In early 2012, three educators: Margaret Ris, Daniel Bekele and Cheryl Dressler met at the Abiata Café in Malden, Massachusetts to determine the best way to bring the gifts of Waldorf education to children in public school settings. We agreed to found a non-profit organization for this purpose, that we would eventually name after a spot in Malden’s beautiful and rugged Fells Reservation: Cairn Hill. We appreciated the metaphor of the cairn—a pile of stones marking a path created by many--and envisioned the activities of our new organization as helping to guide children along their paths.
Our founding members are three educators with complementary backgrounds in social policy, Waldorf education and language and literacy development. Daniel Bekele, Ed.D., Harvard University, has a deep understanding of the needs of immigrant families living in Massachusetts' Gateway Communities. Daniel’s success in catalyzing immigrant communities to receive needed educational and social support has earned him a reputation as a trusted community resource. Cheryl Dressler, Ed.D., Harvard University, specializes in research on language and literacy development for Dual Language Learners, and developing vocabulary curricula (Wordly Wise 3000, VIOLETS currently in use in over 450 schools). She has published in Reading Research Quarterly, Bilingualism, Language and Cognition, Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, and contributed to Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth. She has taught education courses at Lesley University and the University of Massachusetts, and English as a second language at the primary, secondary, and university levels in the U.S. and Switzerland. Cheryl believes in the power of nature and an active, arts-infused, embodied curriculum to promote not only required academic competencies but also excitement about learning. Margaret Ris, M. Ed, Antioch University, brings two decades of Waldorf teaching and administration to the team along with years of working with inner city children. The mentoring and evaluation she has done for Waldorf programs throughout the northeast gives her a deep experience in best practices of Waldorf Education.
Carole Cooke, J.D., Stanford Law School, A.B. University of Chicago, has several decades of career experience as an employment and litigation attorney and in leadership roles for community non-profit organizations. The latter include service as Trustee for the Waldorf School of Lexington (MA) and for the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor (MI), and as a committee member and host parent for Winchester (MA) A Better Chance, which provides academically talented students of color with expanded educational and career opportunities. Before her retirement from private law practice in 2017, Carole was a Partner at Todd & Weld, a prominent Boston trial firm. In addition to her service at Cairn Hill, she also teaches English to immigrant women at Rosie’s Place in Boston and serves on the Personnel Commission of her local church. Carole’s children both attended Waldorf schools, and she remains a passionate advocate for Waldorf education. Beth Dowd, M.Ed., Harvard University, brings a background in prevention work as well as therapeutic remedial work supporting children with gaps in developmental milestones and sensory-motor processing. She served as the Extra Lesson teacher at the Waldorf School at Moraine Farm for 9 years, conducting developmental assessments to uncover obstacles to learning while supporting teachers and students in the classroom. She is a strong advocate of Waldorf education, particularly in its healing potential for children at risk. She has been in private practice on the North Shore for over 10 years, working with children and as a Parenting Coach in support of family life. Beth is the mother of three grown children, all graduates of the Waldorf School at Moraine Farm. Olga Frechon, M. Ed., Harvard University, has been a Boston Public School (BPS) educator for 28 years. During her tenure at BPS, she has been a teacher; literacy coach in many under-performing K-12 schools; and an elementary school principal. Her main interest is in language development as a way to offer young children with strong and transformative learning experiences that sustain their cultural and linguistic practices in our inner city schools. Betsy Peck, B.A., Wellesley College, has been volunteering and/or working at the Waldorf School of Lexington for over 30 years. Currently working in the Business and Development Offices, she also takes photographs for the website, publications, and parent use. Her two adult sons are graduates of the school, and she would love to see Waldorf educational principles available to wider communities. Lauren Smith, Waldorf Education Certificate, Antioch University New England is a teacher at the Waldorf School of Lexington, MA. Having graduated a class of students in 2012 after an eight-year cycle with them, Lauren enjoyed a well-earned sabbatical year. During that year, she has volunteered her time to Cairn Hill to help create and teach the program we piloted at the Salemwood School in Malden, MA. She is now leading another class through the 8-year cycle at the Waldorf School of Lexington.
Cairn Hill, Inc. 501(c)3 firstname.lastname@example.org 183 Fays Ave. Lynn, MA 01904