School Director Notes | February 2016

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jane_zeender2015Dear SMWS Community,

As the darkest days of winter begin to wane, I am again reminded why I love living in Colorado, and especially, Boulder! When I lived in Virginia, I dreaded the month of February, with its dreary and overcast days, and little outside activities. Here in Colorado, the bright sunny skies and snow beckon me outside, whether it is for a sunrise run, cross country skiing in the open space, or the beautiful ski resorts just a short drive away. I continue to count my blessings, not only for living in such a lovely place, but for being part of this school and community, and seeing my children, as well as yours, thriving.

This past weekend I was again inspired and rejuvenated by attending our High School Future Search Retreat with 40 stakeholders in our High School community- parents, faculty, staff, alumni, and students. I learned so much about the High School’s biography, and together we co-created a vision for the next five years- and beyond. What was most surprising to me was learning about the founding of Shining Mountain Waldorf High School- and how different our founding was from what is typical across the Waldorf movement.

Our High School was founded very quickly, alongside the creation of the Lower School, and burst into being- with little planning, structure, and form. In fact, our High School’s biography has been one based on big personalities, rather than program. Founded by the Waldorf “giants” of Rene Querido, David Sloan, and David Mitchell, nurtured and built by Dan Diehl and Patricia Sexton, and carried in later years by Thom Schaefer and David Blair. What we all discovered together this past weekend, was that to have a thriving, sustainable future for our High School we can no longer build around personalities, but rather we must build from our core values and guiding principles, rooted in Rudolf Steiner’s developmental and pedagogical principles for adolescents. Understanding our biography really helped me to understand where we have been, and where we need to go- and was the basis for all the work we did this past weekend.

There were a few key themes that emerged from the HS Future Search Retreat, which we will be taking up and acting upon in the coming weeks, months, and years. The overarching vision for our High School can be summarized in one key statement:

Shining Mountain Waldorf High School leads the Waldorf high school movement worldwide.

We inhabit our core values and mission. Anchored in Rudolf Steiner’s pedagogy, we provide education effective to 21st century life.

The major themes that emerged out of this overarching vision are summarized in the following provocative statements:

  1.  Support for Life after High School.

SMWHS effectively prepares students for what comes after their experience at Shining Mountain Waldorf High School. We will take action to reduce stress for students preparing to apply for college, planning a gap year, looking at vocational plans, internships, or anything else.

  1. Strong Student and Faculty Connections

We will abide by an agreement by faculty and students to engage actively on campus, creating a culture of kindness.

  1. Faculty Development

We are a vibrant faculty that works collaboratively to inspire pedagogical excellence by utilizing internal and external support and resources.

  1. Making SMWS a sanctuary of mindful and embodied living that provides a path to a child’s destiny

SMWHS is dedicated in all its endeavors to the development of the whole being (body, soul and spirit) for all members of the community, student and adult, so that each student may achieve his/her highest potential. We instill in our students the courage to commit to mindful, clean, and substance-free choices that live up to this ideal, empowering them to be freely present in the possibility of their destiny.

  1. Faculty and Parent Relations

We, the parents and faculty actively engage in understanding how and why we apply the living and dynamic indications of Rudolf Steiner to form the HS curriculum so that together we can unanimously and unconditionally implement the vision and mission of the HS.

Our community culture is a model of aligned partnership between our unified body of the faculty, students, administrators, and parents.


Building upon the strong platform created by our founders, we will focus our energy in the HS in these key areas. As our plans come together, we will share them with the entire community and ask for your support and participation. As the parent of a 9th grader who is currently thriving in the High School, as well as an engaged and vibrant 6th grader, I am deeply committed to ensuring that this vision is implemented. I stand in gratitude to each community member who spent last weekend at the Retreat, to each community member who took the time to fill out the survey, and to everyone who cares so deeply about our High School. In Waldorf education, the HS experience remains the “crowning achievement” of the curriculum, and I look forward to my own children having this opportunity, as well as yours.

In love and light,

Jane