Celia Riahi, Director
I have been teaching and caring for young children since 1968, when I began my career in New York City as a nanny while still a teenager. In 1976, when my daughter was 14 months old, I opened a Waldorf-inspired home daycare program called, The Other Mother, which I operated for 10 years. During this period, I was very involved in helping the City re-develop the process of licensing home day care providers. Ultimately, I was one of the first to receive licensing under these new rulings. I also taught courses at the 92nd Street YMHA on all aspects of developing a home day care program, from business to crafts, and appeared on a Lifetime cable television program called Working Mother, which was seen nationwide.
Although I was highly successful on my own, I had a desire to work within a community of Waldorf teachers. I returned to school, received my Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education at Empire State College, and became a kindergarten teacher at the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City, where I taught for 4 years. I joined the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America, WECAN, in 1983. I have attended most WECAN annual conferences since that time and I have taught many workshops in subjects such as: First Grade Readiness; Watercolor Painting; and Children’s Games. Along the way, I have taught adults various subjects related to Waldorf Education, I have mentored Waldorf early childhood teachers in schools across the nation and, over the years, I have trained many interns in my classroom. I co-taught the class: Introduction to the Waldorf Kindergarten, at Sunbridge College, in Spring Valley, NY for three summers. In 199I, I moved to Amherst, Massachusetts where I taught kindergarten at The Hartsbrook (Waldorf) School in Hadley for 18 years.
I also have a passionate interest in both arts and crafts. I have worked as a jeweler, as a fiber artist, and I have been studying painting for many years at the Rudolf Steiner Institute, where I was a member of the board of trustees and managed our summer bookstore.
Now, in this phase of my life, I am continuing my vocation on a much smaller scale. In the spring of 2009, I opened The Cottage Garden, a Waldorf Home Nursery program, licensed for up to ten children, with my partner, Barbara Audley. We have been together since 1992, and this is our first endeavor working together. We are enjoying every minute of it!
As the eldest of five, I have been involved with young children for most of my life. During my teenage years, I worked with a disabled child and often babysat. In my early twenties, while living in San Francisco, CA, I worked in several daycares with different populations of children. For several years after that, I worked with inner city children of various ages in afternoon and evening programs, as the founder and director of Raphael House in St. Louis, MO. This began as a drop-in center and evolved into a multi-purpose aid station for children and families.
Despite these efforts and accomplishments, I gradually became discouraged in my attempts to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of the children and their families. I began to wonder if a method had been developed that would serve to educate the souls of children. As a response to this question, I discovered Waldorf education and knew that I had found what I had been searching for. At the age of 28, with an interest in becoming a Waldorf teacher, I attended a preliminary year of foundation studies in anthroposophy— the philosophy, developed by Rudolf Steiner, which stands behind Waldorf education. It was during this year that I discovered, in artistic activities, the building blocks of a soul-filled education. In particular, I developed a love for the art of speech, for bringing a deeper creativity into the spoken word. This was a revelation to me. I went on to complete four-year training in this method in London, England, graduating in 1985. I have worked as a voice artist, performing and teaching this method since then. This work has included working with children in Waldorf as well as public schools on voice development and dramatic presentations.
Now, working with Celia in The Cottage Garden, I feel that I have, in a way, come full circle. I love working with young children, watching and assisting them in their growth and development —particularly enjoying their joy in acquiring language. While I am not working with them explicitly, I hope that my love of sounds and words and poetry and stories will implicitly encourage them to develop a love for these things as well.
"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
— Rachel Carson