CONWAY — Sarah Arnold has been named head of school for Northeast Woodland Charter Public School, the first public Waldorf-inspired K-8 school in New England.
Slated to open in the fall, the school received a charter from the state earlier this year and is renting space in the Granite State College building next to the Tech Village off Route 16 in Conway.
Arnold, 52, and her husband, Tim, live in Harvard, Mass., but are in the process of buying a house in Madison. She is temporarily staying at The Drifters ski club in Jackson, of which her family has long been a member.
The Arnolds have two grown children, Gavin and Emily.
Arnold holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University in French language and civilization, and a master’s degree in elementary education from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass.
She taught in the elementary grades in Massachusetts and Nevada for seven years before leaving teaching to care for her two children when they were young.
Her children drew her back into teaching and the Waldorf method, eventually participating in the founding of Evergreen Garden Playschool in Devens, Mass.
"I was looking for a different early childhood education for my daughter," she said.
She found a good fit in Waldorf, completing her Waldorf early childhood teacher training at Sunbridge Institute in Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., and becoming a teacher and later the director of Evergreen.
"With Waldorf, there's a very deep developmental picture of children, and you are working to bring the curriculum to the children in a very lively manner," she said.
"And at Northeast Woodland, there's a focus on outdoor education as well as Waldorf education, where children will be active in their education all the time."
Arnold became active in the work of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America, eventually joining the WECAN board and becoming public policy and outreach coordinator. That led to Arnold's enrolling at Boston University to earn a doctorate of education in language and literacy.
She is currently finishing her dissertation, which focuses on storytelling and the story life of early childhood classrooms.
“I am thrilled to join the Northeast Woodlands Chartered Public School as its first head of school,” Arnold said. “This position braids together all the strands of my professional life in a location which my family and I love — Mount Washington Valley. As an avid hiker, cross-country skier, downhill skie, and rower, I’m thrilled to be locating in one of the best locations for environmental learning and recreation."
Along with helping get the new school ready to open, Arnold, like all school administrators these days, must contend with how the school will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It adds a layer of complexity, but we have really good association-level support through the Alliance for Public Waldorf Education and will be working with a mentor school in California," Arnold said.
She also said the administration will be working with SAU 9 and looking at guidance from the state.
"We have a clear picture of what it will look like if we are having in-person classes; we have a clear picture of what distance learning would look like; if it's a hybrid of those, that's undefined, there are a lot of permutations," she said.
As a public school, there is no charge to attend Northeast Woodland Charter School, but space is limited.
Northeast Woodland looks to serve grades K-7 in the upcoming school year and grow to include eighth grade in the fall of 2021. According to the school's website, northeastwoodland.org, enrollment is open and starting to fill up. The kindergarten class is currently full, but the board is considering opening a second class if there is enough interest.
For more information, go to northeastwoodland.org.