Nurturing A Love to Learn
In the heart of Spring Branch you’ll find a quaint little pre-school with big results. It’s called the Country Classroom, and since opening its doors in the fall 1999 the trail of student success stories that has followed is one to make our community proud. Each year twelve students from ages 4-5 begin their learning adventure. It is one that allows each student to be themselves, learn at their own pace and be given the right amount of guidance to bring them up to a readiness to start Kindergarten with an advanced love of learning and an eagerness to success.
Director/Teacher, Kim Crutcher first opened The Country Classroom in St. Hedwig, Texas before relocating to Spring Branch in 2002. The Branch Texas met with “Mrs. Kim” as her students call her to learn more.
What is the basic teaching style at the Country Classroom?
I like to vary my teaching strategies and classroom activities so I can reach all of the different learning styles of my students. Each child learns in a different way, but I do believe preschoolers benefit the most from a hands-on, more student-centered approach. Learning should be engaging and most of all it should be fun! It’s one thing to talk about a letter of the week but if a child is sculpting that letter out of play dough or building that letter using Legos it’s going to have more of an impact than just talking about it. To help emphasize the short i sound I had them pretend they were inchworms who crawled into a fire ant bed and became “itchy inchworms”. They thought it was hilarious, but those giggles helped them to remember the short i sound. If they are having a hard time remembering what sound “i” makes I can say…”what happened to the inchworm?”
Do you work with students individually who may be at a different place in their learning?
Yes, I do. I believe wholeheartedly that kids benefit a great deal when they have one on one and or small group time with their teacher. Since my class size is small it’s not difficult for me make time for this. I call this time “nap time buddies” since I’m doing this during our quiet/rest time. The kids love it because I teach in a game style format during buddy time. In their eyes it’s all fun and games but I know it’s much more than that.
Has your teaching style been the same since you started or have you grown as the district has implemented now approaches?
I believe my teaching style is the same, but at the same time I have had to adjust my Pre-K curriculum to keep in line with today’s more advanced Kindergarten curriculums. Today’s kindergarten is much different that the kindergarten of 20 years ago. Much more is expected of these little ones. My goal is to prepare them for what is ahead but at the same time let them be preschoolers.
How do you incorporate the Christian faith and values into your school?
I incorporate it into everything we do. We have Bible lessons, sing about Jesus and pray together, but most importantly I like to think that I incorporate it by my actions and how I expect their actions to be towards each other. We love like Jesus loved all day long. When those times come where as a class family we may need to ask for forgiveness we are learning to forgive as Jesus forgave too.
What have been some of the challenges lately?
The biggest challenge I face now as a Pre-Kinder teacher is meeting the demands of the higher kindergarten standards. I’ve been teaching 4 and 5 year olds for 27 years. The 4 year old brains and little bodies of today develop exactly the same way as the 4 year old did 27 years ago. What has changed is what adults expect these little brains and bodies to do. Developmental readiness cannot be taught. I try very, very hard to meet these new demands while at the same time letting these kids be preschoolers and doing those fun preschool things while they still can. It’s so important to let them be little.
Predominately word of mouth, the Country Classroom rarely starts a new school year with an empty seat, how should parents who would like to enroll their child prepare?
I think there is a misconception out there that you have to be on my waiting list for years in order to be able to enroll. That is not true. I begin enrolling students in October for my class that begins the following September. It is best to be on my waitlist a few months prior to that time so you are given the first opportunity to enroll but I encourage those who are interested to contact me anytime.
Kim’s dedication to her students’ futures does not end when they move on to Kindergarten. In 2013 Kim was so pleased to see her first group of students turn their tassels and graduate from high school. She had followed their successes along the way as she does with most of her students, still receiving up dates from the parents and students themselves throughout the years. In an effort to continue to show her love and support to her students, Kim created the The Country Classroom Scholarship to give back to the many families who have supported her preschool over the years.
So many young families have put their faith and trust in me to help teach, love and guide the most precious people in their lives. It is my prayer that I’ve blessed each of them in some way, but if I’m honest they are the ones who have blessed me. These kids may outgrow and leave preschool, but they each continue to have a special place in my heart. I do not forget them or their parents! It’s awesome to reconnect with them 12 years later even if only through a college scholarship application. It is incredible to see what amazing young men and young women they have grown up to be. They each have hopes and dreams and I want to help in some small way to help them make those hopes and dreams a reality.
Funds for the scholarship are raised by other Country Classroom families and rewarded in the late summer of each year. There is an application process for graduating seniors that is then reviewed by the scholarship committee.
It’s a team effort- we are making it happen each year and hope to continue this for many years to come. My first scholarship recipient is graduating from Texas A&M soon! His parents… well, The Country Classroom would not be here if it were not for them. They trusted me first and I will always be grateful to them for that.
The Country Classroom runs from September to May and followed the Comal ISD calendar for days off. Classes meet Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30-3:30.
Kim inspires such a love for learning that is evident in the many families that have sent every one of their children to her.
“Our kids have been set up for success so well by her purposed and tender heart. Thank you!”
“The Country Classroom is a wonderful opportunity for preschool children. My son flourished there and learn so much. I am beyond grateful to be a part of the Country Classroom family.”
“She loved both of my girls where they were, saw where they needed to be and held their hand all year long to be sure they got there! To this day, whenever we are anywhere nearby they both say, ” can we stop and say HI to Ms. KIM?” It takes all I have to tell them another day… because frankly I want to hug her every chance I get too! (Usually in the produce aisle at HEB)”
“Teachers who love teaching, teach children to love learning. That is best gift she gave my kids.”