In Jeff Parker’s class at Corvallis Waldorf School on Monday morning, students practiced writing the letter “H” and naming words that start with the letter: horse, heart, hay, hat, harp, hum, him and hang.
However, at this time last year in his class, Parker would have been teaching European history, specifically, the French Revolution.
Parker’s move to teach the first grade after teaching the eighth last year is part of the school’s normal rotation for teachers: The Waldorf school’s model is for teachers to stay with the same group of students from year to year, between first and eighth grade.
Parker, who started teaching at the school 10 years ago, had taken the same group of students through eight years of school, which is only the second time in the Corvallis Waldorf School’s 21-year history that a teacher has stayed with the same group of students through the full rotation — mostly.
Parker said that 12 of the 22 students in his eighth-grade class last year had started in his class in the first grade.
“From a teacher’s standpoint, I have a full picture. There’s no way for a student to slip through the cracks,” he said.
Peter Zaremba, who began as the Waldorf school’s administrative director in May, said Parker is one of the school’s veteran teachers, and is very sensitive to his students’ academic needs.
“The relationships he builds with students over the years are clearly strong and healthy,” Zaremba said.
Parker has made the transition from teaching kids headed for their freshman year in high school to students coming out of kindergarten.
“I’m really looking forward to starting this process again,” he said.
Parker said that transitioning to teaching first-graders has its advantages. For instance, it requires less preparation time. At the upper grade levels, he’s teaching complex subjects such as algebra, physics and history, and he spends several hours a day preparing for class.
Teaching the younger students requires less subject prep, but it takes a different toll:
“I need more sleep, because it’s more exhausting,” he said.
Parker said that each summer, Waldorf teachers get training to prepare them for the grade they will teach the next year because they are teaching a different grade each year. Some teachers also specialize in certain content areas, such as middle school math, and will teach other teachers’ classes for certain subjects.
“Some teachers say ‘I love this grade, or that grade.’ They are all interesting.”
Parker said that the connection to his students has continued past his time teaching them. This weekend he plans to meet with the ninth-graders he taught last year.
“It’s great on many levels,” he said of staying with the same group of students for so many years. “To get to know these kids and their families is really special.”