Global Montessori International School (GMIS)Community Subscriber
To see Department of Social Services records on this facility, click on its DSS Facility License # below.
GMIS is a bi-lingual, Chinese/English, Montessori preschool in Berkeley, serving children ages 2 to 6. In our day to day operation, we create a Chinese rich environment where children learn Chinese with a practical purpose. GMIS uses the discovery model where children learn concepts from working with materials, rather than direct instruction. Our program helps children develop independence and confidence by giving them freedom within limits. We understand each child has their own psychological, physical and social-emotional development pace, we respect their individual needs! GMIS also offers an assortment of weekly enrichment classes including soccer, dance, music, mindfulness integrated into the curriculum.
My daughter was at GMIS for four years. Starting at age 21/2 years old and she just finished her kinder year this past year. We were very happy with the program. The teachers and staff are so loving and nurturing. We chose GMIS because we could sense that this was a very loving place. We felt that at 2.5 years old, we were less concerned with the academics as much as the care that is given to her. It turns out that in the past four years not only was she nurtured but she was exposed to so many different experiences. She truly has thrived in the past four years. Her Mandarin is impressive considering we do not speak at home. But more importantly, she likes speaking Mandarin. The director, Vivi Teng, puts a lot of thought into the program and she has a special talent in choosing wonderful teachers. They are very attentive to each child's needs. The parent community has been great as well. We have made some good friends and the community overall is very welcoming.
My older daughter just graduated from GMIS, and it was such a great experience. Vivi runs a very nurturing school, and my daughter (now 5) is fluent in Chinese, with a love for learning. I wish she could do her kindergarten year at GMIS, but we need to make way for my almost 2-yr-old to start in late fall.
The main teacher in the 2-yr-old class is the sweetest and will no doubt provide a smooth transition. A HUGE plus is that GMIS toilet-trains the kids starting on day 1. My older daughter was trained in just a couple weeks.
I don't know much about the other programs, but I love the small size of GMIS. It's a great community and we have become close with many other parents in the school. I know other parents I've talked to are also very happy with the school.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
My 3.5 year old son has been a happy preschooler at Global Montssori International School (GMIS) since soon after turning 2. It is a Mandarin immersion preschool in Berkeley. He's our third child though the other two are quite a bit older and we were new to the area so we looked at quite a few preschools. GMIS stood out head and shoulders above the rest. The teachers are engaging and nurturing. The director caring and experienced. The office is well organized and the classrooms are spacious, light and just filled with joy. The language acquisition has been impressive and while there is English in the classroom, my son's Mandarin continues to flourish. The outdoor space is great for an active boy who wants to run, jump, climb and build. Soccer and dance class are included in the curriculum and my guy loves both. With an extremely supportive parent community, the school just feels good. My guy can't wait to go to school each morning and literally hugs every teacher good bye when he is picked up in the afternoon. We now have a fourth little one and when the time comes, she'll definitely be going to GMIS as well. Fell free to contact me directly if you have any questions. Kelly
GMIS vs Shu Ren
I was wondering if any parents out there were trying to decide between global montessori vs shu ren for their 3 or 4 year old. what made you pick which school, and are you happy? leport & AIM have waiting lists and global seemed more play based surprisingly… is it? i think my child will do ok in either setting although you never really know until he's in it. mom trying to decide
My daughter has attended GMIS for the past three years and I'm very happy with our choice. Although they don't speak as much Mandarin as they might in an immersion school, I feel her Mandarin is very good. For me, more importantly, the school director and staff are so loving to the children, I feel confident that she is well taken care of while I am at work. The director, Vivi Teng, is dedicated to the school and our children. She continues to improve the school with her visions. This past year, she developed some curriculum to have an outside classroom and introduced a mindfulness practice to the children which my daughter loves. I really didn't know much about the Montessori teaching method before we entered GMIS but now I am a very big fan. My daughter loves to learn and I attribute much of that to GMIS, the loving teachers/staff and the Montessori method. She is more than well prepared to enter Kindergarten. I'm amazed how independent she has become and the knowledge of so many different subjects she has obtained both in English and Mandarin. Most likely, we will be leaving GMIS this year as my daughter enters Kindergarten. However, I think it says a lot about the school that many of the families are considering keeping their child at the school for their kindergarten program. For my family, it will be a very sad day when we will have to say good bye to GMIS and the great parent community. Patty
My 3.5 year old son has been a happy preschooler at GMIS since soon after turning 2. He's our third child though the other two are quite a bit older and we were new to the area so we looked at quite a few preschools. GMIS stood out head and shoulders above the rest. The teachers are engaging and nurturing. The director caring and experienced. The office is well organized and the classrooms are spacious, light and just filled with joy. The language acquisition has been impressive and while there is English in the classroom, my son's Mandarin continues to flourish. The outdoor space is great for an active boy who wants to run, jump, climb and build. Soccer and dance class are included in the curriculum and my guy loves both. With an extremely supportive parent community, the school just feels good. My guy can't wait to go to school each morning and literally hugs every teacher good bye when he is picked up in the afternoon. We now have a fourth little one and when the time comes, she'll definitely be going to GMIS as well. Feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions. Kelly S
Re: Chinese Pre Schools in the East Bay
We were in the same exploration about a year ago, and actually came across GMIS in an old BPN post as it had not come up in our original research. We are so glad that we chose to look again. GMIS is a warm and nurturing environment that has been a great choice for our (now) 3 year old's first preschool experience as well as a great entry for us as parents new to the school environment as well.
The school's senior administrator is someone with years of experience in running schools that genuinely cares about the well-being of everyone in the environment - the staff, the teachers, the students and the parents. She has made herself available to us every step of the way and knows all the parents and students by name. She also has made the parent community an integral part of the experience without overwhelming or overburdening us as parents.
Our daughter has thrived in the Montessori environment. We did not have a preference for Montessori in our search, but it has worked quite well for our daughter's temperament - inquisitive and vibrant, yet somewhat independent and introspective. The facility is bright and very well maintained, in fact, they just recently had a cleaning crew come in to help combat the heavy flu/cold season we are in (speaks fondly to my OCD tendencies about cleanliness and germs). Our daughter started in the younger children's classroom where they helped with the potty training (most of the schools we looked at didn't offer this). The teacher/student ratio was 1 to 6 in that classroom which we were very pleased with.
There are a number of enrichment programs offered with the cost being relatively affordable IMO. The parent organization is quite active with numerous fundraisers and activities and we're very pleased with how much Chinese our daughter has learned in such a short time. The parent communication is consistent and thorough - there is a weekly newsletter that is sent and simple methods for parents to communicate with the school and with one another as well. The only complaint we have would be the parking. Since GMIS is in a busy location, it often can get quite busy during the key pick-up and drop-off times. Just takes a little patience.
With all that said, it also came down to the feeling we got when we met with the administrator and visited the school. We looked at all of the schools you mentioned, and it was between Shu Ren and GMIS for us, but in the end, we just had a better 'gut' feeling with GMIS for our daughter and for us (Shu Ren felt too 'academic' and we weren't looking for that in a preschool, perhaps down the road).
Hope that helps. Extremely happy GMIS parent
We are a current family at GMIS this year (2013-2014). GMIS was at Bancroft and they have since moved to 9th Street in Berkeley. Initially, they were a gem that combined Traditional Chinese education with a Montessori program. Back at Bancroft, they had a warm and loving staff of teachers for their Primary classrooms and offered an elementary program that was custom and superb, headed up by one of the best Montessori ELE teachers. These are the reasons we chose to migrate with them to the new campus last year.
Unfortunately for us, the ''Honeymoon Phase'' was short lived. Upon moving, there were a number of issues that came from poor planning and exceptionally poor school communication. The start of school was pushed back time and again due to unrealistic construction timelines. This resulted in a lot of chaos and confusion as we all waited, holding our breath to see if we could send our kids to school that week. Once school finally opened, the construction continued, resulting in a massive effort to do parent fundraising to purchase HEPA filters for the whole school to manage the dust and debris. After getting the filters in, we later found out that they were rarely turned on and that most were stored in closets and not seen at all. Last year, the saving grace was both the extremely strong Parent Community and the kind hearted teachers. Between the two, the year rounded off nicely despite its rough beginning.
But now it's getting worse. The main school administrator left last year after 5 years and the school never replaced her. Instead, a chain of random parent ''helpers'' have been rotated in and out of the front office, making poor communication even more difficult, with no one taking ownership of the position, no training, and adding to parent confusion as to what's happening at school. The ratio in the primary classrooms has bumped up from 1:6 to now 1:12, overworking the teachers. To make matters worse, they have started to use parent subs to staff the classrooms, instead of certified Montessori teachers. Why are we paying for a private Montessori education?
The teacher turnover is extremely high. They are overworked, underpaid, understaffed, and over enrolled. Normal transition periods are ignored as classrooms become packed. There is a small lawn and garden, but it's only a fraction of the size they had before. No play structure (one may be coming soon), minimal blocks and hula hoops, and that's about it. I can't imagine an elementary family being ok with this lack of play space for the bigger kids. Speaking of elementary program, we've been told they are cancelling the elementary as of next year. So, look elsewhere for a longer term school if you want to continue on past Kindergarten. It's just really sad...great parents and wonderful teachers (what's left of them that is...) just don't mix well with bad business management and communication. We wish them the best, but sadly, they are just not what they use to be.
I am one of the parents at GMIS.
Ratio: when we first applied, we were told it was 1:8, however, lately this is no longer the case. It is 1:12. Although we were not too happy about that, because one, we were not being informed with this change, two, this was not what we signed up for, but at least our kid's classroom is still running fine.
Teacher quality: we believe all the teachers at GMIS are very warm and nice. We have nothing but good things to say about our classroom's teachers. They work really hard and the kids love them. However, it seems there are an increasing amount of what we term ''nannies'' instead of teachers being introduced to the classrooms. We are uncertain of their qualifications or teaching methods (def. not montessori trained).
Chinese Program: Our kid's Chinese level has been thriving thanks to Xiang Lao Shi. Having her as the head teacher of the classroom helps tremendously.
Teacher turnover rate/well being: Turnover is pretty high. The workload is enormous. The Chinese teachers especially are taking on a lot of extra duties around the school, and it seems like they have a hard time taking time off even when they are sick, which is very unfortunate.
School Communications: It has been one of the weakest parts of this school as long as we've been here. Some active parents were helping out at the beginning of this school year since the admission director left last June, however, the position has remained unfilled. Part-timers are performing limited daily operational duties, and communication with parents is minimal. Things feel very reactive to us. We have only seen improvements when we've complained, and even then, it's been temporary.
Parents Organization: One of the reasons we feel fortunate to join the school before was because of the strong parent community. The majority of the parents are very nice and work very hard to continue to support the school, but the school isn't working with the parents organization as closely this year. There's clearly some disconnect between the two.
Academic Performance: We can only review our own child, and we have been very pleased with the progress and things we see thanks to the classroom teachers.
Enrichment Programs: They have Art, Kung-Fu and Chinese. Last year Fall, they had Viva El Espanol came, which was excellent, but we didn't know what had happened, they are not offering that now.
School Ground: Small but sufficient for small kids. Some climbing structures will be helpful to develop motor skills.
Maintenance and hygiene: They only have one part time handyman who fixes things around the school as well as cleaning the school. We used to have cleaning crews coming in at the beginning of last school year, but we don't notice any ever since.
Elementary Programs: It's sad that they will not be offering this program after this semester, but that might be for the better.
Unfortunately, we decided not be continue our kid with GMIS next year and applying elsewhere. Mr. C
Re: Reviews on GMIS and AIMS for a 3 yr old
I don't have any experience with AIM, but my two kids have been at GMIS for the last 2 and a half years. My older one started at 3 1/2 in the children's house until he went to Kindergarten this past fall (a little over 2 years there). My younger one started in the young children's house classroom right after turning 2 last fall, and is currently in the children's house classroom (3-6 yos).
We have been extremely happy with GMIS! We feel really fortunate to have this really fantastic, nurturing, rich, bilingual preschool experience for our kids. The teachers are really wonderful. For the preschool teachers, one English teacher has been there since the school opened I believe, the other has been there for at least two years and is also a parent. For the chinese teachers, two have been there since the school started I think (or for at least since we've been there), 2 have been there for 2 years, and one is new (came in the summer this year). I can't think of one negative experience we've had with any of the teachers, and my kids have been with all of them at some point. The director, Vivi, has a really great vision of the educational experience she wants to provide, and would not hire someone she didn't think was a great teacher. We talk with the teachers regularly, and they always know exactly what is going on with my child. They spend the time to get down at their level and meet them where they are, and you see can see a relationship of mutual respect. We have a really wonderful community at GMIS and the teachers are a big part of that.
We are very happy with the academic side of things as well. The materials in the classrooms are well developed and diverse, and the children do music, dance, and soccer during the school week. My older son was more than prepared for kindergarten (starting to do carryover addition and subtraction, beginning reading in chinese and english, writing dozens of characters and english words). We do not speak Mandarin at home, and we are often told how impressed people are with his Mandarin ability, both reading/writing and speaking. This was not a detriment to his English read/writing either. He was allowed to progress at his own pace, since the work is self-determined, and we were very happy with his progress. My younger son is almost 3 1/2 now, and he's doing Zhuyin as well as recognizing and tracing many beginning characters. He's doing a lot of math work too, many things that my kindergartener's class wont get to until the end kindergarten at his public school. I could go on and on, but overall we think it's a wonderful school and my older son was very sad to leave when he graduated and went to public kindergarten. Enthusiastic GMIS parent
Re: Seeking excellent Pre K program with 2011 openings
My son has been enrolled in Global Montessori International School in Berkeley since the age of two and we love it! Small class size, wonderfully kind and attentive teachers and staff, and immersion education of children in Mandarin are what make this program special. They provide potty training as well. The kids have dual exposure to english and mandarin at the upper levels. Extracurricular activities include gardening, cooking, art under the guidance of MOCA, Soccer shots, field trips to various museums, visiting musicians, and education on various topics ranging from dental hygiene to Asian cultures. The kids achieve a very high level of proficiency in math at a early age. Because they are learning both languages at such an early age, both come naturally and pronunciation seems to be quite clear for each respective language without accents or crossovers. The kids just seem to know to speak Mandarin to the Chinese speakers and English to the English speakers. If you really want your child to fully develop both sides of his or her brain in an attentive, loving environment, this is the place for you. Over half of the kids enrolled come from backgrounds with no Mandarin, so no need to worry if you're a non-speaker like me :)I Vivian
Re: How is Montessori style Mandarin immersion
We investigated PRINTS, Shu Ren, and GMIS before deciding to send our child to GMIS for preschool. (We chose not to explore AIM because we were concerned that having Japanese, Chinese, and English combined together in the early stages would dilute the language experience. We felt this was a slight disadvantage of PRINTS as well.)
The way I would characterize the Montessori philosophy is that it is very dedicated toward encouraging the child's self-reliance at a developmentally appropriate level. Montessori-educated children are known for learning how to take care of themselves at a basic level at a very young age (even before 3 yrs), doing things such as dressing themselves, helping to clean up after a spill, and preparing and sharing food with others. Another life skill which I think is even more important in the long term is becoming self-directed in choosing what to pursue and following through on their interests. Montessori kids are expected to choose their own pursuits, rather than constantly waiting to be told what to do next. Whereas traditional kindergarten in the U.S. may often have kids bouncing from one activity to the next after only 15-30 minutes, the Montessori approach will allow kids to pursue an activity for an hour or longer if they desire, enabling them to develop a longer attention span.
One possible concern about this is that in a Montessori school, children may miss out on the opportunity to explore new activities that don't initially appeal to them. I always ask Montessori educators about this on interviews, and I continue to inquire about this frequently as my child grows. At GMIS, the teachers monitor the kids' activities to make sure that they're not missing out on something important, which I can see from the periodic "report cards" that they send home containing evaluations along multiple dimensions expected for children at a particular age. They will check for gaps in what a child has been exploring and present a new activity or lesson to a particular child when s/he is ready.
Another possible related concern is that children may spend more time in individual rather than group social settings, if the nature of the education is primarily self-directed. GMIS adopts a flexible approach and includes group circle time several times throughout the day, in addition to providing multiple opportunities for unstructured indoor and outdoor play with classmates across age groups. Small groups often spontaneously emerge during class, because children are curious about what other children are doing or because a teacher is giving a mini-lesson. In fact, the Montessori philosophy is considerably less age-stratified and rigid compared to traditional U.S. educational settings, encouraging cross-age interaction so that older kids actively help younger kids learn. We see this as a tremendous benefit to supporting positive social development.
As you note, what's important is how a school implements the Montessori philosophy, since there is a lot of variability here. One difference is that the American Montessori Society (AMS) approach is less rigid than the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) approach, in that AMS-certified teachers will use outside materials and resources to supplement traditional Montessori materials. Most of the GMIS staff are AMS certified, while a couple are AMI certified; I don't know the credentials of AIM or PRINTS teachers. Another difference is in the administrators' and teachers' application of the Montessori philosophy; some are stricter than others. From my observations of GMIS, I feel the school provides a very warm and nurturing environment, responding flexibly to the children's needs and including ample time for unstructured, imaginative play. At the time that I observed PRINTS, I felt it was more rigid and less nurturing. This is something that you will want to look for yourself in all the schools that you visit because it can be so subjective and depend very much on the individual.
One final point I wanted to mention is the truly exceptional qualities of GMIS Director Vivi Teng. She is a passionate and dedicated educator with many years of experience in early childhood and elementary education. In addition to working well with the children, she demonstrates a genuine interest in understanding the parents' particular needs, going out of her way to address their concerns. She has also assembled a fantastic team of teachers and works with them closely to support their development and ensure that the children receive the best education for their needs. All of the Chinese-language teachers are native Mandarin speakers, in addition to their training and experience with early childhood education.
In summary, we are delighted with GMIS because of its excellent Mandarin-language education, its thoughtful implementation of the best parts of the Montessori educational philosophy, the excellent teaching and administrative staff, and the dedicated parent community. - Very happy GMIS parent
Re: American Int'l Montessori and Global Montessori
This is the second year our child attends Global Montessori International School (GMIS), and we are extremely happy with how the school has become especially over the past 6 months. After the school made the change from trilingual (Chinese, Japanese, and English) to the current bilingual (Chinese and English) environment for the two lower classes (Young Children's House for less than 3, and Children's House for 3 to 6 yr. old), the level of Chinese learning among the students have improved dramatically. Since our child was fluent in Chinese to begin with, we were somewhat unsure about whether the Chinese curriculum was going to be challenging enough, but we are definitely not disappointed by the outcome (if not expectation exceeded) so far. The new curriculum director (who's terrific) for the CH has integrated arts, music and other subjects into the language program, and we are still constantly amazed by how much math the kids there are learning by age 5...The staff has created a caring/nurturing environment, and the parents are a group of great individuals. The school is by no means perfect, but given it's only the second year in operation, we think it's on a solid footing already. We have considered all the alternative Chinese immersion schools in the area, and we are very happy with our decision. Happy GMIS Parents
As parent of 4.5 year-old twins who are thriving at Global Montessori (or "GMIS"), I can not say enough about the school. GMIS has taken the best fundamental Montessori philosophies and spiced it up with a lot of warmth and creativity to makes it more nurturing and suitable for Chinese bi-lingual education. Our family started at PRINTS when our kids where just 2 years old. There were no other options for Chinese bi-lingual back then. In fall of 2008, we followed Mahr Sen-sai when he moved to GMIS as it opened; but we stayed at GMIS when he left to open American Int'l Montessori (or "AIM"). I have the greatest of respect for Mahr Sen-sai's approach to teaching. However, we stayed for 2 key reasons. First, GMIS became 100% focused on Chinese bi-lingual with effectively 70% immersion in children's house instead of Japanese & Chinese. Second, we felt that under Director Vivi Teng, the school would be a more nurturing & creative Montessori. St. Mary's College chose to continue it's support of the school as well and uses it as a training center for Montessori accreditation. While GMIS is still evolving, our family is very pleased with it's process and future direction. Our kids often cried when we took them to PRINTS. Now they miss school when we are away. More importantly, I see their dramatic progress in Chinese (verbal and written) along with their passion for music, math and English. I believe the school will only get better over time. Good luck with your decision. Feel free to email me if you have additional questions. jinee
I have children at Global Montessori International School (GMIS) since it opened a year ago. The strength of the school has been the Director Vivi Teng. She is from a family of educators in Taiwan and has a clear passion for teaching. She is especially dedicated to bi-lingual education and finding the best materials to teach Mandarin. She and the teachers set the tone of warmth, care, and fun for the children. The teachers are gentle and patient with the children. The teachers have art and music backgrounds, which are incorporated in creative ways into the English and Mandarin curriculum. My children have really enjoyed this aspect of learning. There is no Mandarin spoken in our house, but my kids are picking up Mandarin at a rapid pace due to the effectiveness of the Mandarin immersion portion of the curriculum. The Montessori piece is evident when I see the children 3-6 (and Elementary Children) all working together, independently (without prompting), engaged in preparing the food, setting up the class for Thanksgiving Feast, and cleaning up. It is quite amazing that at such a young age they can be empowered to make meaningful contributions to those around them. I have been impressed with the work of all the teachers at GMIS. anon
I have two active and sensitive boys (3 and 5) at Global Montessori International School (GMIS). My 5 year old started at PRINTS when he was 3 and we moved to GMIS for two main reasons: my faith in Ernie Mahr's expertise in montessori education and Vivi Teng's (GMIS director) warmth and passion for education. What I felt was lacking at PRINTS (warmth and flexibility), I found at GMIS. Even though I think Ernie is a very talented educator, I decided to stay at GMIS because Mandarin was more important to me than a strict montessori curriculum. Having the school (Vivi) and curriculum (Lena Lee) directors who are not only fluent but native Mandarin speakers, in my opinion, is important as well. They have worked hard to put together a very strong curriculum. During this past summer, while my oldest son did various summer camps, my youngest son (2 turning 3 at the time) stayed at GMIS and I noticed a dramatic progress in his verbal Chinese. In 2.5 months, he went from speaking some Mandarin words to carrying a short conversation in Mandarin. I think the fact that GMIS went from trilingual (Japanese, Mandarin and English) to bilingual (Mandarin and English) really helped my kids focus and acquire more Mandarin. The new integration of art, music and P.E. curriculum really creates a more multi-disciplinary approach yielding an in-depth and rich learning experience for the students. Lena is also Orff and Music Together certified. There aren't any academic pressure that I am aware of, the focus is more on supporting the progress and needs of each child. The intimate setting at GMIS also foster deeper relationships and there