THE AUSTIN WALDORF SCHOOL BEGAN
as the vision of Helen Steele. Helen, a former teacher at the Highland Hall Waldorf School, moved to Texas in 1973. Surrounded by other bold and determined individuals, this group held a vision for the inception of the first Waldorf school in Texas. After five years of lecturing and giving workshops, Helen was finally able to begin steering a group toward the opening of a school.
The Austin Waldorf School opened its doors at the historic Johnson House on Town Lake in 1980 with a first grade and eleven children. In the second year a kindergarten, second and fourth grades were added with sixty children. The enrollment more than doubled in the third year, and by the sixth year there were eight grade school classes and two kindergartens. It was time to find a permanent home for this thriving school.
In 1986 eleven acres on the southwest edge of Austin were purchased. These eleven acres opened to the beautiful Texas hill country and the smaller bedroom communities to the southwest, which would soon prove an area of high population growth. We had a summer to build and move our whole school, and that indomitable Texas spirit served us well. Hammers and nail guns rang out through the summer heat, transforming a homestead, complete with a roping arena and horse barns, into a school. By September, the ringing of our old-time school bell joined the sound of buzzing saws. The Austin Waldorf School was home!
In the fall of 1990, a group of parents and educators met with the faculty to propose that a high school begin for the first eighth grade graduates of the school. A high school was always a part of the vision of the school, and a group had been meeting on a regular basis from 1988 through 1990 to begin their work towards that goal.
Continued studies and visits from master teachers concentrated the collective efforts of many in service of the adolescent. The school was committed to move forward with the curriculum, the programs, the faculty, and the buildings that a high school would require. The dream of having a high school manifested into a reality and we graduated our first high school senior class in May 2001. The high school has experienced growth each year since its conception.
A prospective parent once commented, “Y’all are a school like other schools, and yet a warmth and peace radiates from each building. The children look so happy. Here there is something special.” We smile, knowing that what the parent expressed was won by devotion to a purpose, perseverance, and hard work. The Austin Waldorf School, with a mature and solid faculty, the dedicated support of parents and volunteers, and the largest enrollment in its history, stands solidly on the foundation first laid by Helen Steele, ready to continue to meet the future.
Excerpts taken from a narrative written by Carol Toole, Educational Therapist, former AWS kindergarten teacher, and Waldorf parent.