Beginning School

Preschool, Junior Kindergarten, and Kindergarten

Welcome from the Director

Gretchen PaulWelcome to the Beginning School!

The Beginning School offers a unique opportunity for students ages 3 through kindergarten to develop a foundation to become life-long learners in a warm, community-oriented, child-centered environment.

At the Beginning School, we take great pride in curating an experience for our youngest learners that is joyful and developmentally appropriate. With the help from our wonderful indoor and outdoor learning spaces, we cultivate a curriculum that captivates childrenā€™s curiosities, develops their passions, and builds on their strengths. We believe in the power of play to help children develop their language, social, and executive functioning skills, and our curriculum, which is guided by themes, is expansive and responsive, allowing teachers to respond to childrenā€™s questions and choices to guide their units.

Underlying all of the important learning that happens here at Renbrook is our strong community. In the Beginning School we value our close relationships with parents and with students above all, and it is these relationships that drew me to Renbrook and to the Beginning School. I look forward to sharing this wonderful place with you!



A New Englander by birth, Gretchen Paul grew up in Vermont before graduating from George Washington University with a BA in International Affairs and an MEd in Elementary Education. She also holds a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Lehigh University. Following teaching roles in early years and elementary programs in public and private schools, Gretchen's passion for travel and international education led her to teaching and administrative roles at the American School of Paris. For five years in France, Gretchen led the preschool through first grade program in all areas. Gretchen next moved to the American School of Torreon, Mexico, where she served as the Early Childhood Principal. In each of these roles, Gretchen developed a relational leadership style, a student-centered focus on play-based education, excellent parent partnership, and a passion for developing a strong academic foundation for young learners.

Gretchen believes all education, and especially that of our youngest students, should be student-centered, active, inquiry-driven, and joyful! Gretchen believes in the power of play to inspire and engage, and she brings her experience in play and outdoor learning to the Beginning School. As a director, Gretchen believes in a culture of community and trust and works with individuals and teams towards collective goals with the best interest of Renbrookā€™s students always at the center of decision making.

Gretchen lives with her son, Dean, a charming blue-eyed baby, and her dog, Millie, an old lady King Charles spaniel. When she is not at school, she enjoys traveling, being near the water, and exploring Connecticut with her little family!

Beginning School Students at Renbrook on the Dock


Our play-based approach encourages children, in partnership with teachers, to make discoveries about themselves and the world around them. Play is an essential component as children learn to socialize, communicate, make choices, show initiative, collaborate, observe, problem-solve, and ask questions.

Outdoor Learning

Nature is central to the learning experience at Renbrook. Being outside develops confidence and resiliency in students, providing authentic learning opportunities in math, science, literacy, and social studies. Our 75-acre campus is the backdrop for countless outdoor adventures in outdoor classrooms, on trails, and at the pond.


Every teacher in the Beginning School is focused on creating a strong sense of self for each child. The learning environment at Renbrook School is one of inclusivity. Honoring childrenā€™s humanity means helping them to understand themselves and to embrace others' unique qualities. Children develop the skills, knowledge, and strengths to advocate for themselves and others.