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The Monteverde School (Berkeley, CA)

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Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Preschools & Daycare > The Monteverde School (Berkeley, CA)



Jan 2014

RE: Feedback on Monteverde and Step One Preschools?
I don't have any experience at Step One, but my daughter goes to Monteverde. We are thrilled with the school and have nothing but praise. I'll try to address your individual concerns in order...

1. Teacher support of the children is excellent. Monteverde has a large and diverse teaching staff. There is always someone available to meet the needs of the moment. Parents are very welcome at school, so I have spent a good bit of time there and had lots of opportunities to observe the teachers' interactions with the kids (not just my daughter), and I have been consistently impressed at the way they gracefully and kindly support every kind of kid - the shy/clingy ones, the boisterous ones, the aggressive ones. They have incredible patience and a VERY deep bag of tricks for dealing with the 3-5 year-old set. I have borrowed from them and learned a ton just by watching what they do.

2. Teacher support of families is also excellent. Our previous school - a Montessori - was pretty unwelcoming to parents. Monteverde is the opposite. When you send your kid there, she doesn't become a Monteverde student; you all become a Monteverde family. Parent involvement is an important part of a Reggio education, and MV walks the walk in this respect. They foster community through regular all-family (or occasional parent-only) events. They are also excellent at communicating what goes on at the school via a large variety of mechanisms, including email, photo/video sharing, in-person conversations, and formal parent-teacher conferences. MV is also sensitive to parents' financial needs. The tuition is quite affordable, and scholarships are available.

3. Curriculum at MV is student-inspired, so they do develop formal projects/curriculum in response to interests expressed by the students. However, mostly the kids play and explore. But it's not haphazard. If you give them a chance, the teachers and directors will talk your ear off about the educational philosophy behind letting the kids spend a morning playing with paint and buckets of ice.

4. Special Activities... it kind of feels like everything at MV is a special activity. The other day I came to pick up my daughter, and the kids were having dance time. Each kid got a turn to stand on a table in between a projector and a screen and watch as his/her shadow was projected on the wall. So... no formal dance instructor, but there is plenty of dancing. They do have a music teacher who comes in regularly to sing with the kids - she is fabulous. And one of the part-time teachers is focused on doing the bigger art projects with the kids (so there is art every day, but on the days Mila is there, she works with kids on bigger, ongoing art projects). Every teacher at MV has another life and a hidden talent, which they all share with the kids. For instance, one of the teachers is a yogi, and she teaches the kids yoga on Fridays when she leads circle time. Another teacher is an excellent cook. Another is a gardener and works with the kids (and parents) year round to grow food.

5. Focus on the children developing meaningful peer relationships... this is where MV really excels. This is why we picked this school for our child. Social/emotional development is absolutely the most important thing that goes on at this school, and I am so impressed with everything I've seen. (Even my dour, hates-everything partner admits that he is impressed by how they foster togetherness and friendship among the kids, as well as respect for those who are different. In preschool, this means that my daughter *hates* playing super-heroes and *loves* playing kitty, but she is respectful and kind and understanding of the kids who prefer to play super-heroes.) MV follows ''You Can't Say You Can't Play.'' We love it.

There are so many other things we love about Monteverde. I would be happy to talk with you further about this wonderful school if you wish. Didn't know I could love a preschool this much


Jan 2014

I cannot express how grateful I am for our experience at Monteverde. When we first started I would get 2 responses from those I told our daughter went there. It was either: 1 - ''My child went there & thrived!'' or 2 - ''I Wanted my kid to go there!''. Thanks to the directors' vision & their passion for Reggio Emelia + Bev Boss inspiration/philosophies, the children are SEEN & HEARD. And not only do the children flourish, but the staff is empowered to bring their own flavor & creativity to the space as well, which is a Major asset. The MV community is a true reflection of the diversity & progressive nature of Berkeley/Oakland, in the best way; for the children, the parents, & those working there.

I often found my jaw on the floor at the way conflict was handled so beautifully, how questions were never just answered, but raised with more curiosity & more questions. This school truly understands the art of the ''process''.

There is a lot of freedom to explore, with the nature of the 4 different spaces to move around in & the mixed-age setting, all with a lovely balance of setting up healthy & helpful guidelines & boundaries.

The ''curriculum'' (so to speak) is ever-evolving, based on the children's curiosity, interests, & needs. It is alive, with no regurgitative measures or cliche ''Good Jobs'' on their projects at hand. One of the best things was that you never knew what you'd see happening next! They were always pushing the boundaries/genuinely exploring + creating. It was always fresh (& fun!).

To top it off, they offer a very accommodating schedule, they try to keep it as affordable as possible (esp. considering the quality you're getting!), and they even offer scholarships.

The staff does not ''entertain'' your children, nor do they talk to them in a ''childlike'' way (again, in the Best way!). They instead create a respectful, safe, & nurturing space for your child to explore, question, create, & PLAY, as a beautiful template for them to learn to interact & engage in the world with for a lifetime (not to mention their school years beyond) .

Throw in yoga every Friday, music with Bonnie Lockhart, cooking, gardening, professional story-telling, a bit of foreign languages mixed into song + circle time, endless outdoor time, & a ''graduation sleepover'' that will never be forgotten...You would be so fortunate for your child to go to Monteverde. The staff sticks around for good reason, & most of the students would too!, if only they were a K-12 school! kelly


Oct 2010

Hi I was just wondering if anyone had any recent reviews of monteverde preschool? thanks, ella


My daughter went to monteverde and we could not be happier. It is truly play based with a low amount of structure. There is a morning circle and circle before lunch but the rest of day day was a free flowing of art projects and play. You could also go outside freely which was a selling point for my girl. This was a perfect fit for her at this age. At this age a highly structured environment was not a good fit. But if your child is someone who needs a lot of structure I would not recommend this school. They will not do well. It is for kids who need low structure. As a last note, it prepared my daughter perfectly for kindergarten. I was a bit worried that with the low structure and play based that public kindergarden (the opposite) would be hard for her. But it was a beautiful transition for her. I could not have been happier with this school. Happy with Monteverde
Jan 2008

There aren't any postings about Monteverde within the past 2+ years, and I am wondering if someone could please write in about their current thoughts/feelings about the school. Specifically, how the current teachers are, and if anyone has any reservations about the school. Thank you very much. lauren


We're very happy at Monteverde (our secomd child attending there). The teachers are loving and creative. Many of them have been there over 10 years and the new ones are also fantastic. The art is great and so is the garden and science activities. My only reservation is that the environment works better for older kids and can be overwhelming for younger ones. If I had to do it over I'd wait to start until 3.5 but stay until over 5 if possible. happy with Monteverde
Our son was at Monteverde for 2 years until last fall when he started kindergarten. I can't say enough positive things about Monteverde- we have friends who seriously thought of having a 3rd child so that they would have more time at Monteverde when their older kids went to Elementary school. It's that wonderful. The teachers are talented and very warm- they really do love the children and each teacher knows each child well as the kids aren't separated into different classes. I learned so much from them by observing their interactions with the kids- it helped me to better speak and listen to my son at home. former Monteverde parent
Feb 2005

We are planning to send out son to Monteverde School next September, but are also second-guessing our decision because he is happy at his current preschool (though we aren't 100 percent satisfied). All of the positings on Monteverde are old. It seems like a fantastic school but could anyone give some current feedback, positive and/or negative?


I am a parent of a current Monteverde child and had a graduate who is now in 1st grade - I cannot say enough how much we love it at Monteverde. Many of the teachers have been there for over ten years and also sent their own children to Monteverde, so there is a strong sense of community linking parents to teachers to children. Both my children have thrived there, one who was shy, slow to warm-up and quite bookish (for a 3 year old) who was completely content in the huge open environment, sitting at a table practicing writing her name and drawing intricate flowers. The other, who is there now, is quite the opposite, extremely social, bounding from one activity to another, and quite engaged in many activities throughout her day. I remember after my first graduated, thinking that this was a place that almost any type of child would do well in. They have a rich program, with lots of art (even an artist in residence who does amazing projects), lots of storytelling (one of the teachers is a professional storyteller), learning opportunities in many languages (Swahili, Spanish, Bengali, Sign Language), rotating books about different children/cultures/etc., lots of opportunity for physical activity, and a strong anti-bias curriculum. They are extremely responsive to each individual child and his/her needs. As well, the racial, ethnic, and sexual preference diversity of families who attend is reflective of the broader Oakland/Berkeley community and they strive to make the tuition accessible (although they have to make it viable). They are one of only a few private preschools that offers partial scholarships. I could go on forever and would be happy to if anyone is interested in hearing more details, so feel free to contact me via e-mail. Julie
Like most preschools, whether you like it or not is going to depend on your child and your parenting style. My child attended Monteverde school for one year three years ago and we had an extremely negative experience there. During that time two of the teachers that we felt were strongest left and another long term teacher continually expressed what to me seemed like symptoms of burnout. If your child is a very secure, independent, very organized and pulled together child who thrives on freedom and is very social I think you will be happy there. I feel that the school has a Rousseauian notion of childhood as a creative state that should not be interfered with. The kids basically do what they like and can run pretty wild. When we were there some of the older children were excluding their peers on a regular basis. A teacher there (who had worked at several preschools in the area) told me that Monteverde was the most unstructured preschool environment she'd experienced. What this means is that if your child needs structure, limits, or a lot of emotional support or connection this won't be a good match. To be a good match your child should also be able to tolerate a lot of noise. Some people absolutely adore this school and the school doesn't really acknowledge that it isn't the perfect place for every child so when our child was not doing well there we got some hostility and impatience from staff members.
hope that helps
Hi, Monteverde has been a very supportive, nuturing environment for my daughter. Monteverde has also provided her with a huge array of incredible art materials and projects that she chooses to work with every day. Monteverde has also allowed my daughter to explore areas that are not her most developed (bike riding, climbing, using tools) and to develop her strongest interests (drama, fantasy play, and story telling) I strongly disagree with the previous post that a child need be independent and pulled together to thrive at Monteverde. I took my daughter out of two other programs before she went to Monteverde. She was a VERY high needs, sensitive child who needed to attach to, bond with, and trust an adult/adults before feeling OK and moving out into her environment. Monteverde was THE ONLY place where the teachers understood this need in her and were 100% there for her in every way. For example, instead of saying to her, ''I need to go make snack now'' and putting her down to be on her own, the Monteverde teachers would say ''would you like to make snack with me?'' and take her with them. She needed to know they were there for her and they were. Now, she is absolutely thriving there but only because of the incredible love, attention, and support she gets from the teachers every day. I looked at over 20 preschools and my daughter tried two before we found Monteverde. Monteverde is everything I could ever dream for in a preschool for my daughter. Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments. Ann
Dec 2004

I am seriously considering Monteverde Preschool for my son in September of 2005, at which time he'll be 3.3. The reviews in the archive are positive but are all quite dated -- I'd like to hear from parents who currently have kids there about your experiences with this school. Thanks! Diane
[no replies received]


August 2002

Monteverde preschool is a fabulous, wonderful preschool with amazing, loving, skilled teachers.


Feb 1999

My son is in his third year at Monteverde and we have had an excellent experience there. I can't recommend it highly enough for the following reasons.

There has been very low teacher turnover and the quality of the teachers is consistently high. The two owners of the school, Elaine and Tristen, run it very professionally. They and the other teachers combine the warmth that was my first requirement for a preschool (and I looked at many, many) with the creativity and energy that makes a school fun and interesting.

The physical site is very good as it combines both large indoor and outdoor spaces which allows for high energy children, like mine, to always have a place to run around. They also provide interesting art project every day. Some of my son's favorites have been taking apart old appliances donated by families (we gave an old TV), creating structures from tables of discarded stuff including wires, buttons, styrofoam, etc. He also loved a volcano project that went on for a week or two and included building big gooey volcanoes.

The children and their families are a diverse bunch, ethnically, socio-economically, and job-wise and combine to create a very warm, positive and caring community. Some of the family events are really fun. Last week was pyjama week in which the children are encouraged to wear their PJ's to school. As part of pyjama week, the school held a pancake breakfast on Thursday and many parents came in their pyjamas (or at least a robe over work clothes).

My son has made good friends at the school and my only sorrow is the graduates tend to go to a diverse group of public and private schools so I doubt any of his preschool friends will be with him in kindergarten.

I doubt you could find a better school for your daughter. I hope you enjoy your years at Monteverde as much as we have. Please feel free to email me if you have any further questions or specific concerns. April


Feb 1999

With some reservation, I'd like to add my voice to the chorus about Monteverde School. Its certainly has a wonderful setting and is led by a creative, visionary staff. For most kids, especially those who are naturally attracted to the arts, its ideal. However...my son attended Monteverde for two unhappy years. He is not an easy child-- temperamental, sensitive to light and noise, needing structure and discipline. Monteverde was a bad fit for him.

It took a developmental psychologist to tell us that, and we immediately put him in a different school where he has done very well. In 20/20 hindsight, I wish I had changed schools right away.

The problem was that Monteverde never suggested that they didn't have the resources for my son-- rather, they blamed us (and him) for his unhappiness in various subtle and not so subtle ways. It was a very dispiriting experience that took us all a while to get over.

The lesson? The best of schools may not be the best for YOUR child. Be open to making a change if necessary. And look for a school that is willing to admit that they can't be all things to all children. JM


Feb 1999

I can say a year later that I am still incredibly happy with our choice. Besides all the things that April mentioned, I can add that my daughter is blossoming in wonderful ways, some of which I have to attribute directly to the Monteverde staff and philosophy. (Some examples I can think of off-hand: she's become a wonderful story-teller, creating tales and telling them with intonation and emphasis that I know are a result of the time the students spend with Muriel, one of the teachers and a master storyteller. She's also incredibly adept at hill-climbing and negotiating difficult outdoor spaces to the point where she's keeping up with 7 year old boys; I don't think this would be the case if she didn't spend so much time in the "bongo", the outdoor hill/play area.) Feel free to email me with questions, as well.


Jan 1998

After looking at a number of schools last spring, our 2 and a half year old daughter started at Monteverde preschool in September and we've been extremely happy (thrilled, actually) with our choice. She loves to go to school and hates to leave; we feel 100% comfortable leaving her there.

Nobody on the parents list had anything to say about Monteverde when I asked last year, and we didn't know anyone who had their kids there, but we went with our gut, and in a lot of ways we feel like we found a hidden treasure.

What really made the decision for us last Spring was that we had very positive feelings about the teachers (2 of which are also the directors), and they haven't disappointed us--they're warm, wonderful, responsible, communicative, creative women. Other advantages: large outdoor and indoor spaces, a relatively diverse set of students, a good mix of structured and unstructured activities, lots of books and art projects as well as physical play, lots of different options for schedules, close to campus, and reasonable (i.e. less than many others) tuition. (To be honest, there were other schools that we looked at that were better than Monteverde in terms of specific features--e.g. one school had a nicer outdoor play area--but no other school that was as good all-around, in terms of aspects that were important to us.)

Monteverde takes kids from 2 and a half to 5. I think about ten of the kids will be moving on to kindergarten next September so there will definitely be open slots. (Though last year all the slots were filled well before summer; we were on a waiting list.) The school is located in St. John's on College (about a ten minute walk south of campus), but isn't associated with St. John's; they just rent the space. Phone is 848-3313. Judy

March 1998

My son, now 4, has been at Monteverde since he was 2yrs 8months and we've been very pleased with the school. Our older child was in a smaller childcare arrangement for three years that we loved (Animal Crackers) but it was inconveniently located for us so I decided to start over again researching pre-schools for my son that were close to our home. Of the dozen or so places I looked (the second dozen since I'd done the same the first time through), Monteverde was hands down my favorite. Here are some of the reasons.

1) Despite its larger size (20-24 children ages 2-5), the atmosphere is as warm and supportive as our earlier experience. I prefer schools in which children of different ages are mixed to those in which children are divided by age and it has turned out that our son has been playing with older children quite a bit recently.

2) There is very little staff turnover, partly because many of the staff have also had their children in the school so are likely to be there for at least the three years that their children are there. The staff are well qualified, have teaching credentials, and are consistent in their belief in and implementation of the developmental approach to pre-school care that we prefer. In addition, they all seem to genuinely enjoy small children. The school has creative art projects daily and weekly dance instruction. Children sometimes cook their own snack, and there are many other fun traditions such as regular tea parties to which parents are invited, an annual pancake breaksfast, pyjama week where children and teachers are encouraged to wear their pyjamas all day, an evening dance performance and potluck, etc.

3) The physical location and layout are great. There is ample indoor space which was critical this winter with all the rain as well as a good outdoor area with plenty of room for bike riding and sand play. Also, it's a wonderfully central location for those living on the South side of campus as it is in the St. John's Community Center on College and Forest.

4) The school really is racially diverse, both the children and the teachers. This is something that few preschools seem to actually achieve although they all talk about it. Although this was not one of the most important criteria for us, it's been added bonus.

5) Opportunities for parent involvement include sharing a skill (such as one dad who came in and did African drumming with the children), board membership, workdays, newsletter, etc. but there is no pressure to be be super involved if you don't want to. Also, parents are welcome to hang around whenever they want and in the morning, there are usually one to several parents in the school reading to children or just hanging around to be with their child.

6) Tristen and Elaine, the two founders and owners of the school, are both wonderful to deal with. They set up formal annual meetings with parents to discuss the child's development at which parents receive a written report and have the opportunity to discuss the child with two teachers. After the more informal experience with our first child where we had to initiate a meeting if we wanted to discuss our child, we found this a welcome vestige of Tristen and Elaine's elementary school training.

7) Finally, another big advantage is the school's flexibility regarding schedule. They have three pickup times, 12:30, 3:30, or 5:30, and some children come for a couple days while some are there for all five. Fees are adjusted accordingly. Our son attends four days until 3:30. April


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