Faculty

Sarah Alt

Starflower Lead Teacher

Sarah, who worked at MWS in its founding years, most recently held the position of lead kindergarten teacher at the Brooklyn Waldorf School, in Brooklyn, New York. Sarah has a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin and a Master’s degree in Waldorf Education from Antioch University in Keene, New Hampshire. Sarah enjoys “bringing the beauty and magic of the kindergarten” to her students. She enjoys storytelling, puppetry and gardening. She has worked on a biodynamic farm, and for the International Rescue Committee sh

e developed a community garden space for refugees and community members in the Bronx. Sarah is passionate about bringing experiences in nature to children within an urban setting.

Erica Banda

Sugar Maples lead teacher

Erica grew up in a small town in Wisconsin.  After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from UW-Milwaukee in 2005, she began her exploration of Waldorf education and became an assistant in a Waldorf Kindergarten.  Her interest in this model for education sufficiently piqued, Erica moved to Eugene, OR to immerse herself in the Waldorf Teacher Training program.  Her graduation from that program in 2008 coincided with the birth of her first son.  Since then she has worked in Waldorf education in Seattle, relocated back to Wisconsin, birthed two more children, developed and operated a Lifeways program, all the while focusing on supporting and building a strong Waldorf community in Madison.

Erica feels incredibly fortunate to be leading the Sugar Maples class.  While out in nature with her class, she is consistently overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to facilitate such a unique and nourishing educational environment for the children and herself.  Erica loves yoga, dancing, family, and self discovery.

Nina Bell

Sunflower Lead Teacher

“I am feeling so blessed and excited to be working with the children and their families in the Sunflower Room! It is always an inspiration to share in the journey of nurturing children and to be a part of the magic and wonderment of childhood.”

A Florida native, Nina was born and raised in sunny Ft. Lauderdale. After working for several years in the fashion industry and serving as a nanny for families in the entertainment industry, she decided to answer her true calling and began her career in Early Childhood Education. While working professionally for over 15 years with children, age 6 weeks to 12 years, Nina has accumulated over 250 hours of continuing education and professional development credits in the Early Childhood and School-Age field and completed the Waldorf Early Childhood Summer Intensive at Sunbridge Institute. She holds an Associate of Arts degree from the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale and an Associate of Arts, Advanced Designation, from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.

Nina is currently the Sunflower Kindergarten teacher at Madison Waldorf School and has fulfilled her dream in bringing her daughter into the Waldorf community with her, now a 6th grade student at MWS.

An avid patternmaker, dressmaker and crafter, Nina loves spending time with her family, traveling, and working with children. She finds peace in painting, drawing, music, and communing with nature.

Rachel Dawson

Grade 2/3 Teacher

Ms. Dawson is taking her first class through the grades. She came to Waldorf after teaching community music classes for several years in Chicago’s Hyde Park. Feeling called to teach in a more formal setting, Ms. Dawson started to explore different educational philosophies. The celebration of childhood present in the Waldorf curriculum inspired her to begin her training at the Arcturus Rudolf Steiner Education Program for Teacher Development. Ms. Dawson achieved her certification in 2015 after a three year course of study. She is very happy to have joined the team at Madison Waldorf School.

Jo Drury

German Teacher

Jo Drury grew up in Wisconsin and graduated from the UW at Madison. She also spent 11 years in Germany and while there attended a vocational school and completed an apprenticeship in the prepress field. After working in that area for many years, she decided to return to the US and continue her university education and became a licensed German teacher.

Currently, she works part-time at Madison Waldorf School, teaches at a German afterschool program and works part-time in a manufacturing company doing prepress work, as well as user-manual editing, in addition to other projects. Ms. Drury or Frau Drury as the students call her, thoroughly enjoys teaching the children the language and culture of the German speaking countries and values her time with the children. In her free time, she plays indoor soccer, listens to podcasts, enjoys her cats and likes to travel.

Ray Eckenstein

Math Teacher

Ray Eckenstein grew up surrounded by a family of teachers in Urbana, Illinois, home of the University of Illinois. Ray graduated from Columbia University, where he studied Earth Science, Statistics and Epidemiology.  Upon returning to the Midwest, Ray trained as a math teacher in the Milwaukee Public Schools’ Proficiency Based Teaching program. After teaching for 4 years in a variety of schools around the Milwaukee and Madison areas, Ray took time off to be a full-time Dad after his children Rhys and Abby were born.  Ray is now the math specialist teacher for the upper grades at Madison Waldorf School. His hobbies include making pottery and playing the ukulele.

Cherity Foat

Grade 6/7 Class Teacher

Teaching in the Waldorf classroom is a daily exercise of love and commitment.  I always share with the children that each day is a new day, and that we have a new opportunity to do our best.  Working with the children in my care the past few years has been exciting, creative and at times humbling.  It is the hardest work I have ever done, but also the most gratifying, seeing the daily successes and triumphs of each child over the years.  This success could be finishing their first chapter book, painting their best watercolor, running their heart out at pentathlon or presenting a project to the class.  Teaching at Madison Waldorf School inspires me to be my best every day and to see the potential in each student.

Cherity holds a B.A. in both Spanish and Latin American Studies from Rockford University and an M.A. in Latin American Studies, with a concentration in History, from the University of New Mexico.  She received her Waldorf Teaching Certificate from the Great Lakes Waldorf Institute. She has worked for the past 10 years in education and the past 7 as a class teacher.  She is passionate about the potential of each child, and the ability of Waldorf education to allow for those qualities to be discovered and fostered.  In her free time she loves to read, speak Spanish and Greek, cook, walk, garden, travel and spend time with her family.

Michael J Kass

Sugar Maples Assistant and Lead Woodworking Teacher

Michael was born and raised in Bloomington, MN, where he learned to value family and winter. After high school, he studied mechanical engineering in Duluth, MN, before graduating with degrees in History, Social Sciences and Secondary Education from UW-River Falls. Michael’s love for the outdoors and commitment to disadvantaged youth lead him to a career as an expeditionary educator with at-risk teenagers for over 20 years. He finished his 26 year career with the State of Wisconsin, working with forensic patients at Mendota Mental Health Institute.

Michael and his wife have raised six children. Their youngest, Thomas is a 4th grader at the Madison Waldorf School. Michael’s passions include travel, backpacking, skiing, coaching and woodworking. His love of woodworking began as a youth in his father’s workshop. He has worked part-time as a licensed contractor, specializing in home remodeling for the last decade.

Michael joined the staff at the Madison Waldorf School in the fall of 2016. He has enjoyed helping to develop the Sugar Maples curriculum. He also appreciates working alongside teachers who see and respect the sacredness of every child.

Chris Locher

Grades Assistant and EC Assistant

Chris grew up in central Illinois and graduated with a BS in Elementary Education and an MA in Speech & Hearing Science from the University of Illinois.  Teaching was always a joy, and she expanded her credentials to include elementary, early childhood, deaf education and supervisory endorsements.  After a rewarding career in the public schools, she and her husband retired and moved to Wisconsin to be near family.  Chris discovered Madison Waldorf School while attending the Waldorf playgroup with her toddler grandchildren.  From there, opportunities to get involved ranged from grades support in speech articulation and teaching a reading enrichment group, to assisting in the kindergartens and subbing.  No matter what the role, Chris finds it’s always a good day at the Waldorf School!  She loves birding, ceramics classes, and spending time with the grandchildren outside, watching, listening, and just generally poking around.

Aleksandra Martinka

Sunflower Assistant Teacher

Aleksandra grew up in Gdańsk, Poland, where her childhood memories revolve around outdoor time spent in the woods or by the shores of the Baltic Sea. She received a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Aleksandra first learned about Waldorf education in 2003 while searching for a special place for her young daughter. She was inspired by the teachers of the Great Oaks School in the Chicago area to deepen her understanding of child development. She moved to Wisconsin and finished Lifeways Early Childhood training in Milwaukee.

Here in Madison, Aleksandra spent many years leading an outdoor program for young children at The Orchard Lifeways Center, following Waldorf principles. In her free time she enjoys being in nature, where she gladly helps the many wild animals that come to her in need of care. Aleksandra has two children, one of whom attends the MWS.

Kathy McAleese

EC Chair, Faculty Co-Chair

Kathy was one of the founding teachers at Madison Waldorf School. She taught kindergarten for twelve years, and has been a faculty chair for the past five years. Previously, she taught grades 1-3, led parent-child playgroups, and has served as a board member and leader in the Madison Waldorf community since 1996.

Kathy has a Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin. She completed summer intensives for teaching grades 1-4 at Sunbridge College in NY, coursework at Arcturus in Chicago, and early childhood courses through the Great Lakes Waldorf Institute. Most recently, Kathy has been enrolled in the Educational Support Teacher certificate program in Ann Arbor, MI.

Kathy is passionate about providing an education that fosters creativity and a love for learning, and one that encourages students to embrace their gifts and transform their challenges so that they may grow to serve the world with strength, compassion, and a deep sense of purpose.

She and her husband have six children, most of them now young adults. Their youngest son attends grade school at MWS. Kathy loves spending time with family, cooking, running, hiking, travel and poetry.

Sarah Meyers

Grade 1 Class teacher

Sarah has been involved in the Waldorf school movement since 2001 when she became a student of anthroposophy and Waldorf methods at the Eugene Waldorf Teacher Training program in Eugene, OR. Upon receiving her Waldorf teaching certificate, she moved across the country to Washington DC where she spent seven years as a class teacher at the Washington Waldorf School in Bethesda, MD and another two at the Potomac Crescent Waldorf School in Arlington, VA. Though she enjoyed living in the nation’s capitol, she yearned to be closer to her friends, family, and the man she was to marry. So in 2012, she moved back to her home state of Wisconsin where she joined MWS as a class teacher in 2012-14. She then left MWS to nurture her newborn child.

Sarah returned to MWS in 2016 as both the Starflower Room’s assistant teacher and the handwork teacher at MWS. And this year, she is our Grade 1 class teacher. As far as Sarah is concerned things couldn’t possibly be better! When she isn’t teaching or playing with her son, she is usually knitting, crocheting, sewing, or creating something. Sarah is an avid photographer who has photographed several weddings and concerts for her favorite band, Old Crow Medicine Show. She also likes to play board games, paint, ride her bike, and pluck away at her banjo.

Kerstin Smith

Playgroup teacher

Kerstin is a passionate childbirth advocate, educator, doula, healer, speaker and author. She sees all of life as sacred and works toward healing and wholeness in all she does. Kerstin has worked in colleges, churches, and schools in a variety of positions and age groups.  Her adventures have taken her to multiple states and countries, but nothing has been more formative than parenting her three children.

As the oldest of six kids she has been in the role of caregiver and teacher for as long as she can remember and enjoys witnessing the growth of the whole person. This led to the pursuit of a Music Education degree and studies in Theater as well as a Pastoral Ministry degree and a MA in Theology with an emphasis on the Liturgical Arts from the Franciscan School of Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. These studies are most fully expressed in her zeal for ritual and creating sacred space. Her background in education as well as working with parents during pregnancy and birth serve as a natural foundation for facilitating a parent and child playgroup. Her work as a healer through Reiki and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and companioning people in their trauma and pain gives evidence to, as well as continues to cultivate her sense of empathy and ability to relate to the daily challenges of parenthood and meeting people where they are at.

Kerstin currently has a couple of publications coming out with LTP, teaches at Edgewood College, and is the founder of LiveFRē and GentleSurge HypnoBirthing. Kerstin loves the outdoors and can often be found on family hikes.

Luis Valera

Spanish Teacher

Born, raised, and educated in Colombia, Luis Varela graduated from Universidad Javeriana with a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Engineering. His love for learning and teaching is employed through an experiential-based learning style, and he has been teaching Spanish for seven years at private schools, using games, music, and the arts to share his passion for education. An avid soccer fan and former youth soccer coach, Luis can still be found on the fields in Madison, where he belongs to a regular pick-up soccer group.

Tori Zimmerman

Early Childhood Assistant

Tori grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and as soon as she turned 18, moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to be a full time nanny. After a couple years nannying, she worked at a children’s psychiatric hospital in Iowa City as a nurse’s assistant. Tori found Waldorf when she was pregnant with her first son and has been falling in love with it ever since. She now has two beautiful children and plans on attending the next available LifeWays Early Childhood training in Milwaukee. In her free time, Tori enjoys early morning yoga, biking, swimming, drawing and playing with her children.