Steve Spitalny, Kindergarten Class Teacher
In 1983, Steve joined the Santa Cruz Waldorf School community as a parent who sought the most appropriate school for his stepson, Michael. In 1989, he embraced his destiny as a Waldorf teacher. He has served in several capacities since including maintenance person, board member, faculty chair and the chairperson for the College of Teachers. Many of the trees on our campus were planted by Steve. Aside from teaching, his many roles include husband, father, and grandfather.
Joan has a passion for anthroposophical therapies, including eurythmy, the extra lesson, and the myriad ways in which Waldorf Education supports children on their path.
She completed a year-long puppetry training with Suzanne Down, a North American master puppeteer. Joan continues her studies in therapeutic puppeteering, using story as a tool for healing. Watching one of Joan's puppet shows is a treat enjoyed by the entire school at seasonal festivals.
Joan brings her love of puppetry, circle time, and nature to her classroom. She is in her 19th year of teaching kindergarten at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School.
Richard Corbal, Kindergarten Class Teacher
A three-week practice teaching stint brought Richard to Joan's kindergarten in the spring of 2010. Shortly after, he was hired as the new preschool teacher at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School. Richard's class has grown into a full kindergarten, serving a mixed-age group of 3-to-6 year olds.
In addition to being a husband, father, artist, UCSC graduate in visual arts, surfer, fledgling drummer, and a SCWS board member, Richard is committed to Anthrosoposophy. With Waldorf Education, he brings truth, beauty, reverence, and goodness to the development of the well-balanced child. Richard's daughter currently attends Ms. Joan's kindergarten.
Ben Sibley, 1st Grade Class Teacher
Ben's wife, Aurore, is also a Waldorf teacher, and teaches choir at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School to the fourth and fifth graders. Orion, their 5 year old son, is in Ms. Joan's kindergarten.
Ben and Aurore welcomed baby Elena in January 2002. Ben enjoys playing folk guitar; jazz drumming; taking long hikes in the woods; gardening, and reading history books.
Vanessa Bravo, 2nd Grade Class Teacher
Vanessa joined the Foundation Year at the Rudolf Steiner College in 2003 and completed her Waldorf Teacher Training in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2005. And in 2005, she was happy to join the Waldorf School of San Diego as the Spanish teacher for grades one through six. After the birth of her son, Vanessa began a licensed home daycare program that maintained the ideals presented in Waldorf Education incorporating many of the ideas gleaned from work with the LifeWays and RIE methods of early-childhood education. In 2010, Vanessa began the Extra Lesson/Remedial Teacher Training, utilizing the training's practicality and insights while teaching in her classroom.
Outside of school, Vanessa enjoys snuggle time with her quickly-growing child, gardening, cooking, dancing ballet, and strumming her ukulele.
Susan Jones, 3rd Grade Class Teacher
Prior to taking her first grade at the SCWS, Susan was a student at the Rudolf Steiner College, in the Goethean Studies program, where she met Steve Spitalny, who recruited her for the SCWS. The year at Steiner College was followed by 11 years in Atlanta, where she and RH were part of the founding of the Waldorf School of Atlanta; she was their first kindergarten and grades teacher. Before Atlanta, they spent years in the mountains of north Georgia, where they founded the Appalachian Mountain School, a Waldorf kindergarten; managed the Appalachian Studio Gallery, an artist and craftperson's cooperative; were partners in The Silversmiths, a jewelry design studio, and lived in a communal household. Before moving to the Appalachian Mountains, Susan completed her Waldorf Teacher Training at the Rudolf Steiner College, in its first teacher training year, with Rene Querido. Susan always wanted to be a teacher, and seeking the Waldorf Education, investigated many educational philosophies as a college student, graduating cum laude from NYU in education. She spent her girlhood in Maplewood, New Jersey, a short distance from New York City.
Susan enjoys gardening and cooking, storytelling, watercolor painting, and puppetry. She has a special interest in the healthy organization and functioning of Waldorf schools.
Esther Centers, 4th Grade Class Teacher
Esther began her relationship to the Waldorf community when she was 21, assisting in the Kindergarten at the Seattle Waldorf School (her home town). She earned her Waldorf teaching certificate after studying at the Rudolf Steiner College as well as the Mercy College of Detroit. In 1983, she was a founding class teacher at the Portland Waldorf School. Taking a hiatus from the classroom, she devoted herself to mothering for a number of years before resuming her teaching career. Along the way, she completed the Remedial Training Program at the Rudolf Steiner College.
Besides her responsibilities as a class teacher, Esther enjoys contributing to the life of the school by helping to create school assemblies and celebrations. In addition, she is the chairperson of the SCWS Care Group and serves on the school's Restorative Practices committee.
In her spare time, Esther enjoys playing violin with chamber groups around town.
Sunset Sky Nixon Richter, 5th Grade Class Teacher
She first encountered Waldorf Education when working as an apprentice on an organic farm in Maine. While many groups of children visited this farm, Sunset was particularly impressed when the third grade from the local Waldorf school came to visit. This experience inspired her to pursue Waldorf teacher training..
Sunset lives in Felton with her husband, Brad, and enjoys hiking with her dog, "Salty". Sunset also plays in the Santa Cruz Bagpipe Band. Like many class teachers, she has a hard time choosing a favorite aspect of the wonderfully diverse Waldorf curriculum; however, she is particularly known for her wet-method watercolor painting classes, and the plays that she writes and directs with her students. Sunset loves being in nature, so if you come to the campus look for her in one of her two favorite places: the organic garden and the redwood grove!
Caitlin Stratton , 6th Grade Class Teacher
She attributes her passion for the arts, history, and learning about different cultures, to her lifelong association with the Waldorf Education. Ms. Stratton attended a Waldorf school, kindergarten through 8th grade, in the small town of Jamestown, CA, located in Gold Rush country. She feels blessed to call her former Waldorf teachers her mentors. She attended the Rudolf Steiner College where she completed the Teaching Credential Program.
Ms. Stratton is overjoyed to be teaching at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School, and is thankful to be in such a vibrant and welcoming community.
Scott Olmsted, 7th Grade Class Teacher
Scott's journey with the Waldorf Education began when he was in high school. He researched different types of education and as a result, committed himself to starting a school with a unique philosophical foundation. Then he found Waldorf Education and thought, "This is better than the school I envisioned creating!"
Scott has been actively involved in Waldorf teaching for more than 20 years. During that time he served as a class teacher at the Live Oak Waldorf School near Auburn, CA, successfully carrying a class from first through eighth grades.
He also worked in teacher training programs at the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training in San Francisco, and with the Sunbridge College in New York. For three years, Scott was on the executive management team at the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA).
Scott joined the Santa Cruz Waldorf School in 2006. His three children all attended Waldorf Schools.
Susan Goldstein, 8th Grade Class Teacher
Susan attended public schools K-12, and then graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in education. She taught for several years in the Philadelphia public schools.
After she had her own two children, she taught in a private nursery school. There she recognized the importance of play and developing the imagination. Her family moved to a rural community in western Colorado where she discovered Waldorf Education, and was asked to teach in a small Waldorf school. After two years teaching a combined class of fourth and fifth grades, and then fifth and sixth grades, she enrolled at the Rudolf Steiner College in Sacramento. She did her practice teaching at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School and fell in love with the school and the community.
In 1985, Susan took her first First grade class at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School. She taught that class from grades first through eighth, and was fortunate to have a sabbatical year before beginning her next first grade, which she also took through the eighth grade. After that class graduated, she began working as the assistant director of the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training. Susan loved working with adults and teaching them about Waldorf Education, but after a few years, she began to miss the children and in 2005, took another first grade at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School. This class will graduate the eighth grade in 2013.
Susan also completed the Waldorf Remedial Education Training and the Waldorf Mentoring Training. She has been privileged to travel all over the US mentoring and evaluating Waldorf teachers. She also teaches at the Rudolf Steiner College in a program designed for public school teachers who want to learn about the Waldorf Education.
His 36 years in Waldorf Education include: Taking the pioneer class at Summerfield Waldorf School from first through eighth grade. Taking a class through eight grades at the East Bay Waldorf School. Full-time mentoring and faculty coordination for the Monterey Bay Charter School. Assistant Director of the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training. Eight years as the class teacher for the Class of 2011 at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School. Teaching last year's second grade during their transition to Ms. Jones. He has also been the music director, along with his other responsibilities, at every school with which he has been associated, and has composed many songs for children. He is planning to publish a book of his original songs.
Michael has a passion for class teaching, music, and working with parents and the greater community to raise awareness about Waldorf Education as well as a commitment to the ongoing education and inner development for all.
Ximena Sierra, Spanish Teacher
It was in Brazil that she first heard about Anthroposophy while attending a program called "Trabalho Biografico" developed by Founder Gudrun Burkhard. The extensive study and conscious exploration involved creating a personal biography in which she experienced her life connected to all of human evolution. She was assisted by several fundamental professionals: an Anthroposophical doctor, a nurse, a biodynamic gardener, a painting teacher, and a music teacher. This beautiful, nurturing experience led to an epiphany and a quantum shift in how she related to the world.
Upon returning from a summer visiting Brazil, Ximena visited the kindergarten at the San Francisco Waldorf School and as a result of her earlier work with Burkhard in Brazil, chose Waldorf Education. She pursued Waldorf Teacher Training and completed her certification in 2005 at the Rudolf Steiner College. Ximena ran her own Waldorf-inspired early childhood program for two years. .
To accommodate her daughter's interest in differing cultures, Ximena volunteers as the Arts and Crafts Coordinator for "Mensageiros da Cultura", a Bay Area cultural program for Brazilian children organized by Brazilian mothers.
Raised in Brazil and Colombia and immigrating to the US in 1996, Ximena's experience is that teaching a new language builds bridges from one culture to another, and accesses different thought processes which brings a richness to experiencing the world. In 2009, she joined the Santa Cruz Waldorf School as the Spanish language teacher for all eight grades.
Lydia Neilsen, Garden Teacher & Manager
Lydia is co-designer of the Westside Permaculture House in Santa Cruz, a demonstration garden for the use of home-scale permaculture design. She and her family have been involved in programs with the Regenerative Design Institute (RDI) in Bolinas in Marin county, on topics in "Permaculture and Ecology of Leadership" for many years. In 2007, Lydia began teaching with Penny Livingston in the Four Seasons Design Course program, and is now the head facilitator and host for the Four Seasons Permaculture Design Course which is held monthly at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School. This course brings the greater community to the school; provides valuable training, and facilitates the implementation of permaculture techniques on the campus.
Owner of Dirt Dragon Designs, a permaculture and biodynamic consultation business, Lydia is adept at reading the potential in land, and building a resilient and vibrant habitat full of food and life using local and onsite resources.
Allen Hankla, Campus Maintenance
Kerry Maloney, Handwork Teacher
She began working at the SCWS in 1984, first as a parent volunteer, and then in the Aftercare Program. She substituted as a classroom teacher, taught handwork classes, and became a full faculty member in 1994. Kerry enjoys teaching children and adults alike and is dedicated to bringing the joy of the creative process to her community. She credits her alternative upbringing with imbuing her with the inspiration, self-reliance, and ingenuity that she is so eager to share with her beloved students. Kerry has a depth and breadth of handwork knowledge and her skills and talents include the following: quilting; doll-making; hand-spinning; felting; silk painting; Hawaiian quilting, and paper crafts. She is also an avid knitter.
Kerry is the mother of four children, all of whom have attended the SCWS.
Barbara Benish, Art Teacher
Barbara is a US artist who moved to the Czech Republic in 1993, after completing a year as a Fulbright scholar in Prague. Benish's work has been collected and shown internationally since 1979 in more than 200 exhibitions, including P.S. 1 Museum in NYC; UNESCO Headquarters in Paris; the prestigious Venice Biennale in Italy, and The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
Besides making art, Benish has taught and lectured about art since the late '80's at the following institutions to name but few: Claremont Graduate School in California; the Academy of Art in Brno; The Academy of Art and Design in Prague; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the University of California, and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
She curated and organized an international exchange between the US and the former Czechoslovakia, including the groundbreaking project "Dialogue: Prague/Los Angeles" in 1989, which coincided with the historical political events in central Europe.
In 2004, Barbara founded Art Dialogue which operates ArtMill Center for Sustainable Creativity in the rural Bohemian countryside. An organic garden; stables; gallery; cottage for artists-in-residency, and the studio barn for international summer youth programs are all ensconced on a two-acre site. Art Dialogue works with the United Nations Safe Planets campaign which raises global awareness about hazardous chemical and environmental wastes. Benish acts as the Advisor in Arts, Education and Outreach. She recently co-chaired the Transformative Education Forum Committee for the UN RIO + 20 Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro.
As a California native, Barbara is delighted to return to the West Coast with her youngest daughter, Natalia, also a student at the SCWS.
Renata Bratt, Cello Teacher
Cellist and composer/arranger Dr. Renata Bratt is the Kuumbwa Jazz Center Artist in Residence in Santa Cruz. She serves on the National Board for the American String Teachers Association. Dr. Bratt has a PhD in music from the University of California at San Diego; a master's degree in music performance from the California State University, Northridge, and a bachelor of arts degree from Pomona College. She writes instructional books for Mel Bay, and jazz, fiddle and rock string orchestra arrangements for both Alfred Publishing and String Letter Publishing.
She teaches national clinics and string workshops for children and adults, including the American String Teachers Association (ASTA); MENC and Suzuki institutes and conferences; the Rocky Mountain Cello Fest; New Directions Cello Festival; Alasdair Fraser's camps; the Mark O'Connor String Conference; Wintergrass, and the National Cello Institute. She is a past president of the Suzuki Music Association of California and the International Association for Jazz Education String Caucus.
Her CDs include Pacific Cello (music for meditation, massage, and savasana), A Slice of Summer (original music and arrangements), Great Big Taters (fiddle tunes on cellos) and Jazz Trio 2006 (chamber jazz).
She has shared the stage with luminaries such as Liz Carroll, Darol Anger, and Alasdair Fraser, and has played back-up with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, David Sanborn, Lyle Lovett, and Dionne Warwick, prompting Rolling Stone to dub her an "ace performer".
Polly Malan, Violin
Ms. Malan earned her BA in music and British history at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. She pursued graduate studies at the Northern Illinois University and at the University of California where her focus was performance practice of contemporary music.
Ms. Malan teaches violin, viola, and piano. It was under Ms. Malan's guidance that the Young Strings Program at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School was created.
Clint Walters, Movement/Games Teacher
Clint then successfully completed a K-12 multi-subject credential program with an emphasis on middle and secondary education. He substituted in Half Moon Bay until he entered the Waldorf Teacher Training Program in Fair Oaks, CA, receiving his Waldorf teaching certificate.
In 1993, Clint began his journey at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School, taking a class from first through fifth grade. Clint then completed the five-year Spatial Dynamics Training in 1999 and became the movement and games teacher. For the next seven years he continued as the movement teacher. Clint then worked two years as a carpenter, returning to the SCWS from 2008-2010 to teach grades five and six. Clint is presently the movement teacher and games.
Clint says, "Movement has always given me great pleasure in my life and it is my intention to instill the joy of movement in children by teaching age-appropriate games and sports. I teach the children healthy and beneficial movement so that they may carry these lessons with them not just in childhood but through the rest of their lives.".Clint's hobbies include tennis; jogging; hiking; weight lifting; dancing; playing harmonica, and building.
Thomas was born and raised near Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1975 with a BA in art and a BS in education. He attended Northern Illinois University on scholarships for tennis and art. Following college he moved to California and settled in Santa Cruz in 1977. He began working at the Santa Cruz Juvenile Hall in 1978 and continued to work as a Deputized Peace Officer for the Santa Cruz Probation Department in many capacities until retiring in 2011.
Thomas began woodworking in the workshop of his father, an Industrial Arts teacher, in Euclid, Ohio. Thomas has designed and built furniture, housing structures, and musical instruments. It is his goal to pass along his and his father's joy for creating, from own's imagination, three- dimensional objects from wood.
Thomas is most proud of his four children ranging in ages from 15 to 28 years. He has enjoyed traveling to Malaysia, Galapagos Islands, the Amazon jungles and the European countries many times. He plays the acoustic bass professionally in the Monterey Bay area, as well as the occasional game of tennis. Thomas states, "I enjoy spending time with my amazing children."
Irene Alonzi, Kindergarten Aftercare
After holding other jobs in her life, Irene "found her calling" and made a mid-life career change by earning a certification in early childhood education. While in this program, she discovered the Waldorf Education.
In 1988, she began working as a kindergarten assistant at the Highland Hall Waldorf School in Northridge, CA. The moment she entered the kindergarten, she felt "at home". She received her Waldorf teaching certification (with an emphasis on the young child) at the Waldorf Institute of Southern California (WISC). She worked at WISC for four years before starting a home play group for very young children.
She began her work at the SCWS in 1994. She lives happily with her husband, two puppies, a bird, and an old cat. She remains active in the local branch of the Anthroposophical Society, and enjoys gardening, reading, and her family. Her two daughters are SCWS alumnae and Irene says, "They are wonderful, creative, and independent women."
Terry Walters, Aftercare
As a student at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO, Terry began observing relationships between food, and the symptoms of illness and allergy. Upon graduating, she lived in New York and worked and studied at the Natural Gourmet Cooking School, focusing her studies on macrobiotics; biodynamics; food as medicine, and Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions.
In 1990, a desire for a spiritual discipline brought Terry to the Rudolf Steiner College for Foundation Year and Goethean Studies. Her special interest included work in child development and the arts. Her three years at the college culminated in a blending of her values and interest while pointing the way to her future work in food preparation and childcare..
Terry has always felt a special connection with children and the past 17 years working in the Aftercare Program have been tremendously rewarding for her. It has deepened her understanding of both the nutritional elements that best serve children at play, and a way of being with the children that instills harmony within a mixed-age group.