Cynthia founded LifeWays North America in 2001. Co-author of the book Home Away From Home: LifeWays Care of Children and Families, Cynthia has lectured and presented internationally, directs trainings and seminars across the United States, and is an Adjunct Faculty member at Rudolf Steiner College in California. She served fourteen years on the board of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America, is a member of the National Association for Family Child Care and a supporter of the Alliance for Childhood. A former Waldorf Kindergarten teacher, Cynthia received her Waldorf teaching certificate at Emerson College in Sussex, England. A mother and grandmother, Cynthia’s passion is the preservation of the playful spirit of childhood and helping to create home-like environments that provide the comfort, security and activities found in a healthy home.
Meet Our Training Team
Marianne is the Director of the California Coast LifeWays Early Childhood Training. She has been involved in Waldorf education for nearly 40 years as a mother, early childhood teacher and facilitator of Waldorf parenting groups. She holds a B.A. in English and attended Emerson College in England, a center for Waldorf teacher training. Much of Marianne’s focus and interest has been on all things early childhood. She was a co-founder of The Ark (Fair Oaks, CA) in 1977, one of the first Waldorf toy stores in North America. The growing interest in Waldorf education in this country led her to become the first Managing Editor of Renewal, A Journal for Waldorf Education. For 15 years Marianne developed and led parent support groups in the Sacramento, CA area and for the past 7 years she has taught in the San Francisco Waldorf School Parenting program.
When her own children were young, Mary had a LifeWays home program with such a long waiting list that she decided a LifeWays center was necessary. In 2002, she opened LifeWays Early Childhood Center in Milwaukee where she still works alongside a wonderful staff of caregivers.
Mary has a business degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a student in the very first LifeWays training. She is a consultant for LifeWays North America, serves on the board, directs the Wisconsin LifeWays Training, and in 2010 co-authored Home Away From Home: LifeWays Care of Children and Families with Cynthia Aldinger.
Mary’s favorite thing about LifeWays is seeing both children and their caregivers thrive in a home-like environment that truly values and respects them.
Rosario Villasana, M.A., is Faculty at City College of San Francisco at the Mission Campus Child Development Center, Adjunct Professor at San Francisco State University and Early Childhood Consultant. She is Community Programs Coordinator for Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, CA and directs the LifeWays en Español caregiver training program focusing on development of curriculum materials in Spanish and community programs and outreach. Rosario is a member of the Board of Directors of LifeWays NorthAmerica and President of the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Childhood. She has conducted training and staff development in Rudolf Steiner based education in China and Mexico as well as throughout the United States. Rosario is the happy mother of two Waldorf graduates; a son, Eduardo and daughter, Lucia.
Ashley's life has revolved around working with children and their families. After growing up in her mother's home care program, she obtained a degree in Art Education and taught in public schools. During this time, she felt a strong pull towards early childhood education. She went on to become a preschool teacher, Director of a large childcare center, student of Anthroposophy and Board member for two Waldorf school initiatives (in CO and NC). Ashley worked at the Santa Fe Waldorf School, was the lead Waldorf early childhood teacher at Azalea Mountain School, led parent-tot classes and operated a home-based LifeWays summer playgroup. Now homeschooling her two sons, Ashley continues to incorporate her LifeWays work into their daily lives. She is thrilled to help bring the LifeWays training to western NC, a dream since she completed her training in 2010. Ashley also enjoys traveling, gardening, hiking, handwork, and shooting slingshots with her husband and boys.
Bianca began her career in banking and business administration while attending Mira Costa College studying pre-law. With the birth of her eldest son and upon finding a pioneering Waldorf school in her area in 2001, she promptly got involved and obtained a certificate of training for Waldorf Administration from Sunbridge College. She went on to serve in nearly every position available in a Waldorf School from bookkeeper to handwork teacher but found her "home" in the early childhood classrooms. Seeing the lack of Steiner based care for the very young child in the county, she proclaimed that if she ever had another child, she would found a LifeWays center. That day came with the birth of her youngest son in 2007. Bianca completed the LifeWays training at Rudolf Steiner College and founded San Diego's first LifeWays center for young children that same year.
Laura Cassidy taught in the Early Childhood Department of Prairie Hill Waldorf School in Pewaukee, WI, for 22 years, 8 of those as a lead kindergarten teacher. She founded the school's "WonderGarden" preschool and taught in the parent-child playgroup, assisted in grade one, and continues to teach calligraphy to sixth graders. She is a core faculty member of the Great Lakes Waldorf Institute for teacher training.
Laura has a B.A. in English, graduated from the very first LifeWays training with Cynthia Aldinger, and took the 3-Year Gradalis Early Childhood Therapeutic Education Course with Bonnie River, Nancy Blanning, and Lori Clark. She is the mother of three grown Waldorf alumni. Laura has a deep love and is inspired by the fairy tales, her work as a calligraphy artist, and the archetypal artist and healer: Mother Nature.
Margo Running moved to North Vancouver, BC, Canada from Arizona in 2004. She has a degree in Early Childhood Education and Waldorf training in kindergarten teaching and daycare practices. She has worked with children in summer camps, created a new kindergarten and play yard, and run a home childcare business in Arizona. She came to Vancouver to set up and coordinate the first Infant-Toddler Program in a Waldorf school that goes to grade 12. She is now director of LifeWays Childcare Society, a Representative Center of LifeWays North America and a member of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America. Margo is completing the ECE degree program at Capilano University. Her interests also include communication and relationship models as well as sociology and the culture of childhood.
Rena Osmer, M.A., has been passionate about Waldorf early childhood education since completing her training in 1985, and has taught children, parents, and teachers for many years. She is keenly interested in innovative ideas and new initiatives and has served the national development of Waldorf early childhood as WECAN Board Member, founding Board member of Sophia’s Hearth, and LifeWays North America Board member.
Rena’s career began on the eastern seaboard in Wilton, NH at the Pine Hill Waldorf School, the Center For Anthroposophy and Antioch New England. On the west coast she worked for Rudolf Steiner College as Director of Early Childhood Education and the LifeWays Children’s Center.
In 2005, Rena moved to the Florida sub-tropics where she currently teaches kindergarten in a new Waldorf initiative, Sea Star School, in Boca Raton. She continues to mentor Waldorf early childhood endeavors, and teaches at various Waldorf Early childhood training centers in the summer months.
Suzanne Down is Director of the Boulder Based Lifeways Training in Colorado. She has been involved with the early childhood Waldorf movement for 30 years in different capacities - Teaching in early childhood in Waldorf schools, owner of her own home preschool, as Director of Juniper Tree School of Story and Puppetry Arts, as international ece conference speaker and presenter, and early childhood therapeutic puppetry pioneer. She mentors early childhood teachers in schools and is resident puppetry teacher at the Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten. She has been teaching language development/story/puppetry in all of the Lifeways training centers for years, and will continue doing that as well as develop and direct the training in Boulder. Her passions are creativity in the fiber arts, especially all aspects of felting, writing and presenting stories for children, and teaching adults, which has been her specialty for a long time!
You can follow her work at:
“LifeWays has had so much to offer my family as well as my visions of a business. You and your life work are one of the greatest teachers of my life...I have been waiting for you since the day my daughter was born. I will always hold a dear spot for you in my heart.” Lots of Love, Shelby Downing