Pacific Rim International School (PRINTS)

Emeryville, CA

Private School
Chinese, English, Japanese
Email: prints_em [at] pacificriminternationalschool.orgPhone: (510) 601-1500
5521 Doyle St., Emeryville, CA 94608
Editors' Notes: 

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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 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!


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\x97English, Mandarin or Japanese\x97exclusively 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 \x93labeling\x94 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 \x93disruptive\x94 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\x92 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\x92 Education Nights (where teachers meet to discuss key aspects of their classrooms with parents), reading and teacher consultations, I\x92ve 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 \x93grades,\x94 thorough evaluations are available at the parent/teacher conferences and upon a parent\x92s 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\x92s 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\x92s 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\x92 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

Feb 2000

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. Chris '