SMWS Alumni White Paper

SMWS Alumni White Paper

Dear SMWS Community,

It is with great pride that we share with you our first Alumni White Paper, entitled “A Portrait of the Shining Mountain Waldorf High School Graduate”. This article is the result of 18 months of dedicated research by Nita Davanzo, our Alumni Relations Coordinator and proud graduate of our High School. Nita conducted two surveys in addition to countless in-depth interviews with a selection of our 389 High School graduates, spanning 20 years from 1996-2016. Her research identified many distinguishing traits, capacities, and themes of our graduates, creating a profile of our students and shining the light on the power of our education in making a difference in the world. Happy reading and feel free to share this article far and wide!

Jane Zeender
School Director



Waldorf100: A New Film Celebrating 100 Years of Waldorf Education Around the World



From Waldorf Today:

The point of this film is to introduce the concept of the upcoming Waldorf100 Centennial in 2019-2020. The goal is to help families and schools around the world recognize that Waldorf education can, and does, have an important impact on the challenges we face in the world today.

Too often we get stuck focusing on our own school and its struggles, but there is a much larger ethos out there that we are all part of. Collectively we are working to change the world and make a better future.

The hope and aspiration of this Centennial event is not to simply have a big anniversary party. It’s to launch Waldorf education into the 21st Century with bold new sense of confidence and commitment to the future – a future that our children will help determine.

Paul Zehrer, Producer & Director, Waldorf100 – The Film

Visit the new Waldorf100 website here: http://www.waldorf-100.org/


SMWS Alumni Panel | Thursday, March 16, 7-9pm

What Can You Do With A Waldorf Education? Anything. And Everything.

Please join us for a special evening with some of our treasured Shining Mountain alumni and learn how Waldorf education and their time at SMWS have impacted their life paths and what wonderful things they are doing now in their lives!

Event: SMWS Alumni Panel

When: Thursday, March 16 | 7-9pm

Where: SMWS Festival Hall, 999 Violet Ave, Boulder



VITAMIN N IN KINDERGARTEN: Nature-Based Education | by Jason Sperling, Author & SMWS Parent

November 10, 2016| Guest Writers, THE NEW NATURE MOVEMENT

In Richard Louv’s recent book  Vitamin N, Louv shares 500 actions to bring more nature into our lives. One of my favorites is the suggestion that parents choose schools, such as Montessori or Waldorf schools, that support direct-experience learning often in natural settings. In the following interview, Jane Zeender, the Director of Shining Mountain Waldorf School in Boulder, Colorado, shares how Waldorf Kindergarten programs can impact children’s health and happiness.

Jason Sperling: What is Waldorf Education?

Jane Zeender: Waldorf Education was founded almost 100 years ago by an Austrian philosopher by the name of Rudolf Steiner, who was approached by the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory to create a new educational system that would raise healthy, balanced, human beings so that the world could avoid a repeat of World War I. Today, Waldorf education is the fastest-growing educational movement in the world, in both the charter and private schools, and our fastest growth is happening in China, which speaks to the continued need to educate children in this holistic way.

In Waldorf education, we not only focus on the intellect but also on the social/emotional growth of the child as well as the physical and spiritual growth of the child. All of our work with children is done with a deep understanding of healthy human development, so that we meet each child, at each age, with what speaks to them emotionally, physically, socially, as well as intellectually.

Our students graduate from our school with a solid understanding of who they are, with personal connections to themselves and others, and with the capacities and skills to go out into the world in service to humanity. Waldorf graduates are unique, healthy individuals with a strong sense of purpose and who find meaning in the world and in their lives.

To read the full article at the Children & Nature Network:


About the Author:

Jason Runkel Sperling found Running Wild family nature club in Boulder, Colorado, in 2015. He is a skilled and experienced outdoorsman who earned the rank of Eagle Scout as a youth – and went on to travel and live around the globe for 20 years, scuba diving, surfing, backpacking, skiing, rafting, and adventuring. He is the author of several books that help parents get their children outdoors, and reconnected with nature, themselves, family, and friends. Read his blog and all his books (for free) on www.jasonrunkelsperling.com.



Daily Camera | Boulder County history: Shining Mountain school reflects on its past

8-28-16 | Enjoy this article from The Daily Camera featuring Shining Mountain’s early days!

Boulder County history:  Shining Mountain school reflects on its past



Beautiful Senior Parent Offering at SMWS 12th Grade commencement | June 10, 2016

Kim after speechHello everyone, I am Kim Speek. My husband Peter and I are the parents of senior student Téa Speek. We’ve been part of the Shining Mountain community since Téa started kindergarten here 13 years ago. I was extremely honored but also surprised when I was asked to share tonight because I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes kind of parent. But here I am in front of all of you!

I’d like to begin with a song called Dreamers and some images of people that helped to bring us together here today …  [Slide show presented at this time]


All of us, we are the dreamers…

The photos were of many of the grandparents of the class, both living and passed and some who are with us here tonight, including Téa’s grandmother, Julie Cavaliere, and grandfather, Tim Welch.

I’d like to ask all the grandparents who are here tonight to stand if they are able. On the behalf of the parents and these seniors, I would like to express our gratitude to the grandparents for all of the gifts that they have given us.

These beautiful and wise elders have given us life, and love and lessons…they have helped to shape who we are today and they played a role in our decision to choose this school. Thank you, grandparents.

Grandparents, now that you are seated, close your eyes and take a moment to remember when you were a senior graduating from high school. What were your dreams, your fears? Did you ever imagine at that time what it would be like to be a grandparent and witness your grandchildren’s future appearance on this stage? Feel the pride, the vast potential they represent and the dreams that they will carry forth into the world for you.

Parents of these students, remember your high school graduation, connect with your parents that are here today in physical form or in spirit form, and your beautiful children sitting here on the stage. Touch in with the lineage of your past and your future.

Friends and family that are here to stand witness today, feel into the lineage and hold a space for all there was and all that there will be for these young people on the stage.

And now, Seniors, take a moment to imagine what it was like for your grandparents and your parents to graduate from high school. How at the time of their graduation your existence was a shining star of the future. Think about how you are connected to your family not only by blood, but also by spirit and dreams—theirs and yours. Look into the future at the possibility of your own children and grandchildren and the vast love and influence that you will have on their dreams. Imagine their future appearance sitting on a stage with you in the audience. Just like Téa’s Grandmother Julie is here as her witness right now.

So how did we all, past, present and future, come to be here, right now in this very magical moment? Why did we as parents choose to send our children to this particular school? How did we all choose to be in this community together?

I like to think back to when my daughter Téa was ready to “graduate” from pre-school. The stress and worry I felt, trying to decide what kindergarten would be best for her. At the time, I was involved in a very conscious and engaged mother’s group. We were from various backgrounds and there were different opinions, but all of us agreed that we wanted to slow things down, nurture our children, and most important of all, keep them safe.

When Peter and I first went to the open house at Shining Mountain, Barbara and Ian Edwards, parents of Gavin who is also graduating today, came along with us. We became friends with Barb and Ian in child-birthing class, a month before our children were born.

All four of us were enchanted with the curriculum and the Waldorf philosophy. We felt that our lives would have been enriched if we had received an education like this. We loved the magic, the pace, and the safety in which the children were nurtured and meaningfully educated.

As we got back into the car after the tour, we all shed some tears as we explored our personal feelings about schools. That first step in a new direction was difficult and most important. We decided to put our trust into these Waldorf teachers.

I’d like to express profound gratitude from our parent group and our seniors for the way their incredible and committed teachers, coaches and administrators have so beautifully held and nurtured our children.

As parents, we have volunteered for, organized, and witnessed countless plays, musical performances, events like Pentathlon and Medieval Games, class trips, festivals, and triumphant or heartbreaking athletic competitions.

For 13 years this parent community has shared deeply and intimately so many, many things. I have never known a community with such depth and connection before all of you came into my life. We have all experienced such powerful feelings of love, anger, gratitude, conflict, forgiveness, healing, connection, laughter, heartbreak and joy.

Our journey has been meaningful and fulfilling but it hasn’t been easy. Sometimes the depth of emotions felt like too much for me, I would feel overwhelmed and need to retreat. I’ve often wondered if anyone else ever felt that, too? We’ve been through so much, and we have done it together—illness, accidents, marriage, divorce, death and birth—many powerful and heart wrenching events again and again. And while this parent group is rich with joy, love and connection, it’s also important to remember as we celebrate this milestone that it would serve us well to forgive anyone, including ourselves, for the things that have hurt us or our personal and private regrets over these past years.

Recently, Fiona Havlish sent a vulnerable and courageous letter to our parent group. She cited a beautiful and ancient practice that originated in the islands of the South Pacific called Ho’o ponopono. It is a simple prayer that clears past wounds to make things healthy for an individual, our family or our community. The words for this simple ritual are straight forward and I offer them now for each of us and for our community, to let go of pain from the past, make a place for inner peace, and create a healing closure.

“I’m so sorry…Please forgive me…I forgive you…Thank you… I love you…”

TeagradThe heart of each of us is made up of our lineage, our community and our experiences.  Eventually all merge into one so that everyone you know helped to build your heart. Seniors, your heart is part of your lineage and your community and it will help to carry you on your journey out into the world. May your journey be blessed with a hunger for life filled with purpose, deep meaning and profound love.




I’d like to conclude with this poem written by David Whyte.

My Daughter Asleep

~ David Whyte

Carrying a child,

I carry a bundle of sleeping future appearances,
I carry my daughter adrift on my shoulder,
dreaming her slender dreams

And I carry her beneath the window,
watching her moon lit palm open and close
like a tiny folded map,
each line a path that leads where I can’t go,
so that I read her palm not knowing what I read

And walk with her in moon light on the landing,
not knowing with whom I walk,
making invisible prayers to go on with her where I can’t go,
conversing with so many unknowns

that must know her more intimately than I do.

And so to these unspoken shadows and this broad night
I make a quiet request to the great parental darkness
to hold her when I cannot,
to comfort her when I am gone,
to help her learn to love the unknown for itself,
to take it gladly like a lantern for the way before her,
to help her see where ordinary light will not help,
where happiness has fled,
where faith cannot reach.

My prayer tonight

for the great and hidden symmetries of life
to reward this faith I have
and twin her passages of loneliness with friendship,
her exiles with home coming,
her first awkward steps with promised onward leaps.

May she find in all this,
day or night,
the beautiful centrality of pure opposites,
may she discover before she grows old,
not to choose so easily between past and present,
may she find in one or the other

her gifts acknowledged.

And so as I helped to name her
I help to name these powers,
I bring to life what is needed,
I invoke the help she’ll want following these moonlit lines
into a future uncradled by me

But parented by all I call.

As she grows away from me,
may these life lines grow with her,
keep her safe,

so with my open palm

whose lines have run before her to make a safer way,
I hold her smooth cheek

and bless her this night and beyond it

and for every unknown night to come.


Shining Mountain Handwork Teacher Theresa Baker Featured on The Modern Domestique

theresa1The Modern Domestique has a new podcast out that features an interview with Theresa Baker, our handwork teacher at the Shining Mountain Waldorf School. Theresa talks about the importance of handwork, and how this educational philosophy not only teaches skills to the student, but also furthers cognitive development as the child grows.

theresa2Head on over to the The Modern Domestique blog to have a listen and to read more!  http://bit.ly/20ZuiQX


Board of Trustees Notes and Votes | May 2016

Board of Trustees Notes and Votes for May, 2016 At BOT Meeting on May 17, 2016:

● Approved minutes from 4/19/16 Board meeting by consensus vote.

● Board training by Jane Zeender regarding governance structure of the school. Consultant Michael Moore has been assisting with the creation of new organization charts showing the staff/administration, faculty governance, and BOT committee structures.

● Discussed and made plans for June BOT meeting, which will be the second joint meeting with the BOT and the Governance Council of the Faculty for the year.

● Discussed and made plans for the final Town Hall meeting of the year, May 20.

● Received financial update from Andy Wyckoff Judson, Treasurer. Reviewed 3rd quarter financials and preliminary draft budget. We are on track with budget for 3rd quarter and are anticipating a positive end-of-year bottom line.

● Received update from Andy Horning, School Director Performance Review Committee Chair. The online feedback form is open and responses are being collected. Review will be completed by end of June.

● Received update from John Marr, Campus Development Committee Chair. Committee is currently meeting with 3 candidates for a Real Estate and Development Plan Consultant. Decision is expected by end of May.

● Received Committee on Trustees update from Mark Feigal, Chair. Pam Lambert will begin the first of her three trial meetings in August.


A View From Athena’s Throne: 5th Grade Pentathlon | by Annika Paradise


On Friday the 13th of May, 135 children convened on our Shining Mountain high school field to hold the 2016 Pentathlon. The children came from six schools and traveled to Boulder from all parts of Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico. Zeus, the God of gods and the controller of weather, graced us with a sunny, crisp day like they must have known on Mount Olympus.

Craig Rubens, the Games/P.E. teacher asked me two weeks prior if I would mind playing the part of the Goddess Athena for the Pentathlon. Having never attended a Pentathlon, I had no idea what I was agreeing to do, but I’d never actually worn a toga for a whole day, nor released doves, nor carried a lit torch at the head of a parade of athletes. I was game.

The children had been practicing their Pentathlon skills since September: javelin, sprint, long run, Greek wrestling, long jump and discus. My daughter spoke so often at the dinner table about the adventures and misadventures of her class’ nine-month progress. And leading up to the event, she had that knot in her stomach, a mixture of excitement, nervousness and the intense desire to do her best. It’s that powerfully, instructive kind of knot that a 5th grader can use for self-discovery.

The day began with opening ceremonies (this is Waldorf after all): group eurythmy dances, odes read to the gods, real fire, a release of live doves and the running of the torch. Students were then organized into their city-states to start their rotation of the Pentathlon events. After the sprint, the children came to the tent to chat and check in with the gods.

I was amazed at the earnestness of the children. As the day progressed they relaxed and walked over to the tent with giggles and sillies, but when we asked them to come close, sit and tried to hold the space, they were wide-eyed and reverent. Even the children I knew well were more mesmerized than I thought possible. They really are still more child than adolescent. Many kids their age have gone numb with media or have rushed ahead of childhood, but our schools have got something really incredible going on here. As Zeus and Athena, we spoke with them about the qualities of the athlete, about striving and digging deep. We chatted with them about how to win and how to lose and name dropped our other god-friends and their qualities: Hermes, Artemis, Heracles and others.

After lunch, when the children made their offerings, I really felt like they were making the offering to me. These offerings were made by each school group directly in front of Zeus and me with their backs to the crowd. There were poems recited in Greek, dances, songs and drama. Instead of feeling incredibly awkward and unworthy, I tried to summon the notion that they were offering their best efforts toward the goddess of wisdom. And that made it easier for me—someone who can be quite shy. What an incredible gift—to have over one hundred children offering their hearts and souls to me personally. What an honor to witness their sacred, beautiful, whole-hearted efforts. I will hold those moments for the rest of my life.

I would have thought that these 5th graders were too old to live in the imaginary world, that they were too old to want the magic. But it’s a good reminder that even the child who stopped imaginary play more than a year ago is still just a javelin throw away from a world of wonder. How easily adults, myself included, assume that they have outgrown all that. Maybe this Waldorf education has instilled a sense of magic that will never be usurped by the humdrum of the adult world. And so for a day, I was reminded how important it is to continue to hold sacred the child in all of us.

So as my last act of Athena, I make a wish for these children on the edge of adolescence. I wish they move forward from the sacred cocoon of childhood with the unwavering torch of wonder and the perpetual lens of magic.

Photos by Mark Steele