A Message from Chaya Keefe, our new Head of School

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: News- Aug 05, 2019 No Comments

Dear Bright Water Community,⠀

My first month at the school has been marked by joy and a very steep learning curve! ⠀

As I write, I am reminded of a conversation with Michael Soule and Holly Koteen, two of the founding members of Bright Water.  I asked them about the origins of the school and what the school was like 21 years ago.  Holly said that one of the phrases they used frequently at the beginning was “spirit of abundance, abundance of spirit”.  I am happy to report that these words still hold true and reflect my experience here so far. ⠀

I have been touched by the kindness and generosity of spirit of the people I have met. ⠀

Thank you! ⠀

For those of you I have not yet met, please come by when you are on campus.  ⠀

I am looking forward to seeing the school through your eyes and discovering how we can work together to shape the next chapter in Bright Water’s story.⠀

With gratitude,⠀



Bright Water Summer Program 2019

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: News- May 07, 2019 Comments Off on Bright Water Summer Program 2019

Did you know that Bright Water Waldorf School offers summer programs for students in Early Childhood through Third Grade? Read more below, and if you’re interested – learn more here and register soon! Space is limited. 

Early Childhood: Please join one of our very own Early Childhood teachers, Milana Norbut, for a magical summer experience designed just for little ones. The children will enjoy a holistic morning rhythm that will include circle, story, and a natural craft activity. They will share a nutritious snack and spend time exploring Volunteer Park. The half-day program is suitable for ages 3-6 and is appropriate for those not yet eligible for first grade enrollment in the Fall of 2019. Camp will run from 9am-12:30 pm. Camp minimum is 5 students, maximum is 8 students.

Grades: Join Ms. Haley Kruell, Bright Water’s rising fourth grade teacher, for a summer of fun that stimulates creativity and critical thinking while nurturing your child’s social and emotional intelligence. Each day will follow a typical Waldorf rhythm, including a themed activity in the morning followed by art and outdoor play in the afternoon. Weekly themes will incorporate story-telling, crafting, dance and movement, games and puzzles and water play. Each week will be different but one thing will stand out  – you will witness the cultivation of your child’s natural creativity and sense of wonder as they share with you their daily adventures. Camp is for incoming 1st-4th graders. It will run from July 8 – August 2 from 9am-12:30pm for the half- day and 9am-3pm for the full-day.

Welcome Chaya Keefe, Bright Water’s New Head of School

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: News- Nov 14, 2018 Comments Off on Welcome Chaya Keefe, Bright Water’s New Head of School

Dear Members of the BWWS Community,

When the Board of Trustees last spring began to search for our next Head of School, we committed to finding that rarest of being: an administrator possessing both direct experience with the beauty and power of Waldorf education and a deep knowledge of how independent schools operate and thrive in a crowded, competitive marketplace.

I’m happy to report to you that we have hired that person in Chaya Keefe, who will become Bright Water Waldorf School’s new Head of School beginning July 1, 2019.

Chaya’s understanding of Bright Water’s mission—to cultivate creative minds, capable hands and compassionate hearts—shone through in her letter of application as she related how the quest in Waldorf education to marry intellect, spirit and deed will drive her as a leader.

“The ideal (is) of the mind and body working to manifest the love in the heart,” she wrote. “I see the work of the Head of School as engaging in this act both on an individual and institutional level with the objective of building a healthy and sustainable school that contributes to a more peaceful future.”

Chaya’s interviews with the Search Committee, Board, Parent Association, Faculty and administrative staff, revealed a clear strategic vision and sound operational philosophy. She demonstrated serious engagement on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in independent schools. She also brought to those conversations a sense of humility, warmth and humor that will serve the school well.

Chaya comes to Bright Water having educated both her children at Seattle Waldorf  School and having served on the SWS Board of Trustees for six years, a period that included a leadership transition, enrollment growth, campus expansion and implementation of strong governance practices.

She is in her sixth year as Director of Accreditation at the Northwest Association of Independent Schools, where she has had the opportunity to work directly with schools throughout the Northwest to improve financial management and development, operations, governance, diversity, marketing and enrollment. She has learned what works well, what does not and how to tell the difference.

Prior to her work at NWAIS, Chaya spent 10 years in the classroom as a French teacher after earning a bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in education fromAntioch University.

Chaya lives in Lake Forest Park with her husband Brad and daughter Soumya, a high school senior. Herson Vinay is a sophomore at Swarthmore College.

Chaya’s hiring culminates a process that began in May with a national recruitment effort and ultimately included direct feedback to the Board from many who participated in conversations with our finalists inside Bright Water’s walls. I want to thank everyone who participated in that process—Board members, parents, and faculty and staff members. Your involvement informed our decision in very positive ways. I’m heartened by your expressed desire to make the transition to Bright Water’s next leadership chapter successful.

While Chaya’s tenure at Bright Water will not officially commence until next summer, she will begin working presently with Head of School Jayasri Ghosh, the Board of Trustees and members of the Faculty and administrative staff to ensure a smooth transition. We will plan a series of events and meetings during the spring to welcome Chaya to the school.

In the meantime, please join us in celebrating Chaya’s addition to the Bright Water Waldorf School community, and don’t hesitate to contact me at john@healycat.org with any questions you might have.


John M. Healy,

Chair On behalf of the Board of Trustees

Seventh Grade China Projects & the Waldorf Approach to Studying History: A Conversation with Seventh-Grade Teacher Mia Fioravanti

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: history, Middle School, News, Pedagogy/Educational Methods and Philosophies- Jun 06, 2018 Comments Off on Seventh Grade China Projects & the Waldorf Approach to Studying History: A Conversation with Seventh-Grade Teacher Mia Fioravanti

The Study of History in Waldorf Middle School

We recently sat down with Bright Water Waldorf School seventh-grade teacher Mia Fioravanti to talk about the class’ China projects, which lined the wall opposite the seventh-grade classroom. The large poster-board presentations covered an array of topics: China’s climate, history, art and more, as you can see from the selection of images below. As we talked, the discussion ventured beyond the borders of China and into aspects of how history is taught in Waldorf elementary and middle school.

“We started our study of China by looking at Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism,” Mia began. “These helped us understand the foundations on which China was structured. Then we went on to study two of the dynasties: the Qin and the Han. The Qin was a relatively short-lived dynasty. The people who are loyal to the Han still make up a large portion of the Chinese population.”

Along the way, students picked topics on which to give oral presentations to the class, in addition to creating the displays. “Subjects ran anywhere from the current trade agreements and tariffs to the Mongol empire and everything in between: population, manufacturing, language, a biography of Bruce Lee along with a study of martial arts, ancient games, pollution and so on. This was a way we could cover more aspects of Chinese culture than I could do on my own. And while they were working on their projects, we also talked about Mao, starting in 1949 and working our way to the Cultural Revolution. It’s really the first revolution we’ve studied. Seventh Grade focuses on the Renaissance. In Eighth Grade we fast forward to the American, French and the Industrial Revolutions, on to the Civil War and then into the 20thcentury. So our study of China is really a segue into next year.”

Around the World in Grades Three through Eight     

The Waldorf curriculum approaches the teaching of history chronologically, especially as students move into middle school. After focusing on local history and geography in grade four, students begin studying ancient civilizations like Egypt, Sumeria, India and Greece in grade five, then move on to Rome and the Middle Ages in grade six. As noted above, grades seven and eight move from the Renaissance through to modern times.

This trajectory helps students develop a cohesive sense of the flow of history. It enables them to see how culture, myth, technology, and other factors influence the rise and fall of civilizations. And it also creates a tapestry that can be woven with ever more complex ideas as students continue studying history in high school and beyond. Finally, it gives students much to ponder regarding the “big” issues, like what it means to be human and how civilizations and cultures have evolved through time.

Mia pointed out another interesting aspect of the Waldorf approach to history. “One thing we try to do in Waldorf education is to get around the world by the Eighth Grade. Some places are harder to touch upon, places like China, Russia, Australia, Southeast Asia, but we try to work them in. We do this through the curriculum that’s already in place. So, for example, when we did the Age of Discovery we had a chance to study Africa and South America. And sometimes you can dig in deeper with reports and presentations. We did it with China, for example, and the Sixth Grade did it this year with their reports on African countries.”

The end result? “After the eighth grade, when students study history it’s not completely foreign to them. They can go deeper into the history and culture regardless of where they go to high school. We have built a sort of scaffolding to which they can add new ideas as they learn them. When they study the history of Greece, Rome, the Renaissance, everything they learned will come back, and they’ll have a foundation that will help them see things from different angles, and in new ways.”

Mia Fioravanti was born to a family who had owned a woolen mill in Illinois for 100 years. She graduated from the Colorado Institute of Art with a degree in Advertising Design. After several years working in that industry, Ms. Fioravanti returned to her love of textiles and apprenticed for a year with a seamstress from Russia and then went on to run her own design business. Ms. Fioravanti has also run a Waldorf inspired preschool in her home, and taught art at Seattle Waldorf High School in Seattle. Both of her children attended Waldorf schools; one is a graduate of Seattle Waldorf School, and one a graduate of Bright Water School. Ms. Fioravanti is herself a graduate of Sound Circle Teacher Training.


Fourth Grade Swans

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: Art, Elementary School, News- May 23, 2018 Comments Off on Fourth Grade Swans

In between a field trip to Streissguth Gardens and Potlach the Fourth Grade took the time to paint some lovely swans, which we post below for your enjoyment. Thank you, Fourth Grade!

Grade Eight Service Projects

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: Middle School, News, Outreach, Student Work/Class Projects- May 23, 2018 Comments Off on Grade Eight Service Projects

Every year the BWWS Eighth Grade graduating class presents their service project work. Each student spent time with a local organization of their choice and then details their work in a live presentation to the BWWS community and through the displays pictured here. Peruse these images to share in this culminating aspect of our Eighth Graders’ journeys and see how they gave back to the broader community. 

First Grade Field Trip

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: News- May 16, 2018 Comments Off on First Grade Field Trip

The First Grade took a trip to Lincoln Park recently. They hiked to the beach and back, exploring nature along the way. The great outdoors is a magical classroom!

(photos: Mary Plate DeJong) 

May Faire 2018!

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: News- May 09, 2018 Comments Off on May Faire 2018!

THANK YOU to everyone for making this a May Faire to remember! The weather was more than cooperative and our community came out in colorful May Faire style. Many dances were danced, the pocket person made her/his rounds, treasures were found, prizes caught and won and eaten… Fabulous music was presented by students and other members of our community… There was even a walk around the maypole for BWWS alumni! We could go on and on, but instead we’ll just share some of the many pictures that have been shared with us. Look for more on the website soon! And while the May Faire is definitely a team effort, let’s send a special thanks to Office Manager Katie Söderlind for coordinating the festival and ensuring a magical day for all!

Thanks to Shelly Gerson, Eduardo Jezierski and others for the photos. We’ll post more as they come in!

Spring Reign!

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: News- May 09, 2018 Comments Off on Spring Reign!

“Spring Reign is one of the largest mixed-gender youth ultimate Frisbee tournaments in the world,”* and the BWWS team participated this past weekend. From Coach McGriff:

“Bright Water took 4th Place out of 16 teams in the B Division. They had three really good games on Saturday, falling just short in their second game and ending with a record of 2 and 1, which was good enough to earn them a spot in the Championship Bracket on Sunday. The first game on Sunday day was against Seattle Waldorf’s B Team, which they won mightily. They had a tough game against Jane Adams Middle School, losing in universe point (by one at the end of time), but it was very positive and both teams had great Spirit of the Game. This left them playing against the Northwest School for 3rd and 4th. This was also very close until the end, trading the lead throughout the game.

Both teams did a great job of sharing playing time within their roster and they all walked away feeling part of the team and well bonded. We had 5 girls for the whole weekend and they were troopers until the very end, though very exhausted. This was a highlight as there were many points in a row for them and times when they would have liked to come off the field, but stayed on to give the other girls a rest.

It was learning experience for our younger players and they are looking forward to next year, getting more playing time in and experiencing the festival of Ultimate that Spring Reign is.”

*You can find more details on Spring Reign at DiscNW’s website.

Thanks to Mary DeJong for the pictures!

A Window on the Eighth Grade, with Cindy Jordan

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: News- Apr 26, 2018 Comments Off on A Window on the Eighth Grade, with Cindy Jordan

 This June another Eighth Grade class graduates from Bright Water. This is always a joyous but bittersweet moment as students spread their wings and enter the next stage in their lives. We took this occasion to sit down with Cindy—aka “Miss”—Jordan, who took up the mantle of Grades Teacher in 2010 and held her class through the long journey from First to Eighth Grade.  Cindy started at Bright Water as an aftercare teacher, but from the moment she arrived at the school it felt, in her words, “like coming home.”

How did you decide to become a Waldorf teacher?

I think Waldorf was always in my blood. I’d always known I wanted to be a teacher, but
I also knew that I needed training to become the kind of teacher I wanted to become. At university I had a teacher who—he wasn’t a Waldorf teacher, but he was very hands on. He taught through experience, and through pulling information out of his students. He developed a relationship with each student. He saw you as an individual, what you were good at, what you struggled with, and he encouraged and inspired you to take up the work. I had never been taught in that way. It was a testament to the nature of what we do in Waldorf, the relationship building, the trust, the understanding, the seeing of the child for who they are—their qualities, their soul. As I researched what he was doing I discovered Waldorf. And as I started studying it, it validated everything I’d been searching for. Soon after that I was moving to Seattle. I was going to homeschool my son, but I searched the web for Waldorf and the aftercare job at BWWS came up. I’d actually made a list of everything I wanted in a job, and this was a perfect fit.

How does it feel to have taken the class through the full eight years?

I can’t believe that I’m here! It’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done. To have this opportunity to be a part of the growth of these children is . . . I don’t even know what the word is. It’s just incredible. To be with them through the developmental ages . . . Not only am I learning so much from them, I’m learning so much about myself as well. About trust, about love, about what it means to understand, to accept, to forgive—all of these things. It comes down to: what does it mean to be a human being? I feel so much gratitude. 

How are the kids doing?

They’re excited and a bit nostalgic. I think there are times when they realize that after this year they won’t be together anymore. So there’s a strong sense of family, of togetherness. It’s heartwarming. There are a lot more times when kids will say things like, “Mom—I mean, Miss Jordan!”

What else have those eight years you’ve spent together created?

There’s a lot of trust, a lot of safe space. There’s so much openness to ask each other questions, to share feelings and to be vulnerable. 

Can you share some of what you’ve been up to with them lately?

I love the Eighth Grade, their curiosity in the world and themselves. I love listening to their conversations. I enjoy guiding them, but I’ve also learned so much from them by seeing the world through their eyes. As adults we can inform them about the world, but that’s our information. They’re coming into their own information and their own context in the world. My learning this year has been to take a step back, to offer questions to guide them and then watch them figure things out for themselves and develop their own ideas.

One of the big things we’ve been exploring is, how do we communicate with others even when their opinions are different? How do we invite someone into our opinions? We’ve been spending some time debating current affairs, and sometimes the discussions get heated, but this is often because we don’t see all sides of the story or have enough information.

Teenagers can be quick to judge. So I’ve shared with them that it’s important to do your research, to talk to a number of people and explore different opinions and ideas. This leads to a bigger question: what is truth? Yours may be different from someone else’s but does that mean it’s wrong? We’ve been developing the maturity to see many sides to an argument.

When we study revolutions, we ask, “Why did people rise up?” “Why were others suppressing them?” Human beings have basic needs and if they’re not met there’ll be a reaction. And this also makes us look at our own needs, about finding time to enjoy life and follow our passions. It teaches tolerance and a deeper understanding of what drives the human being.

This journey has showed me how important it is for us to see both sides to truly appreciate everything. The Yin and the Yang. Especially with children. My goal in teaching is to share what’s going to best serve them in the world. And it’s not always specific pieces of information but instead how to experience, how to negotiate, how to navigate and maneuver through anything in life, to be open and understanding

How has the Waldorf approach facilitated the process?

It’s all of what Waldorf stands for. Among other things it’s about truly seeing the human being and what it means to be of service to others. It’s not about me, me, me. Life is not about me, me, me. I think in a public education system I would be more confined to the curriculum, to the tests I had to teach to. In Waldorf it’s a living process. The curriculum is a guide that the teacher studies, connects with and enlivens through their own experiences, strengths and struggles—but even more importantly through who the children are and what they need. So it’s essential that you really know the children in order to be present and bring to them the magic they deserve. You’re not trying to fix or change them but allowing them to grow into the best children they can be. This is why it can be so valuable to stay with the children for so many years because it creates the space and time to develop this deeper relationship.`

When I’m challenged to understand the needs of a child, I research material in books and online. I talk to other people. But the first place I go is within, to spend time thinking about the child. I ask questions. It’s loving inquiry. I try not to form opinions but to be open to something even greater than me. I seek out the answers through meditation. And there have been so many profound moments where I wake up in the morning and the situation is resolved or I have the answer. The process, for me, opens up my understanding of the child further.

I’ve learned to look at any struggle or challenge I have as purposeful and I try to uncover what I have to learn or shift or change in that situation. Those are the times when I do the most work. Because if we don’t embrace these challenges there’s less growth and we really don’t move beyond where we are.

As Waldorf teachers we’re not just with the kids during class and recess. They’re in our thoughts 24/7. There’s so much to this job. It’s almost like a lifestyle! You’re working with what it means to be human: how we breathe, love, move, sleep, work. How we function in the world. As a teacher I’ve been drawn to be aware of that for each child.

Can you share some favorite memories of your time with the students?

There are so many. For example, in fifth grade we were learning about the fact that math is in everything. It’s in a table in the form of mathematical and geometrical relationships. It’ s in a chair and so on. But one student didn’t want to admit it was in everything, and so he wouldn’t agree that it’s in doughnuts. And of course that’s the circle. So all the rest of the students had to come up with the reasons why math is in a doughnut. Even the kids who weren’t as excited about math at the time got engaged in convincing him. To this day we bring it up jokingly. “Is math in a doughnut?” And he’ll say “No!”

In second grade, for Santa Lucia we had to learn five verses to a song, and by the week of Santa Lucia we’d only learned the first verse well. I was stress and panicked that we weren’t going to do a good job, and I didn’t know what to do. One day we were lined up for recess and a student stepped out of the line and said, “What if we just sang one verse to the song?” She didn’t know I’d been  worried about it, so it was like she was reading my mind. I had put that question of what to do out to the universe, and she answered it for me. So we did it that way and it went beautifully. Quality over quantity.

In third grade, there was some drama going on. It was the nine-year change; there were lots of tears at times and people didn’t even know why they were crying. One day one of the girls was crying, and I asked the class, “Does anyone have a joke?” A boy  immediately shouted “poopy pants!” and everyone started laughing. It wasn’t even something he would normally say. It sounds silly but it brought so much joy to the year. It became our happy word. We still laugh about it today. 

There are other things too, not necessarily stories but examples of how tightly knit they are. They will not go out for recess unless they’re all going out for recess. In fourth grade every single student played ultimate frisbee. It changed the dynamics in the class and brought everyone together. For the first seventh/eighth grade dance, they got together in advance, all on their own, and set up who was going to dance with whom, how many times, and so on, so that no one would feel left out. They had such an amazing time that the person who hadn’t wanted to go to the first dance really wanted to go the next one. They did this all on their own. I found myself thinking, “Wow, I wish I was in this class! So sweet.

We do a lot of gratitude circles, where they talk about who and what they’re grateful for. So they’ve gotten to see each other for who they are, but they also know that other people think highly of them.

What’s next for Miss Jordan?

I’ll be staying on at Bright Water as the Pedagogical Administrator. I feel very happy to be continuing my work here. I want to honor this journey, but I also I want to be of even greater service. And I feel like teaching these last eight years has given me a really solid foundation to do that.