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Pacific Rim International School (Emeryville, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Private Schools > Pacific Rim International School

Feb 2014

Re: Chinese Pre Schools in the East Bay
My son has been attending PRINTS for the last two and half years in both IC and CH. The current teachers are great, very stable, and professional. They really pay attention to each individual child and my son is thriving there. The facility is nice with a lot of natural light. Currently they offer art class, piano class, and soccer class as extras. PRINTS started a new blog this year which has a ''phrase of the day'' feature which is great for families to use at home. You should strongly consider it! PRINTS mom

Deciding between Shu Ren and Pacific Rim Int'l

April 2012

We are having a really hard time deciding between Shu Ren and Pacific Rim Int'l School for our daughter when she turns 3 in the fall. Would love to hear any feedback from parents who made a decision for one or the other and why. Or have experience with both schools. Having visited both schools - the class environment between the two could not be more different. Our daughter is very, very energetic and enthusiastic (read: can be quite loud at times) and one of our questions about Pacific Rim is whether it would be ''stifling'' at all for her. We also don't have experience with montessori schools and didn't know if the more quiet/calm atmosphere at Pacific Rim was unique to that school or due to the fact that it is a montessori. Any feedback and thoughts would be much, much appreciated. Thanks! Jane

Hi Jane, I have an incredibly boisterous little girl who has attended PRINTS for 4 years. The school has nurtured her free spirit and simultaneously the teachers and staff model safe, gentle, and kind behavior, in effect expanding her social repertoire. For her, this has meant an increased sense of peace even as she exuberantly plays.

I also find that the Montessori work, which is highly stimulating and self-directed, provides enough choice to match each child's temperament & mood on any given day.

Both Shu Ren and PRINTS are lovely schools; you have a wonderful choice in either.

We had to make the same decision a while back, whether to have our eldest daughter attend Shu Ren or Pacific Rim (PRINTS). We initially chose Pacific Rim cause at the time Shu Ren was fairly new and we wanted something more structured and thought Pacific Rim would be a good fit for my daugther. We thought wrong.

We've heard about Montessouri but the way it is taught at Pacific Rim was really strict. My daughter had to follow their routines, if she didn't she was reprimanded or made to follow it. Often time, she would come home telling us how afraid she was of one of her teachers...till this day she still brings her up and asked why we sent her there. In one of our classroom visits, my husband and I got reprimanded by the headmaster for giving our daughter positive feedback on a Continent puzzle she had completed. I spoke to other families that have attended other montessouri schools and they told me their's were not so strict.

The few times I observed the classroom, the kids were very, very quiet and did their routine without much interaction with each other. My daughter's personality is more outspoken. I wanted her to be in an environment that allow both independent thinking and interaction with other kids not just following routine so Pacific Rim was the wrong environment for her. After switching to Shu Ren, I see my daughter's interest light up. She would come home talking excitedly about what she learned at school and what she did. There is alot of excitement and interaction in the classrooms with other kids and the teachers unlike the robotic vibe we experienced at Pacific Rim. The teachers are all great and nurturing. We have been with Shu Ren for 3 years now and we love it. Please note, we were with Pacific Rim a while back so things may change now but at that time, that was our experience with that school. Hope this helps. Good luck w your decision. happy shuren mom

My child has been to PRINTS for one year, and is now going to Shu Ren. From what you described, your child seems to have a very different personality than mine. I can share our experience that was a few years ago, and I'm sure there are changes since then.

For my child, I don't think PRINTS was a good fit. There were some great teachers that my child liked a lot, but there were couple that my child was ''afraid'' of. The classroom was overall very calm, which can be great for some kids. In my child's case, I would like more 'team work', develop more social skills, and be willing to take a little more risk. After we left PRINTS and went to Shu Ren, I can almost immediately see a difference in my child. She became more open, less afraid of trying new things, and over all happier. Happy Shu Ren Parent

April 2009

We have heard some families at PRINTS this past year saying great things about the new teachers and how much their kids are getting out of the program (Children's House in particular). We are curious to hear more feedback from current families of PRINTS, especially (good and bad) reviews of their Children's House and Elementary program.

PRINTS elementary is pretty amazing. The staff hosted a Silent Journey, which means parents visit the IC, CH, and Elem classrooms after hours for two days in a row. Parents are quiet the first visit and can talk and discuss the materials on the second visit. In both visits the parent should try to imagine how the child in the classroom would see and use the materials.

From my 2 days perspective, the materials in the first classroom, Infant Community, looked like work, for example, sewing kits, a mopping kit, making/serving snack kit, a wood polishing kit. Then in the Children's House the work-like materials were interspersed with more fun materials like the half note bells and colorful strands of beads for math.

Then when I went into Elementary almost almost everything was intriguing. Trinomial expansion was taught using a colorful wooden puzzle. During the second visit, a teacher who recently moved here from Japan taught the lesson. Despite her limited Emglish and because each piece builds on the piece before it, she had nearly the entire group of 20 parents listening and comprehending the expanded trinomial cube. And this material, taught in 12th grade Math, was in the 3rd grade classroom.

Part of your question was about how nurturing the program or its teachers are. I would have to say that all of the teachers have kind hands and open hearts. Many children hug the teachers spontaneously and the teachers are especially gentle with the children who are transitioning at school or at home or who are going through a developmental milestone.

The head of school, Mrs Gwin, is very knowledgeable about child development, having more than 20 years experience in Montessori schools and as a mother of 5 children herself. She's really busy and can be hard to catch, but I have found that she responds quickly thru email or she's available by appointment.

Feel free to email me if you have more questions, Happy PRINTS parent blue2k

We can't say enough wonderful things about PRINTS and are truely grateful to be a part of the community. This is our 3rd year in PRINTS. Our experience has been wonderful. Especially this year, my son loves the teachers and truely enjoys school. Often he wakes up in the morning asking if he wakes up early enough to be the first one in school. Yes we did see many new teachers this year and honestly I was so concerned before the school year started. However all the teachers won over my son's heart from day one. They are very warm and caring. The teachers know how to give guidance and discipline the kids without making them feel being forced. My son has made tremendous progress with his work in all areas this year. As a parent I truely enjoy working with the teachers and the school administration. Communication with the teachers is very effective. They always give me timely feedback on my son's progress and they are always there to help. I love to work with Mrs. Gwin. She has lots of experience working with kids. She is such a nice person and very easy to talk to. I have called a couple of meetings with her to discuss some of the parenting challenges I have. She has given me tremendous support and guidance. I am very grateful for that. Also I have learned so much from Christinia through the parents education nights and separate discussions regarding montessori education. She is very passionate about montessori bilingual education and truely devoted to providing the highest quality education. Happy PRINTS family
March 2007

I am looking for more recent reivews of Pacific Rim International School in Emeryville, especially the Infant and Preschool programs. I would also like to know how warm and nurturing the environment and teachers are. Any info would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

My child has been at Pacific Rim International School for three years in both the Infant Community and Children's House programs. Our experience, along with many other parents, is that the school environment and most of the teachers are not warm nor nurturing. In fact, they are quite strict and cold in their demeanor. There are many rules that the kids and parents have to follow. Goofing off is generally frowned upon. The preschool is also academically rigorous so that in addition to the language immersion, the kids are doing work that is often beyond their age appropriate levels. I think you and your child must really be committed to their philosophy in order to be happy with the school. anon
My child is currently enrolled in the 3-6 year old class room at PRINTS called Children's House. Children are required to attend a minimum of 7 hours of school per day when they reach 4 years of age and 5 hours min. each day for 3 year olds, 5 days a week. There is 1 Japanese speaking teacher, 2 Chinese speaking teachers, 3 English speaking teachers (1 of whom is not full day and is retiring at the end of this year) and a head teacher. Note that there has been some teacher turn over in the last 2 years. My child's experience has been mediocre at best in terms of having a nuturing environment and an environment that puts the child's interest first. The feeling of indifference is everywhere, and perhaps this is a cultural aspect since several of the teachers do not speak or write English well. When we arrive at school each day between 8:45 -9:15am, it is most often to a classroom with a few children and no teacher since the teachers usually congregate only on one side of the large room divided in the middle by bathrooms. There have been days when my child did not want to go to school or was lingering outside the classroom to which he would be yelled at by the teacher from the kitchen adjacent to the classroom to get inside when all that was needed was a welcoming smile or gesture. The goal of the class is to have the child perform their ''work'' mechanically and to do it with the least amount of trouble or distraction for the teachers. There are often many kids wandering around the classroom without anything to do, as it is up to the child to choose whether they work or what they work on. Though the teachers do step in to do group language lessons or other lessons the class is such that a child can get lost or off the radar and rarely receives individual attention. Our child was expected to choose their own work from the different stations in the classroom and focus for large amounts of time on their work. There is outdoor play time around 11am and then lunch begins at 12:30, where the children are assigned permanent tables for the year based on language. When my child does not complete most of his lunch, he is force fed by a teacher whether or not he is still hungry. Children are often made to sit by themselves up to 2 hours after lunch starts until they finish their lunch or they are fed by a teacher. To communicate with teachers about my child, I must write my questions in a book which has my child's name on it. It goes to the teacher and then comes back for me to respond in 1-2 days typically. They discourage 1:1 discussions unless it's urgent as it takes away from their teaching responsibilities. Our opinion is that this is in general a cold and non-nurturing place that is more interested in the fees, and that anyone interested in this school should talk to at least 5 or more families before enrolling. anon
Funny you should ask that question--how nurturing are the teachers. I would say few teachers are nurturing and the majority of teachers are not. I really do like the Head Teacher though but he's mostly in Children's House. If you have a child who is shy and requires interaction, this is not a good school for you. Children that seem to do well in this school are the ones who are outgoing, independent, and self starters. These more outgoing children do well and seem happier than the rest.

My child does not look forward to going to school. He can't wait until the weekend or for the summer to come so that he doesn't have to go to school. When I ask him why he feels this way he says it's because the teachers are not nice. And generally, my son is right from what I have observed. He never used to be this way until we came to Pacific Rim. Since my son is not very aggressive or independent, we will often find him and many other children just standing or wandering around. The school wants the children to find things to do on their own and be more independent, to be self starters. This doesn't always work. My son tends to get bored at school because of the lack of interaction. School is definitely not something he looks forward to, he dreads going to school. Some days I stay at the school to see how my child is doing and I see a lot of children who are just standing around or wandering waiting for a teacher to give them instruction which is never given because they want the child to be more independent. So it seems, it's like, ''survival of the fittest'', if your child doesn't take the initiative themselves to self learn, he will find himself struggling with little or no help from the teachers. If he's a ''go getter'', the teachers do respond to this and consequently give these children more attention. That's just how I see it. Other parents may feel differently and there are some who really love the school, but many of the parents I've spoken to feel the same way I do.

This school is not nurturing at all and the teachers are too tough on these young children. However, I will mention that academics is a strong part of this school and I am grateful for that. Most of the children there learn how to write, read and do math. It's incredible to see children so young being able to do such things. If the teachers were more nurturing which would equate to more happier children, it would make a world of difference in my opinion of this school. Unfortunately, it's such an important quality that is absent there. anon

I have two daughters in Children's House (age 3-6) at PRINTS. This school is a fairly traditional Montessori program with a twist - the children are instructed all day in Mandarin Chinese and Japanese by native speakers of these languages. Although they choose a specific language to focus upon, all of the children are exposed to all 3 languages as they work with all the teachers at some point. This true language immersion environment was the primary deciding factor for my in choosing PRINTS.

The classroom environment is very rich with high quality learning materials. I have never seen a better learing environment in all the private school tours I took this year. Children can sometimes be overwhelmed by the many choices of projects (work) to do. My older daughter likes to observe other children for a while and then will go back and choose that work once she has seen it done by others. The mixed age group setting provides the opportunity for older students to act as role models and for the younger children to have mentoring from other children in addtion to the teachers. In my experience watching the classroom, children are not left to wander the classroom for very long before they are offered something to do. Some children require a longer transition period during which the teachers direct them to do activities, but eventually all of the children learn to choose their own. They are also tracked with regard to the time spent on various types of activities. One teacher per day is tasked with monitoring how much time each child spends in a particular type of activity (e.g. Japanese language, science, etc.). With the older children particularly, if they are seen to spend most of their time with on one kind of skill, they will be re-directed to try other things.

The ambience at PRINTS is very tranquil. The children are not running around the classroom or shouting. They do have a pretty rigorous morning ritual where they are greeted at the door by a teacer (very early in the AM there is only 1 teacher at 1 door with a clipboard) and by 9AM, the classroom has several teachers on both sides of the room. There are 7 teachers (2 Japanese, 2 Chinese, 3 English) for roughly 53 children. Children who are disruptive are asked to walk with a teacher a hand in the teacher's pocket until they are able to return to a work project.

With regard to the meals at PRINTS - parents are invited to join the children for lunch almost any day of the year. I did that recently. The children are divided into tables based upon which language program they are at and encouraged to speak either Chinese or Japanese. There is a table monitor assigned for each table who helps set the table. Kids are offered either a healthy hot meal that has a main course, fruit and salad or they can bring in their own lunch. They are not allowed to bring junk food including chocolate, but my kids do eat crackers. All the children are provided water and milk by the school. Unfortunately, hot lunches must be bought for a half year and not on a per diem basis. Children who do not eat their meals and disruptive are sometimes asked to sit at a single table until they eat most of their food. This is to ensure good table behavior where the children conversing, but still focused on finshing their meals. Any food not eaten is sent home with the child so that the parent can see what wasn't eaten. For me, this was helpful as I realized my younger, less verbal child didn't like a particular thing I was giving her. There is never any ''force feeding''. Not only is this unsafe, it is illegal. I have gotten back many lunches with partially eaten food so I can tell you that while they are encouraged to finish their meal, food is never forced into them.

The outdoor playyard is very large, mostly concrete covered. However, there is a very big play structure that is on top of a soft suface. There are raised garden beds that the children plant every year with flowers and veggis. There is also a bunny hutch with the largest rabbits I ever saw. The children take turns feeding them. Mostly my kids run around on the play structure, ride bikes (there are many), play with balls or just plain dig in the dirt making dirt cakes (and coming home looking like dirt cakes). Most days, my kids refuse to come home until they've had 1-2 hours of extra play outside in the play area.

The interaction between children is generally really great. My younger daughter has a visible disability and initially there was a lot of curiosity about her and I was worried she would get bullied. The kids got used to her difference and now she is great friends with many kids. I never see her getting teased and they don't even seem to talk about much anymore. If there is conflict, the children are sent to the peace table (or peace ledge if outdoors) to talk out and resolve their differences. It's amazing that 3 year olds are already learning conflict management skills. I never hear teachers ''yelling'' at kids at any time. They are corrected or redirected frequently with regard to behavior - some kids more than others. That's the price that is paid for a calm and harmonious environment I suppose.

The PRINTS staff provides frequent family information nights to explain the Montessori principles, parenting skills etc. I find the teachers open to criticism and willing to change their curriculum, especially in Elementary, based upon parental feedback. At the parent/teacher conferences which are held a couple of times per year, I do find that sometimes there is a big focus on what the child needs to work on or improve, but lately, since my children are now very familiar with the procedures at PRINTS, the comments are almost entirely positive and reassuring.

With regard to the teachers themselves. They are all very earnest and try hard to be good teachers and role models for the students. Some of the teachers are very outwardly warm and nurturing. My two kids love to give the head teacher hugs all the time. They are very affectionate with the teachers as that's how we are at home. Some kids are being raised in a more traditional Asian environment at home and they seem somewhat less outwardly affectionate. The Asian culture nurtures their children in a visibly different way. The children are spoken to in soft but sometimes firm voices. It's hard to explain, but I do think my kids are being nurtured and they always tell me how much they like the teachers (although they do get periodically angry at one teacher or another depending upon who corrected them that day). I speak to the teachers personally every day that I am there. There is no barrier to speaking with them - I just get to know when the good times are that are least disruptive. I try to catch them during recesses or after school. There are journals for each child so you can receive school announcements, playdate or party invitations from other parents or write down a reminder that your child will be out of school. Serious matters can be written down as well and the teachers always write a long and thoughtful response. If there is a serious ongoing issue though, parents should just make an appointment to meet with the head teacher Mahr sensei - he has always been more than willing to do that with me over the years. No one is forced to communicate with teacers solely through this method - it's provided mostly for routine communications and is very efficient. The school manager is very efficient and keeps the administrative side running smoothly.

Parking at PRINTS can be hairy at pick-up and drop-off time as the parking lot is very small and partially full with employee cars. They do try to improve this situation by having carpool drop off and pick up.

Overall we are very satisfied with PRINTS. I just wanted to provide a detailed review of the school to enable others to decide if this is the right environment for their kids or not. It seems to work best for people who really like the idea of the Montessori curriculum and acquisition of a 2nd language. Most of the kids by age 5 or so really are quite fluent in the 2nd language. Even those with no 2nd language speaker at home (although that is a handicap to be sure). I am including my email address in case you want more information.

My daughters have been thriving at PRINTS! I had read comments about PRINTS being too strict, academic and lacking in warmth. However, upon visiting the school, I noticed that the kids appeared very happy doing their various ''work'' or playing outside. My girls started in the ''Infant Community'' (age 18 mos- 3) after turning 2. I found the teachers to be very warm and caring towards them. Independence and responsibility are promoted as well as commaradery. I feel they developed confidence due to this environment. The transition to the ''Childrens House'' (age 3-6) was very smooth for both girls as the teachers take great care in making sure that kids are ready for the transition. We have loved ''Childrens House.'' It is always a challenge leaving school as my kids want to stay and play outside with their friends or even go in the classroom to do some work or show me something they are working on. My kids constantly astound me with the things that they learn at school and the work that they bring home. The school really promotes the love of learning and self motivation, and I find the learning environment very rich. I am impressed by the ''peace table'' which the kids are encouraged to go to on their own or asked to go to in order to discuss with each other conflicts and resolve them on their own. Teachers are available to help with the discussions if necessary. The kids in typical Montessori setting are responsible for setting the table before meals, washing dishes, keeping the classroom clean, etc. I find that this promotes confidence in their abilities and definitely has an added benefit on home life as well.

Lastly, the Japnanes/Mandarin language aspect of PRINTS is exceptional. While many kids are from bilingual families, I am impressed by the language ability of children who come from monolingual families. I do think some kids have an easier time in this environment than others. One of my kids can be quite shy, but she has really come out of her shell at the school. The other kid who can be a bit more hard-headed I thought would have some difficulty w/ the ''rules and regulations,'' but this has not been the case. I think order in the environment and awarenes of the rules allows for a calm and safe learning environment. There are many different schools w/ varying approaches and I think a good fit needs to be sought for each child. PRINTS may not be for every child. The best thing is to visit PRINTS and other schools to find the best fit. anon

March 2006

Re: Japanese Language Camp & after school lessons
Hi, You might want to check out the Pacific Rim International School in Emeryville. It is a Montessori based school but also offers language immersion in Japanese and Mandarin. There are 2 Japanese teachers for kids aged 3-6 and these teachers speak only Japanese to the kids all day no matter what subject is being taught (same for the Mandarin and Enlish speaking teachers - the teachers always speak in their native language to the kids, but can all communicate in English with the parents as necessary). There are quite a few kids in this class who come from Japanese families and speak primarily in Japanese throughout the day. They have several summer sessions that are each 2 weeks in length. The core hours are 9:00 to 3:30 but they also offer extended care from 8:00-9:00 and 3:30- 6. There are enrichment classes (usually art, martial arts, music) in the afternoons for an additional fee. Feel free to email me if you have any questions. Lorianne

November 2005

I am interested to hearing more comments on Pacific Rim International School in Emeryville since the last posting was January 2005. The bilingul teaching method is quite attractive. Thanks!

I have two children at Pacific Rim - an 8-year old girl who's been there for almost 5 years and a 6 year old who'd been there 2.5 years. I can't say enough good things about Pacific Rim. Here are a few highlights:

- language & culture immersion: The children learn how to converse and learn in both English and the chosen language (Chinese or Japanese) - this is not about memorizing phrases. They acquire the language more organically and more fluently. They are also introduced very intimately to Chinese and Japanese culture, holidays, art, etc. Your child will learn quite a bit about both Chinese and Japanese culture regardless of! which language track you choose.

- Montesorri curriculum: I highly recommend you check out books from any public library about the Montesorri method. This is an extremely popular method both in the US and in Europe. It is superior to any other teaching method I know. There are a ton of Montessori schools in the East Bay but this one combines the foreign language immersion with Montessori which is unique.

- Discipline and mutual respect: If you are one of those parents that lets your children whine, yell, throw tantrums in public, etc. and just let your child do whatever they naturally feel like doing... this is NOT the school for you. Children are expected to follow strict rules of mutual respect and responsibility.

- Strong work ethic: The Montessori method teaches children ! to take on their ''work'' independently but stresses this is not ''play''. It may look like play to parents at first but every activity has meaning and the lessons are cummulative. Some parents prefer a much less structured learning environment so you may want to make an appointment to observe in the classroom. My FAVORITE things about this school:

- I feel my kids are totally safe, well supervised & nurtured there

- Daily the kids bring home cool art and work samples

- My kids are getting a global perspective and are learning tolerance for people from all different countries and ethnic backgrounds

- Art, cooking, singing, dance, sewing and performing arts and other enrichment activities are woven into their curriculum

- My kids love going to school! They always want to stay longer when we arrive to pick them up!

January 2005

I love the idea of a bilingual preschool but I was wondering if other feel that it is necessary for the parents to be fluent in the language that their child is learning. While I am Japanese-American, I do not speak much Japanese at all. I've always wished that my parents had in me learn it when I was younger. I am looking for a current review of the Pacific Rim International School in Emeryville. The last one was from Feb 2003. Thanks!

We love PRINTS. I speak ok Japanese but many non-Japanese or non- Mandarin speaking, monolingual families send their kids to PRINTS. I think all the kids love the school and really thrive at this school. When I speak Japanese to the ''monoglingual'' kids they understand for sure and the kids that have been in the program for awhile, around age 4-5, speak back in Japanese for sure. You just have to go there and check it out yourself. The other nice think about PRINTS is that they also teach about culture and traditions. And montessori education is great. It teaches kids to be interested in learning and take part in daily activities and chores around their school and home. They also offer a lot of other extracurricular activities in addition like art classes, yoga, karate, etc. I feel very confident that my child is thriving, enjoying school, and getting a great education with the additional plus of leaning Japanese and some Mandarin too!

Feb. 2003

Re: Cantonese or Mandarin daycare
One preschool/elementary school that offers instruction in Mandarin (and Japanese) is Pacific Rim International School (PRINTS) in Emeryville. We had very negative experiences there (PRINTS frowns on parental involvement and has very stringent disciplinary measures, even for young children), but I must say other families were happy there (particularly families originally from Asia who were perhaps more comfortable with the school's attitude towards authority).

August 2002

Seeking information on Pacific Rim International School (PRINTS) in Emmeryville. Pros/cons from the perspective of those with kids who have attended the school and also from those who have looked into the school would be particularly appreciated.
My two daughters have attended Pacific Rim International School (PRINTS) in Emeryville for seven years. My first daughter, now nine years old, began when she was two years old; my second daughter, now seven, started at one-and-a-half. The PRINTS program is divided into three parts: Infant Community (18-36 months), Children's House (3-6 years), and Elementary (6-12 years). My second daughter has experienced all three (my first daughter began before the institution of Infant Community). I have only good things to say about the school. As far as I know PRINTS is the only bilingual Montessori school, offering programs in English/Mandarin or English/Japanese and the only Mandarin language full day school in the East Bay. My daughters are in the Mandarin program and have learned a great deal of Mandarin (both speaking and writing in Chinese characters) even though we have no Mandarin speakers in our home to reinforce their language acquisition. They have also picked up a little Japanese. Each teacher speaks one language—English, Mandarin or Japanese—exclusively to the children all day. This is in addition to specific language instruction (in elementary).

PRINTS hires outstanding teachers who really know (and care about) each and every student. Here you will not find any “labeling” of students; each is respected. I have done a bit of guest teaching (a special workshop here and there) in the classroom (particularly for the elementary). Once when I had given a series of guest workshops in the elementary class, I discussed with one teacher a variety of strategies for reaching a student who would have been labeled “disruptive” in many classrooms. Rather, than write that student off or try to force the child into a single dominant mode of learning, the teacher found out how HE learned best. Her care and knowledge transformed that child. He was still lively (no squanching of creativity), but was better able to focus when his lesson was presented in a way that worked for him.

If parents do not know much about Montessori philosophy, it is important that they learn about it in order to understand the pedagogy and PRINTS’ policies. The teachers help in this capacity also. I selected PRINTS for its language instruction, knowing very little about Montessori. Over the years, with the help of Parents’ Education Nights (where teachers meet to discuss key aspects of their classrooms with parents), reading and teacher consultations, I’ve learned to really appreciate how the Montessori method emphasizes student-centered initiative in a responsible and holistic way. I remember that during my first few weeks at PRINTS I was concerned that Montessori seemed to emphasize individual over collaborative learning, but I found that my fears were unfounded. There is a balance of both. In addition, I have been impressed with the strong conceptual base of knowledge; the students learn key principles of math and language in stages, rather than memorizing. Since Montessori does not have “grades,” thorough evaluations are available at the parent/teacher conferences and upon a parent’s request. The work the students are doing in elementary is far beyond anything I was introduced to in my experience of public school (long ago).

In all schools problems arise. When they do at PRINTS, I have found the Director as well as the teachers and staff open to communication with parents. It helps, of course, if parents are polite and interested in communicating and problem solving, rather than merely criticizing. A few years ago, for instance, a majority of parents made it clear that they did not wish to have school uniforms so although the Director and some parents liked the idea, there are no school uniforms today. But a more significant example is this: When my first daughter was two and experiencing separation anxiety, I consulted with the teachers and together we planned a way to say goodbye in the morning that would cut down on my daughter’s anxiety. In addition, I was invited to observe my daughter through a one-way window (which alleviated my concern). Within a few moments of my departure, her tears would stop and she would turn her attention to the delights of the classroom. With our collective efforts, my daughter’s morning tears stopped within two days. It is possible to observe all classes (which parents are invited to arrange).

Finally, the main reason we stay with PRINTS is that my daughters LOVE it. Teachers, staff and PRINTS’ families are like a big family working together toward a common goal. Hertha

My family had a very unpleasant experience with PRINTS. Like many, we were more attracted to the opportunity to expose our child to the languages than we were about the Montessori side of the program. But we were willing to try.

I should say many families appeared to be happy at the school. However, we found
* The school to be dogmatic about all types of issues, from the types of lunches children were allowed to bring, to allowing parents in the classroom (absolutely forbidden). Hugs are discouraged even for the very tiny children (the school is open to kids as young as 18 months, I believe.)
* The owner of the school has strong opinions and makes all final decisions.
* For a not-inexpensive school, there was a poor student-teacher ratio, and our child was often bullied or injured on the school grounds due, in our view, to inadequate supervision.
* Disciplinary methods may have been acceptable to some families, but culturally didn't work at all for us. For example, our child, age 3, was forced to walk around the classroom for a day with his hand in the (male) teacher's pocket so that he could ''get his body under control.''
* We didn't stay long enough to know whether the language portion of the program would have been effective for our child or not.

Once again, PRINTS works for some folks. But we were not the only family to withdraw mid-year, so... look before you leap!

my 3 year old goes to pacific rim intl school (prints) and has for a year. it's been a fantastic experience, and i love the school. it feels like a family to me. i looked at a number of montessori programs before i chose this one, and i liked it because:

1. it had a warm family feeling where i felt like they took a personal interest in my son

2. the structure is montessori (accredited) but not like a boot camp. some schools i saw were strict to the point of being rigid - that's what i thought of the rennaissance school where they said that once a child mastered a skill like shoe tying they would NEVER tie the kid's shoes again. NEVER sounds extreme to me...

3. they weren't overly lax on the montessori philosophy, like some schools which integrate waldorf-ish play areas and such.

4. it has the feeling of a real school, nice grounds, etc., not in a church or something

5. the asian language programs are a really wonderful thing, in my opinion, because even though my son is not asian, he is getting an experience that sets him apart - a lot of the kids are fluent in both chinese and japanese by the time they leave.

well, that's what i liked.
good luck with your decision! :)

One preschool/elementary school that offers instruction in Mandarin (and Japanese) is Pacific Rim International School (PRINTS) in Emeryville. We and several other families we know had very negative experiences there (PRINTS frowns on parental involvement and has very stringent disciplinary measures, even for young children), but I must say other families were happy there (particularly families originally from Asia who were perhaps more comfortable with the school's attitude towards authority). anonymous

May 2000

Re: Culturally Diverse Preschools
I am Chinese American educator and have just finished selecting a preschool for my 2 and 1/2 year old son so I recently visited the schools I will suggest. Although I did not pick either of these school, I thought they might be possible for your daughter. There is also the Pacific Rim Montessori School in Emeryville. It is relatively expensive but is the only program that I visited that actually has instruction in Mandarin.
Chris 2/00

Our two girls, now 9 and 10, went to PRINTS (Pacific Rim International School) for about three years. We took our older daughter out in the middle of the 97-98 school year, and our younger daughter at the end of the school year.

The good stuff: our heritage is WASP, neither of us speak Mandarin (or Japanese), but PRINTS committment to bilingual education is impressive and effective. Our girls learned quite a bit of Mandarin.

The bad stuff: PRINTS has a relatively short history, has just gone through a big expansion in the last 5 years (the move to Emeryville followed by the director opening a second school), and fairly few teachers with a high turnover. Our children did well when they had good teachers (Mrs Gwyn, who I think is still the principle of the Emeryville school, was wonderful, for example). In our third year the school hired a very poor teacher (who is now gone) and was very unresponsive to our concerns/complaints about our oldest daughter's failure to progress. First, the teacher insisted there was no problem, implied we were over anxious and 'non-Montessori', etc. When test results confirmed our impression, Mrs Gwyn correctly suggested the problem might be mild ADD. But even after we had an evaluation, the school provided little or nothing in the way of effective remediation. We later met another parent who had had to remove a child with mild learning disabilities -dyslexia. The school kept assuring him that Montessori eduction prevented dyslexia!I don't think PRINTS is in any way equipped to deal with learning disabilities, but our other daughter did well there. (She is doing at least as well in her new school.) But I think you need to make sure that they have resolved their problems with teacher turnover and quality, and classroom control issues --around the time I took my kids out, another summarily removed her son after discovering him and two other 8-9 year olds conducting a science experiment outside without adult supervision. Some Taiwanese children were removed because they weren't learning enough English.

Notes: they seem rigid for a Montessori school, trying to enforce strict meal times on very young preschoolers, for example, and periodically insisting that they want to institute uniforms. They also tried (while we were there) to get parents to commit to participating in three year blocks. Good luck making your decision -the bilingual program truly is a unique opportunity.

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