Calisa Tucker

Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Ann Arbor and grew up in Chelsea. I’d be in Michigan during the school year with my mom and stepfather and then in Toronto, Ontario, for summer with my father, stepmother, and two sisters.

Tell us a little more about your family.
My mother worked as a clerk in the Saint Joseph Mercy system, and my stepfather was a school financial manager in the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and in other districts. Any spare time he had he would spend learning about the Civil War. My father was a newspaper editor and today is still writing poetry. My stepmother taught English for a college in Toronto and then became a grant writer for Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey. I have two younger siblings. Emily is a social justice lawyer working on immigration issues, and Amy is a stay-at-home mom with two little girls.

When did you decide to become a teacher?
I studied industrial engineering at the University of Michigan and after graduating worked for Ford Motor Company for three years. The work I was doing there inspired me to look for an alternative way of educating children.

What got you interested in the Waldorf model?
Through my work at Ford, I met Peter Senge, an MIT organizational learning researcher who wrote The Fifth Discipline. At a conference, he asserted that we need a new pedagogical paradigm, that children need to be educated in a holistic way that blends art and science. I had always wanted to be a teacher, so I set out to find an education that would help me teach children in this way.

What do you teach at the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor?
I’ve been a class teacher for the past seventeen years, which means I have twice taken a class from first through eighth grade. During those two eight-year journeys, I taught nearly everything—language arts, math, science, geography, social studies, art, music, drama, and so on. Class teachers are professional novices, because we are always teaching a new grade and the children are constantly growing and developing. It is challenging and enlivening to constantly prepare for class and to strive to keep up with the children. It is also highly rewarding to stay with the same group of children for eight years.

And you met Gary through work?
Right, Gary and I met through a Waldorf teaching course about twelve years ago. He has been an avid cyclist since he was young and got me into biking. I bike to town and to church, but I haven’t yet biked to school—too much to carry!

What got you interested in Nepal?
During one of those eight-year class journeys, one of my students was living off and on in Nepal. Her parents are social justice doctors and invited us to visit. Since Gary and I both love hiking and mountains—he’s from Colorado—the Himalayas beckoned.

Tell us something interesting about you that no one at Saint James knows.
From my first marriage, I was blessed with two children—Abby and Jack. Abby is a junior at Kalamazoo College. Jack is a senior at the Rudolf Steiner High School. They both play basketball for their schools, so when basketball season begins, I spend a lot of time indoors watching games.