About Us

Estes Children’s Cottage is owned and operated by mother and daughter, Cathy and Michelle Tuttle. Our faculty includes three additional teachers who have education related to, and past experiences working with, children and families. Our small faculty work together to nurture each child’s growth and development while shaping the journey based on each of our unique interests and passions. An important aspect of our program is membership in professional organizations for all faculty as well as attendance at continuing education courses, professional study groups, workshops and conferences. Our program is also enriched by university student teachers as they complete internships as part of their degree work.

Cathy Tuttle, Owner and Director

M.Ed. Early Childhood Education with an Administrative Emphasis, BS Applied Mathematics, AA Early Childhood Education, Administrative Credential Level III

The development of young children has been a passionate interest of mine for over thirty years. Although I initially obtained a degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Colorado, I received a second degree in Early Childhood Education while raising my own two children. I nurtured my daughter’s interest in working with young children while I embarked on the career of early childhood educator. We began attending the National Association for the Education of Young Children ("NAEYC") annual conference together in 1995, as part of my goal of showing Michelle the professionalism that exists amongst early childhood educators. We enjoyed learning from the leaders of our field.

I have taught two- and three-year-olds and been an administrator in a church-based preschool, a large corporate center and an intergenerational non-profit center. To facilitate the development of highest quality childcare for all children, I became a validator with NAEYC, after achieving accreditation at my first center, visiting over 30 programs in a year. Michelle and I attended a study tour to Reggio Emilia, Italy before opening our program. I completed my Masters in Education at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont through a distance-learning program, graduating in May 2013.

My husband, David, and I relocated to Chapel Hill from Raleigh to find the unique location and home to develop Estes Children’s Cottage, a shared dream with my daughter and supported by our family.

Michelle Tuttle, Owner and Lead Teacher

M.Ed. Early Childhood Intervention and Family Support, BS Child Development Birth through Kindergarten, NC Teaching License, Mary Y. Bridgers Teacher Award Winner

I graduated from Appalachian State University with my Bachelor’s degree in May 2005. I have worked with young children in a variety of settings, including corporate child care centers, family child care, non-profit child intergenerational care, public school Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, University laboratory school, in-home, Head Start, Montessori and Reggio-Inspired programs. I have wanted to work with young children since I was barely out of early childhood myself. By the time I was eight years old, I dreamt of owning my own child care center.

In the field of early childhood, I have specific passions for the areas of toddler development, physical environments, the municipal programs of Reggio Emilia, Italy, documentation and visiting all types of child care settings. I have served on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Association for the Education of Young Children, am a member of the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance and have attended the annual national NAEYC conferences since I was twelve years old. I graduated with my Masters of Education for Experienced Teachers in Early Childhood Intervention and Family Support from UNC-Chapel Hill in May of 2010. In 2022 I was awarded the Mary Y. Bridgers Early Childhood Teacher Award.

I have three children who spent their formative years at Estes Children's Cottage and live in Durham with my husband Ricky Hargrave, a Realtor for Fonville Morisey and juvenile court counselor.

At Estes Children's Cottage, families are our partners. We believe that the collaboration of families, faculty and children provides the bests possible learning environment for our students.

Our additional faculty members are selected with care to meet our needs philosophically and educationally. They help us to provide a low child to teacher ratio for optimal caregiving. We value consistency and long-serving staff members. Each teacher brings his or her own passions to the position and is an important member of the Estes Children's Cottage community, forming relationships with the children and families.

Student teachers enrolled in a practicum or internship may join our program to gain a valuable learning experience and to enrich our program with their coursework.