Award-Winning Teacher Starts Independent Kindergarten

IMG_2120Come this September, Kate McNutt will open her doors on Honeysuckle Drive to an independent kindergarten class. As for how this came about, the answer is McNutt was named Teacher of the Year back in 2013 and has a longstanding reputation as one of Corvallis’ standout educators.

What started in the 1974-’75 school year was not a job; it has been McNutt’s life. After a break to raise her children, she taught in Corvallis for 19 years. Around the time retirement started to approach, McNutt began telling colleagues and friends of her plans for a school based on the Reggio Emilia approach.

“I want the work that the kids do to be organic,” she said. This means that McNutt will not be using commercially prepared work books. “Everything they do will be in their journals.” The children will have a journal for sketches, projects, math, writing, and any other subject they do. There is an emphasis on art in the methods she has studied.

After retirement, McNutt and her husband went to the town of Reggio Emilia in northern Italy, which has a world-renowned school. The approach is based on children being “knowledge bearers,” eager to learn and explore, capable of having a hand in their own education. This philosophy, which combines several different forms of teaching, is the basis for McNutt’s kindergarten.

Not just anyone can open a school in Oregon. It requires more than a teaching degree. McNutt has been completing the requirements set forth by the Early Learning Division: background checks for everyone, first aid and CPR training, insurances—and the list goes on. She is turning her large downstairs space and backyard into a school.

In the garage are stacks of storage drawers, neatly labeled and orderly, grouped by subject. The home has an open design with lots of natural light. There will be an art studio, a workshop area with project tables, a reading area, and an open discussion area. A volunteer parent will be teaching violin, cello, and piano in the music room. In the backyard there are kindergarten-sized picnic tables. This area is what McNutt is most excited about. Not only does she want the children to learn from the garden, she also wants them to learn about bees and pollination and protecting habitat. There is a chicken coop, an herb garden, a pumpkin patch which the kids will plant, and a sunflower house.

“So now I have a real example,” she said. “Instead of just talking about it, I will be able to do it with them.” She plans to put labels on everything. “I want the garden to be like a specimen garden so that they can really learn about the plants,” she added.

There are only two spots left; drop-off will be 7:45 a.m., pick-up at 3 p.m. For students who need it, extended care is provided by a college student until 6 p.m.

For information, visit or call 541-231-5624.

By Dorothy Ocacio