SUNRISE WALDORF SCHOOL'S DEEP ROOTS IN A STRONG COMMUNITY
Ruth and Michael Ker in the early days
Sunrise Waldorf School began with six families and a dream in 1979. The Cowichan Valley families, brought together by a desire for an alternative to public schooling, gathered for “Friday School,” an informal children’s play group.
The group hosted lecturers from time to time on various educational methods. One day, two teachers (Dianne and Noah Bell) from the Vancouver Waldorf School spoke to the group. This meeting sparked an interest in Waldorf education and Rudolf Steiner’s philosophies.
In 1980, the group rented a cabin on a member’s property, located on Sunrise Road in Duncan, and Sunrise School (named for its first location) was born.
“There were big trees, lots of places to run around, and forest to walk in… very much a rural environment, which was so wonderful for the children.”
The school soon outgrew its original location on Sunrise Road, and in 1982 the parents came together to build a 1,000 square foot one-room school house on another family’s property.
“It really felt like we were going to school on a farm, and I think that’s what really drew me to the classroom… it felt like we were coming into a home. It just felt so grounding.”
Vanessa, Former Sunrise Student
Meanwhile, the parents in the group continued to learn about Waldorf education. In the 1983/84 school year, 32 parents voted unanimously to become a Waldorf school. The following year, they formed the Sunrise Educational Society.
“That was a wonderful moment, it stands as a light. A foundation."
Ruth Ker, Former Sunrise Teacher
When enrollment reached 36 students by the mid-1980’s, the school moved to an empty local elementary school. Enrollment continued to increase, and by 1989, parents realized they would again need a bigger building. They found a perfect location on Lakeside Road (the school’s current location), except for one small problem – they needed $60,000.
“And the next morning… in the school office… arrived a registered cheque from an anonymous donor for 60 thousand dollars. I have experienced, that out of true communication, miracles happen.”
They quickly bought the property, which included one building (used as tractor shed and offices for a winery). Again, the community rallied, working long hours to make the building over into a school.
“It was amazing, we were there all the time. You’d have a hundred people there working, and there were children playing in the back, there would be people there watching the children, and making food.”
Michael Ker, Sunrise School Designer
Now settled in a true home, the school continued to grow. In 2003, Sunrise Waldorf School became a full, accredited member of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), and is a Group 1 independent school under the BC Ministry of Education.
“I really put my heart and soul behind it, because I believed that there could be something very holistic for the children, not just something that served them intellectually and cognitively, but something that nourished their soul and spirit.”
First Cabin on Sunrise Road