Faculty

The Waldorf School of Pittsburgh is the region’s only school that offers families a fully inter-disciplinary, arts-integrated, progressive education. Our faculty practice teaching as an art, one that nurtures children’s imaginations and is responsive to the developmental phases of the whole human being as it unfolds through the phases of infant, toddler, child, and teenager. In the heart of every Waldorf teacher lives the commitment to help each student reach for his or her highest potential. To maintain that commitment, Waldorf teachers pursue ongoing self-development in order to create lively, memorable lessons that engage and stretch themselves and students in all directions — socially, intellectually, physically, and artistically.

Early Childhood Faculty

Rebecca Davis

Morning Garden Lead Teacher

Miss Rebecca was first inspired by her discovery of Waldorf Education as a parent, when she was researching schools for her first child, whom she subsequently enrolled in the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh’s very first Kindergarten class. She eventually returned to the school to work as the parent-child class assistant, a position she held for over 10 years prior to becoming the lead teacher.
A native of California, Miss Rebecca received her B.A. in Linguistics and French at U.C. Berkeley. After several years spent teaching at a Montessori preschool in California and teaching English in Japan, she and her husband relocated to Pittsburgh. She is the (proud) mother of three (mostly) grown children.

Laura Phillips

Little Friends Program Coordinator/Clover Meadow Classroom Lead

Miss Laura is an artist and educator with over 10 years of experience working with children and families throughout various communities in the city of Pittsburgh. She studied Art History and Studio Art for her undergraduate degree and received a Masters in Education from Duquesne University. She loves to travel, take walks, and to take time to enjoy the wonderful world around her. She takes delight in the opportunity to point the small children she works with towards a realization of beauty, gentleness and kindness.

Juli Strang-Tryc

Rainbow Room Lead

Mrs. Tryc was welcomed as a full time faculty member in the spring of 2013. She began her educational journey in 2003 at Bethany College in West Virginia. There, she was a communications major and a member of the softball team. While instructing a pitching clinic for young girls, she had the “ah ha!” moment that inspired her to change her life’s path. Seeing the children grow and learn with her each week gave her a deep sense of satisfaction and purpose. It was then that she realized she wanted to work in the field of education. Shortly thereafter, she changed her major, transferred to California University of Pennsylvania, and received her Bachelor of Science in Educational Studies in 2008. After receiving her degree, she worked as a Therapeutic Staff Support, Substitute Teacher, Activities Coordinator, and Varsity softball coach.

It was not until the birth of her daughter, Lily, in 2010 that she felt compelled to return to school for Teacher Certification. Through her previous work experience and Post-Baccalaureate course work she discovered Waldorf Education. Her interest grew deep and in 2011 she became a substitute teacher at the school. In December of 2012 she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, graduating with Magna Cum Laude honors and a nomination for the Senior Excellence Award in Education. Mrs. Tryc continued substitute teaching at the Waldorf School and other various school districts, until she inherited her current class from Robyn Thomas in 2013.

Mrs. Tryc is a lifelong learner and plans to begin working towards her Masters of Education with Waldorf Certification at Antioch University in 2014. She currently lives in Munhall with her husband, Ben, and their spunky 3 year old daughter, Lily. In her spare time she enjoys reading, writing, running, spending time outdoors, and most of all spending time with her family.

Pegin Foglia

Snowdrop Nursery Lead Teacher

Ms. Pegin was born, raised, and educated in Pittsburgh. She received a Bachelor Degree in Nursing from Duquesne University and immediately worked for two years in oncology at Allegheny General Hospital. After some traveling she returned home and worked in Labor and Delivery at Forbes Regional Hospital for the next eight years After delivering her own children at home she left the hospital environment and started assisting her Nurse Midwife with other home births for over three years.

Pegin was “star struck” by Waldorf Education when she went to a “Magical Years” Waldorf Early Childhood conference lead by Rahima Baldwin. So inspired, she joined other parents to start a Waldorf school for their children, and in 1990 the Pittsburgh Waldorf Initiative was founded. They worked together furiously until the school opened in 1993 on the South Side of Pittsburgh. Pegin received her Waldorf Early Childhood Certification from Sunbridge College in 2002. Over her long history with the school, she has worked in the Morning Garden, Little Friends, Nursery, and Kindergarten programs as well as served as Early Childhood Faculty Chair and Board Secretary. Pegin loves learning about Anthrophosophy and continues to look for educational opportunities to deepen her understanding of and work with the young child. She and her husband Bill have five children who she loves to visit far and wide. She also enjoys exercise, singing, and laughing

Christina Chirdon-Jones

Lavender Nursery Lead Teacher

Miss Christina grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. In 2007, she earned a B.A. in Conflict in Human Behavior from Juniata College, where she ran for Juniata’s cross country and track and field teams and volunteered for several organizations including the Special Olympics and Circle K. She worked at the Parks and People Foundation, a non-profit in Baltimore dedicated to environmental education and improving the city’s green spaces, before moving to Virginia to attend graduate school. She completed her Master of Arts in Teaching at Mary Bladwin College while working as a literacy aide in a first grade classroom at Elkton Elementary School. After graduating in 2010, she moved to Pittsburgh where she joined the faculty at the Waldorf School. She enjoys reading and running in her spare time.

Jill Zihar

Coral Bell Kindergarten Lead Teacher/Early Childhood Faculty Chair

Miss Jill always knew that she wanted to be a teacher, and when she found Waldorf Education she believed herself lucky to have uncovered a secret gem. Jill grew up south of Pittsburgh in a family of teachers. She went to Allegheny College for her undergraduate work in Literature and Elementary Education. She then went on to receive her Masters in Literary and Cultural Studies from Carnegie Mellon University. In 2002, she started working for the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh as the Aftercare Director. The following year she became one of the Kindergarten teachers and began her Waldorf Masters training at Sunbridge University. In 2007, she moved to Philadelphia and taught in a mixed-age Kindergarten at the Waldorf School of Philadelphia. In 2012, Jill and her family moved back to Pittsburgh and is now teaching one of the Kindergarten classes. Jill loves spending time with her family: her husband Adam, daughter Bailey, and son Tyler. She loves storytelling, going for walks, cooking, and eating.

Penny Paich

Sundrop Kindergarten Lead Teacher

Miss Penny became a lead Kindergarten teacher in 2002 after providing care to children in the extended care program for three years. She is a Pittsburgh native who received her bachelor’s in elementary education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania before going on a journey of educational self-discovery, working in childcare, substitute teaching in local public schools, presenting science assemblies, and teaching at McKeever Environmental Learning Center. Through all these experiences, Penny continued her search for a position that was “just the right fit.” In 1999, she was introduced to Waldorf Education by a dear friend and happily accepted a position in the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh’s extended care program. She received her Waldorf teacher training at Sunbridge College, where she earned a master’s degree in Waldorf Early Childhood Education in 2003. When she is not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family, playing with her two nutty dogs, or knitting.

Grades Faculty

Holly King

First Grade Teacher

Ms. King began teaching middle school English in 1993 after receiving her B.S. in elementary education from West Chester University. She continued to teach in both the public and private school sectors while earning a master’s degree in language arts education. Ms. King took a break from teaching when her first child was born and began to learn about Waldorf education in 2003 after the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh relocated to her neighborhood. She eventually enrolled her children in the school and became actively involved as a parent volunteer. She joined the faculty in 2008 and completed her Waldorf teaching certification at Sunbridge College in New York in 2011. Ms. King enjoys spending time with her family, doing yoga, biking, cooking, and going for walks in her neighborhood.

Karin Fast

Second Grade Teacher

Born in Boston and raised in Waterloo, Canada, Ms. Fast has either worked or studied in 6 countries on 4 separate continents. Ms. Fast completed her bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from Goshen College, and taught 1st and 6th grade in Goshen, IN. She was initially introduced to the Waldorf philosophy by a colleague in Goshen; after moving to Pittsburgh, Ms. Fast was delighted to find a Waldorf school in the neighborhood. Ms. Fast joined the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh in 2014, working initially in the Early Childhood Program. In her spare time she enjoys listening to and making music, and participating in triathlon events.

Kevin Seal

Third Grade Teacher

Born and raised in New York City, Mr. Seal joined the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh in the fall of 2012. He received his B.A. in history at Vanderbilt University, after which he returned to New York. There, he spent two years coaching fifth and sixth grade baseball, working at summer camps, and teaching in an after-school literacy program in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. In doing so, he discovered a passion for teaching that led him to his graduate work at Bank Street College of Education – also in New York – where he focused on elementary education and literacy instruction. Mr. Kevin then moved to Pittsburgh with his girlfriend, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University. In his spare time, Mr. Seal enjoys cooking, exploring neighborhoods, and talking himself into the New York Knicks winning a championship within the next five years.

Brian Wagner

Fourth Grade Teacher

Mr. Wagner has been working as an educator for the past 15 years. The majority of that time has been in the field of special education. He was drawn to Waldorf education the first time he stepped in the building 8 years ago to tour the Little Friends program for his two daughters, Della and Cecilia. Since joining the faculty, his passion and excitement for Waldorf education has increased and he is excited to come each day and continue the journey with his class.

Brian received his BSEd in Special Education from West Chester University in 1998 and his MEd in English Education from the University of Pittsburgh in 2010. Brian enjoys spending time with his family, riding his bike, reading and making journals.

Jennifer Larson

Fifth Grade Teacher

Mrs. Larson became a part of the WSP community in the fall of 2011, after a recent move to Pittsburgh. After spending a year working in the Early Childhood and handwork programs, she became the first grade teacher in September 2012.

Mrs. Larson holds Bachelor’s Degrees in education and performance from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University, and Master’s Degrees in music from Yale University. She has taught in public and private schools for over ten years, serving schools both in the classroom and as a department chair. In addition, she is also a professional musician, and has appeared and recorded with a variety of vocal and instrumental ensembles around the country. Mrs. Larson’s interest in Waldorf education began in 2004, after she was introduced to the pedagogy and philosophy by a colleague. She is currently pursuing Waldorf Elementary Teacher Certification at the Sunbridge Institute, and will graduate in 2016. In her spare time, she loves to cook, read, knit, and spend time with her friends and family.

Paige Wiegman

Sixth Grade Teacher

Ms. Wiegman began her teaching career while a student at Oberlin College. She majored in Environmental Studies and began working in the local middle and high schools. After graduation from Oberlin, she worked for the Environmental Studies Department to develop a Climate Neutral policy for the College. She then continued on her teaching path and returned to school to earn her Masters of Education at Antioch New England University through the Integrated Learning program with a concentration in Science and Environmental Education. It was at Antioch that Paige began to learn about Waldorf education. She went on to teach middle school science and 4th and 5th grade in public schools in New Hampshire. After the arrival of her daughter, Paige and her family returned to her native Pittsburgh and welcomed the arrival of her sons. Here in Pittsburgh, Paige taught Lower School science and served as a Science Curriculum consultant at the Ellis School. After enrolling her daughter in the school in 2009, Paige became involved in the school as a parent volunteer. She joined the faculty in 2010.

Michelle Opdahl

Seventh Grade Teacher

Ms. Opdahl joined the faculty in 2014 after seven years of teaching experience elsewhere. Prior to the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh, she worked in a rural Alaskan village teaching a combined Kindergarten through Third Grade class. Being unable to convince her family to relocate to the remote wilderness, Michelle returned to the lower 48 and taught south of Washington D.C. at a public school for five years. While at Mary Williams Elementary, she enjoyed working with students in the outdoor classroom and integrating art and drama into lessons. Her first experience of the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh was during her teacher training at the University of Pittsburgh in 2008 during a visit to independent schools. The seed to become a Waldorf teacher was planted years ago, and has sprouted roots this year. Michelle is ecstatic to be a part of the community and looks forward to reaching towards the sun as her students continue to blossom and grow.

Anne Clair Goodman

Eighth Grade Teacher/Grades Faculty Chair

Ms. Goodman has always known she would be a teacher. Working with children has always been a strong calling that has led her from “teaching” her younger sister during grade school to working in a therapeutic day camp in high school and teaching on the Navajo Reservation in college. Ms. Goodman joined the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh faculty as a grades teacher in 2000 after graduating from Oberlin College with a bachelor’s degree in history. She pursued Waldorf teacher training and earned her master’s in education from Antioch New England Graduate School in 2004. These experiences, coupled with attending Acorn Hill Waldorf Kindergarten and the Washington Waldorf School, both in Maryland, have led Ms. Goodman to fully appreciate the many gifts Waldorf education has to offer, including a strong connection to the arts and the imaginative and rigorous curriculum. After her last class graduated eighth grade in spring of 2014, Ms. Goodman took up her current position. In addition to her work at the school, Ms. Goodman enjoys listening to and creating music, walking, painting, bowling, kickball, and writing.

Ang Illar

Games Teacher
Summer Camp Director
Extra-Curricular Activities Coordinator

Ms. Illar is originally from Somerset, Pennsylvania. She earned her B.S. in Health and Physical Education in 2007 from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and served in outdoor ministries for ten years prior to joining the faculty at the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh. She was first introduced by a friend to the Waldorf School at an open house event in 2008. She was amazed by the artistic work displayed by students, particularly in the handwork room, and also by the enthusiastic, holistic community and teachers who were present. In 2009, she began serving as a substitute for the grade three class while also serving as director for a Lutheran Camp in Somerset County. Ms. Illar served as a substitute in every program in the school between 2009 and 2012, getting to know the students, faculty and educational philosophy. She was thrilled to be chosen as the Games teacher in 2012, as well as the new summer camp director and extra-curricular activities coordinator. Ms Illar is also a professional snowboarding coach who enjoys the winter seasons, as well as traveling and speaking new languages. She is currently attending Spacial Dynamics training.

Bobbi Konefal-Shaer

Handwork Teacher

Mrs. Konefal-Shaer earned her B.S. in biology and her master’s in education of the deaf from the University of Pittsburgh. She spent 20 years teaching and supervising programs in special education in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. While on a break from teaching to raise her two young daughters, she found a group of like-minded mothers at a playgroup at the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh. She began her Waldorf teaching experience leading the playgroup at the school. Later, Mrs. Konefal-Shaer became the director of legal compliance, and in 1998 she began teaching handwork while substituting during another teacher’s sabbatical. She received her training in applied arts at Sunbridge College in New York in 2003. She also has been a class teacher for two years, teaching fourth and fifth grades. Her two daughters are alumnae of the school.

 

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