Waldorf School of New Orleans Librarian Lesley Rubenstein

Recorded May 29, 2019 Archived May 29, 2019 25:24 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: APP641602


Lesley has been a Waldorf classroom teacher, but her most notable accomplishment at WSNO is our beloved library, which she built from nothing. Find out how she did it.


  • Amy Marquis
  • Lesley Rubenstein
  • waldorfnola

Interview By



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00:00 My name is Amy, Marty. I'm 46 years old, and today is May 30th. 2019. I'm speaking with Lesley. Rubenstein, who is my co-workers? She's the librarian at Waldorf School of New Orleans, camera recording. This interview in, New Orleans, Louisiana. So Leslie, let's start with what makes you what about our school makes you most proud? And can you share a favorite story or memory?

00:27 I would say our community makes us. Most proud makes me most proud and the way that we rally, when things get tough and we've been through Katrina. We've been through some different changes and administration. And we're moving to a new campus. And while that's not adversity. It is a change. And I think we all work. Well together. I think for the children, would I love about our students is that they have gone to every single different type of school here in the community after they graduated from us. And they've all been leaders in different ways. Whether it's been in the classroom or on the soccer fields or in student government. So they really represent the ideals that Waldorf is trying to nurture and all the students. They are being their best selves. They're making a

01:27 Difference in the community. And, and that is just so amazing. I just went to art, show at Nokia, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and it's really difficult to get into that school. The school has a student and dance. Music theater, creative writing, every single one of our students, who has applied to that school has been accepted, which I don't think there's any other school in the city. I can say that, but just seeing the student's artwork are student artwork. On the walls, it, it was just really

02:10 I was just in awe, and so proud. So, and those students have them overcome, many different things as well. And here, they are leading leading the way through ART in our community, has an amazing place. It is.

02:28 And right now we're I don't know if this is coming through the recording or not, but there is a lot of noise in the hallway is because we are at the Early Childhood Center and they are graduating today. The sunflowers are going on to first grade and it's a pretty exciting day. So do you have any memories of that? Oh, but memories are the sunflowers coming to first grade that I think is just seeing them in first grade and how grown-up they are, but still are in that that world of wonder when I thought main lesson in first grade, we would keep track of all the the teeth that they lost and that they were so proud to have been some flowers and so proud to be in first grade and to watch soon. As I watched students from first grade graduate from eighth grade and just seeing that transformation and the confidence.

03:28 They're grown up here, but they're just starting their track and Waldorf and it's beautiful. It's, it really is. And I remember seeing the tooth count on your Blackboard and change the year. That was one of my favorite things to check in on.

03:54 I think we're very Humane education form of education and we bring out the best of students. We challenge the students where they need to be challenged and then we in a in a kind way and then we really support the students and encourage them to fly in the areas where they're already strong. I feel like it's an education that we need. Hit our world right now because it's kindness and independent thinking and grow through the Arts and expiration and it's just something that there isn't any other form of Education like that here in Louisiana, so,

04:40 It's inspiring. I know it sounds kind of tight but it's inspired education. The teachers are inspired, the students are inspired and you can see it in the classrooms are children. Love to be at school and they're happy on the playground. And I think that that's a big difference, especially here in our city where it's a beautiful city full of music and art and history. But we also have some challenges and a lot of different areas and I feel like we are helping students grow to be the leaders who will face these challenges down the road a little bit more. If you look at some of the, I don't see anything negative about the other schools, but it's not constant testing.

05:36 And I feel like we eat. There are so many students actually received students from other schools who are burned out in first grade or second grade because of all the testing. I also feel like we even though we're trying to produce these independent thinkers. We don't have an agenda here. We're just accepting of everyone. And and then that way we're humaid, you know, I just think that

06:07 We live what we teach and there is more to learning and education than a number 2 pencil and bubbles on a on a test.

06:20 So what made you decide to become a teacher here?

06:24 Well, we were introduced to Waldorf through our children. Our children were called the year. We were introduced to the school and I saw firsthand the transformation of our own children who were both two completely different individuals with different strengths. And while there was able, to really help them grow in all areas. And so I knew I wanted to be a part of Education. I had worked and Catholic Education with all below all boys school and before that. I worked at a university and I love both of those experiences, but this has been busyness of my experience and education. So everything that I believe in is here and it's actually help me grow as an individual as well. So it's very exciting to be part of of Waldorf.

07:20 Nationally internationally, but also here, in New Orleans. We were making such a profound difference in a really big impact on our school because you were you to our library to epic proportions. And I love to hear more about your journey through our true that when our children started school here, you know, the school had been decimated by a Katrina. So I know the supplies were low, but I really don't think we'd had a library before. We had one shelf of books and that was for the whole school and

07:58 I truly believe that education Comes Alive through books that help students create pictures in their minds when they're reading or when they're hearing. A story in a waldorf is all about stories and I feel like stories can come alive through books. And so I wanted to have a safe place for students whether they were great readers or struggling readers that they just felt good about their reading and could explore through the book. So my father passed away and he had been really supportive of my education. I was a little different than the rest of my family members. I used to love to run around Barefoot and smell, the pine trees when we lived in Washington. They just, I just love nature so much and I read a lot and my family moved around a lot every two years with my dad's job and I'm an introvert and pretty shy. And so he would have me right to the

08:58 Libraries in right in to reading was a big part of my life. And I just wanted to bring that here to the students into my own children. So, when he passed away to honor him, I took some of the money that he had left me and started working on our library. So, I went based on the Waldorf curriculum and I asked each of the teachers to make a list, a box that they were interested in. I also asked parents and students and that's how I started with the first fat. So we now have grown from 20 bucks really to over 3,000 and I have a curriculum in place that supports the teachers, I help the teachers collect books. I started a

09:45 A free book club after school and we have half of our students involved. And I have authors come and visit. We Skype with different authors, would go out into the community and do activities tied into the stories that we read and we discuss all different kinds of things. Probably, in the book club. One of the best things was

10:08 We read a book fish in a tree and it's about a child who is dyslexic, doesn't realize why the child the child is, always why he is struggling so much. And we actually had two students in the group who are dyslexic and that was the first time they talked about it with our, with their peers, and it just was beautiful. Just the exchange of ideas, but I'm part of the English curriculum. So, they all the students come to me once a week and we have a great time in library. Yeah. I know. They love library and you've also partnered with the New Orleans. Yeah. I have tried to connect with all kinds of people here in the city. Just so our culture is reflected in what we do in the New Orleans, Public Library. If we go and visit, we do,

11:08 Trips to their library and we discussed everything from how to conduct research, how to determine which sources are correct. And and then we should we do research projects with them. And then we also do summer reading to them and they have a wonderful program just to inspire students to read. And so miss our comes in, from the library and public library, and comes in talks to each class in the students, get a free book and then they get incentives to read. I do provide a list of books that I think would be great for students to read, but it's just supposed to be fun and we have didn't realize there was a competition through that library, but one of our students read more

11:58 Paige is a more minutes of books and any other student in, in all of New Orleans. So the prize was having her. He'll sign, come and visit our school and talked and he gave books to all the students into the library. And then we just had a great relationship with the public library. We've had two or three students when the Black History Month poster contest to. So, it's just but all the students benefit. So, it's just a fun fun things to do in, our students read, they read, they love to read their out exploring, but as the New Orleans Public Library. Instead, she knows while their school students loved to read and so they really represent us well in that area. Can you tell me? I know there was a recent Library class that my son who's in 4th grade participated in and they wrote and they had sort of a stroke.

12:58 Given to them about how to write a certain poem and he would fill in the rest of each line. And it was just a poem about themselves. Right? And it was so as I loved reading his because it gave me a snapshot of not just who he is, but also like where he was at that moment in that day cuz he know, he still thinks in a very present tense always. So I read his palm and it had a lot of references to food. I thought he must just be for lunch. So usually they're quite hungry, but the food comes up with one of your classes, a lot of poetry projects. I try to tie in library to the National Library Association. So we recognize the different months.

13:58 And but poetry is just fine. So all each class wrote some kind of poem this year. It might have been for first grade. It was your since your senses like taste site here and the students that was right up their alley, we had another group go outside and just walk and explore the area all together. And then we sat down in the sun's, we could feel the Sun and just wrote free free verse about the area where your son's class. Is there really kind of exploring themselves. And so that was a bio poem and they did have a structure like your name and family names and what you're feeling, or what your thoughts are, and you do get a snapshot of what the child is. Like. I feel like it's a picture but it's just in words, can't

14:53 Get his was very, he's a very literal thinker and very logical. And so nothing about his tone Was a Serial or, or like literal, about who he actually is and how he's answering a question. And just coming with these up with these Flora Lee, and that's just as much as him or her as this literal.

15:28 Poem from Ethan, we, we talked about the different poets, we talked about, we close our eyes, and we pretend like, we're Emily Dickson Dickinson looking out her window. And what she would see you, then when she would write and then we act, then we pretend like we're a different poet who was OBGYN who would deliver a baby and then walk outside and would be very literal like Ethan. And right about the chicken and the rain in the walkway in the wheelbarrow and how it's just a beautiful life or we talked with the older kids. We talked about Langston Hughes. And so I feel like it gives them a glimpse of people before them or current artist and just like a painting on the wall from our students. Were there. All kind of painting. The same thing. Here is a poetry project. That's the same for everyone, but each one is able to express

16:27 Themselves differently. Know I love. Yeah, it's so fun to read those. Maybe I can you tell me sorry. I'd like to ask you to tell me about your most challenging moment as a teacher.

16:45 Oh, but not challenging in a bad way, but I had just graduated. My 8th grade class when I was middle school. And so it was hard to see them go. And then I go back down to first grade. And so I had just spent the three years in middle school, and although I've been teaching library on the side, the first through eighth having that energy and first grade that first day, I thought, oh my goodness. What do you know? What am I doing? But it was, it was great. Everything that class was is so amazing, but I had to switch my gears after being so.

17:30 Upright piano for and working with the 8th graders. And first grade. I had to jump back into gnomes and fairies, and it was beautiful, but it took me about a week to to re-inject me, adjust pretty quick. I think also seen the struggles that some of the students have you want to be supportive and I just didn't he just wasn't getting enough food at home. And so that was that was heartbreaking. I wanted to respect and honor the student, but I also wanted to provide food in a respectful way. And so, and work with the family. So, it's hard to see students like that, who don't have or a child. He doesn't have a coat, you know, so,

18:27 But you know together, we work as a community and and it it becomes. Okay. What is your favorite moment as the water heater? Do you have a favorite memory?

18:45 Well, gosh, there's so many, because really went each day when I leave. I'm just really feel blessed that I had the day here at Waldorf. Some great moments would be when students ran into the library. And just said, I love the smell of this place. The best place in the world. Do you know that it's just heartwarming? I think another great moment was when my 8th grade and I went to Belize, we have been studying environmental issues all year and to see the students gets so excited and we snorkeled and then do down and saw how the coral reefs are being made to help the environment Belize. And that was exciting. But I think on that trip, what was most exciting was, we brought some soccer balls and visited Belizean School. Read to the students brought supplies, but that soccer ball changed everything this

19:45 The middle school students were just nervous with each other. And as soon as we put that soccer ball in the field, those students were playing. And after the game, they were best friends, Orleans and wanted to stay. So, I think that was an incredible moment as well. I think being with some students, when you see the light bulb go off, whether you're telling a math story and they are finally figuring out how to add, you know, what their gemstones or

20:23 Dora singing a student read for the first time and be so excited. I think those those are some, some great moment. I still keep up with my family and my eighth-grade class and it's been incredible. Watching them grow is the young adults, but I just love being here. So everyday is a great moment. So, we're so lucky to have you in our library from basically, nothing at the students love and look forward to. And it's such a great resource for our school and we're getting ready to move to a new campus for the new building. Can you tell me a little about your vision for our future home and our future Library? Yes. We have a small room.

21:17 Now, but it's very comfy cozy and the children sprawl out when it's deer time, drop, everything and read. And then We Gather in clothes and we're having discussions to the challenge of thrilled to have a bigger library. That means more space, more books.

21:38 But I want to make sure it's still stays cozy. So that's what I'm going to be working on. I'm hoping to computerize the library and I know sometimes people might say all computers, you know, with Waldorf, but I attended a lecture elector it up at Antioch College where the gentleman and I can't remember which country he was from in Europe. It was fascinating. It was about how Rudolf Steiner would have handled computers and he would say it was just a tool and we need to make sure that the tool is not running us, but that we're in charge of the tool. So I'm hoping to have it computerised. I want to have the children's artwork all on the walls, will have some cozy rugs and pillows and a Communication Center where the students can communicate, and hopefully some computers for the eighth graders to do their research tucked away. So it doesn't take away from the

22:37 The Fairy like feel, but it's going to be really exciting. I have to get new shelves and tables and chairs. Pretty much everything except for the books that we have. My thing. I'm most excited about is we have Windows. I've been window list for what 11 years between us is just windows and we can put books underneath there. But I move is the name plants and just just a great place that when you walk in you take a deep breath and relax come in and explore and read to ask you if you have what's your best advice for your students?

23:28 Best advice, that's a really good question.

23:33 I think really just

23:38 Be yourself. Your everyone is on a different path and challenge yourself to be your best self. Take the time to explore all different things, be open to other people.

23:53 And when you go to the beach, bring a great book and enjoy the nature, and then take some time for yourself, but I think you know where all citizens here. We're all part of the community. No one is by himself or herself and I would like to think that we create a feeling of openness in the library. I try to have books that represent all people. So all the students can see themselves in the books and in the stories and just to be open to your fellow brothers and sisters as you walk down this bad, so, well, I just before I close out today, I wanted to thank you for everything you've done for our school, but also personally, I'm both my children have been taught by you. You mentored my daughter now, 16 and a rising, junior in high school, and you've just given my children so much and I'm so grateful to you. So,

24:53 Thank you. Do you know what it's funny? Your family has done so much me. I mean mentoring Zoe that to highlight two and then being with Ethan, so I think that's the great thing about being a waldorf teacher is having these relationships with the students and parents. So as you all are doing just as much for us, it's teachers, is we are doing for you. So, thank you.