The Waldorf School of Garden City’s leadership team is dedicated furthering the mission of the school in all areas. As we continue this important work, we are delighted to welcome Helene Lafferty Smith to our team! Helene joined our School community as our new School Administrator over the summer. We asked Helene a series of questions to help the community get to know her.
Q) What is your Professional Background?
Ms. Smith: I earned a Master’s degree in Business from the Norwegian School of Management and a Master of Science in Sustainable Development from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. I have spent the majority of my professional career working in the humanitarian sector in developing countries. I lived in Kenya for 7 years and led programs with the United Nations and the Norwegian Refugee Council. Most recently I was the Business Manager for the Asheville Waldorf School in North Carolina.
Q) What drew you to Waldorf Education?
Ms. Smith: In the beginning, I was drawn to Waldorf education because of its parallels with the Scandinavian ideals I recall from my own upbringing, particularly the emphasis on the outdoors and play in the early years. However, it was when my children began attending a Waldorf school that I became aware of the difference in the teachers. Their dedication and devotion to the school, their profession, and the children is exceptional. Seeing my daughter, a rising first-grader, stop in the hallway to hug her former teacher from her Parent & Child class was a heartwarming display of the strength of the bonds created in our Waldorf environment. I am proud of our children who are empathetic, lovely humans, who look you in the eye and can relate to “grown-ups,” who thrive in an environment where they are motivated by thought and interest rather than tests and grades, who come home with scraped knees and pockets full of acorn treasures, and who can sing beautifully and unabashedly at age 6. I continue to be drawn to Waldorf Education every day.
Q) What about our School made you decide to join us?
Ms. Smith: I was very intrigued by the rich history of the school, from its inception as a Waldorf demonstration school to its prominent alumni and continuing success 70+ years on. I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to contribute my multi-cultural and diverse leadership experience to a school I genuinely believed in, and I knew I could gain valuable institutional knowledge from the seasoned faculty and staff at the school. From my first meeting with the Board, and through the wonderfully coordinated, day-long sessions with each staff member, I was in awe of the warmth, passion, and dedication to the Waldorf vision they shared.
Q) What do you believe are the most important qualities of leadership?
Ms. Smith: Integrity. A deep caring for others. The ability to empower and trust in those around you. Calmness in uncertainty. While perhaps these are not unique to leadership, I believe that they are particularly important in education where our daily directions are so influential in the lives of children. I also consider passion and enthusiasm qualities so innate to Waldorf education that I believe it to be impossible to lead without them.
Q) What are you most looking forward to as Administrator?
Ms. Smith: First and foremost, the children. Then, the opportunity that it affords me to spend my days in the company of, and learning from, individuals that share the same passion and ideals in raising our children.
Q) Is there anything you want to say to our Community?
Ms. Smith: Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of and contribute to the direction of the Waldorf School of Garden City and for entrusting the administration with the most valuable of missions. I can’t wait for the upcoming school year and the opportunity to meet the children, the parents, the alumni, and the greater Waldorf School of Garden City community. My door is always open.