Richard Boerner, Superintendent -

By Richard Boerner, Superintendent

The concept of a think tank is not a new one, but it is rather uncommon in schools. Why is this the case? Why don’t schools look more outwardly and leverage outside expertise and research to drive improvement?

Graded has been a vanguard in international education for nearly 100 years. As a leading academic institution, we continue to push, grow, and improve upon our strengths. It was this desire that inspired our design of Think Tank 2019. As we shared in early-April, Graded brought together some of the world's best thought leaders to help us prioritize and implement our next steps toward continuous school improvement. What was refreshing was that we chose to do this not because we had to, but rather because we had the capacity to do it.

So, what did we learn? What advice and expertise did our guests share that we, as a learning community, could act upon to enhance the experience of our students? To determine this, we needed to listen, reflect, and think. After Think Tank concluded, we talked to the participating faculty and administrators, as well as our Board of Directors. Then on Thursday evening, two weeks later, 85 faculty voluntarily gathered to learn, understand, and offer input.

Through these extended dialogues, additional outreach, and further discussions with our Think Tank experts, we have distilled and synthesized what we learned and have thoughtfully developed our path forward.

A repeated piece of advice offered by many of the Think Tank experts was to resist doing too much. Dr. Kevin Mattingly, professor of science of learning at Teachers College, Columbia University, said it best, “Great schools try to do too much, so select a singular focus, with evidence of result, and be unrelenting in making progress.”

As I previously stated, Graded's students are excelling. Teaching and learning are strong. In short, results are impressive. However, Graded can be even better. We can create more meaningful and lasting connections between what students learn and what they do with that information. In fact, I would argue this is why education exists: for students to gain knowledge, develop skills to interpret the knowledge, and apply those skills in real-world, lived experiences.

To accomplish this objective, Graded will apply cognitive science research known as the "science of learning.” It will help us ensure that students, via inspirational instruction, harness deep, enduring, and transferable learning that will be evidenced in their work, their thinking, and their lives. In partnership with Dr. Mattingly and Columbia University, our faculty will begin in-depth training in the science of learning.

Additionally, we will share with students the strategies and approaches to making learning stick. Students will gain a deeper understanding of the content they learn and discover ways to apply and transfer their learning to new situations. The depth and quality of student work will serve as evidence of these new ways in which they “think about their thinking.” As we utilize the best approaches for students, we will measure how these neuroscience strategies positively impact their learning.

During a recent conversation with our Leadership Team, Dr. Mattingly said that “Graded is undertaking groundbreaking work in the science of learning.” He strongly encouraged us to publish the work.

While keenly focused on deepening learning experiences for our students, we cannot and should not ignore the critical role that belonging plays in the success of a learner. So, we will also focus on ensuring that students and faculty belong – that they feel connected, valued, engaged, and heard. This initiative, in partnership with the Institute for Social Emotional Learning, will ensure that students have the mindset, well-being, and sense of purpose needed to engage more passionately in their work and transfer what they learn into meaningful experiences after Graded.

Think Tank served as a catalyst that allowed our faculty and administration to reflect on and engage with the research around learning. It helped us develop a thoughtful plan to continue our improvement on behalf of the students we serve. As we near 100 years as an academic institution, we build upon Graded’s strong foundation.

I am honored to lead our school through this exciting and compelling time of growth, and I look forward to your active engagement with us on this journey. If you are curious to learn more about the science of learning, I encourage you to read Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, a book by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel.

One School, One Community, One Graded,

Richard Boerner


The Graded Gazette -

Vladmir, also known as Vlad, has worked in information technology for more than 20 years. His experience includes roles in a variety of industries including steel, chemical, heavy machinery, and hospitality. Vlad has also taught applied technology and telecommunications at Serviço Social da Indústria (SESI) in Minas Gerais. A Brazilian, Vlad moved to the United States as a teenager and attended high school in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He has a BS in computer science from Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais (PUC Minas) and an MBA from Fundação Getúlio Vargas. Vlad is a native Portuguese speaker but is also fluent in both English and Spanish. He is married and the father of two boys: Igor, age 5 and Eric, age 3. Vlad loves to read, play the guitar, draw cartoons, ride his Harley, and play video games (especially now that he has two apprentices).

Originally from South London, James graduated with a degree in mathematics from Leicester University before working as a teacher in state schools in England and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 1999, he moved to São Paulo to work as a mathematics teacher, first at St. Paul’s School and more recently at St. Nicholas School, where he currently serves as subject coordinator. James is passionate about teaching math and believes that every student can enjoy success in the subject. James is married to Elayne, and they have two children: Yasmin in grade 4 and Alex in grade 2, both of whom will be joining Graded's Lower School. He speaks Portuguese (com sotaque inglês, obviamente) and loves the hustle and bustle of his Pinheiros neighborhood. When he has free time, James enjoys working out and visiting new places with his family, along with playing chess, bridge, and golf. He is also an enthusiastic, if slightly plodding, zagueiro (defender), who occasionally watches soccer matches at the Morumbi stadium.

Anna is a career educator with more than 20 years of experience. She started as a teacher assistant while earning her Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Alverno College. Following stints teaching public school and serving as a teacher trainer in Ethiopia, Anna received her MS in cultural foundations of education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She was then selected to participate in a year-long residency in New Orleans, Louisiana with New Leaders where she completed her administrative licensure. Anna merged her passions for education and travel when she took the leap into international education six years ago. When she isn’t working or traveling, Anna loves spending time with family and friends.

Paul Havern first discovered an interest in higher education while in college at Michigan State University and working in residence life. Upon graduating with a degree in English literature, he moved to New York City where he began working in the admissions office at The Cooper Union, a highly-selective college focusing on art, architecture, and engineering. Paul worked there for nearly six years, becoming assistant director of admissions. Wanting to work more directly with students, he decided to switch sides of the desk and took his current job as high school college counselor at TASIS England, an American school outside London. As a counselor, Paul utilizes his in-depth knowledge of selective college admissions to better aid his students. In his free time, he enjoys reading, traveling, and learning about architecture, history, and food.


Kevin is currently the upper elementary counselor at the International School of Beijing, where he has worked for the past four years. American-born and raised in the midwest, Kevin has spent most of his adult life living overseas and teaching in international schools. Before working in Beijing, Kevin served as middle school counselor at the American Community Schools in Athens, Greece, middle school English and drama teacher at the American School of Kuwait, and high school English teacher in St. Paul, Minnesota. He earned an MA in counseling and student personnel psychology and a license in professional counseling therapy from the University of Minnesota before escaping the chill of winter and returning to the world of international teaching. When not teaching guidance lessons or leading parent workshops, Kevin spends his time reading, traveling, exploring the local food scene, and training for his next triathlon.

Jen is a learning support specialist currently teaching in Istanbul, Turkey. Originally from South Florida, Jen received her BA in anthropology from the University of Florida and then jumped right into community education work with various non-profit organizations. A passion for social justice led her to pursue an MA in peace education from the University for Peace, an organization with university status established with a mandate from the United Nations. Jen transitioned into a teaching career 16 years ago, specializing in learning support and language acquisition. Along with her husband, Tim Trotter, who is a high school mathematics teacher, Jen has taught in Mexico, Costa Rica, South Korea, and Turkey. Together with their two children, Lia and Gabriel, they embrace their international life with open hearts. Jen's hobbies include reading, spending time in nature, and learning to play various world drums.   

Tim Trotter is entering his twenty-first year of teaching, the past 16 of which were spent in Mexico, Costa Rica, South Korea, and most recently, Turkey. Prior to that, Tim spent five years teaching in his hometown of Denver, Colorado. He is joining the Graded community with his wife, Jennifer Ribachonek (Lower School optimal learning services teacher), and two children, Lia and Gabriel. Tim earned his BS in mathematics at the United States Naval Academy, after which he spent three years training to be a pilot. Once out of the military, he completed his MA in educational leadership at Colorado State University. A lover of numerous sports, he is most excited about living in a country that is as passionate as he is about judo and volleyball. When not playing sports, Tim enjoys the outdoors, reading, and tinkering with things.

Colleen Boerner, Upper School Librarian -

By Colleen Boerner, Upper School Librarian

Graded will welcome acclaimed author Alan Gratz in September 2019. During his week-long visit, Alan will work with students in grades 5-10. With support from the Graded Annual Fund, we have ordered 600 copies of the novel Refugee, one of Alan’s books. Prior to the holiday, rising 6-10 graders and staff will each receive a copy of the book and dive into the story. Over the break, students will be expected to finish reading Refugee and share their responses to it. Students will receive bookmarks with instructions. In August, grade 5 teachers will read Refugee aloud to their new classes as part of Reader Writer Workshop. Our visit with Alan Gratz will be enriched by the shared experience of everybody reading and discussing one of his novels.

Over the vacation, as your child is reading Refugee, we encourage you to engage in conversation around the book and its important themes. When school resumes in August, we are planning a variety of activities to deepen our understanding of the factors that compel individuals to flee their homes and their plights as they seek refuge.

Refugee tackles topics that are both timely and timeless: courage, survival, and the quest for home. The following review from Kirkus provides an excellent synopsis of the story:

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2017)

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school-aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact. Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar. Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

Reading history books and news articles gives students a sense of the events that have shaped our world. Statistics can provide numbers that might help students quantify the effects of those events. However, “When we can turn numbers into names,” Alan Gratz says, “then we can begin to build the empathy our country – our world – needs to survive.”

For more information about Alan Gratz, visit his website:
Angela Park, Communications Associate -

By Angela Park, Communications Associate

When freshman Alejandro G. arrived at Graded in January, he was extremely nervous. “Second semester of ninth grade. It could be tough, but I had a surprisingly good transition,” he recalled.

Alejandro quickly made new friendships through Peer Group Connection (PGC), a program led by seniors who mentor freshmen as they transition from middle to high school. PGC is a longstanding tradition at Graded. Groups of 12 to 15 freshmen and two senior leaders meet weekly to discuss topics and participate in activities. Theory of Knowledge teacher Maggie Moraes and physical education teacher Carolina Serra advise the group. Discussion topics include academics, social life, mental health, decision making, and healthy eating.

“They [senior leaders] give you a lot of advice about high school,” affirmed freshman Marina S. “But it eventually becomes more of a friendship than a mentorship.”

For both seniors and freshmen, PGC groups are a safe space in which students can open up about what is happening in their lives. “You learn a very important value, which is trust, and as you open up to others, you end up seeing that you aren’t the only one going through struggles, or that you aren’t the only one excelling, and that others have been through that before. I think that helps ground you,” said senior Thomaz M.

While PGC shapes the freshman experience, seniors leaders also grow in the process. “We learn to get in touch with ourselves. We learn the best way to be there for somebody, which often involves being okay with yourself,” said senior Emma T. “It’s about building your own self first to be able to give good support to someone else.”

During the annual August PGC Leader Retreat, senior leaders explore and identify their strengths and weaknesses. They interview each other, discussing one another’s qualities and visions for the group.

Thomaz knew that organization and planning skills weren’t his best qualities. He found these abilities in his co-leader Kecy. “She had fantastic insights, and we were able to complement each other.”

For Isabela P., also a senior leader, the PGC experience has strengthened her leadership skills. As editor-in-chief of The Talon, the school’s student-led newspaper, she has to be assertive. “You learn that you don’t always have to be adored by everyone and that people aren’t going to stop liking you because you disagree.”

Leading a PGC outreach group is an immense commitment. Seniors diligently prepare and test activities, reflect upon the results, and provide support to their co-leaders. However, the responsibilities are far from burdensome. “It’s easy to do this because everyone is very excited about what they're doing and enthusiastic about creating a supportive environment,” added Isabela. “It’s also incredible that you can form such close, meaningful relationships with each other in such a short amount of time.”

According to faculty adviser Maggie Moraes, an immediate outcome of PGC is the interest seniors exhibit in applying for leadership positions in college. Moraes beamed proudly. “They become residence advisors or leaders in outreach programs. They explicitly say that PGC has helped them develop and exercise different leadership styles.”

After this year's annual PGC Leader Retreat, many freshmen approached their leaders, expressing interest in becoming PGC leaders themselves. “You feel like you are leaving some sort of legacy or that you’ve inspired someone, and that’s something quite powerful and very special,” said Emma.

The Graded Gazette -

Congratulations to Middle School Principal Roberto d'Erizans for receiving a competitive scholarship to attend the Leadership Development Program (LDP) at the Center for Creative Leadership. Founded in 1970, the Center for Creative Leadership is consistently ranked as a top global provider of leadership development. In February, Roberto participated in a five-day workshop in Brussels with senior leaders from a diverse range of backgrounds and industries, all striving to hone their management skills and provide impactful organizational results. "The LDP experience provided me with the opportunity to not just engage experientially in learning leadership skills, but to deepen my understanding of my leadership behaviors through the facilitation of an executive coach," said Roberto. 

Congratulations to director of college counseling Bernadette Condesso, who was profiled in the Spring 2019 edition of The Journal of College Admission, a publication of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Since its establishment in 1937, NACAC's mission has been to provide support to professionals who work with students transitioning to and between colleges. NACAC is committed to establishing and maintaining high professional and ethical standards as outlined in the Statement of Principles of Good Practice: NACAC's Code of Ethics and Professional Practices. To read Bernadette's interview, click here.
The Graded Gazette -

Where can you sample Indian samosas and Lebanese za'atar while enjoying Israeli folk dance and trying your hand at Brazilian samba? At Graded's Celebration of the World!

On Saturday, April 6, Graded honored its cultural diversity with this vibrant event. Organized by the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Celebration of the World (COTW) drew a record 3000 attendees.

More than 100 parent, faculty/staff, grandparent, and student volunteers helped orchestrate the event, which featured an international parade, food booths, a silent auction, games, raffle baskets, and a lineup of performances. 

This year, COTW had a new home. Graded's recently-constructed Athletics Center, Student Center, and Athletics Field served as the spectacular backdrop for the colorful festival of nations.

Click here to see the full photo album.




The Graded Gazette -

1. You’ve worked as a Spanish bilingual teacher and are also fluent in French. Tell us about how and where you mastered these languages.

My mom was Brazilian and my father is German. As a kid, I was always exposed to several different languages at home. When we moved to California, learning Spanish was relatively simple, and I spent many months after college in Central America refining my skills in Spanish. I then returned to California to work with San Francisco’s Mexican and Central American population, teaching grades 1 and 3. Also, at 17, we moved to Geneva, Switzerland. Believe it or not, I didn’t want to go. In the beginning, I rebelled, but then decided to make the best of it. I took three hours of French classes a day and dedicated myself to the language.  I enrolled in University of California, Davis (UC Davis) a year later and chose to major in French. After college, I bought a one-way ticket to France and decided to apply my knowledge to real life. I was a bit idealistic at the time: no job, no work visa, little money. I spent nine months working on farms around the countryside and had one of the greatest experiences of my life.

2. What was your life like when you were in grade 5?

As a kid, I moved around a lot. Moving from place to place helped me become the open-minded, accepting person I am today. I adapt easily to change and am resilient in stressful situations. I didn’t always love moving around during my elementary school years. Making new friends and always saying goodbye is stressful, but I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to grow from these experiences.  As Graded is somewhat a transient community, I continue to struggle with goodbyes and new friends. I know many of our students deal with this reality all the time. After all is said and done, meeting so many wonderful, diverse personalities is what makes Graded a wonderful place to be.

3. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “fun”?

Fun is getting out of the city and enjoying nature — the beach or the mountains, in the company of family and friends. That’s ALWAYS fun!

4. What type of museum do you most like to visit?

I used to complain when my parents dragged me to art museums as a child, but ultimately, I gained an appreciation for art. I like going to modern art museums. São Paulo's Pinacoteca and the MOMA in New York are two of my favorites. When I visit a museum,  I try to imagine what an artist was feeling or thinking when he/she created a piece.

5. What’s one guilty pleasure you enjoy too much to give up?

Listening to true crime podcasts.

6. What do you hope scientists will completely figure out some time in the next 20 years?

I think we live during a pivotal time in history.  It is so exciting to be in education, because the kids we work with every day will be making decisions and discoveries that will affect humanity as a whole. My hope involves sustainable energy and zero waste. It is hard to imagine what Earth will look like in 20 years, if we continue with the current rate of consumption. I would like to see society make huge shifts in its use of resources. Science and technology, along with a radical human mindshift, is our only hope for survival. I know this sounds a bit radical, but it’s true. If we can’t figure out how to live sustainably, we will need some retirement communities on Mars for us to live out our final years.

7. What creative activities do you engage in?

I love cooking. My favorite thing to make is vegetable stir fry. The thing I love most about cooking is watching loved ones enjoy the work and energy that went into preparing the meal. I also like making art, especially woodblock and linoleum prints. I play some guitar, but I often find myself getting frustrated because it is so hard. I guess I’m not patient enough. In general, I am very creative. I love dancing and listening to music, doodling, or just plain coloring.

8. What are the best ways to inspire or motivate people?

The only way to inspire people is by example. People feel inspired when they see others inspired. We are generally attracted to people who are happy or people who appear to be doing grand things with their lives. When I am around people like that, I tend to also feel happy or motivated to do something larger than myself. Being around inspired people leads to conversations about inspiration and the desire to make a difference. I could never expect to inspire my students if I didn’t feel inspired, or in my case, feel a total love for being with young people.

9. What’s your favorite season of the year? Why?

I love spring. Every season has an emotion or a way of being that goes along with it. Autumn is nesting and winter is resting. Spring is time to start new things and to fall in love.

10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?

Sometimes I don’t like to admit this about myself: I am a competitive person. Graded prepares students for the competitive world we live in. I don’t mean to say we are preparing our students to be competitive. On the contrary, we are teaching students collaboration and communication skills. But at the same time, through the rigorous demands of our curriculum, we are preparing our kids for hard work, giving them stamina, and exposing them to high-quality challenging content and skills. I often refer to Graded as one of the best schools in the world, and I can say that with conviction.

The Graded Gazette -

1. You received a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master's degree in teaching, going on to teach high school in Oregon, Vietnam, Kuwait, and now Brazil. What common thread do these experiences have?

The exploration of the human experience. With each of these new opportunities I learned more about myself and the world I live in through my daily interactions with the individuals and societies of that specific place. These experiences allowed me to recognize, challenge, and name my bias, view the world through different lenses, and to appreciate the wide array of views and perspectives that make up our diverse world. The other common thread is that of being a lifelong learner and the belief that the more you think you know, the more you realize you have to a lot to learn.

2. If you could travel back in time and spend five years there, what culture would you choose to live in? Why?

I would return to Berlin right after the fall of the wall circa 1991. It would be fascinating to be a part of the new life and opportunities given to a city after a time where freedom was so repressed for so many. It would be scary, exhilarating, and overwhelming — all at the same time — to try to make sense of something that never really made sense in the first place.

3. What are the last three books you’ve read for fun?

The last three books that I have read for fun are Factfulness by Hans Rosling, Stretch by Scott Sonenshein, and Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner. I always tell myself that I need to read more fiction, but I am a sucker for nonfiction text that makes me think and question.

4. What experience from your student years most fed your love of social studies and encouraged you to teach the subject?

When I was in middle school, my parents decided that we would no longer give gifts at Christmas time. Rather, to celebrate, we started taking family vacations together. These trips took us to places such as Costa Rica, Portugal, Austria, and Ecuador. It was through these travels that I became fascinated by the culture, history, geography, and politics of places around the world and inspired me to want to know more. Originally, my plan was to join the Foreign Service. However, the more that I learned, the more I wanted others to find the same passion that I did in learning about the world. Hence, I became a teacher.

5. What’s the worst tasting thing you’ve ever eaten?

Goat meat. It was a regular item on the menu when I lived in Kuwait. As a result, I am now a vegetarian.

6. Tell us about your very first job.

My first job was as a summer camp counselor at Camp Orkila — a residential camp on Orcas Island in Washington state. I was an assistant cabin counselor for a group of 12-year-old boys. Camp taught me responsibility for others, myself, and the environment. It was in this job that I was first trusted to build positive relationships and experiences for kids. As a 16-year-old, it felt like a massive responsibility. However, it pushed me to be flexible, adaptable, and to understand the power of positive relationships. More importantly, camp also taught me that it is good to show your authentic self to others and to remember that life is fun and sometimes it is best to laugh at yourself and make the joke about you.

7. What fills your heart up to the bursting level?

Coffee and green space.

8. What is your favorite thing about Graded?

The atmosphere of Graded, both physical and humanistic. I love the natural beauty that is our campus. Our landscaping staff does an amazing job of creating and maintaining an outdoor space that is inviting and comfortable. The green spaces provide ample opportunities to find a space to think and reflect. I think that outdoor spaces at Graded make it special and are unique for an educational setting. In addition, the atmosphere among all of the humans that are part of the Graded community is rich, positive, and vibrant. We are so lucky to be among people who want to form genuine relationships and build a community that is strong, not only now but also for future generations of Graded students, staff, and faculty.

Angela Park, Communications Associate -

by Angela Park, Communications Associate


“It’s not easy being green.”

A school’s green initiatives might not make a significant difference in a city that produces roughly 20,000 tons of waste every day. However, an ecologically-conscious mindset, developed at a young age, may influence an individual’s decisions over a lifetime.

At Graded, the Lower School Green Club encourages students to engage in sustainable living practices and raises awareness of environmental issues. The club, led by grade 5 teacher Patricia Gehrels and grade 3 teacher Leigh Ann Fitch, meets every Thursday after school in Gehrels’ fifth grade classroom. After dropping their backpacks and grabbing a handful of healthy snacks provided by the teachers, club members gather around in a circle in the front of the classroom. Students learn and discuss a variety of topics: recycling processes, insects, ecosystems, and gardening basics — to list a few.

This semester, students opted to start a garden at Graded. To some, planting a garden may appear to be a simple task, but there is more than what meets the eye. Over the course of several weeks, students patiently and diligently mixed worms into the soil, raked leaves, cleared the sod, and added layers of cardboard beneath the compost before planting seeds and flowers.

“Planting the carrots was my favorite part,” said fifth grade student Valentina L. “I also learned about all the benefits of being in contact with nature, how nature can help you, and how you can help nature back.”

Students have witnessed symbiotic relationships between different organisms. “I thought that all animals were bad for the garden,” said third grader Lorena B. “But actually, insects are really good for the garden, and bird poop is really helpful [as a fertilizer].”

Club members have also undertaken other green initiatives at Graded, including recycling. Third grader Arianna H. recalled her first project, where she and her friends “went around from first to fifth grade classrooms to collect all recyclable materials.”

While the gardening project will be ongoing, club members will come together to decide upon their next green project. “At the Think Tank, they mentioned how problem-solving is important, but even more important is problem-finding,” affirmed Gehrels. “It’s this idea of ‘Let’s walk around the school and see how can we improve what we already have.’”

“Our job is to hone their vision a bit, asking them ‘Do you notice that? What does that tell you?’ We’re here to point them to things and get the questions going in their heads,” added Fitch. “When they get older and have the power to facilitate larger change, then maybe this will have been a positive influence for them.”

As Valentina aptly concluded, “Graded could be a greener school, and if we work together we can make it happen."

The Lower School Green Club meets every Thursday from 3:15-4:00 pm in Patricia Gehrels’ E01 classroom. Students in grades 3-5 are welcome to join. For more information, please contact Patricia Gehrels at

Susan Clain, Chief Strategic Communications and Advancement Officer -

by Susan Clain, Chief Strategic Communications and Advancement Officer


Navigating international schools can be a seamless experience, if you know the right questions to ask. There are approximately 9600 international institutions worldwide, each with a distinct curriculum, culture, and philosophy. This article outlines the advantages of an American overseas school education and provides a list of questions to aid your family in selecting the right American school.




American schools abroad were originally established to serve the the children of United States citizens. Today, they cater to both international and local students. If you are an American expatriate or interested in American culture, you will probably elect to send your child to an American school.

American overseas schools provide numerous benefits. To start, the primary language of instruction is English. Additionally, American schools offer an American curriculum and are internationally-recognized for their academic excellence. Pedagogically, they generally focus on more than just a student’s cognitive achievement. Social-emotional, creative, and physical development are also typically components of an American school education. You can expect a strong sense of community at American school, which often provides the opportunity for parent involvement. Finally, American overseas schools award an American high school diploma, which allows for easy transition into schools and colleges in the United States.



The mission of the US Department of State’s Office of Overseas Schools is “to promote quality educational opportunities at the elementary and secondary level for dependents of American citizens carrying out our programs and interests of the US Government abroad.” The State Department currently supports 193 American overseas schools worldwide. In São Paulo, Graded - The American School of São Paulo, is the State Department’s only directly-assisted K-12 institution.




Like all institutions, international schools range widely in terms of quality and reputation. When investigating American schools, it is important to do your homework. Make sure, too, that an institution’s mission, vision, and core values reflect those of your family. As you evaluate educational options, be sure visit school campuses, speak to students and parents, and ask the questions below.

  • Does the school offer a rigorous curriculum, such as International Baccalaureate (IB) or Advanced Placement (AP)?
  • What percentage of students are international?
  • What percentage of faculty are foreign?
  • Is the school accredited? If so, by whom?
  • What are the school’s affiliations?
  • Is the institution nonprofit or for-profit?
  • Is the school nonsectarian or religiously-affiliated?
  • What percentage of graduates attend college abroad?
  • Which colleges/universities do graduates attend?
  • Does the school have a strong alumni base?
  • What arts, athletics, activities, experiential learning, and service learning opportunities does the school offer?
  • How does the school utilize technology?
  • Is there school bus transportation?

For information on the US State Department’s directly- and indirectly-supported American schools worldwide, please visit

This article, in its abridged form, was published by the American Society of São Paulo in the April/May 2019 FORUM newsletter.

Av. José Galante, 425
São Paulo, SP - Brazil - 05642-000
T: 55-11-3747-4800
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