The Monteverde School
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Monteverde School has all of those things.
we are a monteverde family and we love it. it's a reggio-emilia school in the elmwood district of berkeley and i absolutely could not be happier with it. in fact, i sometimes wonder if i had a third kid just so we could continue to be there.
it is a larger school (30 kids) and initially i was worried about this, but it worked out wonderfully for us. there are multiple rooms, play areas and kids can be where they want so the only time they are all together is during circle time. the kids who prefer more quiet find those spaces, and the ones who need to run and climb and yell spend most of their day outside. in addition to a great play structure, we also have a garden and our beloved bongo--the "wild" space where kids can climb and have their "secret" meetings. all is visible by the adults, but it gives the children a feeling of getting away to climb up the hillside and do treasure hunts or make up adventures.
there are about 10 or 11 teachers, so the ratio is excellent. plus each teacher appeals to different kids. and they are all wonderful with children. i have seen very shy, socially awkward kids come out of their shells and gain confidence and rowdy kids learn to chill out. they never raise their voices, i don't understand how they get 30 kids to settle and quiet down talking so softly. they just love children, you can see it in the way they interact with them. and not only that but they take their work very seriously and do tons of documenting. they hold wonderful parent education evenings where you get to learn about the reggio approach and how your child is exploring and learning. i can't even express how my children have blossomed there. they do such creative play, make tons of art, and are constantly encouraged by the teachers to question and have that moment of discovery.
on top of all of this, it's a school that really tries to create a diverse student experience. they offer financial aid for families who need it and they try hard to represent many races and types of families. i love this about our school. we are a transracial adoptive family and this was huge for us.
as far as environmentally healthy i would say they definitely so a good job. and i am obsessed with that stuff. i once spied a box of borax that they used to make gak with and i spoke with one of the teachers about the dangers of borax and they promptly changed to a safer formulation. it's not really toy based--they do have wood blocks and lots of trikes to ride and shovels to dig with. but i would stay they stay away from most plastics. and they are incredibly receptive to environmental health and safety concerns.
it can be tough to get a spot, but if you have some time, i would definitely take a tour.
I also did my undergrad at Berkeley, just before you did, although I never left the area. My daughter is also African American and just started kindergarten. I have lived in North Oakland since 1994. It is no longer very affordable, but it is a wonderful place for interracial families.
Our daughter went to Monteverde Preschool, which is both affordable and diverse. We couldn't be happier. Although they have no formal language program, a number of the teachers are fluent in multiple languages and they do use them, both in group settings and directly with individual kids that know Spanish, Portuguese or Japanese.
I also know folks that have been very happy with Mi Mundo preschool. And I've heard great things about Melrose Leadership Acadamy for Elementary.
Good luck and welcome back.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
I considered my daughter a slow-to-warm personality when she started at Monteverde, although I am not sure this still applies. She turned 4 earlier this month and has been attending Monteverde since September. There are kids of all temperments there and the teachers handle them all well by really connecting to the kids and paying attention to everything that is happening around them. When I hear a kid crying, inevitably they have already been picked up by the time I look up. And yes, as you said...very loving the quality of teacher-child relationship is just incomparable.
I don't see Monteverde as having a lack of structure, I see it as having room for choice. Other preschools that we visited (and one that she attended) had much less physical space and creative setup for kids to follow their interests. Having circle 3 times a day and snack and lunch actually breaks up the day substantially and creates natural re-centering for everyone. Structure is also created by continuing traditions at the school that provide changing focus throughout the school year. Not to mention that Monteverde also develops running themes and longer-term projects based on the interests displayed by the students.
We were definitely worried about our daughter's transition because she had a hard time with all of her previous transitions (going to Childwatch at the Y when she was quite young then her first preschool at 2.8). Maybe she was better conditioned from her other transitions or maybe it was because she was older and had dropped her nap, but her transition at Monteverde was not that hard. We simply had a few short days before we had her there for a full day (which is late afternoon for her). Maybe it was just the magic at Monteverde. It really is magical and she is happily developing beyond our expectations and we attribute it all to the school.
Although the space is large at Monteverde, it does not feel like a large school to me. I suppose since it is mixed ages, when the whole group is together, it is a larger group. But our daughter has benefited so much from the exposure to the bigger kids and the ability to choose where she wants to be at any given time, I wouldn't trade it! And it doesn't take long to get to know the kids and parents and for them to get to know you. Feel free to contact me with questions. deanna
We are a Monteverde family and very happy with the program. I would not describe the school as chaotic but as a creative space in which kids can pick from a variety of activities. My outgoing daughter is thriving there. But I would think that Monteverde would be a good fit for even a shy child because of their focus on social interaction. Whether you consider it to be large is relative. It is smaller than other schools I toured. How big is the elementary school you are planning to send your child to? Monteverde could be a good intermediate step. M.Elena
I have a daughter who attended Monteverde, and a son who is about to start. I wanted to echo what a previous reviewer said: that the day is indeed structured by circle times and lunch, and that the teachers are VERY tuned in to what's going on with the kids. So while it may look a little ''chaotic'' at first glance, it's been my observation that the teachers are really on top of things, both in terms of being responsive to the social/emotional needs of a wide variety of temperaments and in terms of actively following the Reggio Emilia philosophy, which includes documenting the kids' activities and seeking opportunities to facilitate learning that is built on the kids' interests.
I had a similar concern to yours before my daughter started. She can get overwhelmed by too much noise and too many people around her. But here's the thing... at Monteverde your child has the freedom to move away from the group if that's what she prefers. She can seek out quiet activities with fewer people if that's what she's comfortable with. But she won't fall between the cracks, because (it bears repeating) the teachers are awesome and responsive and just basically geniuses with the 3-5 year-old set.
Re: Oakland Preschools that foster parent community
The Monteverde School in Elmwood (on College Ave in Berkeley) fits your description to a T. Play-based, Reggio Emilia, really strong sense of community among Monteverde families - and it continues even after your child graduates. There are lots of other things to love about the school too - phenomenal teachers; large, lovely space both indoors and out; excellent communication with parents; very affordable. Check it out! Monteverde mom
Re: Subsidized preschool?
It's too late for this fall, but for fall 2015, look at Monteverde in Berkeley. They offer financial assistance, and they are extremely welcoming to all kinds of families. In my daughter's class there are queer families, adoptive families, co-parenting/divorced families and single parents - of all ethnicities and income levels. Beyond that, Monteverde is a truly wonderful school, run by a group of sensitive, dedicated, thoughtful human beings. We have been thrilled with our experience there from start to finish. They do tours in the fall, and applications are usually due in December, so you could check it out pretty soon, if you want. Monteverde mom
RE: Feedback on Monteverde and Step One Preschools?
I don't have any experience at Step One, but my daughter goes to Monteverde. We are thrilled with the school and have nothing but praise. I'll try to address your individual concerns in order...
1. Teacher support of the children is excellent. Monteverde has a large and diverse teaching staff. There is always someone available to meet the needs of the moment. Parents are very welcome at school, so I have spent a good bit of time there and had lots of opportunities to observe the teachers' interactions with the kids (not just my daughter), and I have been consistently impressed at the way they gracefully and kindly support every kind of kid - the shy/clingy ones, the boisterous ones, the aggressive ones. They have incredible patience and a VERY deep bag of tricks for dealing with the 3-5 year-old set. I have borrowed from them and learned a ton just by watching what they do.
2. Teacher support of families is also excellent. Our previous school - a Montessori - was pretty unwelcoming to parents. Monteverde is the opposite. When you send your kid there, she doesn't become a Monteverde student; you all become a Monteverde family. Parent involvement is an important part of a Reggio education, and MV walks the walk in this respect. They foster community through regular all-family (or occasional parent-only) events. They are also excellent at communicating what goes on at the school via a large variety of mechanisms, including email, photo/video sharing, in-person conversations, and formal parent-teacher conferences. MV is also sensitive to parents' financial needs. The tuition is quite affordable, and scholarships are available.
3. Curriculum at MV is student-inspired, so they do develop formal projects/curriculum in response to interests expressed by the students. However, mostly the kids play and explore. But it's not haphazard. If you give them a chance, the teachers and directors will talk your ear off about the educational philosophy behind letting the kids spend a morning playing with paint and buckets of ice.
4. Special Activities... it kind of feels like everything at MV is a special activity. The other day I came to pick up my daughter, and the kids were having dance time. Each kid got a turn to stand on a table in between a projector and a screen and watch as his/her shadow was projected on the wall. So... no formal dance instructor, but there is plenty of dancing. They do have a music teacher who comes in regularly to sing with the kids - she is fabulous. And one of the part-time teachers is focused on doing the bigger art projects with the kids (so there is art every day, but on the days Mila is there, she works with kids on bigger, ongoing art projects). Every teacher at MV has another life and a hidden talent, which they all share with the kids. For instance, one of the teachers is a yogi, and she teaches the kids yoga on Fridays when she leads circle time. Another teacher is an excellent cook. Another is a gardener and works with the kids (and parents) year round to grow food.
5. Focus on the children developing meaningful peer relationships... this is where MV really excels. This is why we picked this school for our child. Social/emotional development is absolutely the most important thing that goes on at this school, and I am so impressed with everything I've seen. (Even my dour, hates-everything partner admits that he is impressed by how they foster togetherness and friendship among the kids, as well as respect for those who are different. In preschool, this means that my daughter *hates* playing super-heroes and *loves* playing kitty, but she is respectful and kind and understanding of the kids who prefer to play super-heroes.) MV follows ''You Can't Say You Can't Play.'' We love it.
There are so many other things we love about Monteverde. I would be happy to talk with you further about this wonderful school if you wish. Didn't know I could love a preschool this much
I cannot express how grateful I am for our experience at Monteverde. When we first started I would get 2 responses from those I told our daughter went there. It was either: 1 - ''My child went there & thrived!'' or 2 - ''I Wanted my kid to go there!''. Thanks to the directors' vision & their passion for Reggio Emelia + Bev Boss inspiration/philosophies, the children are SEEN & HEARD. And not only do the children flourish, but the staff is empowered to bring their own flavor & creativity to the space as well, which is a Major asset. The MV community is a true reflection of the diversity & progressive nature of Berkeley/Oakland, in the best way; for the children, the parents, & those working there.
I often found my jaw on the floor at the way conflict was handled so beautifully, how questions were never just answered, but raised with more curiosity & more questions. This school truly understands the art of the ''process''.
There is a lot of freedom to explore, with the nature of the 4 different spaces to move around in & the mixed-age setting, all with a lovely balance of setting up healthy & helpful guidelines & boundaries.
The ''curriculum'' (so to speak) is ever-evolving, based on the children's curiosity, interests, & needs. It is alive, with no regurgitative measures or cliche ''Good Jobs'' on their projects at hand. One of the best things was that you never knew what you'd see happening next! They were always pushing the boundaries/genuinely exploring + creating. It was always fresh (& fun!).
To top it off, they offer a very accommodating schedule, they try to keep it as affordable as possible (esp. considering the quality you're getting!), and they even offer scholarships.
The staff does not ''entertain'' your children, nor do they talk to them in a ''childlike'' way (again, in the Best way!). They instead create a respectful, safe, & nurturing space for your child to explore, question, create, & PLAY, as a beautiful template for them to learn to interact & engage in the world with for a lifetime (not to mention their school years beyond) .
Throw in yoga every Friday, music with Bonnie Lockhart, cooking, gardening, professional story-telling, a bit of foreign languages mixed into song + circle time, endless outdoor time, & a ''graduation sleepover'' that will never be forgotten...You would be so fortunate for your child to go to Monteverde. The staff sticks around for good reason, & most of the students would too!, if only they were a K-12 school! kelly
Hi I was just wondering if anyone had any recent reviews of monteverde preschool? thanks, ella
My daughter went to monteverde and we could not be happier. It is truly play based with a low amount of structure. There is a morning circle and circle before lunch but the rest of day day was a free flowing of art projects and play. You could also go outside freely which was a selling point for my girl. This was a perfect fit for her at this age. At this age a highly structured environment was not a good fit. But if your child is someone who needs a lot of structure I would not recommend this school. They will not do well. It is for kids who need low structure. As a last note, it prepared my daughter perfectly for kindergarten. I was a bit worried that with the low structure and play based that public kindergarden (the opposite) would be hard for her. But it was a beautiful transition for her. I could not have been happier with this school. Happy with Monteverde
There aren't any postings about Monteverde within the past 2+ years, and I am wondering if someone could please write in about their current thoughts/feelings about the school. Specifically, how the current teachers are, and if anyone has any reservations about the school. Thank you very much. lauren
We're very happy at Monteverde (our secomd child attending there). The teachers are loving and creative. Many of them have been there over 10 years and the new ones are also fantastic. The art is great and so is the garden and science activities. My only reservation is that the environment works better for older kids and can be overwhelming for younger ones. If I had to do it over I'd wait to start until 3.5 but stay until over 5 if possible. happy with Monteverde
Our son was at Monteverde for 2 years until last fall when he started kindergarten. I can't say enough positive things about Monteverde- we have friends who seriously thought of having a 3rd child so that they would have more time at Monteverde when their older kids went to Elementary school. It's that wonderful. The teachers are talented and very warm- they really do love the children and each teacher knows each child well as the kids aren't separated into different classes. I learned so much from them by observing their interactions with the kids- it helped me to better speak and listen to my son at home. former Monteverde parent
We are planning to send out son to Monteverde School next September, but are also second-guessing our decision because he is happy at his current preschool (though we aren't 100 percent satisfied). All of the positings on Monteverde are old. It seems like a fantastic school but could anyone give some current feedback, positive and/or negative?
I am a parent of a current Monteverde child and had a graduate who is now in 1st grade - I cannot say enough how much we love it at Monteverde. Many of the teachers have been there for over ten years and also sent their own children to Monteverde, so there is a strong sense of community linking parents to teachers to children. Both my children have thrived there, one who was shy, slow to warm-up and quite bookish (for a 3 year old) who was completely content in the huge open environment, sitting at a table practicing writing her name and drawing intricate flowers. The other, who is there now, is quite the opposite, extremely social, bounding from one activity to another, and quite engaged in many activities throughout her day. I remember after my first graduated, thinking that this was a place that almost any type of child would do well in. They have a rich program, with lots of art (even an artist in residence who does amazing projects), lots of storytelling (one of the teachers is a professional storyteller), learning opportunities in many languages (Swahili, Spanish, Bengali, Sign Language), rotating books about different children/cultures/etc., lots of opportunity for physical activity, and a strong anti-bias curriculum. They are extremely responsive to each individual child and his/her needs. As well, the racial, ethnic, and sexual preference diversity of families who attend is reflective of the broader Oakland/Berkeley community and they strive to make the tuition accessible (although they have to make it viable). They are one of only a few private preschools that offers partial scholarships. I could go on forever and would be happy to if anyone is interested in hearing more details, so feel free to contact me via e-mail. Julie
Like most preschools, whether you like it or not is going to depend on your child and your parenting style. My child attended Monteverde school for one year three years ago and we had an extremely negative experience there. During that time two of the teachers that we felt were strongest left and another long term teacher continually expressed what to me seemed like symptoms of burnout. If your child is a very secure, independent, very organized and pulled together child who thrives on freedom and is very social I think you will be happy there. I feel that the school has a Rousseauian notion of childhood as a creative state that should not be interfered with. The kids basically do what they like and can run pretty wild. When we were there some of the older children were excluding their peers on a regular basis. A teacher there (who had worked at several preschools in the area) told me that Monteverde was the most unstructured preschool environment she'd experienced. What this means is that if your child needs structure, limits, or a lot of emotional support or connection this won't be a good match. To be a good match your child should also be able to tolerate a lot of noise. Some people absolutely adore this school and the school doesn't really acknowledge that it isn't the perfect place for every child so when our child was not doing well there we got some hostility and impatience from staff members.
hope that helps
Hi, Monteverde has been a very supportive, nuturing environment for my daughter. Monteverde has also provided her with a huge array of incredible art materials and projects that she chooses to work with every day. Monteverde has also allowed my daughter to explore areas that are not her most developed (bike riding, climbing, using tools) and to develop her strongest interests (drama, fantasy play, and story telling) I strongly disagree with the previous post that a child need be independent and pulled together to thrive at Monteverde. I took my daughter out of two other programs before she went to Monteverde. She was a VERY high needs, sensitive child who needed to attach to, bond with, and trust an adult/adults before feeling OK and moving out into her environment. Monteverde was THE ONLY place where the teachers understood this need in her and were 100% there for her in every way. For example, instead of saying to her, ''I need to go make snack now'' and putting her down to be on her own, the Monteverde teachers would say ''would you like to make snack with me?'' and take her with them. She needed to know they were there for her and they were. Now, she is absolutely thriving there but only because of the incredible love, attention, and support she gets from the teachers every day. I looked at over 20 preschools and my daughter tried two before we found Monteverde. Monteverde is everything I could ever dream for in a preschool for my daughter. Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments. Ann
Monteverde preschool is a fabulous, wonderful preschool with amazing, loving, skilled teachers.
My son is in his third year at Monteverde and we have had an excellent experience there. I can't recommend it highly enough for the following reasons.
There has been very low teacher turnover and the quality of the teachers is consistently high. The two owners of the school, Elaine and Tristen, run it very professionally. They and the other teachers combine the warmth that was my first requirement for a preschool (and I looked at many, many) with the creativity and energy that makes a school fun and interesting.
The physical site is very good as it combines both large indoor and outdoor spaces which allows for high energy children, like mine, to always have a place to run around. They also provide interesting art project every day. Some of my son's favorites have been taking apart old appliances donated by families (we gave an old TV), creating structures from tables of discarded stuff including wires, buttons, styrofoam, etc. He also loved a volcano project that went on for a week or two and included building big gooey volcanoes.
The children and their families are a diverse bunch, ethnically, socio-economically, and job-wise and combine to create a very warm, positive and caring community. Some of the family events are really fun. Last week was pyjama week in which the children are encouraged to wear their PJ's to school. As part of pyjama week, the school held a pancake breakfast on Thursday and many parents came in their pyjamas (or at least a robe over work clothes).
My son has made good friends at the school and my only sorrow is the graduates tend to go to a diverse group of public and private schools so I doubt any of his preschool friends will be with him in kindergarten.
I doubt you could find a better school for your daughter. I hope you enjoy your years at Monteverde as much as we have. Please feel free to email me if you have any further questions or specific concerns. April
With some reservation, I'd like to add my voice to the chorus about Monteverde School. Its certainly has a wonderful setting and is led by a creative, visionary staff. For most kids, especially those who are naturally attracted to the arts, it's ideal. However...my son attended Monteverde for two unhappy years. He is not an easy child-- temperamental, sensitive to light and noise, needing structure and discipline. Monteverde was a bad fit for him. It took a developmental psychologist to tell us that, and we immediately put him in a different school where he has done very well. In 20/20 hindsight, I wish I had changed schools right away. The problem was that Monteverde never suggested that they didn't have the resources for my son-- rather, they blamed us (and him) for his unhappiness in various subtle and not so subtle ways. It was a very dispiriting experience that took us all a while to get over. The lesson? The best of schools may not be the best for YOUR child. Be open to making a change if necessary. And look for a school that is willing to admit that they can't be all things to all children. JM
I can say a year later that I am still incredibly happy with our choice. Besides all the things that April mentioned, I can add that my daughter is blossoming in wonderful ways, some of which I have to attribute directly to the Monteverde staff and philosophy. (Some examples I can think of off-hand: she's become a wonderful story-teller, creating tales and telling them with intonation and emphasis that I know are a result of the time the students spend with Muriel, one of the teachers and a master storyteller. She's also incredibly adept at hill-climbing and negotiating difficult outdoor spaces to the point where she's keeping up with 7 year old boys; I don't think this would be the case if she didn't spend so much time in the "bongo", the outdoor hill/play area.) Feel free to email me with questions, as well.
My son, now 4, has been at Monteverde since he was 2yrs 8months and we've been very pleased with the school. Our older child was in a smaller childcare arrangement for three years that we loved (Animal Crackers) but it was inconveniently located for us so I decided to start over again researching pre-schools for my son that were close to our home. Of the dozen or so places I looked (the second dozen since I'd done the same the first time through), Monteverde was hands down my favorite. Here are some of the reasons.
1) Despite its larger size (20-24 children ages 2-5), the atmosphere is as warm and supportive as our earlier experience. I prefer schools in which children of different ages are mixed to those in which children are divided by age and it has turned out that our son has been playing with older children quite a bit recently.
2) There is very little staff turnover, partly because many of the staff have also had their children in the school so are likely to be there for at least the three years that their children are there. The staff are well qualified, have teaching credentials, and are consistent in their belief in and implementation of the developmental approach to pre-school care that we prefer. In addition, they all seem to genuinely enjoy small children. The school has creative art projects daily and weekly dance instruction. Children sometimes cook their own snack, and there are many other fun traditions such as regular tea parties to which parents are invited, an annual pancake breaksfast, pyjama week where children and teachers are encouraged to wear their pyjamas all day, an evening dance performance and potluck, etc.
3) The physical location and layout are great. There is ample indoor space which was critical this winter with all the rain as well as a good outdoor area with plenty of room for bike riding and sand play. Also, it's a wonderfully central location for those living on the South side of campus as it is in the St. John's Community Center on College and Forest.
4) The school really is racially diverse, both the children and the teachers. This is something that few preschools seem to actually achieve although they all talk about it. Although this was not one of the most important criteria for us, it's been added bonus.
5) Opportunities for parent involvement include sharing a skill (such as one dad who came in and did African drumming with the children), board membership, workdays, newsletter, etc. but there is no pressure to be be super involved if you don't want to. Also, parents are welcome to hang around whenever they want and in the morning, there are usually one to several parents in the school reading to children or just hanging around to be with their child.
6) Tristen and Elaine, the two founders and owners of the school, are both wonderful to deal with. They set up formal annual meetings with parents to discuss the child's development at which parents receive a written report and have the opportunity to discuss the child with two teachers. After the more informal experience with our first child where we had to initiate a meeting if we wanted to discuss our child, we found this a welcome vestige of Tristen and Elaine's elementary school training.
7) Finally, another big advantage is the school's flexibility regarding schedule. They have three pickup times, 12:30, 3:30, or 5:30, and some children come for a couple days while some are there for all five. Fees are adjusted accordingly. Our son attends four days until 3:30. April
After looking at a number of schools last spring, our 2 and a half year old daughter started at Monteverde preschool in September and we've been extremely happy (thrilled, actually) with our choice. She loves to go to school and hates to leave; we feel 100% comfortable leaving her there.
Nobody on the parents list had anything to say about Monteverde when I asked last year, and we didn't know anyone who had their kids there, but we went with our gut, and in a lot of ways we feel like we found a hidden treasure.
What really made the decision for us last Spring was that we had very positive feelings about the teachers (2 of which are also the directors), and they haven't disappointed us--they're warm, wonderful, responsible, communicative, creative women. Other advantages: large outdoor and indoor spaces, a relatively diverse set of students, a good mix of structured and unstructured activities, lots of books and art projects as well as physical play, lots of different options for schedules, close to campus, and reasonable (i.e. less than many others) tuition. (To be honest, there were other schools that we looked at that were better than Monteverde in terms of specific features--e.g. one school had a nicer outdoor play area--but no other school that was as good all-around, in terms of aspects that were important to us.)
Monteverde takes kids from 2 and a half to 5. I think about ten of the kids will be moving on to kindergarten next September so there will definitely be open slots. (Though last year all the slots were filled well before summer; we were on a waiting list.) The school is located in St. John's on College (about a ten minute walk south of campus), but isn't associated with St. John's; they just rent the space. Phone is 848-3313. Judy