Wisteria School to open in north Buffalo this fall

Jul 25, 2012

There will be a new education option for parents of young children in Buffalo this fall.  A new school will open offering the Waldorf teaching method. 

WBFO & AM-970's Eileen Buckley toured the space that's being prepared for the Wisteria School in North Buffalo where she spoke with the co-founder and a teacher.

Inside Central Park United Methodist Church on Beard Avenue workers were putting up new lighting in a hallway and you could smell the fresh paint on the walls of the first grade class room. The church offered Wisteria space to create their new school.

Dana Kemp is co-founder and administrative liaison. 

"I was first introduced to Waldorf education through the city satellite program, through the Aurora Waldorf School, which is the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center in the city of Buffalo, so my children gave me the best introduction to Waldorf education," said Kemp.

Kemp's three and six-year-old daughters are full of energy. They were play full as they waited for their mother in the newly remodeled classroom.

Waldorf education looks at human development. It was created from the work of Austrian scientist and educator, Rudolf Steiner.  The teaching method is described as holistic and is unlike public schools curriculums.  The program focuses on integrating art, music and movement into the entire day of lessons for students.

"It's quit different in that we teach in blocks," said Nona Carter.  

Carter will be teaching first grade at Wisteria.  She is a former college professor from the University of the South in Tennessee.  She recently relocated to Buffalo searching for new teaching options.

"There's one teacher -- one main teacher and then there is an art teacher and a movement teacher, but that one teacher, that grade teacher, has the students for math, science and for literature and language arts and that teacher follows the students through their grades," said Carter.

Wisteria will hold an open house Saturday, July 28.  Co-founder Kemp said this will give parents and the community a chance to tour the classrooms, meet the teachers and review how the school curriculum works.

"Most traditional education systems, as good as they are, tend to focus on an academic realm for the children, and Waldorf really supports the idea that children should be children.  Playing, falling, experiencing life, getting outside, having a hands on experience rather than just  learning from a book," said Kemp.

As a  member of higher education, first grade teacher Carter says the Waldorf has been a successful teaching model. 

"I've read a lot about Waldorf, and heard from teachers who have had Waldorf graduates in their classes.  They say Waldorf students are very articulate, very good at expressing themselves, good writers, because we integrate and emphasize so much," said Carter. 

Carter noted the method instills a love of learning.

"Just love being at school.  I think a lot of students think of school as a punishment, and that's really not how it has to be," said Carter.

"This type of education really involves the parents in learning what it is like to be a child. What parents might do at home to supplement," said Kemp.

Parent involvement is a key element to the Waldorf program.   Donations and grants helped fund the school.  Tuition is $5,990, but Kemp believes they will provide options for many income levels. 

"And then there are three other levels below that...we also have what we call a parent partner pledge...where parents who have a particular skill or talent...and she if we can where we can actually use that parent to help with development, enrollment," said Kemp.

Wisteria will open with a first grade class this September and then will add a first grade each year until it houses grades 1 through 8.  The new school leadership can look to the success of the local Aurora Waldorf formed 22 years ago in Western New York. The very first Waldorf School was founded in 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany.