Teaching Careers Updated October 29, 2019

Waldorf Education Teacher – Education, Job, and Salary Information

By Robbie Bruens October 4, 2012

Teachers in most public schools find themselves following a regimented curriculum that focuses on standardized testing and traditional grading methods. Waldorf Education teachers work with a unique curriculum committed to helping each student reach his/her highest potential. Waldorf Education prides itself on a developmentally appropriate, experiential, and academically rigorous approach to education. Waldorf teachers encourage the use of creativity and self-expression to nurture natural exploration in the learning processes.

At-a-glance: Waldorf Education teachers

What is Waldorf Education?

With over 800 schools in the United States, Waldorf Education is an attractive alternative to public and more traditional private schools. Developed in 1919 by Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf schools focus on children learning through imagination and creation.

A true Waldorf school is accredited by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA). Each school is individually owned and operated; most as nonprofit organizations. A board of directors governs the school, which often consists of parents. The school structure relies heavily on parental involvement and communication, with a curriculum deeply focused on music and art.

Waldorf teacher job description

Working as a Waldorf teacher is very different from working as a traditional school teacher. Waldorf teachers guide children through investigative learning in core subjects such as language, history, math, science, and geography. Waldorf schools also emphasize creativity and artistic expression. Subjects like music, art, drama, and foreign language  — often considered extras in mainstream education — take center stage in Waldorf schools.

Waldorf educators also teach eurythmy, a movement art unique to Waldorf. Eurythmy integrates a child’s inner spirit and body by incorporating spoken or sung words with choreographed movement.

In addition to this alternative curriculum focus, Waldorf Education teachers do not use a traditional grading system, as do most public and private schools. Instead, progress is communicated throughout the school year verbally and in writing, focusing on progress and achievements for the individual child instead of standard achievement benchmarks.

Typical duties include:

  • Clear communication with students, colleagues, and parents
  • Teach curriculum focused on developmentally appropriate education
  • Create and plan lessons and activities encouraging enthusiastic learning, intellectual growth, self-esteem, and social responsibility
  • Create assignments and assess student progress
  • Collaborate with teachers and parents
  • Lead discussions, demonstrations, and other in-class activities
  • Deliver core subjects, as well as integrate skill-building and artistic subjects

Who makes a good Waldorf Education teacher?

Someone who is:

  • Committed to each student individually throughout their years of school
  • Adept in developing creative, lively, interactive lesson plans
  • Growing and constantly evaluating teaching methods
  • Comfortable pushing beyond their comfort zones in education
  • Able to think outside the box
  • Inspiring to their students
  • Empathetic and caring
  • Patient and kind
  • Enthusiastic about learning
  • Passionate and idealistic
  • Qualified to teach at Waldorf schools with the proper certificates and degrees

Waldorf Education teachers in-depth

Waldorf Education offers programs for students in preschool through 12th grade. Though the fundamentals of teaching at Waldorf are consistent, each level of education has its own responsibilities, focus, and requirements.

Teaching at various levels

Waldorf early childhood educators

Waldorf early childhood educators teach children ages 2-5 enrolled in Waldorf-accredited pre-kindergarten programs. Through creative play, Waldorf early childhood teachers focus on developmentally appropriate education emphasizing physical, emotional, and mental health.

The curriculum at a Waldorf preschool focuses on creativity and self-expression rather than academics. These activities may include dress-up, play-acting, cooking, building, singing, and painting.

Outdoor play in all seasons is also a major part of a Waldorf early childhood education. This exposes the young students to nature and the larger world around them, as well as varied opportunities to be active and calm.

Waldorf early childhood educators offer guidance only when necessary, modeling good behavior rather than forcing their students to undergo formal instruction. Also, in Waldorf early childhood classrooms, videos, computers, and electronics are prohibited.

Waldorf elementary teachers

Teaching at Waldorf can be very different than teaching at a traditional public or private elementary school. Waldorf elementary school teachers begin with a classroom of kindergarteners. Through the teaching process of looping, they follow these same students through the next eight years of elementary school.

Looping is good for trust and consistency, but it requires teaching a new developmentally appropriate curriculum each year. Looping also requires an understanding of child development across all age groups.

Waldorf elementary teachers provide history, language arts, science, and mathematics in lesson blocks of two to three hours per day, with each block lasting 3-5 weeks. Subjects are often revisited at various intervals, affording students a greater depth of understanding into a subject.

Throughout all grades, Waldorf elementary school teachers center their students in skill-building and learning often sidelined in traditional schools. These subjects include:

  • Handwork and crafts, such as knitting, crochet, sewing, cross-stitch, basic weaving, toy-making, and woodworking
  • Music, including singing and playing the pentatonic flute, recorder, and string, wind, brass, and percussion instruments
  • Foreign languages, which vary by school location but can include Spanish, French, Japanese, and German
  • Art, which includes watercolor painting, form-drawing, beeswax and clay modeling, and perspective drawing
  • Movement with an emphasis on eurythmy, gymnastics, and group games

Waldorf high school teachers

Waldorf high school teachers cover individual subjects for students in grades 9-12. Unlike Waldorf elementary school class teachers, Waldorf high school teachers specialize in particular subject areas — and they do not loop classes from year to year.

Waldorf high school teachers may specialize in one of the following subjects:

  • Arts/art history
  • Sciences, including biology, chemistry, and physics
  • Humanities, including English, history, and social studies
  • Mathematics
  • Eurythmy (a movement art unique to Waldorf, integrating a student’s inner spirit and body by incorporating spoken or sung words with choreographed movement)

Waldorf curriculum for high-schoolers is tailored to respond to the questions that developing adolescents tend to ask. The topics vary depending on the grade level.

When teaching ninth grade, Waldorf high school teachers help students develop observation skills and cover subject matter through the lens of polarities. In tenth grade, Waldorf high school teachers foster their students’ capacity to compare and contrast, and study processes and outcomes. In eleventh grade, teachers emphasize building analytical skills. Twelfth-grade students must achieve powers of synthesis as they prepare to explore the wider world.

Education and certification requirements

  • Education: High school, bachelor’s or master’s degree, and certification in Waldorf Education
  • Typical study time: 4-8 years

Waldorf Education teachers need a certificate in Waldorf Education from an accredited Waldorf teacher education center. Most programs take about two years, assuming a full-time schedule. If you pursue a Waldorf teacher certification in concert with a master’s degree program, or you choose a part-time schedule, it can take up to four years.

Some early childhood teacher education programs don’t require a bachelor’s degree and certification enrollment can begin with a high school diploma.

The Waldorf elementary school teacher training program requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.

Waldorf high school teacher training programs require an undergraduate degree in a specific subject area. Most programs also look for prior experience in education and/or adolescent development.

Many Waldorf training programs offer state certification options in addition to degrees and some offer the option of earning a master’s degree. All Waldorf certification programs offer an integrated curriculum that provides the philosophical, artistic, and practical foundations for Waldorf teaching.

Salary range and employment projections

Salaries for Waldorf Education teachers vary depending on the location of the school, education, certifications, experience, and level of teaching.

According to Indeed.com, teachers at Waldorf earn $12.50 per hour, elementary teachers earn $13.63 per hour, and high school teachers earn $19.21 per hour across the United States.

According to Comparably.com, teachers at Waldorf earn an average of $46,670 across the United States.

Because finding good data on the average salaries for Waldorf Education teachers can be difficult, included is information on salaries for specific Waldorf schools.

Here’s a range of income estimates for Waldorf teachers:

  • Salary.com: At Waldorf, Maryland schools, salaries range from $52,607 to $76,172, with the average salary being $64,221.
  • Paysa.com: At Detroit Waldorf School, salaries range from $50,751 to $65,661 with the average being $55,948.
  • Waldorf School.com: At Waldorf Orange County, salaries range from $55,200 to $65,700.
  • Clws.org: At City of Lakes Waldorf School in Minneapolis, salaries begin at $40,250.

According to AWSNA, the number of Waldorf schools has doubled in the past decade. Due to the strong growth of Waldorf schools, there is a constant need for qualified Waldorf teachers. If the trend continues, rising demand for qualified staff could translate into strong career prospects for Waldorf educators.

Advantages and disadvantages for Waldorf Education teachers

Pros:

  • Beautiful classrooms
  • Strong sense of community and shared mission
  • Problem children (or families) are often removed from school
  • Creativity and curiosity are encouraged and supported
  • Improving the lives of young children over the course of years
  • Considerable time off for holidays and summer break
  • Looping process allows strong and impactful relationships with students
  • New and challenging curriculum every year
  • Health and retirement benefits

Cons

  • Caring for large groups of children is an enormous responsibility that can come with considerable stress
  • Working with young children can be tiresome if you’re mainly used to interactions with adults
  • Salary may be less than equivalent jobs in public school system
  • No opportunity for tenure or guaranteed long-term job security
  • Must teach Waldorf curriculum using Waldorf methods, both of which have received pedagogical criticism
  • The looping process in Waldorf grade school means teachers must teach new curriculum to same students each year over an eight-year period, which can be a challenge

Professional development for Waldorf Education teachers

Continuing education

Waldorf Education teachers with more education and advanced degrees earn more than those without them. By advancing your education, you will become a better teacher, and you can expect to expand your employment opportunities and earning power. By earning a master’s degree, you will also open up other career tracks in the education sector outside the Waldorf school system.

Concordia University-Portland offers online degree programs that will help Waldorf teachers improve their skills and understanding of best practices in teaching and child care.

Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Development

MEd in Curriculum and Instruction: 16 concentrations, including Methods and Curriculum, Leadership, The Inclusive Classroom, and Early Childhood Education.

Master of Arts in Teaching

MEd in Childhood Education

Professional Associations

Waldorf Education has many relevant organizations so you can connect with like-minded Waldorf educators.

Best of the web

The internet makes it easy for us to stay connected to prominent Waldorf teachers. Here is a list of our favorites:

Favorite Waldorf Education websites and blogs

Favorite Waldorf school Twitter and Instagram accounts to follow

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