of The Berkeley School
is to:

How We Started

The Berkeley Montessori School (BMS) was the first Montessori program in Berkeley, established by families who wanted to provide an education for their children based on the Montessori method. Since its founding in 1963, TBS has steadily built a strong reputation for the excellence of its programs and the character of its school community.

In 1964 the school opened with a class of 20 preschool students at Temple Beth-El in Berkeley. One year later, the school relocated to 2030 Francisco Street, the current location of our Early Childhood Campus housing four preschool classroom and one transitional Kindergarten classroom.

In 2003, after reaching a 1-million-goal capital campaign, ground broke on our second campus at 1310 University Avenue, which currently houses our Kindergarten through 8th grade classrooms.

Becoming The Berkeley School

Montessori will always remain central to our history, and we know that the core values and practices of Montessori are valid and effective. We also embrace progressive education practices that speak to the needs of our current and future students.

In 2009, the Board of Trustees voted to change the school’s name to The Berkeley School, to reflect the wider range of teaching pedagogies at work in the school. In addition to Montessori, TBS teachers employ Reggio Emilia and Project Zero methodologies.

Looking Forward

We believe that a focus on civic engagement requires students to achieve their full potential as individual scholars, members of their local communities and active citizens of the world.

Today, our students are asked to stretch to their potential and enjoy a healthy balance of challenges and successes in their approach to learning and in friendships, in expression through arts and physical education, and most importantly in their identities – who they are and who they can be.

The Berkeley School holds full accreditation from the Schools Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and from the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS).

click to read

Nelleke Burggraaf and Ellen Von Patten were the first two teachers at the Francisco Street campus in 1965. They were both Montessori teachers who immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands to pursue careers as Montessori educators. They taught in the Live Oak classroom and Eugenia classroom respectively and lived together in what is now the Magnolia classroom.

The commute was absolutely arduous: a full 15 seconds door-to-door as Nelleke, now retired and living in Moraga, recalls. Her retelling of that burgeoning period of the school’s history drips with affection.

Nelleke and Ellen each taught a classroom of 20 and 25 students respectively and appreciated the autonomy the parents gave them. The school secretary, Alice Sedraholm, was the boss, as far as Nelleke could tell. There was no head of school during those early years; the school functioned as a parent-run collective, and a very popular one at that. “Everyone wanted to bring their kids to us,” Nelleke remembers proudly.

“The parents were very loving. They would cook us meals, even set us up on dates. We were a big family.”

These days Nelleke enjoys running into her former students and parents during occasional trips to Berkeley. “I don’t always remember them, but they always remember me!”