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Faculty Spotlight: Moriah Mahlstadt, Rising First Grade

Meet Moriah Mahlstadt, Minnesota Waldorf School’s Class of 2030’s first grade teacher! Moriah comes to us with a wealth of experience and is trained and certified in Waldorf Education from Antioch University. This spring, she will complete her BA in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Oregon State University. She has taught at City of Lakes Waldorf School, Urban Prairie Waldorf School, and most recently was a class teacher and served as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Coordinator at The Siskiyou School in Ashland, Oregon. We are so excited to have Moriah and her family join our community!

How did you come to be a Waldorf teacher?
When I was a teen, I participated in a theater group that included a teacher from a Waldorf School. She told me I should be a Waldorf teacher someday. From there, I graduated, traveled, went to college. I had this feeling that I wanted to be a teacher but I went to public schools and there were a lot of things about it that didn’t resonate with me. In my early 20’s, I called this Waldorf teacher and she invited me into her classroom. I instantly knew it was for me. I became an aftercare teacher and assistant and then I went to teacher training. I taught at a Waldorf school in Chicago for grades 1-3 and then in Oregon for grades 3-5. I am originally from Minneapolis and very much looking forward to being back. This feels like home.

What about being a Waldorf teacher spoke to you?
It was how alive the classroom felt. One child was playing piano and the others singing. They were reciting poetry and making art. The teacher told stories that made me think “keep going, I want to learn more!” It was something I never experienced. I loved school as a child but I never experienced it like that. I remember thinking if I was a 6th grader, I would be so inspired and I would have loved school on a whole other level that I didn’t know was possible. There is a spiritual aspect to being a Waldorf teacher – thinking about each human before you, thinking about their journey in life. To think about your students with that level of depth is something I didn’t feel from my teachers when I was a child.

How does your background in women’s studies and DEI work inform your teaching?
Women’s studies and DEI work looks at humans and seeing who they are. It is looking at all aspects of diversity, not just race. It’s also about gender identity and expression, socioeconomic class and background, the way you learn, abilities and disabilities, all these things. My background allows me to see the children and their families more deeply – different cultures, different family compositions, different ways of raising children. It allows me to honor that and to be intentional in how I plan my lessons so it is digestible for everyone.

What does this look like in the younger grades?
At this age, it’s not about talking to them in an intellectual way. I took an anti-racism training at Sunbridge College, which is a Waldorf teacher training school. One thing they asked was how we center whiteness. Thinking about this question was eye opening. Once you decide to not center whiteness, it’s so easy not to. For example, you can look at which fairy tales, folk tales and songs you are choosing. There are fairy tales, folk tales, songs and poems from all over the world. I’m not choosing only all white and western poems and songs. The stories from around the world resonate and children can see the different ways of being a person.

Second grade is ripe with opportunities. For example, in Waldorf teaching, the block on saints is really talking about nobility. We can look outside of Eurocentric Christianity and can learn about people like Harriet Tubman or St. Yared of Ethiopia. These stories are still meeting the part of children that Waldorf is seeking to meet, but in a way that appreciates diversity. There are Waldorf schools all over the world and they aren’t all telling Norse myths, but they are still bringing the heart of the Waldorf curriculum to the children. Because we’re on Indigenous land, because of European colonization and because this country is made up of immigrants from all over, we have a real responsibility to be multicultural in our lessons.

What is your teaching philosophy?
One of my favorite things in Waldorf education is meeting the children where they are. Looking at each child before you and what kind of space they’re in. I always ask what they need from me, and that keeps me flexible and noticing who they are and growing and changing, which is important when you’re with students over many years.

If you could pass any words of wisdom to parents of first graders, what would you share?
We are going to have so much fun on this journey!

What is your favorite festival?
Every celebration! Fall is my favorite season and I love the harvest time, which is Michaelmas. I love this story and bringing in the different aspects of courage.

What are some of your favorite things to do when you’re not teaching?
One of my favorite things is to hike, no hike is long enough. I would love to do the Superior Hiking Trail. I also love to play music with my husband. He’s a musician and can play pretty much anything and I can memorize lyrics. I’m so ready and happy to be back in the Twin Cities!