Our Story

Early Learning Institute (ELI), incorporated in 1982, is a Palo Alto-based organization founded to increase learning opportunities for young children. Before offering services to the public, its founder, Dr. Charles Bernstein, and other researchers spent several years conducting research on child development and creating what is now known as the "HeadsUp!® Approach" to early learning. This research base and the resulting HeadsUp!® philosophy have served as the anchor for all subsequent development efforts and they continue to distinguish ELI from other organizations offering children's services.

With locations in Palo Alto, San Jose, and Pleasanton, CA, our child development centers borrow from the best model programs and the most recent educational research. Through play and learning games, our program is designed to help lay the necessary foundation of all future learning. The preschool program employs a modified Montessori curriculum and incorporates art, music, and imaginative play into the traditional emphasis on practical life, sensorial, language, mathematics, science, and cultural activities. Because we highly believe in the importance of a bilingual education, we have special bilingual education programs that incorporate foreign language courses into our students’ regular studies to widen their gaze and make them more versatile individuals.

About Our Schools

Our private elementary school programs build on this model to allow children to grow using the Montessori curriculum. Both our Emerson School and Hacienda School incorporate the most recent advances in language, mathematics, and science curricula to craft an accelerated, yet in-depth program for first through eighth graders. Our Chinese Mandarin Immersion Program has been a special part of our education system, as it teaches children about Chinese culture while also educating them on American culture and the important differences between the two. The two schools, in Palo Alto, CA, and Pleasanton, CA respectively, are conveniently located near the HeadsUp!® child development centers in Palo Alto, Pleasanton, and San Jose, CA.

Our Focus

Offering an alternative to a traditional private elementary school, our schools follow an integrated approach to learning that builds on the classic foundations of Western civilization and is adapted to the future needs of students and their families. The fundamental tenet of the program is that students will learn to direct and manage their own learning. The goal of the teacher with respect to the student is to create an environment that encourages the pursuit of excellence in all facets of a student’s work, to stimulate a sense of curiosity and a love of learning, and to encourage the development of independence and individual responsibility as well as a social conscience.

In all ELI programs, child development is a process of stimulation and enrichment with cognitive and manipulative materials as well as hands-on activities. Students, individually and in small groups, plan and assess their goals in learning. In addition to providing academic excellence through our Montessori school curriculum, we also offer full infant daycare for children who are not yet old enough to attend school. Our staff is highly qualified and trained with the knowledge and skills that you are looking for. Our goal is to help children reach their full potential. We strive to nurture bright, alert, motivated, independent, self-confident and social children. Each of our private daycare campuses accepts infants and children up to six years of age. In addition to providing exceptional staff & services, you can be rest assured that all of our campuses are safe and secure. Each of our campuses features designated outdoor play areas that are fully fenced in and protected by secured locks. Interested in learning more? Get in touch with our offices to request a tour to visit one of our campuses today!



Kim Kostepen, M.A.

Director, Palo Alto Center

Kim earned her Preschool Montessori Certification from the Maria Montessori Institute in London.


Linda Paz, B.A.

Director of Emerson School

Linda is the director of Emerson School. She was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and earned her bachelor’s degree in liberal studies...


Jo Anne Camara, M.Ed.

Director of Hacienda School

Jo Anne earned her master's degree while receiving her AMS Montessori training at the College of Notre ..


Charles D. Bernstein, Ph.D.

President of Early Learning Institute

Chuck Bernstein is the creator of the HeadsUp!® Approach to early learning and president of Early Learning Institute...


Danielle Ewing, B.A.

Director, San Jose Center

Danielle holds a B.A. in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley. She obtained her Montessori certificate...


Imelda Acosta, B.A.

Director, Pleasanton Center

Imelda earned her bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of Philippines. She completed both...