This year, Patrick Stolfo will mark his thirty-sixth year as a teacher at Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School. He is stepping back from his role to focus on his own artistic craft more fully and will continue educating the next generation of Waldorf teachers as part of the core faculty of Hawthorne Valley’s Alkion Center.

When Patrick first came to teach at Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School in the late 1980s, he resonated with the founders’ vision for a community that integrated the arts into its fabric.

“I felt drawn to the mission that the arts would be not only a large part of the curriculum, but also that there would be a consortium of artists and artisans in the community,” Patrick says. “The fact that the arts are so interconnected with Waldorf Education make it very much more real. It’s part of life.”

Throughout his nearly forty years of teaching middle school and high school arts blocks at HVS and to begin with in Detroit, Patrick has tried to honor that view of the arts in the same way for his students and the broader community.
Patrick’s path to teaching began as a child growing up in Michigan with parents who were both teachers. He jokes that he began teaching because he studied art—first at Wayne State University and then in England – with no intention to be a teacher, but eventually needed to find a reliable profession. So, having given teaching a try, he realized that it was something he could enjoy and do well.

He credits his love of the arts as one of the reasons that he gravitated towards becoming a Waldorf educator in particular. He studied Anthroposophy in Detroit and in England, and then returned to the States to get his master’s in education and teach at the Detroit Waldorf School. When their high school had to close due to low enrollment, he accepted Henry Barnes’s invitation to come teach at Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School.

“My family and I arrived just before the great October snowstorm of 1987,” he says. “We were out in the middle of the woods in this little funky house with three little children and no power for a week. It was pretty crazy, and we really questioned if we had made the right decision.”

Despite the not-so-warm welcome from Mother Nature, the family stayed and soon became embedded in the community. Over the years, Patrick has taught scores of middle school and high school students—including his own four children—arts blocks and Main Lessons. He also served as the high school chair for 12 years and faculty chair for 3 years. Though he’s taught many different classes and enjoyed them all, he considers Sculpture, History through Architecture, and Art History to have become his signature blocks.

When asked what inspired him to continue as an educator for so long, he responded, “The students. When they appreciate what they’re learning and give back by putting themselves into the work without complaining- that’s very satisfying.”

In addition to teaching at HVS, Patrick spent a month each summer for over thirty years teaching at the Center of Anthroposophy in New Hampshire, and in 2003, Patrick and his wife Lynne joined Eric and Martina Müller, Andree and William Ward, and Steffen and Rachael Schneider to begin the Alkion Center for Anthroposophy, Art, and Education, which eventually streamlined into providing an AWSNA-affiliated training for future Waldorf teachers.

“We recognized the need for biodynamic farmers, artists, teachers, and other Steiner informed professions, and that there were all these resources right here with the farm, school, and other great activities going on in the valley,” Patrick says.

Besides continuing to help spearhead Alkion, Patrick is also drawing on his many years of experience to begin writing in hopes of helping new teachers get a good footing in the profession. He will also continue his own artistic practice at his studio in Ghent, and be available for mentoring up and coming educators.

As someone who has been a part of so much of the school’s 50 year biography, Patrick reflected, “It’s been a great experience, and still is. There’s been a lot of ups and downs and struggles as there always are, socially, economically, etc., when you are engaged in work based on such high ideals. But I would say it’s all worth it. It’s been a privilege to work alongside so many dedicated people here throughout the years who have put their blood, sweat, and tears into the place.”