PictureTerra Marin School and Terra Mandarin Preschool founder Wendy Xa, at right. Courtesy image.

In barely six months, Wendy Xa and her team have seemingly crammed years of foundational work in creating the new K-8 Terra Marin School and the Terra Mandarin Preschool, a Reggio Emilia-inspired Mandarin immersion preschool and transitional kindergarten, both open today (Sept. 5) and located within the former Ring Mountain Day School space on Lomita Drive in Mill Valley.

In that time, they’ve created an “interaction-rich” K-8 curriculum that incorporates ideas from John Dewey, Howard Gardner, Edward Harkness and John Muir and helps them “know their gifts and empowers them to forge ahead with purpose.”

They’ve hired a cadre of teachers for both schools from around the Bay Area and, in the case of the Mandarin-immersion program, from around the world in places like Singapore. Xa and her administrators held rigorous, three-week training sessions as well as a 16-hour talk about social emotional development with a neuroscience foundation.

They’ve also changed the school’s moniker from Pacific Discovery School to Terra Marin School after “an exhaustive, deliberate and productive process” that “truly speaks to our vision and what we seek to provide for all of our students, staff and parents alike,” Xa says, pointing to the name’s Latin roots of “Earth” and “sea.”

Oh – and they squeezed a remodel of the Mill Valley School District building adjacent to Edna Maguire School into their summer, continue to hold open houses for both Terra Marin (Tuesdays at 9:30am) and Terra Mandarin (Wednesdays at 9:30).

“We have been extremely busy,” says Xa, a former vice president at Goldman Sachs and a mother of two who founded the Mandarin immersion Presidio Knolls School in San Francisco in 2008 as a preschool before expanding it to a K-8 program. “But it’s all because we want to build a world class institution in the heart of Mill Valley. And we’re on track to do it.”

But while Xa and her team are proud of the foundation they’ve laid, they know they’ve got plenty of work to do in creating an institution that stands the test of time in a town with an acclaimed public school district.

“Mill Valley public schools do a phenomenal job,” she says. “What we serve are kids whose parents want to give them a little extra boost – extraordinarily bright students who feel under-challenged in their classrooms. We keep them in their grade level but they can jump three grades in math or english.”

“There are kids who are yearning for more,” she adds. “But we also strive for a nice balance of gifts and types of learners in our school to give each student a robust well-rounded learning experience. We believe that every student is extraordinarily bright in different intelligences and we seek to bring out those sometimes apparent and sometimes hidden gifts in every student. Our mission is to spark curiosity and intellectual wonder in every child.”

To that end, Xa says she hopes to make her schools part of the broader Mill Valley community by participating in local events and launching a workshop series that would be open to the public and cover topics like child development, creating conversational strategies and working with teenagers.

“We’re all in on being in Mill Valley and we want to be part of this community,” Xa says. 
The 411: Terra Marin School and the Terra Mandarin Preschool are open as of Sept. 5. Terra Marin hosts weekly open houses and informational sessions at the school on Tuesdays at 9:30am, while Terra Mandarin does so on Wednesdays at 9:30am. A grand opening celebration, open to the community, is set for Sunday, Oct. 14. The schools are located at 70 Lomita Drive. 
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