From Michaelmas onward, when fall displays its brightest colors and there is a snap in the air, many faculty members think of the semi-annual arrival of Else Göttgens, HVWS’ beloved teacher mentor and international master Waldorf teacher. Else left us on June 30, 2013 following a brief illness.
Else came from her home in Eindhoven, Netherlands, for a visit lasting a week or two almost every fall and spring. Here she observed several teachers (often the newest faculty members), and offered them feedback that would have lasting impact on the teachers’ careers as well as on the HVWS children. She had great affection for children and a deep knowledge about human development as viewed by Rudolf Steiner.
In her 92 years on earth, Else was a Waldorf teacher, founder of a Waldorf school, worldwide mentor, author, lecturer, and an opinionated woman of the highest moral sensibilities, who, in her later years, befriended many Waldorf school communities as she guided the teachers. Her peripatetic path took her from the East coast to the West and back while visiting the United States for months at a time twice a year. She was in such great demand that she was finally persuaded to write down her thoughts on teaching in a Waldorf school. Waldorf Education in Practice
(available online at Barnes & Noble
) presents, in her own exacting but charming style, the essence of Waldorf teaching.
Here at HVWS, Else provided lasting guidance, many nuggets of wisdom, and great friendships with teachers who willingly signed up to take Else on excursions that involved viewing running water, the splendid landscape (“Slow down, please, I want to see, not just look.”), Thai food, chocolate, and perhaps a small snooze in the midday sun. She was always welcomed into the homes of willing hosts (this writer included), where she made wonderful company, kept up her steady habits of drinking tea and eating biscuits in the late afternoon, and after supper, playing card games with the host, who would regularly admit defeat.
MaryBeth Thomas, former HVWS Grades teacher, remembered Else with great affection. “I truly felt like I was in the presence of a sage or saint because Else had such an amazing presence, offered deep wisdom with practical advice, and could see right through me! But she looked with love, so I never felt judged; I knew that she always had my students' and my best interests at heart and that her goal was to serve and guide.” MaryBeth said she felt Else, “was leading me to find my true Self, my higher Self.”
We will always remember Else’s gifts of knowledge, vision, compassion and deep understanding. We’ll also find her in falling water, tea biscuits, and lavender-hued woolens. Else will live on in those who learned from her and loved her. In the future, her formidable wisdom will often appear at the moment a lesson is truly working, or accompanying a realization about a child’s learning style.
“Exactly!” as Else might say.