My older son had the opportunity to … show [a prospective student] around … and he told this incoming student that she would be listened to, … that the teachers would incorporate her ideas. She had no idea it would be used and incorporated, it wouldn't just be put aside, and I think that really speaks to how valued he feels as a person at the school. And just the fact he's a student doesn't mean that he doesn't have a voice. So he always emphasizes how caring the teachers are … . And [my younger son] wanted to show me the ravine where they're doing a lot of classes these days because there's a lot of outdoor learning. And he was so excited to take me down this path and pass this little creek, he said, ‘Mom, it's like another world here.’ I think that speaks to the wonder that they're able to infuse into the learning here, trying to keep that magic alive.”
  • “If [Waldorf] was a person, I would say that our school is Mother Earth. And I would describe her as warm, wise, and surprisingly deep. And part of the reason I chose that is because I think the Waldorf curriculum is really inspired by the Earth, by its rhythms, by the myths and the archetypes in the natural world and in the human world.”
  • “And I think that's why it has such an enduring appeal because it really is addressing the whole person—giving them knowledge to develop their mind [and] developing the heart, and engaging with the heart and engaging … with their ability to create. And so it's very deeply satisfying on all those levels.”
  • “The school values community. That's something that I've really had inculcated into me … . It was always about us as a community and how we can support each other. It definitely supports creativity, both in the children and amongst the parents. … Lots of opportunities to make things and come up with things. I think there's a strong value placed on collaboration, working together, not just the parents working together to do something, … even the way that the grades interact with each other.”
  • “The teachers are always modeling for the kids. And it's wonderful when you get to see the older kids looking out for the younger kids, and finally, a respect for the Earth—having a strong connection with the Earth. And then, ‘How can we nourish that and increase that by doing the gardening and by doing outdoor education?’”
  • “Waldorf also strongly values a learning environment that's caring and supportive. I've heard a lot of parents at the school say this is the right environment for my child.”
  • “The teachers have been really great about communicating when the parent needs to come and all the children need to be represented. And there are, probably, [only] two to three hours per term where you have to commit and be there. … Some parents are going to be more available if they're going to do more. Some parents are less available. … I remember where a particular class parent was hospitalized a couple of times and we rallied around that family, bringing them lunches, taking the kids out, and whatever. So even when the parents are not able to do their regular duties, we still help each other.”

Ali — alum

Ali graduated from Waldorf Academy in 2017 and attended from Kindergarten to Grade 8.

  • “The thing I appreciated most about the school was definitely just the tight-knit community. I don't see that anywhere else. We were all so close … . It really didn't matter whether we were at assemblies or doing various things, field trips, we're all together.”
  • “Even the parents were super close as well. And everyone knows each other and it's just always a blast … . My perspective on the community is really just enhanced now because I still legitimately keep in touch with a huge portion of my old class. Some of my best friends are from that group, and I'm so grateful for that because I feel like not a ton of other people could really say the same about their respective elementary schools. But the longevity of those relationships are really just natural, and they just happen when you've been together for so long. And it's just super harmonious and it's really nice.”
  • “Even people up to Grade 8, they were like, ‘Oh, I wonder how I'm going to integrate into this super tight class.’ But we're like a family no matter when you show up. There's no hierarchy of any kind. We're all just so close and it's amazing. There's no problem blending in or whatever it is.”
  • “[What differentiates Waldorf:] I can't even stress how important it is to be in a class small enough for a teacher to really be able to cater to the individual needs. … It's impossible to even fall behind or anything. ... [Teachers] stay with you for multiple years, and so you really develop this relationship, so it's the class size compounded by the closeness of the teachers. You can't slip into the background and not be seen or whatever. You're always an integral part of everything. And I think the small class size accounts for a lot of discussion-based moments … It's not just like a talking-at-you type of vibe.”
  • “The first word [to describe Waldorf is] ‘creative’ because the whole brand is fostering a creative atmosphere. We do plays and there's music. And there's so much outdoor learning, there's so much painting and art and movement, and there's just so much going on.”
  • “My second word [to describe Waldorf] would definitely be ‘socially engaged.’ It can be super environmentally conscious as well. I'm just thinking back to these projects that you do in your last year; they're called the hero projects … . You basically pick someone who inspires you socially and you research them. You find books, you do everything you can. You immerse yourself in that whole moment, and then you actually end up putting it out into the world to an audience of parents and students and everyone, as you do a monologue.”
  • “Waldorf is always thought of like this quirky alternative school, which is true, but it is not to be toyed with academically. And I mean, it's amazing. There are certain things that you do in the super early grades that are like, ‘Wow, this is nice. This is like a bonus type of thing.’ But then, you can tell that there's a lot going on … . I actually finished university-level French last year in Grade 11 because the French program was super good at Waldorf Academy. And so then, when I got to high school, it was a little easier and the math is great and … [the academics are] a tier above in terms of the quality of both the teaching and the material itself.”
  • “[Even middle school is] so familial. There is no hierarchy of any kind … . If there was somebody entering a middle school, don’t start being stressed out about anything because you are going to be totally embraced without any second thought and that goes for all grades. You just integrate and it's just like it's so ironic because it's such a tight-knit group. … So I would say to not worry about any of that. And then, for kindergarteners, … you feel safe and loved and it's really great.”

Dasana Rose — alum

Dasana graduated from Waldorf Academy in 2014 and attended from Kindergarten to Grade 8. She is currently in her third year at the University of Waterloo, studying business and rhetoric. She is doing her placement as the marketing and communications coordinator for the Waterloo Economic Development Corporation.

  • “What I appreciated most while I was at Waldorf was the level of care and individual attention that I received from my teachers. Teachers at Waldorf take the time to get to know their students extremely well. This is especially possible because students remain with the same teachers year after year. So you get to develop these really deep and long-term bonds. Even from the very beginning, I remember my teacher having individual discussions with every student in our class, even in Grade 1, and taking the time to really understand where we were as a student—what we wanted, what we needed. Teachers then use that information to really cater the education to each student's individual needs. So throughout my entire time at Waldorf, I felt like my teachers were consistently able to meet me where I was, which meant challenging me in classes that I found easier, or helping me with supplemental work, or helping me work through difficult problems and classes that I struggled with. But then, also, meeting me outside of the classroom and helping engage me socially and help me develop as a person, not just as a student. Since I left Waldorf, I still appreciate that very much.”
  • “I have a better understanding of the value of teachers helping you outside of class material … So my teachers were able to give me more difficult material. But more importantly, I felt like they helped me become a better person. I was loud as a child, I could be argumentative, I could be bossy. … I was able to overcome that without any harshness from my teachers because instead, they found ways to engage me and help me connect with my other classmates. And so my learning … was also about how to be a better member of a community and how to give back to my classmates. And I feel like those skills have served me immensely, both in my academic life and just in the real world.”
  • “I think what most differentiates Waldorf from other schools is the level of creativity that is incorporated into basically every aspect of the learning … . The one thing that really stands out is how broad and how deep each of the class assignments or class units are. So [here’s an example:] … students are learning about Ancient Greece. There is the very academic learning where students read books, where students are read to by the teachers, where students write essays and other written assignments about Ancient Greece. But there's also a real creative aspect that teaches students to engage with the material on a deeper level. And that can be as simple as drawing a map of Ancient Greece. So you understand the visual connection between where Greece is, what life was like there, and how that physically lays out on the ground. It's also recreating Greek sculptures with clay or painting things. It might be doing a presentation or doing a play.” 
  • “And every student is given a chance to use their different talents, to really figure out how to connect with the material in a deep way, and how to bring that material to someone else. So, for me now, something that I'm very confident doing is giving presentations, not just because I had to give presentations a lot as a student at Waldorf, but also because I had to sing in front of people, I had to act in plays, I had to tell stories to my classmates. And all of those skills helped me understand the material better and also prepared me to be a better speaker in general.”
  • “‘Creative’ and ‘socially engaged’ were two of [my words to describe Waldorf.] I think that any student at Waldorf and really any participating member of the community is encouraged to be deeply creative in terms of creating art in many different forms, and also being creative with your thinking and being creative in how you approach things. In terms of ‘socially engaged,’ … in my Grade 5 class, we had a weekly meeting about peacemaking, and it was just a chance for my class to come together and start to have really serious conversations about what it means to be a member of a community, what the value is of qualities like peace and happiness and kindness, and how we can measure these things and bring them to each other … . I think that being challenged to deal with such big concepts at such a young age, to understand how our actions can really affect the world, and how we can make the world a better place really ingrained in us this idea of being socially engaged and giving back to the community.”
  • “My final word [to describe Waldorf] is ‘driven.’ Through a lot of these bigger projects, like the hero projects or the Great Art Project, which is a year-long project exploring a topic of your choice, Waldorf students are encouraged to take on really big research endeavours. A lot of these endeavours include aspects of research and learning that happen outside of the classroom and even outside of school hours.”
  • “And I think one thing that would stand out about a Waldorf education is that there isn't really traditional homework … . It was finding a way to bring my learning and make it deeper or connect it to my real life. And so then, those skills that you learned in Grade 5 and 6 with those early forms of homework, you end up bringing into the bigger projects later on, where you have to mark out how you're going to spend a year researching a topic.”
  • “And although you have a lot of guidance and support from your teachers, Waldorf students have to be very independent and very organized in their learning. ... But being encouraged, and even required, to put so much effort into organizing such a big project and to actually follow through such a huge endeavour meant that I developed a lot of self-motivation and drive to do well. And I think that's something that is still benefiting me today.”
  • “I think families would find two things very surprising … . Teachers do a really exceptional job of challenging students and getting students to engage with hard and high-level academic material. And the second thing would just be the extent to which teachers care and how much time and effort teachers put into their students. I think it's unmatched and unparalleled anywhere else that Waldorf teachers really know their students, really meet the students where they're at, and help every single student on an individual level.”
  • “Waldorf is a community that extends beyond the students; the parents are a really key part of that community. Whenever I brought things home from school, one of my parents would help me in some way … .” 
  • “I was very consistently pushed out of my comfort zone. I had a few years where I was very shy and one of my teachers made me get up on stage and sing in front of the whole community as a way to overcome that. And at the time, it was pretty awful. But I'm not shy anymore. And I love public speaking. And I know that that experience contributed to where I am today. I think that there's a very good support system and you are always helped while you're outside of your comfort zone … it's very valuable that every single student gets a chance to shine and gets a chance to really bring what they're good at and what they like to do.”
 

More about Waldorf Academy

Back to Waldorf Academy overview

More video reviews

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More written reviews

(4.7)

Parent, Cindy Waldman (2020)

Our son has really enjoyed his time at Waldorf Academy. Waldorf Academy has a very warm, inviting, and community-based environment. What he likes best is the mix of Nature, Sciences and Arts he gets ...

(4.3)

Parent, Danielle Marcos (2020)

My children love their teachers at Waldorf Academy: they are truly seen, understood, and valued. The teachers' depth of commitment is remarkable. Because they understand the kids so well, the teachers...

(4.9)

Parent, Michael Bernstein (2020)

My son feels seen and cared for the way a family member would care for him. His individual needs, concerns, strengths, challenges, and many questions are all lovingly attended to by the staff. He lo...
See all written reviews (5 total)
 

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