After 25 years of teaching at WSP, Mrs. Roberta “Bobbi” Konefal-Shaer to retire in June 2021.
Dear WSP Families and Friends,
After 25 years of teaching at WSP, we extend a huge heartfelt thank you to our beloved Mrs. Roberta “Bobbi” Konefal-Shaerwho will retire in June of 2021. When asked what WSP students think about or remember about her teaching them, we heard the following:
“When we were learning on Zoom, I had a really hard time knitting my lamb, and she came over to my house and spent a whole hour helping me. I feel like that was really nice of her. She rode her bike all the way to my house.”
“Amazing, terrific, loving, helpful, and kind. Best handwork teacher in the whole entire world! Stupendous in every way. The best knitter in the world. If you feel a little sad about your work, she can help you fix the problem.”
“Mrs. Konefal-Shaer had a clear system to teaching.”
“I used to keep dropping stitches and she would always come [to me] and help, and as soon as she left, I would raise my hand again. She always kept coming back.”
“She has a great stock of rhymes for remembering stitches.”
With 20 years of experience as a teacher and Supervisor of Programs for the Hearing Impaired with Pittsburgh Public Schools, Bobbi Konefal-Shaer first came to WSP in 1994 with her young daughter, Lara, to attend the Play Group, a weekly gathering of mothers with their children when the school was on the South Side. Soon Bobbi brought her second daughter, Irina, to the group and in 1997, became the Play Group leader. In the years to come, this group would grow into our current Morning Garden program.
In 1998, Mrs. Konefal-Shaer added Director for State Compliance to her positions at the school and the following year was asked by the handwork teacher if she would serve as a yearlong substitute for her while she traveled to Hungary for a year. Mrs. Konefal-Shaer had sewn all her life and was known as a knitter and crocheter. She was honored to be asked to teach and happily agreed to the position. The following year, the handwork teacher decided to remain in Hungary, and Bobbi became the permanent Handwork teacher.
Several years later, Mrs. Konefal-Shaer would also become a class teacher when a class was in need.
Left: Mrs. Konefal-Shaer with the 5th Grade class of 2003 during commencement on the former WSP South Side play yard.; Right: Mrs. Konefal-Shaer with the 5th Grade class of 2002–2003.
Serving where needed became a theme for Bobbi’s time at WSP. There were many years when the school—without enough money to pay the rent and pay teachers’ salaries—faced the strong possibility of closing. Mrs. Konefal-Shaer remembers many spring gatherings of faculty and parents, where a hat was passed around to collect funds to cover what was needed. During those difficult years, faculty often accepted pay cuts in the spring.
Bobbi’s mother taught her “how to scrimp and save” and her grandmother taught her to go to resale shops to find knitted items that could be undone, washed, and dried to use the yarn again. For many years, the school did not have the means to purchase handwork supplies, so Bobbi found or supplied the materials herself. She said, “We just figured it out. There was always a way.” Bobbi shared, “The COVID-19 pandemic has also taught us that.”
Left: Mrs. Konefal-Shaer teaching handwork to Grade 2 via Zoom.; Right: Masked and in the classroom, Mrs. Konefal-Shaer takes a moment with a third grader, as the student models the hat they have knit in her class.
“For a long time, it felt like the school was a second home to me. It’s the other place where I feel so comfortable. It’s where I'm used to unfolding….I loved the idea that teachers meditate. This means they had divine inspiration. Their source is clear. Of course, we all have work to do, but David (my husband) and I felt we wanted to support the school almost no matter what. Our lives are so rich because we’ve had the school as our soil, and we get to grow because we’re planted in this amazing place. I have been so blessed.”
The Waldorf School of Pittsburgh has been so blessed to have Mrs. Konefal-Shaer as a teacher and parent in the school. We hope Bobbi will always remember the impact she has had on the people and spirit of this school. As two different third graders shared, “She was the best handwork teacher! She gave me confidence!” and “I remember that she encouraged me to keep going. I will miss her.”
With a grateful heart,
Head of School
Dying yarn for handwork in 2011.
Left: In 2013, Grade 2 worked with Mrs. Konefal-Shaer to make gnomes.; Right: Mrs. Konefal-Shaer with Kirsten Christopherson-Clark at the Assembly for Scarves of Universal Peace in 2005.
The Assembly for Scarves of Universal Peace in 2005.
A collection of students and the handwork they created with Mrs. Konefal-Shaer.