Rosetta McFadden, left, leads a group of children during her final graduation ceremony at Kinderland Thursday while her daughter, Malah McFadden, center, watches. The two owners of Kinderland, which began in Carson City in 1964, are retiring and have called on Caitlin Castaneda to take over the business, who will be reopening the preschool later this summer as Kinderland Cottage. (Photo: Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal)
Rosetta McFadden’s final Kinderland class waved their flags singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and some of the children happily received their certificates in cap and gown as they graduated from the daycare last week.
Afterward, the kids’ proud parents cheered them on and said their heartfelt goodbyes to McFadden and her daughter Malah, who announced their retirement to Oregon on their final day and celebration with their last class after 57 years of operating Kinderland in Carson City.
“It really is bittersweet,” Rosetta said afterward. “I thought I’d really enjoy teaching and seeing … kids grow up and learning how to give and take. It’s been a good group. They really have done well learning and playing. It’s bittersweet to give it up and to realize we have produced an environment for them here to enjoy.”
Carson City’s ‘old school’
Parents who enjoyed bringing their youngest children to Kinderland liked the quality early start they were receiving from Rosetta and Malah McFadden and their staff.
Sheldon Bloomer was one of the students to graduate from Kinderland this year and will be enrolling in kindergarten in Riverview Elementary School in Dayton in the fall. His father, Billy Bloomer, said it’s because Kinderland is “old school” that he and his wife kept Sheldon.
“He’s enjoyed every bit of it,” Bloomer said. “He’s always so happy to come. … He sits down and does his homework. He’s real focused. When I pick him up or his mom picks him up, he’s always excited on what he learns. … He sings like crazy in the back of the car. They’re real tight, real engaging. The students engage with the teachers. It’s a great, great program they’ve got going on there.”
Antonio and Cristal Rubio, also celebrating their daughter’s graduation to kindergarten as she prepares for Mark Twain Elementary School in the fall, called Kinderland similar to Carson City School District’s JumpStart program for the younger children.
The Rubios said the big advantage the McFaddens’ program provides to the children is “imagination.”
“They really get them outside, they’re not stuck on computers,” Antonio Rubio said of his 5-year-old daughter Alizae. “She wants to be outside.”
Antonio said he’s had six members of his family graduate or work through the program, including his mother, aunt and a cousin. His oldest child also graduated three years ago.
The couple also said it’s bittersweet to see the McFaddens leave since it’s rare to see their hands-on, engaging approach with the children.
“Our kids don’t want to go home,” he said. “They want to be outside digging in the dirt. … We love them. They’ve been part of the family. … We love what they taught them.”
A need for teaching
Rosetta McFadden opened Kinderland with her husband in 1964 on King Street before moving to Curry Street. At the time, Malah was in the school herself. She grew up and joined her mother in ownership with Kinderland, but Rosetta said running the school on such a longterm basis was never an aspiration.
However, the school grew almost solely by word of mouth.
“There was such a need for it, and it just grew,” she said. “I remember thinking they need some teaching,” Rosetta said. “I felt like it was given to me. It’s been a good plan to do.”
She said with storytime and projects and “lots of play,” she always appreciated the help she and her daughter received to help teach all of the students they had come to the school throughout the years, not even sure how many they ever had, but knowing there were so many papers and momentos from every tradition they’ve created.
“There were elaborate programs,” Rosetta said in building Kinderland. “We had fun. I’ve slowed down somewhat. We ran it like we’ve done it at the recreational center. We used to do Thanksgiving there. People would bring part of the lunch like Indians and pilgrims with tables and tablecloths and decorations. People would put on a little program.”
Although certain traditions became more expensive as the years went on, some stayed in place, like the annual Leprechaun Parade for St. Patrick’s Day in March in which students would run or ride bicycles or scooters around the block and Curry Street. And although attendance often wavered with each school year and needs changed, Rosetta said Kinderland stayed the course even if she often felt uncertain. This year during the pandemic was particularly difficult.
“We had about 10 (children) … I felt like I was shaken up during that time,” she said. “I wasn’t quite sure where I was.”
Path to Kinderland Cottage
The McFaddens originally thought the school might close once they retired, presuming the name “Kinderland” might be finished with them. But they reached out to Caitlin Castaneda, a Carson City native with four children and aspirations to open a childcare facility of her own with a niece Nancy Rodriguez through marriage in the area. She earned her associate’s degree at Western Nevada College and transferred to Western Governor’s University to get her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.
“My daughter went here when I was teaching at Bordewich (Bray Elementary School), and they have such a community here,” Castaneda said. “We have had three generations go here.”
Last November, when she learned about the possibility about taking over Kinderland from the McFaddens, Castaneda said at the time it almost seemed likely she would have had to reapply for a position with the Carson City School District, but she was excited to try this avenue instead in west Carson, “where it’s all happening,” she said.
“It’s where I grew up, which is kind of why I was honored when they called me and asked,” she said.
Castaneda says she intends to keep many of the same programs and graduations intact and will stay in the North Curry Street location for now with a goal to expand the business to include infants and toddlers eventually. She will reopen in August as Kinderland Cottage so as to respect the original name while adding a new “twist” on the business, she said.
“Eventually, we will move out,” she said. “We want to keep that home, comforting feeling.”
Rosetta McFadden has confidence Castaneda will carry on Kinderland’s traditions with passion, she said.
“We feel she’s a good one to take over,” Rosetta said. “She enjoys the children and she has their interest in mind. I never thought that would happen. I thought we would close down. I thought what do they do with all this stuff? It’s been a godsend to us.
“All my papers, I’ve been going through things, sorting it out and putting things together and taking things we want to keep. I can’t quite take it in.”
‘Six degrees of separation’
Rosetta said they plan to retire to the small woodland town of Newberg, Oregon, about 30 minutes from Portland. While Rosetta was born and raised in Kansas, she attended college in Newberg then went to Portland and taught Portland. Malah then was born in Portland.
“It’s a beautiful place,” Rosetta said. “And here, if we stayed, we’d always be Kinderland. We want to be something else. I don’t know what all we’d do. … I heard on TV and read in the paper that said Newberg is a nice little community, and I thought that with many people working at a Christian college, it’d be a nice community. I’m looking forward to my retirement.”
Rosetta’s final words to the community were to thank everyone for supporting her and Malah for supporting them for all they’ve done.
“We’ve appreciated that,” she said. “We’ve never lacked for applicants once we got started. It was always full. We had to take a rain check, put them on a waiting list, but they’ve done us well.”
Malah McFadden said she’ll “miss the relationships.”
“Carson City is six degrees of separation,” she said. “You always know somebody. So many years … all the children we’ve gotten to know and we’ve been part of their lives and to watch them grow and start them at this age. I love that connection to their lives and seeing them mature and grow into the person they become. … I have no idea how many kids we’ve had, but we’ve had a few stop by who’ve heard we’re retiring and wish us well. We got a card from a family in Florida. She’d heard we were retiring. The news has traveled.”
The McFaddens will hold a barbecue from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 26 at Bowers Mansion, which serves as an opportunity for the community to say farewell to Rosetta and Malah McFadden before they depart to Oregon. The King of Kings food truck will be available at the event.
Also, a GoFundMe campaign has been set up as a thank you to the McFaddens for community members who would like to provide a donation in celebration for their service to the community. An opportunity to share memories or photos also is available on the site by going to www.freefunder.com/campaign/a-farewell-to-kinderland.