WECAN 2021 title and image of two children huggingI was honored to be one of the organizers for the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN) conference that took place February 5–7. The conference title was “Toward a Kinder, More Compassionate Society: Black Lives Matter in Waldorf Early Childhood Classrooms and Communities.” This was the first time our two regional conferences combined, the conference was held remotely, and that we had a keynote speaker who was not a Waldorf educator. Laleña Garcia, the keynote speaker, is Head Teacher at Manhattan Country Day School and author of the book, What We Believe: A Black Lives Matter Principals Activity Book.

We had nearly 900 participants from all over the country and even some international teachers. Adrienne Doucette, our Chickadee Preschool teacher, participated in a powerful WECAN Board statement of accountability. Martha Swain, Side by Side teacher, facilitated a workshop entitled: Writing a Martin Luther King, Jr. Story for Preschool. The response from participants was overwhelmingly positive with excitement that WECAN is addressing this important topic so directly. I was inspired to continue my personal growth including making conversations on race with my own children a common experience and supporting those conversations in our early childhood classrooms.

All of our early childhood lead teachers and most of our assistant teachers attended the conference. I am sharing a few remarks from some of the teachers.

“As a Latinx Waldorf teacher I was thrilled to attend this year’s online WECAN conference with keynote speaker, Laleña Garcia. There were many wonderful workshops offered such as inner development for world development, anti-bias practices in Waldorf early childhood, and inclusive stories for the Waldorf EC program; to name just a few. I left feeling inspired with a renewed commitment to creating welcoming safe spaces for all BIPOC children.”

–Gina Burger

“Quotes from the keynote speaker, Laleña Garcia, that resonated with me are:

    • ‘If we are taught that it is racist to notice racism, then it’s awfully hard to end racism.’
    • ‘Oppression hurts everyone.’”

–Adrienne Doucette

“It was a privilege to participate with 900 other Waldorf Early Childhood teachers in a weekend event that raised our consciousness on diversity, inclusion and equity in our classrooms. New voices were heard and inspiring perspectives on the future of education were shared. The speakers spoke with compassion and courage. I was proud to have participated in this historic event.”

–Melissa Borden

“I was moved by the panel of BIPOC Waldorf early childhood teachers who bravely shared the hurt they have endured at our schools and training centers. I felt encouraged to hear our Waldorf leadership make a formal acknowledgement of that pain, a formal apology and commitment to change.”

–Martha Swain

“I was honored to be part of this groundbreaking conference. The new visions for Waldorf education in the light of race and racism, the conversations, and the honest sharing of teachers were very inspiring and encouraging us to be the change.”

–Myriam Weimerskirch

Quote from Arundhati RoyFinally, I want to end with an inspiring quote shared by the WECAN Conference keynote speaker, Laleña Garcia:

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

–Arundhati Roy

Vanessa Kohlhaas
SWS Early Childhood Pedagogical Chair

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