News » Whistler

Alta Lake School doubles in size, hires Celtic harpist


The Alta Lake School, Whistler's Waldorf-inspired independent school, has more than doubled in size since opening its doors last September. When classes start on Monday, there will be one new teacher and 11 new students, for a total of two teachers and 21 students – 10 in kindergarten and 11 in Grades 1-4.

Last year's grade school teacher, Janet Goldammer, will be returning, and a new teacher, Dorota Ignaszewska, will be joining the school to teach the kindergarten class.

Originally from Poland, Ignaszewska (IG-NA-SHEV-SKA) brings a wealth of musical experience to her teaching. As a youngster, she toured Europe as part of a chamber music ensemble. She then studied philosophy in Poland; English in Cambridge, England; and Waldorf Education in New York.

Prior to coming to Whistler, Ignaszewska taught music at the Sunrise Waldorf School in Duncan, B.C., as well as operating her own toy-making business. Her specialty was wooden toys.

"All of my toys were made from natural materials and were very simple," she says. "They brought the essence of a human being, fairy tale figure or animal. A child with imagination can fill in the details and imbue a simple toy with life."

Just prior to the birth of her daughter, Lenna, seven years ago, Ignaszewska started playing the Celtic harp and she will be using her harp in the kindergarten, both as a storytelling tool and as a means of introducing music to the students. She has constructed several special child-sized harps for use in the classroom.

"Playing with tones with simple instruments lays the foundation for later musicianship," says Ignaszewska. She has just returned from a conference at Sunbridge College in New York where Waldorf music teachers from across North America gathered to learn about new techniques for teaching music to children of all ages.

In addition to using her harp at the Alta Lake School, Ignaszewska hopes to be able to share what she calls the "healing energy" of the harp. In the past, she has played her harp for birthing mothers and seriously ill people. She will be performing at the Farmer's Market in Whistler, as well as offering workshops to teach parents (and grandparents) how to build a children's harp.

The Alta Lake School will be operating for a second year from a facility on the West Side Road in Whistler. There are still two spaces available in the grade school and one space in the kindergarten. Anyone interested in finding out more can contact the school at 604-932-2225.