Our Alumni

Jaqueline Howard

After graduating from the Austin Waldorf School in 2004, I attended Kalamazoo College, a small liberal arts college in Michigan where I majored in psychology & biology. I can credit my opportunities at the Austin Waldorf School with giving me the inspiration to take a wide variety of classes at Kalamazoo, even some in subjects in which I lacked confidence. At the Austin Waldorf School, we delved deeply into such a variety of subjects that I could be an artist, musician, scientist and mathematician simultaneously. Many of my peers in college didn’t consider that to be possible for them, as they already narrowly identified themselves as either “good at math” or “good at humanities.”

I greatly enjoyed my four undergraduate years and spent my spare time avidly playing Ultimate Frisbee. I founded the women’s team at my college and organized many tournaments for us. Again, the opportunity to participate in athletics at the Austin Waldorf School, while I wasn’t particularly good, allowed me to feel comfortable taking risks in athletics and continue refining my movement and coordination skills in college. Since college, I have continued my passion for learning about the relationship between the mind and body through physical exertion and movement by competing in triathlons and marathons on a somewhat serious level.

Upon graduating college, I moved back to Austin, where I became a teacher at the lowest income school in the Austin area, Decker Elementary in Manor ISD. I was so fortunate to have had an education where learning was fun and curiosity about the world was my internal motivator to think critically about the world in which we live. I knew that children who couldn’t afford private education also deserved the same and I felt a strong urge to bring as many elements of my own education to those less fortunate.

Decker has an extremely high risk demographic: 99% of the population is economically disadvantaged, and most children have traumatic backgrounds. As a teacher, my classroom looked drastically different from everyone else’s. I presented my students with challenging work that was applicable and interesting to them. I was assigned the most behaviorally challenging children in our grade level, but, in an environment where learning was authentic and truly catered to the child’s developmental needs, the behavior problems disappeared.  I started an after school knitting club, and all of the behaviorally challenging boys in the school signed up!  It was a hit!  Pretty soon, instead of getting kicked out of their classes for an outburst, they were knitting to help them practice self-soothing. I set further examples with my class and initiated camping trips for 4th and 5th grade.  While I wasn’t formally Waldorf trained, I had my experiences to fall back on, and they produced notable results.

With the mission in mind to impact more students than just my own, I am now an instructional coach for math and science at Rodriguez Elementary School in Austin ISD (with a similar demographic to Decker Elementary).  I mentor all pre-K through 5th grade teachers in math and science by planning with them, observing them in their classrooms, co-teaching, and modeling lessons for them.  I feel at this level I am able to make a greater impact for the neediest children by working to transform the mindset of their teachers.

A few years ago, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in something that interested me. I had studied abroad in high school at a Waldorf school in Lima, Peru and again in Oaxaca, México in college, which afforded me the fluency to be a bilingual teacher here in Texas.  However, I felt the need to explore more of my Spanish heritage and to finally formally study Spanish. Thus, I decided to apply to graduate school in Spain, where I received my Master’s in Spanish Language and Culture.

I am now married and settled down here in Austin, and international travel, running marathons, gardening, and cooking are just a few of my outside interests that keep my work/life balance in check. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been a Waldorf student; the lessons I learned about caring for the community have helped shape my view on education philosophy which I try to bring to the communities of East Austin daily.

“I cannot express how wonderful it has been to see my brother experience a Waldorf education. Traditional schooling methods did not meet the way his mind works. His intellect and creativity were not nurtured or appreciated. He has flourished at Austin Waldorf.”