You might not think starting a private school would be a dream come true but for Jill Guthrie that’s exactly what The Guthrie School is. Jill Guthrie, a long-time teacher and tutor, jumped off the cliff this past year and decided to pursue her passion and open a private elementary school in North Texas. Jill saw that there was a gap in the education offerings for Pre-K through 5th grade. She has designed The Guthrie School to fill that gap by engaging children in a traditional value setting with clearly defined methods to nurture curiosity, develop a work ethic and a love of learning. Jill’s passion for developing the young minds for the future comes through in my conversation with her.
Q. What is your background in education?
A. I was a valedictorian of my high school class and graduated magna cum laude from UTD with a major in English and minor in math. After graduating from college, I began my teaching career by student-teaching 8th and 9th grade math in Wichita Falls, Texas. Then I immediately moved to the United Kingdom with my husband and very young children where I learned the key differences in the early education system between the U.S. education process and the British process. In the U.K. I worked with a start up pre-school where I learned a number of valuable lessons in educating children and running a school. When I returned to the states I worked in a preschool and began tutoring out of my house. For over 20 years I have been working with my tutoring business called Guthrie Gifted Education (GGE). GGE kept growing and growing to the point that we moved out of my house into a separate building. And from that we are now set to open a unique and innovative elementary school.
Q. How did you decide to open The Guthrie School?
A. When I was a little girl about 6 or 8 years old, my dad built me a playhouse in my backyard and I turned it into a schoolhouse. All the neighborhood kids would come over and I ran my first school. I have known from that point on that this was my calling in life. For years my students’ parents have told me to start my own school and they would be there. I finally listened. This truly is my life long dream come true.
Q. I know you are dedicated to your students and that you have been working for the last 6 years from 7:00 am – 8:00 pm seven days a week. How have you been able to fit in the time to open this new school?
A. This has been a labor of love from my whole family along with some wonderful people who have worked with me to accomplish this dream. My daughter Meredith, who has also been a kindergarten teacher and tutor for many years, has been instrumental is getting a lot of the details taken care of for the opening of the new school. My oldest son, Sam, who just finished his law degree at University of Virginia, has helped with the legalities and word-smithing materials. My younger son, Ben, has been a tutor during breaks and was critical in helping with the hiring process, while getting his degree at The College of William and Mary. My husband, Zack, has been a key inspirational voice who has been telling me for years that I need to make this school a reality and taking care of all the details that allow me to focus on this opening. And most importantly the warm and wonderful staff and teachers of my current tutoring school have all contributed to opening the doors to more students for a well-rounded education using our successful methods.
Q. What makes The Guthrie School so unique?
A. Collaborative learning in small groups makes this a unique learning environment. The key thing that drives me to keep The Guthrie School at the high standards we have set is finding the teachers who feel the same passion for educating children that I have. I feel great responsibility to find dedicated, passionate educators who can provide the education that the children of our community deserve.
Q. What is different about the curriculum at The Guthrie School?
A. We have developed cross-curricular connections integrating each subject into the broader world around us. We have project-based learning that incorporate all subjects in a hands-on, challenging manner. We also offer foreign language all the way through our school starting at 4 years of age and that is not typical. The class size is significantly lower than public or many other private schools. We also employ both the Socratic method of teaching with the Harkness style of classroom to fully engage our students and more successfully develop their oral language skills. The Harkness style of classroom is one large oval table for all students and the teacher for collaborative learning. Some teachers call the outcome spider-webbing. The concepts bounce back and forth across the table where children are empowered to express themselves with their peers and the teacher.
Q. Marketing for a new school or any private school is an important part of being successful. Who is your target market?
A. Any parent of a Pre-K through 5th grade student who wants the very best in academic and educational excellence for their child.
Q. How have most of the students come to your school so far?
A. Honestly, referrals have been the strongest method of student recruiting. Referrals have allowed us to grow to the point we need a full campus for The Guthrie School. We have done some local DFW advertising. We have held open houses at our new building and others in the homes of our wonderful students’ parents. We just launched a new website at guthrieschool.com to help people learn more about us. We are a family business after all and want the whole family to get a chance to look at us. (Full disclosure here …bloomfield knoble designed this website for The Guthrie School.) In the future we will continue to rely on the word of our happy families who want to share with friends and family the benefits of The Guthrie School education.
Q. When does The Guthrie School’s new campus open?
A. We are excited to open the new campus June 9th for summer school sessions and begin regular fall classes on August 26, 2014. Our open house in on August 25th.
Thank you, Jill for sharing your passion for education. For more information about The Guthrie School go to their website at GuthrieSchool.com. They are located 598 Old Custer Road. On the north edge of Plano, Texas. Or call 972-596-6929.
Luann Boggs is the Vice President of Business Development for bloomfield knoble. She works with new and existing accounts as a liaison between client and creative. Her favorite part of the job is meeting and working with interesting and intelligent people. Her personal interests are family, friends, good books and travel including all 50 states and over 25 countries.