Welcome New Hires 2023-24

The Graded Gazette


Anita Abrams - High School Science Teacher
Anita is joining Graded after five years at the American School of Doha as a grade 9 and IB biology teacher and an extended essay coordinator. Before that, she worked as a high school science teacher in the United Kingdom for three years. Anita is a registered biomedical scientist and used to spend her days working for the National Health Service in a busy microbiology lab surrounded by bodily fluids! She holds a Bachelor of Science in biomedical science and a postgraduate diploma of education from the University of Birmingham. She has a passion for making biology accessible, enjoyable, and applicable to real life. Anita is extremely excited about moving to Brazil after having visited the country in 2017, and because her father is Guyanese. Outside of work, Anita is an avid yogi and enjoys live music and travel. 



Ana Allen - Lower School Associate Principal
Ana is excited to begin her nineteenth year in education at Graded as a lower school associate principal. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in education with a concentration in mathematics from California State University, Long Beach, and a Master of Arts in educational leadership from California State University, Northridge. Ana is currently elementary associate principal at Korea International School. Prior to working in South Korea, Ana served as associate principal at the American School of Kuwait. She also has experience as an elementary teacher, middle school teacher, and literacy coach. Ana will be joined in Brazil by her husband, Tim, and two sons, Isaiah and Moises. Ana speaks Spanish and is excited to start learning Portuguese. She enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, and trying new hobbies. 



Timothy (Tim) Allen - Advancement Associate
Tim has been working in education for more than 20 years. He holds a master's degree in education, a master's degree in technology, and international administrative certification. His teaching career began in Long Beach, California, and he has since worked in the Middle East and Asia. Tim is now looking forward to living in and exploring South America. Over the years, he has held several roles in elementary, middle, and high school divisions, including teacher, associate principal, and school-wide media developer. Tim is passionate about teaching and learning, photography, videography, sports, food, and music.



Elizabeth (Liz) Angney - Middle School Humanities Teacher
Liz comes to Graded after 20 years as an educator, most recently at Costa Rica Country Day School, where she taught AP World History, modern world history, AP Seminar, and an eighth-grade humanities capstone course. She previously taught MYP Individuals and Societies in grades 6, 7, and 8 at the International School of Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago. Before moving internationally, Liz taught for 16 years at independent schools in Boston, Washington, DC, and New York City, including eight years at the Nightingale-Bamford School, where she chaired the history department. Liz holds a BA in history from Georgetown University and an MEd in curriculum and instruction from the University of Virginia. When she is not in the classroom, Liz can be found training for open-water swim races, hiking, reading historical fiction, or listening to podcasts. She also enjoys traveling and has visited 30 countries. Some of her most memorable trips include Greece, Iran, South Africa, and Sweden.



Joseph Baek - High School SEL Counselor
Joseph was born in Suwon, South Korea, and spent the majority of his childhood in China. He began his undergraduate education at Baylor University in Texas but transferred to Yonsei University in Korea to finish his bachelor's degree in psychology. Joseph also holds a Master of Science in professional school counseling from Concordia University Wisconsin. Joseph launched his international school career in South Korea and is currently working at the American International School of Guangzhou as a lower secondary counselor. He is passionate about volleyball and has coached it throughout his career. Joseph also loves to play soccer, golf, and go bowling. His other interests include eating good food, singing, and walking his dog. Joseph loves to meet new people and cannot wait to join the Graded community.



Deirdre Bennett - Grade 3 Teacher
Originally from a small New England town in New Hampshire, Deirdre attended the University of Vermont, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in elementary education. She is currently the curriculum coordinator at Aspen Elementary School in beautiful Aspen, Colorado. Prior to assuming this role, she taught kindergarten and grades 2-4 for 12 years in many fascinating places worldwide, including South Korea, India, China, and Serbia. Deirdre is thrilled to be joining Graded and moving to vibrant Brazil. When she is not in the classroom, you can find Deirdre practicing yoga, snuggling up with a book, or exploring the world with her husband, Adam (who will teach high school psychology and history), son (grade 9), and two dogs. 



Kris Bezzerides - Lower School Counselor
Originally from the US, Kris has lived and worked overseas for more than 20 years in Colombia, UAE, China, Bangladesh, and most recently at UNIS Hanoi in Vietnam. She holds an MEd in school counseling from the University of Massachusetts and has worked as an elementary and early years homeroom teacher and an elementary and middle school counselor. She looks forward to living and working in South America again and exploring Brazil with her family. She will be joined by her partner, Sarah Thawley, and their two children, Faye and Hugh.



Brian Cadogan II - Grades 8 and 9 School Counselor
Brian was born and raised in New York. He has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Hampton University, a Master of Arts in school counseling from Long Island University, C.W. Post Campus, and a Master of Arts in educational administration and supervision from Northern Illinois University. Brian is entering his twenty-first year in education, during which he has worked as a school counselor in both the middle and high school divisions. His career has taken him to various parts of the United States (Evanston, IL, Uniondale, NY, and Montgomery County, MD). For the last four years, Brian has been living in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where he works as an eighth- and ninth-grade counselor. He loves being active and has previously coached cross country and track & field. Outside of work, Brian enjoys working out, practicing yoga, scuba diving, roller skating, and traveling. 



Adam Cheney - High School Social Studies Teacher
Adam currently lives in Aspen, Colorado, where he teaches IB Psychology, IB History, and world geography. Originally from Williamsburg, Virginia, he completed a bachelor's degree in history and a master’s in social studies curriculum and instruction at George Mason University. Adam's 15-year career has taken him to Fairfax County, VA; Ankara, Turkey; Belgrade, Serbia; Aspen, Colorado; and now to São Paulo, Brazil. He has taught economics, civics, geography, psychology, world and US history, and Theory of Knowledge to grades 7-12. When not in the classroom, Adam can be found running road and trail marathons, enjoying snow and water sports, playing video games, reading and thinking about global politics and issues, and hanging out with his amazing wife, Deirdre (who will be joining Graded as a grade 3 teacher), soon-to-be-ninth-grade son, and two dogs. He is excited to learn about and experience the culture, people, and traditions of São Paulo and Brazil. 


Margherite Dadiego - Middle School Science Teacher
Margherite Dadiego is a third-culture adult. She started teaching in international schools in her late twenties and hasn’t looked back. She has lived and worked at outstanding schools and has met wonderful people along the way. Her first international school was in Israel, followed by the Philippines. She and her husband, Daniel, moved to Manila five days after they married. Their next stop was Syria, where their son Zayd was born. Life in Morocco, Japan, Thailand, China, and the Czech Republic followed. Daniel and Margherite are looking forward to living in and exploring a new continent and living in a country with a closer time zone to their son. When not teaching middle school science, you might find Margherite at a Crossfit box, quilting, spending time with friends, or finding ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle in São Paulo. Margherite has a BA in biology and psychology from Barnard College and an MA in secondary science education from Columbia University Teachers College.


Jason Giannitti - Grade 5 Teacher
Jason has just completed his 20th year of teaching. Originally from the greater New York City area, he attended Fordham University, earning a BA in history. He spent countless hours in the Yankee Stadium bleachers during his university summers. After graduating, he spent ten years teaching middle school and upper elementary school in New York City public schools. Jason and his wife, Sarah (incoming middle school associate principal), then moved abroad to teach in the Cayman Islands, where their son Andrew was born. They spent three years in Grand Cayman before moving to Atlanta, Georgia, where Jason taught fifth-grade math and science. Deciding they missed the international school comradery and the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean, Jason and his family moved back to Grand Cayman, where he has since been working as a fifth-grade teacher and literacy specialist. In his free time, Jason enjoys cooking, playing and coaching baseball and basketball, talking about sports, and building Lego structures with his son, who will be joining the third grade at Graded.


Brian Kuti - Grade 2 Teacher
Brian is a Nebraska native but has spent the last 13 years at The American International School of Muscat in Oman. He has a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from the University of Nebraska as well as a Master of Arts in international teacher leadership from Northern Iowa University. Entering his twenty-fourth year of guiding and coaching students in education, Brian has worked in public, alternative, and private schools in Omaha, NE, Minneapolis, MN, Salinas, CA, and Muscat, serving students from age eight to nineteen. Brian is excited to continue his journey in South America with his wife, Kendra (MS Humanities), and sons Ben (grade 5) and Kolwin (grade 3). He enjoys time with his family, photography, travel, and gardening.  


Kendra Kuti - Middle School Humanities Teacher
Kendra, originally from Colorado, has been teaching for the last 13 years at The American International School of Muscat (TAISM) in beautiful Muscat, Oman. Before her time in Oman, she worked in parochial and public schools in Nebraska. Kendra has a BA in elementary education, an MA in gifted education, a certificate in literacy coaching, and is National Board certified in early adolescence: language arts. She has experience teaching a variety of grade levels and curricular subjects and has a passion for teaching humanities to middle school learners. She is excited to join the Graded school community with her husband, Brian, and her two boys, Benjamin (10) and Kolwin (8). When Kendra is not chasing after her kids, she enjoys baking, running, hiking, reading, and having wonderful adventures by traveling as much as she can.


Fiamma Lalji - High School Science Teacher
Fiamma was born in London, England, to an Italian/Ethiopian mother and an Anglo-Indian/Portuguese father. She holds a BSc (Hons) in applied chemistry from the University of Portsmouth and a PGDip in industry & marketing. With more than 30 years of teaching experience, Fiamma has held teaching and administrative roles in the United Kingdom, Singapore, Moscow, and Hungary. She currently teaches IB chemistry and grade 10 science at the American International School in Budapest, where she also serves as head of grade 10. Fiamma enjoys traveling, fine dining, wine tasting, going to the theater, attending art exhibitions, and watching films in her spare time. In addition, she likes to work out and is an aspiring boxer and squash player. Fiamma looks forward to living in Brazil and learning more about South American culture. 


Laurie Lavins - Middle School Learning Support Teacher
Laurie grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Her first job involved training and showing horses. She then earned a Bachelor of Arts in cognitive impairment and elementary education from Wayne State University and a Master of Arts in teaching reading and language arts from Oakland University. She also holds a graduate certificate in autism spectrum disorder and is pursuing an EdD in educational leadership from Capella University. Laurie has been teaching for 19 years and is especially passionate about improving literacy programs. She began her teaching career in Michigan, USA, and has since worked at Muscat International School, American International School of Dhaka, and American International School of Zagreb. Throughout the years, Laurie has coached Special Olympics, swimming, and equestrian sports. She loves animals, kindness, the outdoors, being active, food, creativity, and spending time with her children and grandchildren. She is excited about new adventures on a new continent!


Amber Neid - Band Director
Originally from Minnesota, Amber received her Bachelor of Music in instrumental music education from the University of St. Thomas and her Master of Music in music education from Boston University. Since graduating, Amber has taught band and general music in middle and high school and has spent the past nine years teaching at the American School of Bombay in Mumbai, India. She could not imagine doing anything else as a career. She loves musicals, jazz bands, alternative pop rock, and drumlines. Her primary instrument is the saxophone, and she loves to find opportunities to perform with students or in her host city. When she is not teaching music, Amber can be found researching her next travel location, crocheting blankets for her loved ones, hiking in nature, or riding her motorcycle. Amber is excited to join the Graded community and is bringing along her two desi street cats, Aloo (Potato) and Chaaya (Shadow). 


Sarah Parham - Middle School Associate Principal
Sarah has been an educator for 16 years, having started her teaching career as a member of Cohort 14 of the New York City Teaching Fellows. Prior to teaching, she earned both a BA and a JD from the University of Texas and practiced law for four years before making the leap to education (a career change for which she is forever grateful). Sarah also holds an MA in secondary English education from City College New York and an MSEd in educational leadership from Indiana University. She has spent the past four years at Cayman International School, serving for three of those years as middle school assistant principal. Before Cayman, Sarah served as the seventh-grade interdisciplinary team lead, the justice equity diversity & inclusion coordinator for the middle school division, and taught global issues and English at an independent school in Atlanta, Georgia. She and her husband Jason (incoming grade 5 teacher) are thrilled to join Graded with their son Andrew (grade 3). Sarah loves reading, cooking, yoga, and listening to news podcasts. Having grown up in Houston and lived in New York City, Sarah cannot wait to get back to a big city to enjoy art, restaurants, and everything else São Paulo has to offer.


Sarah Thawley - Director of Student Support Services, High School Learning Support Teacher
Sarah has worked as a learning support specialist, inclusion advocate, and support services leader in international schools for more than 20 years. She has lived in Namibia, China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam throughout her career. Sarah has an MEd in special education from Deakin University, Australia, an MEd in educational leadership and management from Rhodes University, South Africa, and has completed postgraduate studies in autism. She also enjoys leading teams as part of the Council of International Schools (CIS) school evaluation process. Sarah's professional interests include working with neurodivergent, second-language learners and designing inclusive and personalized academic pathways for students. She is from New Zealand and will be joined by her partner Kris (incoming lower school counselor) and their children, Faye and Hugh. 


Emilee Tollefson - High School SEL Counselor
Like many third-culture kids (TCKs), Emilee Tollefson has always struggled to answer the question, "Where are you from?" While she calls Colorado or Minnesota her home, she was born in Saudi Arabia and spent her first 18 years between Saudi Arabia and China. Emilee moved to the US for college, where she received a BA in communication studies from Loyola Marymount University and, subsequently, an MA in counseling and guidance K-12 from New York University. She currently lives in Doha, Qatar, where she has spent the past five years working as a high school counselor. (She was lucky to have attended a few Brazil games during the 2022 World Cup!) Emilee enjoys spending time outdoors, baking goodies to share, hanging out with friends, and playing with her dog when she is not working. Foreign languages do not come naturally to Emilee, but she is excited to learn some Portuguese and cannot wait to call São Paulo home!