The Hartsbrook School

Tess Harrison, ’08

Conversation with Tess Harrison, ‘08
What years/grades did you attend the Hartsbrook School?
My family moved to MA from Ithaca, NY my junior year, so I was at Hartsbrook for my last two years of high school. I was also at another Waldorf school for early childhood through 5th grade in Ithaca.

What do you think was unique about the Hartsbrook experience that you might not have had at another school? Hartsbrook was important to my intellectual growth as a young person. Before I came to Hartsbrook I was doing fine in my public school, getting great grades and having a lovely experience. But I was exclusively focused and inspired by my experiences in theatre at school, and not at all by my academics. When I came to Hartsbrook, I was challenged in new ways intellectually. I wasn’t OK to do a fine job on a paper or presentation and receive a good grade; I had to do an excellent job. The teachers at Hartsbrook have very high standards for their students, and at first I was intimidated by the work I saw my peers doing. The care they put into their assignments and class participation was above anything I had seen in school before. I was gracefully inspired to put in more effort and because of this was able to rise to the occasion. My time at Hartsbrook helped me understand that I am capable of succeeding in every area. I am an artist, but I am also an excellent critical thinker. It was an exciting time and ultimately led to me to choose a rigorous liberal arts college.

What are you doing now? In what ways did your experience at Hartsbrook influence your choice for education and interests beyond high school?
Hartsbrook directly inspired my choice to attend Eugene Lang College. I had always thought I would choose to attend a four-year conservatory program in theatre. But I chose to study theatre at Lang, a liberal arts college, to continue to develop the critical thinking skills that were so essential to my time at Hartsbrook. I chose the college for its seminar style classes and diverse course offerings. I studied theatre, philosophy, education, literature and film. Now I work in the film industry as a filmmaker and actress. My first short film, It’s Perfect Here, which I produced, wrote, directed and acted in alongside my brother, Will, has won a Best Shorts Award and been selected to screen at several film festivals both nationally and in the UK. I am currently in post on my second short and have been acting in film since graduating from college in 2012. Two things I attribute to my Waldorf education that I can see help in my professional life daily are my ability to collaborate and my inclination to offer help. When you are part of a Waldorf community these may not seem like unique things, but in my work it is surprising to see that most people do not try to offer more than is expected of them, and they are not intuitively good at creative collaboration. These skills are central to the Waldorf pedagogy and I use them constantly. It is surprising, but these basic life skills give me a huge leg up on the competition of folks who are not inclined in this way.

Do you have any special Hartsbrook memory that stands out or that you would like to share with other current or potential students?
What stands out the most about my time at Hartsbrook is the accepting and supportive community. Both the students and teachers welcomed me with such warmth and expressed genuine interest. They truly wanted to know me as an individual and what I had to say. This was so valuable both for my own development and also as a model for how to reach out to others.