On Monday, February 11, 2019, Graded students and guests celebrated the inauguration of the school’s new Athletics Center with an American-style ribbon-cutting ceremony. The sports facility, Phase III of the Graded Campus Project, includes a multi-court gymnasium, a six-lane swimming pool, and three rooftop tennis courts.
Event speakers included Brazilian businessman, national tennis champion, and philanthropist Jorge Paulo Lemann, whose Lemann Foundation provided a generous lead gift to fund the Athletics Center, and National Brazilian Soccer Star Milene Domingues. Lemann spoke to students about the importance of risking-taking. Domingues discussed the important role sports have played in her life.
1. Before coming to Brazil, you taught lower school in Houston, Paraguay, and Dubai. What thread of teaching or learning winds through those experiences and feeds into what you do at Graded?
Starting my teaching career in Houston allowed me to gain an in-depth knowledge of so many different skills and aspects of the general classroom. I initially began teaching with a specialization in English Language Arts/Literacy. Those were the only subjects I taught during my first two years of teaching. Specializing in these subject areas also opened doors for me to train and get certified in English as a Second Language (ESL). Teaching in private, public, and for-profit educational settings has broadened my experience and connections to so many different types of children and learners. These interpersonal skills and knowledge in language have allowed me to adapt myself and my teaching to fit the needs of my students, no matter where in the world I teach.
2. Why grade 4?
Just coincidence. I’ve always loved the upper grades. I started in grade 3, moved to grade 2, and then eventually found my home in grade 4. I feel a strong connection to this age level and content area. Students at any age have lots of potential and capabilities, but grade 4 seems to be the age when responsibility and accountability kick in for young learners. I feel kids in this grade are ready to take control of their learning experiences and drive in the direction they'd like their education to go.
3. You come from a family of artists. Tell more about that and about where art fits in your life.
My mother is a singer and actress, currently specializing in educational/historical theater. She performs historical reenactments of legendary people of the past. Throughout her reenactments, she speaks about the importance of reading and education. Her reenactments of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad are based on “turning around and helping somebody” – mainly the young or those in need. She preaches about the power of reading and how books open worlds of opportunities. My father is a journalist and guitar player, and he was once a DJ. His passion for communications, expression, writing, and literature was a part of my childhood. In saying this, I think those traits have transcended into my career choices. As an educator, my first priority is making sure all of my students learn compassion for all people in the world, grow strengths in literacy, and become effective communicators.
4. Who is the greatest leader of all time?
In my view, Mohammed Ali and Mother Teresa are the top two greatest leaders of all time. Ali courageously spoke out for human rights and racial equality during one of the most conflicted times in American history. Mother Teresa selflessly spent most of her life helping those in need. Courage and sacrifice are two traits that amazing leaders possess. Those leaders give more than themselves for what others need.
5. Did you work while you were in high school or college? What kind of jobs did you have?
I did. I worked lots of different jobs including front desk clerk at the YMCA, an instructor at a private Catholic school, a full-time nanny, and a receptionist. Before I started teaching, I worked for four years in real estate as an assistant to brokers and agents. I also started a small pet care business. Both of the last two jobs were enjoyable and fulfilling. I learned a lot!
6. If you could write a best-selling book, what would you write about?
I would probably write a book about the faith and endurance everyday people have in following their dreams and living out their lives to the greatest purpose. There are so many amazing “normal” people walking around these days, people who are doing extraordinary things to make our world a better place. I’d hope a book like that would encourage others to take advantage of the good we all can do to make everyone’s lives better. Folks always love a good self-help or trials and tribulations story. I know I do.
7. What’s the best way to resist peer pressure?
Building your own sense of self and having a strong identity helps a lot, but that definitely takes time.
8. You love animals. Tell more about your experiences founding and owning a small animal care business.
It was a fun opportunity that came along after pet-sitting for a couple of friends. They told their friends, and then they told their other friends, and it just began from there. The business catered to owners of large dogs and exotic animals, such as iguanas, diabetic cats, and snakes. I never knew how lucrative pet sitting and animal care could be. However, once I was able to make a name for myself and maintain a steady clientele, I realized how much work actually went into running a business. I had a great time caring for so many different types of pets and helping people find someone they trusted to keep their animals safe. It’s definitely something I would love to do again.
9. What’s something about you that no one knows?
I have a nostalgic love for Winnie the Pooh. I still have a huge Winnie the Pooh bear in my mom’s storage unit that I got as a gift for my 16th birthday!
10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
My favorite thing about Graded is my students and their families! I’ve loved building relationships with each of my students. They have so much light and love to spread. I hope that I can help them maintain that light and continue to spread love no matter where they go in this world. Oh, and I love Dona Emilia’s lunches.
1. You majored in engineering and applied sciences at California Institute of Technology and then went on to get an MA in mathematics education from the Columbia Teachers College. When and why did you realize you wanted to be a teacher?
When I went to college, I chose a school where nearly everybody wanted to go on to do scientific research or work in “cool” mathematical money-making fields like finance, computer engineering, or computer graphics. I spent the first two and a half years of college exploring my own options in those areas, doing two years of research in the summers, and talking about corporate life (especially computer programmer life) with recently graduated friends, and I realized about halfway through my junior year that none of those lifestyles were for me. I had a bit of a crisis-of-future, skipped three weeks of classes to mope about it, and finally emerged with the idea that I would teach. It was hard for me because, despite the fact that I now know it to be one of the most challenging and rewarding careers in the world, at the time I didn’t think it seemed cool. But I am so much happier doing this than I would have been working in finance, business, or academia.
2. Look into the future. What math, science, or engineering courses do you imagine students will be taking in 20 years’ time that don’t exist now?
Introduction to Quantum Computing. A quantum computer is a computer that takes advantage of the super weird behavior of very tiny particles; they can actually be in multiple states at the same time. This will theoretically allow an advanced quantum computer to do trillions of calculations simultaneously rather than one at a time and; one major result is that some problems that are very very hard or even impossible now because they take too long, (like cracking very advanced encryption) will be much easier. The entire mathematics of computer science will have to change to allow for these computers.
3. If you won an unlimited shopping spree at only one store, what store would you choose? Why?
Probably the Apple Store because I’d buy it all and then resell it. I’d then spend the money to travel. My son would rather I choose a Lego store though.
4. How many times have you had stitches, and what were the circumstances?
I’ve had stitches a few times, including one time when I broke my arm falling off a bike and another when I cut my hand using the wrong tool for the job, but my most interesting stitches are definitely the ones I got in grade 1. One night when I was sick, I woke up with the most horrendous stomach pain. I crawled into my parents' room, crying, and they could immediately tell it was a big deal and rushed me to the hospital. X-rays showed an intestinal blockage, but it was unclear what was happening, so I was rushed into middle-of-the-night exploratory surgery. This eventually revealed a small chicken bone that had rotated exactly the wrong way and got stuck. I have a huge scar from this surgery, much bigger than a modern appendicitis scar.
5. You’ve lived much of your adult life in both Nashville, Tennessee and New York City. After a semester in São Paulo, what do all three cities have in common, if anything?
Normally I feel like we’re drawn to look for the differences in things, not the similarities. I haven’t spent enough time in São Paulo yet to feel like I know it nearly as well as the other two cities, but to me what makes a city exciting (from a small city like Nashville to a giant one like São Paulo) is the sense that you are often a bit anonymous, but also surrounded by life.
6. Are you superstitious? Give an example.
Not really. I’m overly logical, if anything, which makes superstition hard.
7. What’s your least favorite thing to do?
Grade papers, especially reassessments, especially when they aren’t going well.
8. If you had the opportunity to travel into space, would you go? Why or why not?
Oh, geez. My instinct is to say yes, but when it came down to it, I don’t think I’d be willing to go through the months of physical training that would be necessary to handle it. The fact is that space is cool, but it’s also very scary. If I could just pop up there, see the earth from space, and then pop right down though, I’d do it for sure.
9. What’s one thing you know for sure?
I am so bad at this kind of question, because I’m torn between cheesy-but-sincere platitudes like “Time spent working on happiness is never wasted time,” secret recommendations like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed the fabric of television and is a must-watch,” and snarky nerdy answers like “2 + 2 = 4.” So let’s just say all three of those things and call it a day.
10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
The kids, and the administrative and faculty culture of flexibility. My old school was wonderful, but occasionally suffered under a lack of willingness to try new things. I love that Graded is open to new ideas.
by Angela Park, Communications Associate
Clad in professional business attire, delegates type furiously as they listen to the speaker behind the podium. Not one word is missed. The silence is only broken when the floor is open for questions.
Model United Nations, commonly referred to as MUN, is an extracurricular activity that simulates the eponymous global organization, helping students to learn about contemporary issues, think critically, and develop diplomacy skills. Students represent different countries through committees that discuss controversial political, social, and/or economic issues.
At Graded, MUN membership is currently comprised of 30 High School students and 35 Middle School students. The club is led by Middle School Humanities Teacher Katie Accomazzo and Upper School Brazilian Social Studies Edú Levati.
Each week, both the High School and Middle School teams meet to train in parliamentary procedure, write positions papers, and draft resolutions.
“I remember the first time I went to an MUN meeting [in the sixth grade],” reflected Gianluca S., a junior and MUN Leadership Team member. “I couldn’t really believe people my age were capable of such dynamic conversations.”
For junior and Leadership Team member Alyssa T., MUN allows students to gain greater awareness of global issues and a “deeper understanding of other countries’ and your own country’s points-of-view.”
Throughout the years, Alyssa has also overcome her bashfulness, improved her public speaking, and displayed exceptional leadership skills by organizing the Middle School’s MUN Conference.
“Our focus is to build a program that is student-focused so that it can be sustainable in the future.” According to Ms. Accomazzo, MUN also helps students gain impressive speaking and listening skills, look for critical solutions, collaborate with others, identify fallacious reasoning, articulate the lack of credibility in reasoning, and learn to build strong, plausible arguments.
“Students also learn to have empathy,” added Mr. Levati. “You often represent a country other than your own, and have to understand, empathize and advocate for a country whose position regarding different issues you don’t necessarily agree with.”
In a nutshell, students learn to advocate their ideas efficiently and, as Ms. Accomazzo nicely summarizes, “achieve greatness with humility.”
. . .
At Graded, members take part in Graded Model United Nations (GMUN), São Paulo Model United Nation (SPMUN), Brazil Model United Nations (BRAMUN), and now, the internationally renowned Ivy League Model United Nations Conference (ILMUNC).
At the beginning of this month, 19 members of the club traveled to the University of Pennsylvania to participate in ILMUNC, where 2,000 high school students from all over the globe gathered together for three days to debate issues.
Students were impressed with the high level of expertise and professionalism of MUN teams from other schools in the world. “When you are in an environment where people are so driven, in order to compete with them, you need to work harder than them or never stop working,” asserted Gianluca. “It is great opportunity to learn about the real world.”
In March, some members of the high school MUN club will be traveling to Bahia to participate in the national level at BRAMUN, where they will put their diverse abilities to work.
“All in all, they [students] are developing highly transferable skills that will prepare them at an international level for the future,” Mr. Levati affirmed.
Have you had the opportunity to view the video above starring Graded's very own? Lower and Middle School students eloquently explain why fundraising matters and outline the differences between the Graded Annual Fund and the Centennial Campaign. As we continue to strive to advance the institution, I hope that you will join me in supporting Graded at a level that is meaningful to you.
A dinosaur-bunny hybrid, a crocodile’s head on the body of an ostrich, a gecko with wings — these are only a few of the creatures students have created this semester in the WorldBuilding Program.
The brainchild of Graded alumnus Diego Dolph Johnson ’98, this new after-school STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) activity serves 34 Middle and High School students. Johnson, who double majored in political science and studio art at Swarthmore College, currently teaches art, maintains a studio practice, and serves as a board member of the Nemirovsky Foundation at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo.
Inspired by the curriculum at California’s ArtCenter College of Design, Johnson created the WorldBuilding Program to teach students contemporary design processes. From 2D sketching and planning to 3D construction and printing, the program is divided into three separate, but interconnected, modules — Concept Art, Clay Sculpting, and 3D Sculpting. His students learn how to design characters, creatures, props, and environments using 2D and 3D software, tablets and stylus pens, as well as animation clay and 3D printers.
"A Gecko with Wings." Designed by Clara V. (junior).
Students are only limited by the boundaries of their creativity. "We draw and paint things that no one else would. Here, we can imagine our own things,” asserts Tobias D. E., a seventh grader in the program.
WorldBuilding allows participants to develop their art and design skills. "I now know more about values and hues, light and darkness, and how to use these principles. And now we’re starting [to learn about] environmental art,” explains junior Clara V.
Sophomore Lara D. R. is enthusiastic about the exposure to art and design she is gaining. "It’s a great opportunity to learn more about digital art, the fastest growing sector of art nowadays. It also forces you to be creative.”
"I think this program is really helping me evolve as an artist,” adds Clara V. "I would like to study animation in college, and the geometric construction we learn here serves as a basis for animation. You have to create characters that make sense at every angle.”
According to Johnson, he intends on "developing WorldBuilding into a design sharing platform that provides students the opportunity to collaborate creatively, taking over each others’ designs and transforming ideas into drawings, and drawings into clay and 3D printed objects."
Johnson also aspires to collaborate with other Graded departments. "I hope to develop synergy with the robotics, film, and programming areas by working collaboratively on robot shell designs and 3D objects for game development and animation."
Seventh grader Axel Z. uses a computer and drawing pad to “see the world differently.”
WorldBuilders’ unique designs are currently showcased outside Graded’s Auditorium.
Learn more about the 2019 WorldBuilding Program here.
1. You have several degrees in a variety of subjects, including a PhD in political science. You worked for many years in banking and consulting, both in Spain and in New York. What led you to teaching after this?
Moving to São Paulo gave me the opportunity to devote a couple of years to finishing my PhD. The first time I got involved in education was during my dissertation research. I was writing my dissertation on governments investing in education as a tool to prevent corruption. Soon after, I began volunteering with a nongovernmental organization in São Paulo, teaching English to empower women and young people and helping them to achieve their goals. Working with these students helped me understand the real struggle of people who come from low-income families and go to schools with little funding. This made me recognize how much a difference a teacher can make in a person's life.
2. How and when did you end up in Brazil?
After living in New York and Madrid, my husband was transferred to São Paulo for work. We were very excited because we had heard it was a dynamic city filled with culture and good food. We decided São Paulo was a good fit for our family.
3. You have five children. What’s the hardest part of having a large family? What’s the best part?
Whenever I say I have a large family, people ask me about the amount of work it involves and the level of noise. But having a big family is more than just work and noise. I love having a large family. For me, the best part is that there is always something happening, and there is always someone to share that with you. There is never a boring day at home. Someone always has a new topic to talk about, a new situation, or a new pet to take care of. My days are filled with events, from sunup to sundown.
The hard part of having a big family is that we can never sit together when we fly on an airplane. When we go to the supermarket, we sometimes need to get two or three carts, and we have to go back and forth to get everything we need.
4. One of your hobbies is hiking. Where have you hiked?
I have hiked many places around the world, from the desert to snowy mountains. But I always enjoy going back to my very favorite place near my village in the north of Spain.
5. When you are happy, how do you like to celebrate?
I like to celebrate with friends and family at home. We enjoy cooking together and spending time in our garden.
6. You teach math. What is one mathematical concept that many people don’t know but should?
I usually find that many people believe that mathematics is mainly about speed, which seems to be confirmed by my grade 6 students crying over long division or having to compute fractions. Many people incorrectly believe that being good at mathematics means being fast at mathematics. I don't think it does. I believe that we need to dissociate mathematics from speed. We no longer need students to compute quickly; we have computers for that. We need students to think deeply, to connect methods, to reason, and to justify. That is why I feel so happy working at Graded, where we promote critical thinking skills and perseverance over fast computation.
7. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
I really love being part of our community. We have felt welcomed and cared for since we first arrived. I have two sons who have already graduated from Graded, and we have seen how the school’s diversity and strong core values have prepared them for the “outside world,” promoting their critical thinking skills, their respect for diversity, and their appreciation for kindness. My other three children participate in all sorts of academic, sporting, and community events, which provide my family with enriching experiences. As an educator, I enjoy the diversity of our student population and its energy and enthusiasm. There is always something going on at school! I also appreciate working with colleagues from a variety of backgrounds. It makes our working environment a rich one. Graded is also constantly improving, applying new trends in education, and promoting continuous teacher professional development.
1. You majored in Portuguese and English at the University of São Paulo (USP) and also have a degree in education. Why teaching?
Teaching inspires me because it allows me to provide my students with opportunities to develop their expression in a foreign language and their views of the world. Therefore, what I do impacts what students can do, in the new country they are living -- Brazil. It also may influence the future actions they may take. Who knows if their Portuguese will affect their ability to communicate, or help to make decisions when they're out in the world as the CEO a of a multinational company, the secretary-general of the UN, or the founder of a start-up company which positively impacts the world?
2. What’s your favorite podcast? Why?
I listen to lots of podcasts. I love Hidden Brain, Invisibilia, and Braincast, but my favorite one is Mamilos - Jornalismo de Peito Aberto. The main goal of the two hosts is to discuss controversial or important themes with the help of subject experts. However, what really inspires me is that rather than just trying to prove a point, everybody in the podcast is engaged in building bridges and being open to new perspectives and points of view.
3. You have co-written several coursebooks for teaching English. What’s your favorite part of being a published author?
I like the amount of creativity you are allowed to put into writing a coursebook. Having an exciting idea and being able to put it into practice has always made me happy. I also love thinking about how this kind of material can impact, support, and guide teachers and their classes.
4. Did you have any nicknames growing up and do you have one now?
I was named after my Spanish great-grandmother, Laureana Castanho. Since Laureana is long and unusual in Portuguese, I have had tons of nicknames: Lau, Laurie, Lauren, Laura, and even Lana. Different people call me by specific nicknames. Friends normally call me Laurie, my oldest and closest friends say Lau, and my family calls me Lana. Here at Graded, my coworkers call me Lau and my students call me Ms. Lau.
5. You teach Portuguese as a second or additional language. If you could identify one thing that international students learning Portuguese could do to improve, what would it be?
I would say it's the realization that learning a language is inextricably related to learning about culture. Being open to a new culture gives you greater experience with the language and, of course, more experience with a language opens you up to the culture. Learning a language allows you to see the world in a different way, through a new lens. Moreover, learning a new language makes your brain even more complex! For instance, in Portuguese and other Latin languages, the whole feminine, masculine, singular, and plural choices for nouns and adjectives certainly change how our brains process information. Isn't it beautiful that languages shape the way we think and see the world?
6. If you could change one thing about your appearance, what would it be?
I wouldn't be so short-sighted! I have been wearing glasses since I was seven!
7. Do you have any pets?
I have an adorable Yorkshire Terrier named Mel. Like the owner of any pet, I love her to the moon and back. She has won the hearts of our whole family.
8. What’s the last movie you went to the movie theater to see? What’s your view of the movie?
One of the last movies I saw is Tully. I found it extremely accurate (and disturbing). It is a candid, yet sensitive, look at being a parent, especially a mother.
9. What would make you totally content right now?
I know it's wishful thinking, but what would really make me happy right now is to witness people truly putting the needs of the community before their own. Community can be just a group of friends, or it can be much bigger – such as a school, neighborhood, city, or country.
10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
My favorite thing about Graded is its sense of community and its diversity. I teach or have taught American, Swedish, Argentinian, Colombian, Korean, Japanese, South African, French, Danish, Mexican, and Spanish students -- to name a just a few! I also love learning, and each and every day I learn something new because I work here. I learn a lot from my students! I also love to see how Graded students take a leading and enthusiastic role in their learning journeys.
by Olga Molina, Lower School Music Teacher
Music has been shown to help develop concentration and reasoning skills, improve language fluency, promote motor skills, and inspire better performance in technical disciplines such as mathematics and physics.
At Graded, the Lower School Music Program prepares children to join the Middle and High School ensembles, providing students with a variety of experiences, from pantomiming and folk dance to improvising and composing. Our eclectic music curriculum involves two main approaches: conceptual learning and music literacy. We expose children, throughout their musical education, to pitch, length, form, dynamics, and meter. We teach music literacy sequentially, based upon the Kodaly methodology by using folk songs from various cultures. Students not only sing these songs but also learn to play the recorder.
A musical education provides each student with a new mode of expression, clearer ideas, better memory retention, and enhanced problem-solving skills. Children, specifically, benefit from singing songs, which allow for rapid enunciation improvement. Singing can also spark significant increases in vocabulary. Socially, the practice of chamber music (music performance in groups) helps one build interpersonal skills through non-verbal means. Music is an especially apt medium for the development of a balanced and harmonious personality.
Experts speak of a “musical intelligence,” one that is not only intrapersonal (involving control over individual feelings and movements) but also interpersonal (involving the ability to understand one’s place in the world through relationships with others).
Ensuring that Graded students have access to the extraordinary benefits of a musical education in childhood has been one of my primary professional objectives over the last twenty-five years.
More recently, however, I have also taught courses for aspiring music educators. In these classes, I stress the importance of having a solid background in music and education and staying up-to-date with national and international instructional methodologies for childhood music education. Teaching children how to sing properly through vocal training is also crucial. I am honored and thrilled to have shared some of my experiences as music instructor – for children and adults – by answering viewer questions on TV Globo’s Como Será?
Click here to watch Olga Molina’s interview (conducted in Portuguese).
by Richard Boerner, Superintendent
The cycle of renewing and updating a school’s curriculum is a process that all schools undergo. This valuable exercise is necessary in order to ensure that content is being effectively delivered and accurately assessed. At Graded, we are committed to this process. Currently, our talented faculty are engaging in a variety of curricular reviews throughout the school.
For the purpose of this article, I am proud to highlight our Portuguese Department and expose you to some truly transformative curricular review that is underway.
With the release of new Brazilian National Standards, Base Nacional Comum Curricular (BNCC), our Portuguese faculty, under the direction of the Teaching and Learning Department, immediately began to examine these new requirements in relation to our existing curriculum. They then shared them with our English Department, which adheres to American Education Reaches Out (AERO) Common Core standards.
This exciting collaboration between faculty members represents the first time during which our Portuguese and English Departments have reviewed each other’s curricula, comparing areas of focus in literature and writing. Interdepartmental conversations have become richer and deeper, as faculty have engaged with one another across language and content.
As faculty began to examine BNCC and AERO standards, they started to understand and articulate where the two sets of standards intersect. These similarities allow us to align K-12 curricula across multiple languages and national/international requirements.
"We are approaching this work from the perspective of skills,” asserts Lower School Portuguese Department Head Mari Formicola. “Doing this work emphasizes the student's educational experience in English and at the same time, enhancing an additional language. Doing this work is a focus on student learning."
As we complete the review of the AERO and BNCC standards, we are determining the common skills to be assessed in English and Portuguese coursework. This effort will allow us to gather and analyze data across disciplines to address student needs.
This collaboration between our Portuguese and English teachers is a powerful example of the way in which our faculty are changing, transforming, and improving their practice. Currently, a similar collaboration between our Brazilian Social Studies and Social Studies Departments is underway. I look forward to sharing their progress with you in the coming months.