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English Teacher and Upper School Department Co-Chair
I was born in Vancouver, Canada to English parents, the last one to join our family tribe of 6. When I was 4 years old my family and I moved to England where I went to school, which I loved. I had a few years in Montreal from the age of 10 to 13 which opened my eyes to another culture and began a life long love of languages. Many of my friends were francophone and the cultural life in Montreal was varied and interesting.
At the age of 13 we moved back to England and here I completed my schooling. As a young adult I moved to London and joined an advertising agency in Knightsbridge. This was an exciting career; dynamic, fast paced and creative. After a number of years my family had moved back to Canada and after much travelling in Europe when my job allowed, I finally travelled across the huge expanse of Canada on a bus to see my family. I stayed for a number of years and trained as an Early years teacher with an emphasis on working with children with severe special needs. At this time a colleague invited me to the local Steiner school and from this moment my life took another interesting turn.
Although I had a place at University I felt I had to change my direction and so I enrolled at Rudolf Steiner College in California to begin my studies in Steiner Education. After completing my Foundation year, I returned to England and finished my teacher training at Emerson College. Those years were a joy, deepening my understanding of Waldorf pedagogy, teaching in various schools around the country and meeting and learning from wonderful teachers along the way. Having competed my studies I began teaching a class 5 at the Brighton Steiner School and with this class, we developed and opened our first Upper school class 9 in 2001.
After 10 years at the Brighton school and a degree from Sussex University in English Literature and Film studies, another change was afoot. My husband and I moved to Whistler in Canada with a brief stop for one year at the Hereford Waldorf School where I taught Upper School English and Drama. It was a rich year in many ways, always learning, growing and developing friendships with students, parents and teachers alike. Once in Whistler those first few years were taken up with building this little school in the mountains, into a healthy and strong full school with a very small but dynamic team of committed teachers. We opened the Whistler school’s Upper School in 2012. With this project up and running and several graduated class 12’s yet another change for our family was beckoning and we moved back to England in 2015.
I joined the South Devon Steiner school Upper School team with their exciting venture to create a full Upper School to Class 12. It is a great joy to be here, to teach English language and literature to wonderful teenagers and be a part of this growing team and school. I return to England to find that the educational landscape for Steiner schools has changed and is developing in very positive ways supported by the Steiner School Certificate, and I am happy to be here and a part of something innovative and supportive of students’ learning.
As a family we are also enjoying the beauty of the surrounding area, the majesty of Dartmoor and the endless miles of beautiful coastal paths and beaches.
Dr Phil Wright
Earth Sciences, English & Mathematics Teacher and Upper School Department Co-Chair
After studying geography at Exeter University and LSE, I travelled through Asia and the Middle-East before taking a PGCE at Keele University. After three years teaching A-levels at an inner-city sixth-form college in Birmingham I embarked on further travels through India and South-East Asia. On return, in 1994, I volunteered as a co-worker at Delrow Camphill Community and began to study the work of Rudolf Steiner. This eventually led me to train as a Steiner teacher at Plymouth University, followed by class teaching at Brighton Steiner School. I then taught as a peripatetic teacher in the upper schools at Wynstones and Kings Langley, and then at Bristol Steiner School where I taught maths, English and Earth Sciences for 8 years.
I have an active interest in the Steiner curriculum, including a research PhD in Steiner education from Bristol University. My main subject interests are geography, ecology, philosophy, religion and research. I also have a strong interest in Eastern philosophy and meditation. My motivation for teaching is to encourage students to think freely, see the world and follow their own muse.
From class four onwards I was educated in a Waldorf / Steiner School in Germany. This change of school was a great gift to me. I could enjoy school and loved the experience of the joined up curriculum. The wide breath of the curriculum suited and further encouraged my interest in many different aspects of life. My favorite time in school came as an adolescent in Upper School. I loved the humanities and the Arts and Crafts. I was very fortunate to have very dedicated and inspiring teachers and a lively, close knit class.
At the end of class 13 I finished my Steiner School education with a qualification as a Kindergarten teacher. My real interests were in Arts and Crafts and I joined the Puppeteer training at the Novalis School in Stuttgart. A few years later I continued my studies at Emerson College in Sussex with the Foundation Year. Afterwards I joined the Sculpture course for three years. These years were a feast of exploration and discovery of pure form. We observed plants and skeletons, and studied sculpture throughout history, visited the Cathedral of Chartres and observed our experience of the architecture and sculptural form. I mainly worked with clay and wood, and woodcarving became my great love.
Some years later when my own children were in school and Kindergarten I carried the Parent and Toddler Group at the South Devon Steiner School. My work as a Craft teacher developed gradually. For many years I have taught Artistic Craft,commonly known as woodwork, from class 5 upwards. In Upper School I have taught bench joinery, greenwood work, copper work, basket weaving and Sculpture. Using clay as a material to explore pure form and create sculptures is one of my great interests.
For the students in class 11 and 12 I will be working as a tutor, giving advice to students working independently. My area of interest and expertise are Sculpture and Greenwood work. Greenwood work can be done with basic hand tools creating beautiful and original furniture. As a craft teacher I am giving the students the opportunity to work with different materials like copper, willow, soft greenwood, hard seasoned wood and clay. With each material and technique, the students learn about a differnt aspect of the material world. The crafts are an educational tool to learn about processes, development and ourselves.
A lot of the Upper School sculpture lessons are using clay as a material. Clay has a magic flexibility. By forming it we become creators of form and get, in a mistrial way, in touch with the forming and creative processes that are expressing themselves in nature.
Games & Movement Teacher
After studying BSc (h) in Sports and Exercise Rehabilitation, I joined HM forces for some ten years. I then joined Exeter City football club as a Sports Rehabilitation Therapist for a period of 2 years, after which I set up a private clinic in Totnes. I hold a Foundation Degree in Exercise and Fitness Science in addition to my initial degree and I have continued to expand my knowledge by undertaking many additional qualifications including FA Emergency Trauma Level 2, Level 4 Sports Massage/Soft Tissue Practitioner, VTCT, GP Referral Consultant, The Wright Foundation and NVQ II (CYQ) Gym Instructor and Exercise and Fitness Knowledge.
I am currently studying Bothmer Movement. (Bothmer gymnastics formed the basis of the curriculum of the first Steiner Waldorf School in Stuttgart. The exercises trace, enhance and strengthen the developing consciousness of the growing person through the various stages of development). It is this course which has inspired me most deeply in my teaching journey. During the course we learn many games to play with specific age groups and a philosophy of movement as a way of life.
I have been a parent at South Devon Steiner School for around a decade and so, when the opportunity arose to become a teacher of Games, it felt like an exciting and natural next step in my career; I knew I had a lot to offer the students. I have played Rugby for most of my life, boxed and played many other sports within the forces; Sports and Movement have been a hugely positive part of my life and something I am passionate about. This background gives me the confidence to help students improve on a technical level, alongside developing their understanding of movement, anatomy and variations on games.
I grew up in Devon by the sea and studied mathematics, philosophy and cosmology at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. After training to teach English as a foreign language and enjoying a couple of summer jobs I decided to train as a school teacher. My PGCE was in middle school education with a specialism in Mathematics. I then taught mathematics and science in a middle school in Northumberland and then in a British school in Barcelona.
Returning to the UK I began teaching mathematics in a special needs secondary school in Hackney, London. Whilst working there I came to realise the disconnection between the national curriculum that I was employed to deliver and the actual needs of the students I was teaching. I felt I was doing them a disservice. At that time I was also studying a post-graduate diploma in philosophy of education at the Institute of Education and, through writing about authenticity in education and examining a number of alternative educational styles, I became interested in Steiner education.
Once my children were born I visited a number of Steiner schools in London and signed them up for Greenwich. For several years then, whilst watching them blossom at school, I taught Philosophy and Mathematics in a local sixth form college. Although I loved my subjects and students I became more and more disillusioned by the values of the institution and the structure and purpose of the examinations. Eventually it became clear that I needed to train to be a Steiner teacher and I took the teacher training course at Steiner House in Baker Street.
In looking for my first job in Steiner education I was very excited to see that South Devon was not only expanding its upper school but also using the innovative Certificate in Steiner Education that I had heard about in my training. This seemed a fantastic opportunity to put into practise my faith in this holistic and opening form of education and I brought my family down to South Devon.
On graduating from Ravensbourne College of Art and Design in 1982 with a B.A. (hons) in fashion and textiles design, Jane immediately started her own small business working from Camden Lock Market in London, selling women’s suede and leather fashion garments. Jane created her first independent commercial leather wear collection for the very first ‘Amalgamated Talent’ catwalk show at the Barbican London. At this time she also worked as a free lance designer for the leather couturier company of Beged Or.
By 1984 Jane had established her own label specialising in women’s leather wear, working from a dockside studio at Metropolitan Wharf in Wapping, London. The ‘Jane Norris’ label created collections twice per year for trade shows at ‘Olympia’ – held seasonally during London Fashion Week. The label continued to provide the designer market industry with leather wear collections for the next 25 years, exhibiting in London, New York, Paris and Japan and selling to designer retail businesses nationally and internationally, including department stores Harvey Nichols in the UK, Henri Bendel’s of New York and Marshall Fields of Chicago.
In 2008 Jane set up the ‘Artisan Skin’ label and website with an on-line shop, enabling her label to evolve with ethical and ecological practises, and moving into direct sales and pop-up-shops.
Jane has been teaching the Upper School pupils at South Devon Steiner School since 2009. This enables her to inspire and share with her students her knowledge and skills, using an integrated curriculum of design awareness, pattern cutting and the craft of garment construction.
Games & Cycling Teacher
We have a vibrant and varied games department at our school.
I started teaching 10 years ago, introducing volleyball in the upper school. I co-teach and develop the sports program for college students.
Personally, I’m passionate about making movement an enjoyable experience for all our students, by offering a variety of team games and individual sports where our students can challenge themselves in a supported and friendly environment.
We strongly believe that ongoing practice of physical exercise is of paramount importance to the healthy development of our young people towards becoming healthy, balanced and maturing adults. Sports for life!
Present areas of involvement:
Due to the unique opportunity of an off road cycle path to our school, we incorporate cycle rides to Dartington and Totnes, making use of local facilities for our sports program.
I have been teaching ‘Bikeability’ national cycle training for the last 10 years. In Class 9, the class is trained and prepared for an extensive cycling trip to Brittany.
Educational Support Lead Upper School
Maria has recently moved from Bristol to Devon to join the school, and her son has just started Class 1 with Jonathan. Maria has over 20 years of teaching experience across the age ranges of our school. She has PGCE in modern foreign languages, a BA (Hons) in European Studies with French and a Dip Ed in Steiner Education.
She has taught at the Bristol Steiner school for many years in kindergarten, and Classes 1 and 2. She has also taught French and German to 11-16 year olds in a state school in Leicester.
Maria is now working as the Educational Support Lead in the Upper School. She says, "I am really enjoying getting to know all the lovely students and parents of the school, and of course all the lovely staff, too!"
Dr Tom Towey
Games & Cycling Teacher
Francisco was born in northern Spain in the early 1970s. His parents and a number of close family members were elementary school teachers. His family moved to southern Spain where he studied secondary education in a progressive school.
At this age he began to show interest in Drama and enrolled in an amateur theatre group. At the age of eighteen, he left home and went to the University of Granada, where he obtained his degree in Physics, whilst pursuing his performing arts through amateur and professional theatre and dance companies. He spent four years with the theatre-circus company "Teatro Vagalume".
Twenty years ago, tired of the road, Francisco embraced teaching at the "Platero Green School". Very fond of laboratory tasks, projects and volunteering, he went to India with the NGO 'Forkids' to build a school laboratory. He participated in several educational science short films, some of which were shown at the Granada Science Museum.
Last year, Francisco began to be linked with Totnes and presented a film at the Transition Town Film Festival, Totnes, receiving encouraging reviews. Francisco joined the SDSS team as Science teacher in September 2017.
At South Devon Steiner School, the Upper School staff are just as excited about education as you are.
They share a deep commitment to teaching and a genuine interest in guiding you on a path of academic achievement and self-discovery.
Teachers encourage you to think independently by developing skill in making judgements and inferences based on what you have observed or experienced. They challenged you to stretch your imagination and develop new perspectives.
Our teachers are notable for more than their commitment and compassion. As specialists in their subject areas, most hold advanced degrees and some have PhDs.
Many are active in their fields and bring years of experience to the classroom. Teachers here don’t simply teacher from textbooks, but rather draw from their expertise and enthusiasm to make a subject come to life for you.
You and your teachers also have the benefit of working together for more than one class. Most instructors teach multiple classes and levels. Mutual respect naturally develops when you and your teachers share a journey of learning throughout all four years.
At the South Devon Steiner School, we aim for children to leave our school as lively, pro-active, confident human beings, able to take initiative, with independent thought and action and the ability to discover their life’s purpose.
Click on the video link (right) to see an excerpt about our school and Steiner education taken from "The Challenge of Rudolf Steiner" by Jonathan Stedall