Local preschoolers have kept Yvonne de Maat – Ms. Yve to her students – on her toes for 20 years.
Working with 3- to 5-year-olds never gets old. “I’ve never met the same kid. I respect the gifts and the challenges of each, and no one size fits all.” That’s what attracted her to the Waldorf method of teaching 30 years ago.
The Holland native moved to the U.S. in 1990, where she trained and began practice as a Waldorf educator. She set down roots in Portland in 2000 and opened Heart in Hand Preschool in 2002 in her home at 5405 N.E. 30th Ave.
“This neighborhood seemed like such fertile ground for this kind of education. It just speaks to people in this neighborhood.”
According to Yvonne, the Waldorf method launches a holistic approach to life. “Everything is really beautiful, everything is made of natural materials, and it’s a very nurturing environment,” she explained.
She finds the creative approach to play teaches children how to socialize. “The children figure out who they are in relationship to others. They learn to be strong human beings and compassionate human beings.
“If you are happy in your own skin, you can undertake whatever you want,” she explained. “It all starts with confidence.”
Two morning classes comprise Heart in Hand, one taught by Yvonne and the other by Sandra Paz – Signora Sandra. Six children enroll in each.
Yvonne weaves a rhythm into each day. One day a week the children knead and shape sour dough that they bake the next day to make their sandwiches.
During the six-week mandatory COVID-19 shutdown in 2020, children missed the bread making. So Yvonne offered porch pick up of some of her 27-year-old starter. Along with it went video instructions. Even non-students enjoyed the activity – and the results.
It’s old-fashioned play at Heart in Hand. Children build tiny houses and airplanes, participate in puppet plays, engage in crafts and join in on games.
Signora Sandra, who grew up in Mexico, offers Spanish immersion in her classroom. Sara Harkness – Ms Sara – offers craft lessons in both and teaches parent-child classes.. “There’s no screen play here, or radios even,” Yvonne pointed out.
The feedback she receives is positive – from parents and grown students. “I still get invited for graduation parties, and I show up with photo albums and some stories,” she reported. “They all remember baking the bread and the chickens I used to have.”
Has she welcomed any second-generation students? Not yet, she said. “That would be amazing.”
Nancy Varekamp is semiretired from her career in journalism, public relations and – her favorite work engagement – writing and editing targeted newsletters.