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German International School (GISSV) (Berkeley, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > German International School (GISSV) (Berkeley, CA)



July 2014

Re: Seeking German-Bilingual Daycare/Preschool
Check out the Berkeley campus of GISSV www.gissv.org. The school offers a good bilingual German/English program starting in preschool. Our two kids love it. GISSV parent


Dec 2013

Re: Immersion school for gifted kids?
You ask about how private immersion programs handle kids who are gifted. We are at GISSV and I can tell you what I have found. My experience is that the teacher-student ratio is so good, the teachers can give a fantastic amount of individualized attention to each child. (In my son's class of 15 kids there is a full time teacher and a full time intern). I saw this in the parent teacher conference this fall where I was impressed how well the teachers knew and understood my child. I have heard from other parents that the teachers, who go through a very long and rigorous training in Germany, get a lot of training on teaching across learning differences. What I've seen for myself is that they make learning fun in very creative ways, and that they are well able to teach children who are both native German speakers and those who are not. Some of the classrooms are mixed grade (including my son's), which both gives the kids a larger peer group to play with and allows for more differentiated education. Learning simultaneously in German (which we don't speak at home) and English has been a great challenge for my child but one that he has also not expressed any frustration about. He and I get to discuss how concepts get different names in different languages, how letters get pronounced differently in different languages, etc. It's exciting for me to see that his daily early elementary education comes with the knowledge that there is more than one way to think about things, just on the level of language. We've never given him any kind of intelligence test, but at parent-teacher conferences since preschool the teachers have uniformly described him as extreme on the scale of quick to learn. He has never reported being bored at school. Like yours, he would be described as slow to warm, and I've been very happy that the small size and warm feel have made GISSV a school where he feels very, very comfortable. And, yes, there is good structure to the program. Hope this helps. happy GISSV parent


Dec 2013

Re: Immersion school for gifted kids?
I have found GISSV to have a very fluid learning environment - both socially and academically. The small class size enables the teachers to focus on each child's unique needs. Moreover, all of the teachers are extremely dedicated and energetic. Also, the kids know students from classes above and below them. So if they skip a grade or perhaps just do certain subjects with older kids, they are socially comfortable because they are still with friends. The teaching philosophy generally encourages questions, including why are we learning things to begin with. These sorts of questions give kids, gifted or not, a context for their education. And of course, offering your child an opportunity to learn another language is a fabulous gift, regardless of which language you choose. Satisfied GISSV Parent


Dec 2013

Re: Immersion school for gifted kids?
Our son goes to GISSV. I think due to the small class sizes the teachers are really good at differentiation, e.g. in math, where they work a lot with work sheets, not all kids get the same worksheets. The more advanced ones get more challenging ones.

My impression of the school is that all the teachers work incredibly hard for each kid to be as successful and learn as much as they can. A couple of years ago they had a kid (who has since moved away) that attended class in some subjects at his grade level and in some subjects one grade level up. The idea was for him to eventually jump a grade but not all subjects at once. Happy GISSV mom


Nov 2013

Re: Importance of community in immersion schools?

My impression at GISSV is that there is actually a sense of community. There are a number of school events that foster the parents getting together and at least for our family, we definitely have found friends there. Many families spend time together outside of school and some families carpool (some on a regular, some on an ''as needed'' basis). There is also a group of moms who meet every morning at school and then often take their dogs on a walk together. GISSV mom


We are America parents that moved back from Germany two years ago. We had our kids audit the GISSV School to make sure their language skills were good enough to attend the German immersion school. They loved it and so do we. There is a very strong community of parents that started the school (their kids are now in the 6th grade). They actively seeked us out when we were new and folded us into the school. It was a very similar experience to what we had in Germany and what I expect in any international school as kids come and go each year. GISSV just bought and old Berkeley public school and they have also actively integrated with the neighborhood. They throw a few parties each year that rival anything we attended in Germany. It is not only a language immersion; it is a great international experience. As far as the academics, the German curriculum is different from the IB or US curriculum. This is most obvious in Math. My kids do not have native speakers at home and we are working on getting additional speaking and listening opportunities for our kids. The school continues to surprise me with their patience for my children and their openness in talking about concerns I have. Good luck on your school hunt. Kathy
You ask about community at a language immersion school. From my experience at GISSV, there is a wonderful community, which is the antithesis of ''not mixing'' or ''doing your own thing.'' There are countless opportunities for parents and kids to get together and socialize, both through events organized by the school, and through ad hoc get togethers created by parents, whether dinner parties, hikes in Tilden or Claremont Canyon, Prosecco brunch, evening cocktails, going to ball games, birthday parties, parent-teacher choir, going to yoga class together, etc. My sense of many families is that the school is our primary community. I have formed good friendships with other parents.

You ask for other thoughts on language immersion challenges. My child started at GISSV with zero German, and is now fluent. I was nervous, but it worked! I have been really happy with the school - they know what they are doing. They also offer an incredible teacher-student ratio. I feel like my child is well understood and is being challenged and nurtured in a warm environment. We did an exhaustive search of where to go for kindergarten - public, private, language immersion and non - and decided that this was the school for us. We're very happy. happy GISSV parent


Our family (two kids) has been part of the GISSV (Berkeley) family for the past six years. During this time we were able to build valuable friendships with many other parents on campus. The school community is very welcoming with a majority of outgoing personalities. It doesn't matter what your background is, where you come from or what language you speak. At drop off in the morning, we often mingle at the playground and set up playdates for our children. If I cannot make it in time for pick-up there is always a handful of parents who I can call to help me out. I actually see a lot of ''chatting, hanging out and helping each other'' at the campus. It's a reliable and very tight school community that is extended in weekend activities (bbqs, football games with other families), ''girls'' nights out (for the moms) or even the celebration of Holidays together (Thanksgiving dinner). Since many GISSV families don't have grand parents, uncles or aunts in the Bay Area, this social network of other parents is often providing welcoming support in organizing and handling every day life tasks. I, personally, would not know what to do without the other mothers and can only say that everybody who is interested will get a chance to make friends! Happy and Social GISSV Mom
Hi, I cannot speak to the culture and community at EBI or EB, but I have a child at the German International School GISSV with a bilingual German/English curriculum.

In my mind, the community aspect is a very strong feature of the Berkeley GISSV campus. There is a mix of long-time residents and some expatriates. Most families have German language background, but not all, and expats are mostly, but not exclusively from German speaking countries.

Newcomers are typically included into the community right away, be it the dog-walking group (you can participate without a dog), coffee shop get-togethers, dinners, shared Thanksgiving, playdates for their kids, or organizing school community events together. They receive tips and tricks and advice on tpical newcomer problems. There is even a school fleamarket for furniture and electronics that outgoing expats sell to incoming expats when the timing is right.

For the entire community there are also annual skiing and annual camping trips for everybody who wants to. Of course, some people are more into socializing than others. But it is not unheard of that families visit each other on their respective home continents after their stint at GISSV, or open their houses during their own vacation to other visiting families.

Another aspect that I really like, is that the children learn about the different cultures present at our campus which is surprisingly multi-cultural for its relatively small size. This happens informally, but is also integrated into the curriculum or festivities. E.g. a Brazilian drum band has become a staple at our annual Karneval in February. Did I mention that we like to celebrate together? And mix our traditions and food specialties? Yes, there might be Bratwurst, but potlucks may also feature falafel, pakora, sushi, dim sum, or koshari.

Last, but not least, the school community is rather small, and this might not be for everybody. Some children will prefer a larger group for socializing, but my child profoundly benefits from small class sizes and individualized teaching.

There is much more to this school. Come, check it out!


Coming from a very community oriented preschool (El Cerrito Preschool Co-op) and not being a German speaker, I wasn't sure what the sense of community would be like at GISSV, but I have to say I've been so impressed so far. There have been numerous all school volunteer opportunities, parent and child parties and just parents parties too. I have found it very easy to get to know people and that the other families are warm and friendly. It helps that it is a small school. Melissa
Hello, I have been a parent at GISSV Berkeley since 2007. From my experience there is a great sense of community. There are several celebrations throughout the year that are just for the school community, like a Halloween potluck, a Lanternfest, parent choir, an annual camping trip,... Many parents do car pooling and there is a group of women who walk their dogs every morning. Many parents have help me out in a pinch and watched the kids on short notice, which makes a real difference. GISSV mom of 2
I am a parent of two kids at the German School (GISSV) and I have had exactly the opposite experience of what you are describing. I am American and chose GISSV because I wanted my kids to have a bilingual education. They are getting a great education. At the same time we have become part of an amazing community. Many of my best friends have come from the school. Not only are there a lot of activities at the school (like a parent singing group, a dog walking group, parties, etc.), but many parents tend to mingle before and after school. The school is subsidized by the German government. The subsidy goes to the school itself and NOT just to families who happen to have a German passport. The resulting demographic is NOT just Germans and, perhaps partly due to the subsidy, not just dr.'s and lawyers (although my husband is a lawyer and I am an artist). The parents have all sorts of occupations/livelihoods. Most of our friends from school live in and around Berkeley permanently - although some do eventually move from or back to other countries after living here for a few years. This gives our kids a broad view of the world. It has also given us the opportunity to visit friends overseas. If you want to get a better idea of what to expect, you could show up someday when school lets out and introduce yourself to someone... or feel free to email me. sks
Sept 2012

Re: Bilingual pre-schools people like?
The German International School of Silicon Valley (GISSV) has just moved from formerly cramped space, to a large campus in Berkeley (Cedar at LeRoy). We started in Kindergarten and liked it. There is now a Pre-Kindergarten or Bridge-K option, taught in German naturally. French is the 2nd (um 3rd) language, though hopefully that will switch to Spanish at some point. Dad


Feb 2012

I am considering the Berkeley campus of the German International School of Silicon Valley. I was hoping to get feedback from current or former parents in response to some lingering questions.
1) Is creativity nurtured at all grade levels? How are kids taught about the writing process? How do they learn to write creatively? Is there more of a focus on handwriting than on creative writing?
2) How do teachers respond to learning differences? A reviewer on the ''great schools'' website, writing about the Mountain View campus (of which the Berkeley school is a satellite) asserts that at the Mountain View campus, differences in learning style are not accommodated. How is this handled at the Berkeley school?
3) A yelp reviewer - an unhappy parent - mentioned a case of bullying not being addressed by teachers or administration at the Berkeley campus despite frequent complaints since the children were supposed to work things out themselves. Any idea if this is a systemic problem?
4) How does the small size of the Berkeley campus feel? Constraining or nurturing? Or both? Are there things your child has not been able to explore because the small size constrains options?
5) How is discipline handled?
6) A reviewer of the Mountain View campus says it's a great curriculum if you want to move your child to Germany. But what if you want to, at some point, transition your child to a public school in the Bay Area. How will they fare? Thanks so much for any thoughts. East Bay mom


This is our third year at GISSV Berkeley and so far we've had a great experience. In response to your specific questions: (1) Yes! There are lots of creative writing opportunities. For example, the kids keep journals (in both English and German), write stories, and can participate in a Writer's Club. Handwriting (and spelling) is considered separately from writing. (2) I don't have much personal experience with this, but I know this was an issue that came up in past years and they now have various extra classes for kids who need extra help in English or German, math or spelling. In addition, I have found the teachers to be very approachable and flexible, whenever any issues have come up with our child. (3) Really have no idea where this is coming from. We had the opposite experience. Our son was teased by some older kids at one point, and when we brought it up with the teachers they took immediate action, discussed the situation with the kids, and there have been no further problems at all. (4) The small size has not been a problem for us. Definitely more nurturing than constraining. I think for young kids it's not a problem. It allows the teachers to really get to know each and every child (and I've been very impressed with their very detailed evaluations of our son's academic progress and behavior). Also, despite the small size, the school is fairly diverse. Finally, at breaks and during the afternoons (if your child stays for the afternoon club) the kids get to play with kids from other grades, so their friendships are not restricted to their class. (5) ?? Can't think of any serious discipline issues... I think the policy is to first talk to the child, then the parent. I don't think anyone has every been suspended. (6) The curriculum meets the standards of both German and US/California educational systems, so that should not be a problem. The exact program (e.g. math approach) is going to be different at GISSV and a public school, but I think the level is high enough that the transition should not be a problem. Hopefully someone with this experience can respond. Happy GISSV parent
I have two children at the GISSV - Berkeley Campus, and they have been going since K. Regarding your question about creative writing, it is my experience that creativity is nurtured at each grade level, in all subjects (including math). The writing process starts in first grade, and continues at every grade level. It includes creative writing, how to write texts appropriate for the age, spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and also handwriting. Creative writing is taught by working with the child to write on their own, starting with simple sentences, illustrating picture stories, to writing essays, fairy tales, book reports etc in 4th grade. I would say there is a lot more focus on creative writing than handwriting, though good handwriting is taught earlier than in the typical American curriculum.

Regarding some of your other questions, I know some children who have moved to an American school, and to my knowledge these children didn't have much problems. Also, this year at the Berkeley Campus, the school has introduced specialty classes such as spelling and math classes for children with learning differences. For the moment, the small size is nurturing for my children and we take it one year at a time. The school teaches some subjects in combined classes (such as music and PE) which encourages social interaction in a larger than usual class setting. Bullying and discipline problems have not been an issue for my children really, so I cannot give first-hand feedback. - Happy GISSV mom GISSV mom


I'll take up just one of your questions, on having the kids work things out themselves. I do see that as the school's basic strategy, one anchored in its educational philosophy. To my American eyes it's sometimes been less interventionist than I would have expected / felt comfortable with. It is definitely a German school that happens to be located in Berkeley, and it follows German expectations of how a school should be run. Having said that, I've had a better experience with it than the Yelp poster. My kid has had learned some lessons, some of them sort of hard, about standing up for herself. A part of me wishes I could spare her that, but I also think it's part of what she needs to learn. The few times things have gotten actually troublesome, the teachers intervened in a way that I've appreciated.

On the whole, it's a wonderful, really amazing group of kids she's with. The 1st through 4th graders play in age-mixed, gender-mixed groups without thinking that's weird. And I hear far less potty-mouthed playground talk than I would have expected, given what else I read on this forum. I don't know what makes the school community like this -- if it's the school, the German parenting style at home, or just these particular kids -- but to me it's one of the unexpected pluses of the school. parent


The German School nurtures creativity, starting with kindergarten which is play based. When the children begin reading and writing in first grade, they are encouraged to write creatively. They read and write a great deal in both English and German. There is a creative writing class offered for free after school where the children create poetry books and other projects. There is also a drama class. The children are encouraged to develop their own style of handwriting once they have perfected their handwriting and cursive. The teachers respect learning differences. Kids who excel in a subject are given extra challenges, whereas kids with learning difficulties are offered extra help and encouragement. For example, there are math, spelling, English and German classes offered for free after school. These are play based and intended for those kids who need help in certain areas. A couple of children wear headphones with music, especially developed to help certain children concentrate. My child just started bringing a chew necklace to school, developed for autistic kids. Although not autistic, my child needs to chew. His teacher told him his necklace was a great idea. Basically, the teachers want to strategize to maximize each child's learning experience. The small class size enables this. Classroom kinesthetics are also important. The kids can sit on balls or stand at a special tall desk if they are restless. The kids play outside a lot. The kids also learn to respect differences and to play well with mixed ages. My older child who has been there for four years has several friends in classes above and below him. As for the case of bullying mentioned on yelp, that is totally not in character with the school. Perhaps it was from last year's kindergarten class. The kindergarten grew very quickly last year and also had two new teachers. It was not a good year. The problem was addressed and there is a complete turnaround. I can tell you because I have a child in kindergarten this year and we are very satisfied. It is an amazing environment.

As for your question about discipline, I can tell you how my child has been treated. He sometimes disrupts the class and is pretty much the class clown. The teacher has created a smiley book for him. He tries to earn two smileys each day. The book works as an incentive and is also a way for the teacher to communicate with me on a daily basis. The teacher respects and enjoys my son's humor, but we are working to make sure it doesn't interrupt the class. So far, the smiley book has been successful. Regarding your question about transitioning to public school in the Bay Area, I don't see any difficulties. The kids work hard and play hard in both English and German and appear well prepared to transition to an American or German school. It is a great community for our kids (and our family). It is also very diverse. Of course there are many American, German and Swiss parents, but there are also parents from Egypt to Brazil. You should feel free to contact the school if you want to talk to me or any other parents. Sally


Nov 2011

Re: Looking for small school, flexibly paced program
My two children are thriving at the German International School, Berkeley Campus (www.gissv.org). This is a German/English private full immersion school with small class sizes. They are good at differentiating between children of different abilities, both in German and English but also Mathematics. Open Houses are happening now for enrollment next year. -GISSV mom


Sept 2010

I am US born and my husband is from Cologne. We live in El Cerrito on the Albany border. We had always planned to send our children to the Bay Area Kinderstube (BAKS) in Albany, but as our daughter has been on the waiting list since I was pregnant with her, and at 3.5 years we've still not been granted admission, we've basically given up. For those who have gotten in, is there something we are missing? Visits and introductions to teachers, and requesting a full-time schedule have been to no avail. Are there other Pre-K programs or playgroups we should try, or just wait until the GISSV's Kindergarten program? Appreciate any suggestions.
Eine sehr frustrierte Mama (frustrated mommy)


I don't know about the BAKS situation, and I'll be curious to read the replies if they deal with it. I do know that GISSV's kindergarten has lots of kids who didn't go to German preschools. There are even kids who learn all their German at GISSV (like my child). GISSV mom
June 2010

Re: Looking for an affordable K-4 private school

I am very happy with GISSV Berkeley Campus. This is a German immersion school, however don't be scared if you don't speak german yourself. We have families in every grade that fit that profile. The curriculum is well rounded and their K approach is play based which will give your child a nice adjustment time to get to know the language and teachers. My older son will be going to 3rd grade after the summer break and my second child will start K. Now to the affordability of the program, this school is subsidized by the german government which makes it very affordable for the kind of education they are able to give. Here is the link to their website: http://gissv.org click the Berkeley Campus tab on the side Best of luck GISSV mom


We are very happy with the Berkeley Campus (located in Kensington) of the German International School of Silicon Valley (www.gissv.org). The teachers are wonderful, classes are small (not more than 20 kids) and the goal of everyone is to make every single child succeed. For 15k$/year you even get the after school care until 6pm (sorry, to lazy to dig out a bill to figure out regular tuition, probably around 11k$). Happy GISSV mom
Nov 2009

Re: Challenging Progressive School?
You must approach this with an open mind; there is a school which may fulfill your quest located in the East Bay. Your child is gifted but you do not seek a conformist, routine method of learning. Consider a private school where she will receive an excellent modern European education, she will be fluent in two languages and upon graduation from the High School receive a bilingual European Arbitur and American high school diploma which will qualify her to attend American and European universities. The teachers will work with your child based on her abilities and requirements.

Although it is a little late, children can enroll in the school any time during the school year and there is no birthday restrictions so if your child at 4 is ready, she could try this for a year and if it does not work out she will still be the correct age for kindergarten at another school next year.

Take a look at the German International School of Silicon Valley Berkeley Campus (GISSV). There is an open house on November 10, 2009 at 6:30 pm. Ralf who is the head of school would be more than happy to discuss with you how a program will be set up to keep you daughter intelectually stimulated while in kindergarten. The school is affordable as tuition is partially subsidized. Even though we do not speak German, our daughter in kindergarten was fluent in German after 6 months. The style of education is somewhat play based which will hopefully instill in her a life long quest for learning. Old Sage (i.e. wise guy)


August 2009

I would appreciate some reviews of the German International School (GISSV) in Berkeley. We are a second-generation American family. Very little German is spoken in our home but we would like our child to pick up another language early in her education. Does the school accept children during the school year? What are their expectations with regard to knowledge of the German language? What educational model is followed in kindergarten and first grade? And how does tuition cost compare to other private schools? Thank you for your feedback!


My child is attending 1st grade at the Berkeley Campus of the German International School. He started Kindergarten last year and has been the happiest child ever since. My husband is American but since I speak German, our son grew up bilingual. However, at least three kids in his class have American-only parents and I have to say that I am amazed how well their German has become since they started K-Class. Despite the fact that they didn't speak a word of German before, they now understand everything and are already pretty fluent in speaking it as well.

You didn't write the age of your child but I know it would be no problem at all if your son/daughter has no or only little ability understanding or speaking German when entering K-Class. Of course it wouldn't hurt to immediately start German play dates and listen to German tapes/books once she/he has started;-).

And yes, the Berkeley Campus welcomes each and every new addition to the school, even if it is during the school year. The tuition of GISSV is actually on the lower end, compared to other private bi-lingual schools in the area. It shouldn't be too hard to proof this fact.

Class sizes are between 8-10 kids with 2-3 teachers in K-Class. Kids are provided a high-standard bilingual education and now that my son has started 1st grade, I am even happier to see that English, taught by a native English teacher and the German education go side by side ... reading and writing ... and playing and exploring. The best out of two worlds!

If you are interested in joining the growing GISSV family, I'd recommend to contact the office in Mountain View to make an appointment and meet the teachers/students. As far as I know, the first official open house will be beginning of October. Good luck! Happy GISSV Parent


I have two children attending the German International school, one in 2nd grade, one in K. There are a fair amount of families attending the school whith both parents not speaking German. They all do have a connection to the German language or culture such as having distant relatives or ancestors, used to work in Germany or used to work for a German company. For Kindergarten there is no requirement that the child speaks the German language. In first grade they usually would like some German language skills but it also very much depends on the willingness of the family to support the child. I think you need to talk to the school directly. I also think they would still take your child.

The academics are really good, there is a lot of flexibility in the teaching, they do a lot of theater projects, PE, music, arts. The tuition is a lot lower than other private schools, about 10K for the school year, mainly because of subsidies from Germany. Kindergarten is developmental, but they do a lot of ''academic'' language and math projects so that learning to read and write in two languages and to calculate in first grade is a lot easier. First grade is where the academics start. But they have enough time for arts, music, theater, PE etc.

The best would be to contact the school at office@gissv.org and maybe arrange for a classroom visit or talk to the teachers. GISSV mom


We have a kindergartener at the Berkeley campus of the German International School. You asked about the educational model, and I won't really speak to that until I have more experience of it as it's actually implemented. I'll only say that we were sold on the school's approach to kindergarten as play and socialization, as a foundation on which academic work can follow later. The kids at the Mountain View campus, where they go up to grade 12, do get to the Gymnasium Abitur in 2 languages, after all, and I have German colleagues who learned to read at age 7 and still turned out OK as university professors.

For German language, our kid started this fall knowing next to nothing. English is our language at home, though both parents have functional German. The school (and our kid) seems comfortable with this way of learning it. Some English-language kindergarteners pick up German quickly, they told us, others take it more slowly, and the teachers don't seem to give it a second thought.

They do take new kids during the school year. The tuition is subsidized by the German government, including for non-German kids. I'd suggest just contacting the school and asking to talk with the lower-school head or the teachers. They don't do a hard sell. Cathryn


We have two children at GISSV, one in K and one in 2nd Grade, and we are very happy with the school. To answer some of you questions from a parent point of view: Yes, the school accepts children during the school year, but as always you need to check this with the principal. Knowledge of the German language is not a requirement in K. The K-class is focussed on project based learning and development of language and social skills. In our experience the school offers a great mix of academic learning and learning through play, small classes, lot's of art, field trips and projects. Classes are mainly taught in German, but in English as well. Kathrin
Our child is starting his second year at GISSV. We have been very pleased with the school. In fact, it has exceeded our expectations! Our child spoke no German when he started kindergarten, and now he is close to fluent. He enjoyed the play-based Montessori-style kindergarten, and didn't realize how much he was learning. Now in first grade, he is working a lot harder with math, reading, writing etc. and still seems happy. The teachers and peers are great. The class sizes are small and the tuition is a bargain. I highly recommend checking out this school if you have any interest in bilingual education. As for the question about the school accepting children during the school year, I would guess that's possible since the school has proved quite flexible in other respects. -GISSV parent
Our 5.5 year old just started at GISSV in Kensington. They do accept mid-year students, and there is space in K-class. The educational model is the same one used in Germany, with some adjustments for the USA. They focus on skill and relationship building in K-class rather than jumping straight to no-child-left-behind academics. Tuition is partially subsidized by the German government, and is low-average compared to other fully private offerings. There is (at least at the moment) a school bus option from Oakland and Berkeley. Bryce
Nov 2008

My daughter will be ready for Kindergarten next year and we are currently looking into public as well as private schools. I am German and my husband and I are raising our children bilingually, so I was wondering if anybody can tell me about the German International School of Silicon Valley. I believe they have opened an East Bay Campus a few years ago? Does anybody have personal experiences with the school, the teachers and also with the school's educational approach? Thank you! CB


My son has been going to the German International School of Silicon Valley (GISSV) since they started their satellite campus in Berkeley. He is now in the first grade and thriving.

The approach the Teachers take in Kindergarten is play-based. I know that is a concern for some parents, but in my experience this approach builds a strong social foundation, a sense of logic and reasoning which primes the kids for the academic work they face in the first grade. In fact, many of the students are children of renowned scientist and mathematicians.

GISSV believes in small class sizes. This has also been very successful for my son. In his large pre-school he was rather introverted, but has, in this small setting, found his courage and strength to speak his mind about anything.

Academically I believe GISSV offers a great program. They teach at a pace that is in sync with the abilities of the children. The children are challenged, and they seem to enjoy it and thrive. My son loves homework and he is not the only kid in class that does.

If you're interested the next open house is Dec 11th @ 7:00pm at the Kensington campus: 1 Lawson Road Berkeley/Kensington CA 94707


Hi, I am very happy to let you know that the German International School (GISSV, Silicon Valley) has just moved their East Bay Campus to Kensington (approx. 10-15 minutes car ride if you live in Central Berkeley). I am German but unfortunately I cannot tell you about personal experiences with the school because my child is not enrolled in the school (yet). However, I visited the school at their last open house, met the teachers and saw the new location and class rooms. I have to admit that I was VERY impressed! My friend's son is currently visiting the school (although none of the parents is German!). They are very happy and glad they chose the school because their child just thrives and gets a lot of attention! The classes are very small (10 kids) and at least in K-Class there are two teachers at all times! From what I have heard, the teachers develop strong bonds with the children and know exactly about each child's strengths and weaknesses (more than any public school teacher would ever be able to - due to their bigger class sizes). At the German School the kids have a lot of play time .. more than other (American) schools offer and their curriculum integrates German AND English reading and writing. It sounds like their educational approach is based on the excellent German school system and curriculum which is more play-based and stress free in the beginning (no homework in K-Class!) but steps up when 1st grade starts and children begin to read and write (in two languages). According to my friends, their son (who had some basic knowledge of German) is much more fluent now and does not only understand but also started to speak German. Yes, it is a private school but compared to other private schools their tuition fee is on the lower end. I am seriously considering this school for our daughter because of all the wonderful impressions I got from talking to other parents and the school staff. Go and check them out! German and curious
Hi there,

My son is currently attending the first grade at the German International school. He started in the kindergarten group last year. We love the school. I'm German and my husband is American and we are also raising our kids bilingually. But even with me exclusively speaking German to my son for his first 5 years he would not ever answer in German. He understood, but was very insecure about using German. With the school being German immersion, within a couple of weeks attending he replied in German and is now completely fluent (and has not lost his English).

In terms of the educational approach, the Kindergarten class is very play based. The goal is to teach the children a love for learning. The kids are not expected to read or write at the end of Kindergarten - if they do its great, if not it is fine too. My son got to learn about science, art, math and music in really playful ways. First grade is a little bit more structured: the curriculum is based on the curriculum taught in Germany and books and general material are the same as in Germany. Class sizes are very small so the kids get lots of one on one time with the teachers (there are 2 in the Kindergarten class). The teachers are great as well - very warm, engaged and very approachable in working with the children.

They do have two more open houses coming up on December 11, and Jan 22, and there are always parents of currently enrolled children there. You can also learn more here: http://gissv.org/index.php?catID=500&navID=500&GOTO=1&LEVEL=2&PARENTID=0 Happy GISSV parent


Our son started kindergarten at the GISSV's East Bay Campus this year. My husband and I are both American. Our only connection to Germany is the two years I spent there a long time ago and few friends from back then. Although our son started at GISSV with no knowledge of German, he loves the school and is totally thriving. The philosophy is play based but with a carefully thought out curriculum. Our son has so much fun he doesn't realize how much he is learning. He likes all of the kids and the teachers. The other parents are also great - friendly and not snobbish. Moreover, the teachers and other parents are happy to talk to me in English or my mediocre German - whatever I initiate. There is an open house coming up in December so you can check out the school. Go to their website for the date - gissv.org. gissv mom
My daughter started kindergarten last year at the new German immersion program of GISSV in the East Bay (located in Kensington) and she is now in 1st grade. She is very happy there and we love the school for many reasons. The school belongs to a network of German immersion schools in the United States supported by the German educational authorities. They follow an adapted German curriculum which meets the California curriculum standards. Kindergarten is developmental, and 1st grade is when school becomes more academic. We find the teachers terrific, both in Kindergarden last year, but also now in 1st grade. In 1st grade the children have about 6 periods per day, four in German, and two in English on average. The curriculum is very project based and the school does not teach to the test. The school is still small (only K and 1st grade so far) but growing, and there are quite a few parents who are very involved. Since it is run by the much larger K-12 bilingual school in Mountain View the East Bay campus has a lot of resources to fall back on. We also love the community of German and American parents. You can schedule a tour by calling the admission coordinator in MV at (650) 254 0748 or by e-mailing office@gissv.org. They have an open house coming up on December 11 at 7pm. GISSV mom
Our son is very happy in the K-class. He is one of two students without a native German speaker at home, and yet from our observation and the teachers' feedback he is picking up the language quickly. His class is about 10 students with two teachers available at most times. While there is no guarantee this teacher to student ratio can be maintained, our son, a very outgoing type, clearly benefits from the extra attention (we compared experiences with the parents of his preschool peers of similar temperment and they are not pleased with their selections). Kindergarten instruction is play oriented but not unorganized. Hands on activities/field trips are regular and thematic. We cover reading and early arithmetic at home now but understand that these subjects are introduced formally at GISSV a bit later after the German model. The parents are extremely invloved (if we have a complaint, there is too much communication and expectation of cooperation from the parents). The teachers and administration appear almost as accomodating of parents' individual needs as the childrens'. In summary, I heartily recommend GISSV-East Bay not just for those parents seeking German language instruction, but for any parent who wants their child to get individual attention from teachers who want to be there and be surrounded by other children whose parents take a real interest in them. Early bilingual, bi- cultural familiarity is icing. tumlinson
I can only recommend this school. Our daughter has started kindergarten this year and is very, very happy. She did not speak any German beforehand and she now understands it and even speaks a few words (and that's only after a few months at the school). The teachers are also amazing and always there to help. AP
Feb 2008

Does anyone have information on/experience with the new German School in Berkeley? I'd like to enroll my son for some summer classes. I've called them and left a message but have not received a response. anon


I'm not sure which school you are referring to. I assume you mean the East Bay Campus of the German International School of Silicon Valley (GISSV). The East Bay Campus opened last fall with a Kindergarten class. This fall they will have a Kindergarten and a 1st grade class. Our son is in the Kindergarten class and so far we are very happy with the school. As far as I know there are no plans for summer classes in Berkeley (at least not for this summer). Happy GISSV mom
My older daughter currently attends the K-program at the new German school and my younger daughter will be attending it in 2009. I find the K-program fantastic: The school emphasizes a developmentally appropriate curriculum using child appropriate educational projects. Within these projects they teach the children academic subjects, but also cognitive, social, and emotional skills. They do not teach to the test. They also have music and PE taught by teachers trained for the subject. The language of instruction is German but one day a week they have a special teacher running the program in English. My daughter is completely bilingual and loves the school. The parents are very involved as it is a small start-up school. I don't think they have a summer program yet. They do have summer classes at their main campus in Mountain View. When you call the main campus you should ask for the admission coordinator Nadja Spira. Ursula
Hi, My Name is Nadja and I am the Admissions Coordinator for the German International School of Silicon Valley (GISSV) in Mountain View as well as in the East Bay. We successfully opened our East Bay Campus last year with a Kindergarten Class, and this upcoming school year we will have a Kindergarten Class and 1st Grade. We have had a great amount of interest with classes filling up quickly. Our parents are very active in showing their support for the school. By 2012 we plan to have reached our goal of a K-5 Campus. If anyone has question or would like information regarding our classes, please contact me directly via Email at nspira@gissv.org or by phone at 650-254- 0748. General School Information can also be found on our website at www.gissv.org.
GISSV admission coordinator
October 2007

My daughter is in her 3rd year of preschool at the Bay Area Kinderstube and I am considering sending her to the GISSV program for kindergarten to continue her exposure to German language acquisition. I hope some parents out there can provide some feedback/answer these questions for me.

How do current parents feel about the quality of the program? What is the daily schedule like for kindergarten? How many kids are in the class/what is the ratio between staff and child? Are there lots of holidays/school closures? How does the cost compare to other private kindergarten programs?

What kind of academic instruction are the children getting, how much is conducted in German and how much in English?

Is there a vehicle in place for parent input/involvement. Is there a Board of Directors, PTA?

If anyone can comment on these questions and/or share your experience so far, it would be much appreciated. Jennifer


My daughter also went to BAKS and now attends the new German immersion kindergarten. It has been operating since late August and so far I think it is a very good program. The quality of the program overall and the teaching in particular is fabulous. There are currently 12 children in the class with two teachers. There are two more teachers, one teaching English and Science one morning a week, one teacher for music.

The language of instruction is four mornings in German, one morning in English.

What strikes me is how engaged the teachers are, how they care for and try to support each child. The academics are embedded in child appropriate and very creative projects and a lot of focus is spent on social and emotional development. German language is not a requirement for entering K or 1st grade and students who donmt speak it get extra support from the teachers to catch up. My daughter loves her school and has never said anything else!

The cost is lower than other private schools as the German Government pays part of the teacherms salaries. They also have an after school program until 6:00 pm. The school is currently not offering childcare on school holidays. However, the PTA is approaching the school about it and I think they will offer it soon. There is a lot of parent involvement, being a new school, and there is an active PTA which organizes lotms of activities and brings needs to the attention of the school administration. GISSV parent


Our son is attending the GISSV East Bay Campus. So far we are very happy with the program. To answer your specific questions:

Quality of the program: Very high. As your daughter goes to Kinderstube, you are probably familar with the play-based approach. It feels very much like a somewhat more academic version of Kinderstube. They learn a lot but in a playful manner. They also do some really nice art and craft projects.

Schedule: Normal class is from 9 (drop-off starting at 8:30)to 2pm with an afterschool program until 6pm. They start with a circle time. After that the kids have the choice between two activities (they try to get about equal sized groups). After the first activity they have snack and then they do the activity they have not yet done (so everyone does the same). Then they eat lunch and finish with another circle. Although the teachers have a lesson plan for the week, they sometimes adjust it based on the needs or depending on something coming up.

There are currently 10 kids with one more starting later this month and another moving here from Germany around Christmas. There are usually two teachers in the classroom, so for the main activities of the day it's about five kids per teacher.

Holidays/school closures: There are a few more than in other schools. Currently there are not enough kids to make offering camps viable, but that might change in the future if more families need a place to put their kids during those times.

Cost: It's almost 10k$ per school year for the morning program. That's significantly cheaper than other private schools I've looked at.

Academic instruction: They are learning some math concepts, a lot of science and they have the ''letter of the week''. But it's all done in a playful manner. They also do a lot of art and craft projects.

Language: Mainly in german. The science teacher who comes in one day a week speaks primarily english with the kids (although she is german).

Parent input/PTA/etc.: A lot of those things are handled in Mountain View on the main campus. There are parent representatives at the Berkeley Campus. Most of the parent involvement centers around the local things (organising car pools for field trips, collecting money for a marble run etc., marketing for the East Bay Campus,...) that do not need to go via the main campus. Parents are required to work 20 hours per school year (driving a car pool for a field trip counts toward that). Ina


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