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Meet Guide Ann Orsinger: Learning Community Inspires Personal Growth

How the Austin Guide found her ideal learning community and camaraderie among staff and students at ATI
Meet Guide Ann Orsinger: Learning Community Inspires Personal Growth

After Ann Orsinger finished high school at a Waldorf school in Colorado, she longed to teach at Waldorf. After she finished her undergraduate work at St. John’s College, she wanted to become a professor at St. John’s. But it wasn’t just that she loved the schools. Rather, she loved the way they approached education.

“I have always loved education that has a powerful and rich pedagogy and themes of developing the human being,” says Ann, who is lead humanities guide at ATI: Austin. “I was lucky to have so many of my teachers play a really significant role in my life, and I want to be able to do the same for others.”

Ann learned about ATI last spring, at a time when she was longing to find an educational community she could truly love and make a difference. She had been teaching philosophy and government at Austin Community College in Texas, but something was missing.

She was helping to put a pilot program in place, where students would read great texts and have deep, meaningful conversations to build community and intellectual engagement, all in their first year of school. There was excitement there, Ann saw potential, but the structure of the school left her feeling disconnected. She wasn’t building the kind of relationships she enjoyed as a student.

So she took a day off.

“I wanted to get my intentions clear,” she says. “I needed to reflect on my values, goals, and dreams. Was I actually doing what I wanted to be doing? Was I happy?”

Two days later, she happened upon an ad for ATI.

“And I couldn’t believe everything I would get to do as a guide and coach at ATI,” she says. “It was a 100 percent manifestation of my wildest dreams for a job. It was an amazing, amazing thing.”

There is so much power in the adolescent years. These students bring so much, they are wide open and just waiting for something to give their power to.

Ann teaches eighth through twelfth grade at ATI, spending time with students in both Socratic Humanities and Life Design, but she also created a new class, on art as a human narrative, where students create art and reflect on the creative process — both in art and in life.

And, she’s coaching students, too. Each week, she meets with them one-on-one for 30 minutes to check in and help them to navigate issues in academics, their social life, their family life, and to think about their broader goals.

“It’s been wonderful,” she says. “I really enjoy the process of developing close and trusting relationships with these students. It is incredibly rewarding.”

She understands the value of personal coaching, because she’s receiving it, too, working alongside her Head of School to focus on her own development as a teacher.

“It’s a very personal experience and powerful thing to have this time every week just to focus on my own development, and I see the students responding in the same way,” she says.

She's grateful to the students for the participation they've had in her own personal growth.

“There is so much power in the adolescent years," Ann says. "These students bring so much, they are wide open and just waiting for something to give their power to, and that’s a really big responsibility on us as guides and coaches, but it’s also really rewarding to be able to provide inspiration and to know that you could potentially affect the trajectory of their lives by helping them to consciously develop into who they want to become.”

Ann says the guides and staff at ATI make a great team for this endeavor.

“I feel like I’m part of a community of people with a shared love for education, building this thing we are all passionate about,” Ann says. “And we are all very different. We have different strengths and we are different in how we approach things. That could have been a challenge, but it has actually been really fantastic. We have created such a rich learning environment, not only for the students, but also for each other!”

At ATI, Ann has found the education and community of learners she was looking for all along.

“There is nothing more I want than this,” she says. “We are all working together, building something that really matters, and life just doesn’t get any better than that.”

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