This photo of Darcie Steeves, our rising grade 6 teacher, was taken before her freshman year prom. She was a lively fifteen year old who had recently celebrated her golden birthday. She grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, with just 500 people in the town and 84 students in her graduating class. The youngest of five children, with her nearest sibling ten years older than her, when this photo was taken, she was the only child left at home with her parents. Cross country running, track, choir, Spanish club and work in the cornfields and a local McDonald’s kept her busy.
Although Darcie enjoyed high school, she remembers being happy to leave the tiny town behind to discover city life. Now, the City of Lakes Waldorf School community she calls home is a small school atmosphere, juxtaposed with the bustle of urban Minneapolis. She likes both the intimacy of the school and the anonymity and culture of the city experience.
Darcie discovered Waldorf while investigating Kindergarten options for her oldest son. A friend mentioned Waldorf education, and she came in for a look. She still remembers the tour vividly. They went into Gregory Beech’s classroom, and each of the children were invited to share something. Darcie was immediately struck by the confidence and poise the students had as they shared their work. “No one shrunk back,” she remembers. “Their confidence and safety with each other was striking. The children were engaged, it was collaborative and artistic- it was striking to me how different it was.”
Their son had never shared anything about either liking or disliking school, so Darcie wasn’t sure what to expect when he came for his first Early Childhood visit. “We didn’t even make it past the cubbies in the room- he just let out this sigh, and said ‘Momma, I love this place.'” Darcie and her husband knew they had to find a way to give this education to both their children.
So how did Darcie become a Waldorf teacher? “After being a full time mom for years, you begin to think, what shall I do when I grow up?” she says. Darcie had a successful career as an IT consultant, before taking on the job of raising children. She’d also been volunteering in the classroom every Friday. “Instead of you seeking it out, sometimes your future comes knocking – and then, if you don’t answer- knocking more loudly,” says Darcie. After a yearlong stint in London, where their oldest son attended the North London Rudolf Steiner School, they returned to Minneapolis, and Darcie got even more involved at City of Lakes Waldorf School. She assisted in handwork, did administrative work for the Novalis Institute and found herself substitute teaching more and more often.
One morning she and her husband were sitting at the dining room table. “What would you think,” Darcie began. Her husband said, “Are you about to ask if you should become a Waldorf teacher?”
When the second grade class needed a teacher, Darcie wasn’t sure she was ready to apply. She wanted one more year to prepare. “But Linda Berg, my mentor, said, ‘Of course you’re going to apply’,” remembers Darcie. “Everyone knew but me.” That very summer, she went off to training at the Sunbridge Institute, and in the fall she took up her current class.
On the journey of parenthood, as a mother of two, Darcie discovered a passion for child development. “I have a lot of empathy and compassion for the hard work of growing up. I love being a guide on that journey. It’s not a straight line, it’s up and down and all over the place.” She add that she is constantly challenged by her work, and loves knowing the children in the intimate way a Waldorf teacher can. “I love them,” she says of her students. “They are part of my insides, they live with me, not in an intrusive way, in a way that my life feels more full.”
Being a classroom teacher has enriched her life in many ways. “I feel more healthy because all these things we do to help them be healthy, to live and breathe, I get to do all those things too… just one day ahead! ” She says the rhythm of the school day and school year is comforting to them as kids, but also to her as an adult. Like every teacher, she looks forward to her summer vacations, which offer a different way to be with her students. It’s more meditative, and she finds the time creative and rejuvenating. “Over breaks are when my best ideas come, ” says Darcie.
What is special about City of Lakes Waldorf School in Darcie’s mind? “The urban quality that brings such diversity and talents,” Darcie answers quickly. “I’m in awe of my colleagues and our school’s parents and the vast resources that people bring. Whether they are farmers, full time parents, business people, interior designers, or lawyers, it feels lively and progressive.” She says she is especially grateful that the school is well established, with a committed group of staff and parents.
She notes the school’s character of boldness and freedom. “I feel empowered to try new things as a teacher. In my classroom, I feel free to meet my students, purposefully, but differently than other teachers,” says Darcie. She says there is nothing quite like walking into the building, eager to share something you have devised yourself, bringing the best of yourself to offer your students. It offers a rich satisfaction. She says City of Lakes Waldorf School also seems to welcome a sense of humor. “I laugh so hard every day,” says Darcie. “This is a place where people take joy. They really do.”