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by Richard Boerner, Superintendent

Over the past several months, Graded’s administration and other school leaders, in partnership with the Board, have been hard at work developing our new Strategic Plan. This plan is a direct outcome of our newly created Mission, Vision, and Values.

As a learning institution, we are in a cycle of continuous improvement. The new, focused approach to our Strategic Plan establishes a clear and coherent path, ensuring students remain core to our efforts. The plan is focused around each student, highlighting a balanced approach to academics (Be Successful), social and emotional wellness (Be Happy), and student engagement (Be Involved). In each of these three core areas, we will develop and enhance our practices to better serve our students.

Each of these three focus areas is comprised of a major goal statement. Each statement includes a detailed action plan, responsibilities, and metrics for accountability. This way, we can ensure we measure the efficacy of our plan and determine which results provide the greatest impact on student learning.

Complementing the three areas of focus is our attention to the Foundations of Excellence. Or new plan is truly comprehensive in nature and encompasses all aspect of school life. The operational and support systems are essential that they run efficiently to benefit student learning. This, everyone included approach ensures us that all members of the Graded faculty and staff will be working in concert, in a commitment to continuous improvement.

We look forward to beginning this important work and will be sharing more with you in coming school. For now, please take a look at our new strategic plan. We hope it resonates for you and your children and speaks to the deep and purposeful educational experience we desire for all of our students.

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by Roberto d’Erizans, Middle School Principal
and Kevin Hudson, Middle School Science Teacher

What do wheel bearings, computer coding, gears, computational thinking, and the latest app have in common? Well, they describe just some of the exciting components of Graded’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) courses, Robotics and Computer Science. We are excited to announce that, after a successful year piloting these elective courses in the Middle School, we are expanding our offerings to the High School. Beginning in August, students in the HS will be able to take a mobile app development course, as well as a robotics course. These will serve as the foundation to a new range of courses in these fields.

The backbone of our current program is provided by Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a nonprofit organization in the United States that creates curriculum for STEAM-related fields. We are the first international school to offer their curriculum, which is currently provided in thousands of schools across the United States. PLTW empowers students to develop and apply in-demand, transportable skills by exploring real-world challenges. Through pathways in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science, students learn technical skills by solving problems, thinking critically and creatively, communicating, and collaborating. Last year, one of our faculty members attended an intensive PLTW training, and this summer another teacher will also be trained to provide these courses.

The work that students have produced this year is exciting. In Robotics, students have first learned about gear mechanisms and then expanded that knowledge to build fully automated machines. They have built and coded incredibly creative designs for things such as windmills, elevators, and toll booths. Their final challenge of this semester is to build and code robot drag racers and race them during the final House Day. In the Build Your Own App Development course, students have developed apps to make full use of the Android mobile platform. Students started with the creation of basic camera and drawing apps and have progressed to making complex interactive games. Ultimately, the students have been challenged with developing an app which will fill a need for members of the Graded community and publish it on the Google Play Store.

It is our hope that these courses will serve as a foundation for other STEAM-related courses. For more information about our programs, please do not hesitate to contact the MS or HS.

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by Roberto d’Erizans, Middle School Principal

We had the pleasure of hosting our first Social and Emotional Learning Conference at Graded from March 9-11, 2017. We heard from renowned speakers, such as Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair from the US, Dr. Tamara Russell from the UK, and Adriana Fóz and Márcia de Luca from São Paulo. It was a worthwhile opportunity for parents and educators to learn more about a range of topics, from the effects of technology and digital use on family and school life, mitigating anxiety and stress, technology and game addiction, brain research, building strong social emotional learning programs, to mindfulness and yoga. From presentations to workshops, participants came away not just with a new sense of understanding, but with useful practices they can use at home and school.

What is Social and Emotional Learning?

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which we acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to manage emotions, achieve positive goals, show empathy for others, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. In the context of education, SEL focuses on teaching social and emotional skills to students and creating a safe, connected learning environment. Research clearly shows that connected school environments and the promotion of social and emotional competencies are integral to learning and academic success.

What does SEL look like at Graded?

SEL is not a new topic at Graded. It is central to our program and ongoing conversations. The Lower School delivers curricula each week that helps students build self-management, empathy, and collaboration skills.  In the Upper School, through advisory, flex, assemblies, and grade level meetings, we explore a range of these issues. In February, the Middle School focused heavily on digital citizenship -- helping our students reflect on their presence online. In the High School the focus has been on academic integrity.  It is central to our strategic planning, because we know that students who are resilient, and have positive social and emotional competencies, will do better academically and as members of our community.

We encourage you to continue your conversations, reading, and development on these issues. It is through a home-school partnership that we build strong, resilient, and caring students who are socially and emotionally aware.

Below you will find a resource from Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair:

10 Simple Strategies to Strengthen Family Connections Every Day
By Catherine Steiner-Adair

  1. Which way do you roll?  You know, first thing in the morning… to the center of the bed to snuggle or to the outer edge to reach for your phone and check for messages?  This choice is critical, it defines how you start your day, how you create your priorities and as a marriage and family therapist, I highly recommend rolling inward!

  1. Up and at ‘em--earlier! Get up 30 minutes earlier, check your email, do everything you need to do online before you wake up your children.  Plan ahead so that from the time they awake until they are out of the door, no screens for anyone.  You need to help them and not be distracted or on edge.  

    Kids can hear the difference in our voices when they need us and interrupt us when we are writing email or scrambling eggs. It’s much nicer to say -- “One sec, honey” -- than the sharp- edged -- “Wait, don’t interrupt me.” It’s a critical transition time for your children and you want to be a calm presence as they start their day.

  1. No screens in the car, please! No phones or screens on the way to school.  We have so little time together. Let this be time to chat or sit in the sound of family quiet and day dream -- this can be a creative, calming, and synthesizing time for children.  

    Kids hate listening to grown-ups on their phone, being hostages to half a conversation -- they say: “It feels bad and sad to be ignored in the car,” and “When I hear my parents fighting. I worry that something bad is going to happen and then I can’t concentrate at school.”

  1. Hey, buddy, good to see you! Children like and need to be greeted by someone who is happy to see them. No phones or screens when you pick kids up.  For you and for the kids in the car!  

    Nothing says: “You don’t matter that much, or everything else is more important than you” than having a parent or care-giver pull up in the carpool line mid-call and tossing backward a comment, such as:  “One sec, I just have to finish this call.”  

  1. The emotional weather report.  Once you allow your kids to text or play with screens in the car, you dilute the likelihood that you will have the kinds of conversations that tell you the emotional weather reports of their day.

    If you allow them to text in the car, you are much less likely to hear the full report of their day -- they will be texting their peers.

  1. Play in the 3D world!  When your children come home from school, have snack and talk, hang out, play outside, play inside -- but don’t punctuate coming home with screen time that isn’t for homework.

    Children need to play in the three dimensional world, to interact with people, and play.  They need to pace themselves, relax, and not get sucked into mesmerizing, junk games or TV.

    Create your own “Family Responsible Use Agreement” that is posted on the fridge or by the computer with understandings about what, when, how, and how long different screen activities are OK.

  1. Parents need to come home from work and transition well also! Stand in the rain, snow, or sleet, but don’t walk in the door in the middle of a phone conversation or texting!  

    When you come home you need to plug into the people you love most in the world and show them that they matter to you by being present to greet them with your full attention.   

    Prepare for your own transition home, let co-workers know you will not be available at certain times.  Don’t walk in the door with the expectation that you will say a quick “hi” and then disappear to “just check.”

  1. No screens or phones at the dinner table and this includes you!  Kids hate hypocrites and so do your partners.  If it’s really that urgent, move away from the table.  Don’t make exceptions or they will become the rule.

  1. Multi-tasking is a myth. Nothing spoils the magic of a bedtime book more than a parent checking a text.  Bath and bedtime are quiet, cozy unplugged times.  

    Multi-tasking is a myth and there is nothing like a slippery floor, bad fall, or choking on water incident to make that clear. At the end of their day and our day with them, our children need to know they are precious and matter more than anything to us. No screens in the bedroom for anyone, kids and adults -- all devices should recharge in the parent’s closet.  

  1. Solitude - Unplug! Tech time out for you and the kids.   Renew, refresh, and reflect.  Tech can give us many things, great information and so forth, but not this essential human experience -- solitude and the spiritual connection of being alone.

Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair is author of the award-winning book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.


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by Laura Schlesinger, High School Optimal Learning Center Teacher, and Shauna Hobbs, Director of Teaching and Learning

In March, Graded was privileged to host the
Next Frontier Inclusion (NFI) Conference and the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) Symposium. Teachers and administrators from international schools across South America and Central America attended both conferences. Graded attendees included learning specialists, EAL teachers, administrators, and 1st grade and 2nd grade teachers.

When we talk about inclusion in schools, what do we mean? Here, at Graded, we can reference our mission statement: inspire, challenge, succeed - every child, every heart, every mind. Graded is committed to meeting the needs of every child who enters our campus, and this belief was reinforced in the professional learning provided by NFI and WIDA. Both organizations stressed that high-quality education available at international schools should always include children who are English Language Learners and those who learn differently or at different rates. Inclusion benefits all students, because it adds diversity and promotes social and emotional learning.

Rather than thinking of children in categories (ADHD, gifted, autistic, EAL…) who do not fit into the typical classroom mold, NFI and WIDA encourage teachers to start from the language of inclusion - the perspective that every child learns differently and it is our responsibility to meet their needs. Every single child is unique, and if we start there, we are able to celebrate their strengths and assets and appreciate their differences.

The conferences emphasized that inclusion is not enough. We cannot simply accept students with differences to our school and pretend everything will be okay. A truly inclusive environment demands well-trained teachers and administrators, sufficient resources, and excellent systems for providing services. It means all stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, administration, board members) work together and are committed to doing whatever it takes to meet the individual needs of all students. This professional development required that we self-assess and identify areas of strength and areas for improvement at Graded. Challenging and including every student in our community is a veritable task, but it is one that makes us all stronger, smarter, and kinder as we work together!

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  1. Because you want to support immediate initiatives that impact all Graded students by enhancing day-to-day learning and core programs.

  2. Because you want to help Graded attract and retain top-notch educators.


  1. Because foundations and major donors from whom Graded seeks support regard strong annual fund community participation as a prerequisite to their own giving.

  1. Because you want to help safeguard Graded’s reputation as a premier international school.

  1. Because every gift counts, no matter the size -- whether R$1 or R$10,000. 

  1. Because you care about the visiting authors, curricular enrichment, artists-in-residence, professional development, athletics, arts, scholarship support, campus improvements, and community service projects that the Graded Annual Fund supports.  


  1. Because parent and alumni annual fund participation is a standard measure of community commitment to a school’s mission.

  1. Because many small gifts add up to a large one.

  1. Because participation makes us stronger as a community. When we all contribute, we are filled with a sense of belonging.

  1. Because contributing to a meaningful mission makes you feel good.

And for Graded alumni, we have two more!


11. Because you want to ensure that today’s students have the same amazing Graded experience you enjoyed.

12. Because alumni participation is a way to give back, just as others did before you.


To contribute to the 2016-17 Graded Annual Fund, please click here.


Richard Boerner, Superintendent -

Through strong leadership, the Board has secured a competitive position for Graded over the past two hiring cycles. We regularly index our standing against worldwide and local competitors to ensure we can attract and retain the very best faculty. I can confidently tell you, even during these tremendously challenging economic times, Graded has maintained its competitive advantage. In fact, in many ways, we have advanced our position in the global market. Graded is the jewel of Latin America and one of the world’s top international schools. Much of its sterling reputation rests upon the depth of its faculty. Time and time again, as I attend recruiting fairs, Graded has many more candidates interested in our school than we can possibly accommodate. Because the demand is strong, we can be selective.

The pursuit of the world's best educators is, indeed, challenging. However, it is arguably the single most important task I perform as superintendent at Graded. I have spoken on many occasions about the crucial role teachers play in students’ lives. When we look at teacher recruitment through the lens of our new mission statement, it becomes even more critical that we are able to recruit educators who have not only tremendous depth of knowledge and skill in their content areas, but are inspirational, relationship-oriented, driven people who will maximize every opportunity they have with our students, your children.

Every Student
Every Heart
Every Mind

The hiring process is part science, part art -- mixed with a dab of intuition. For those of you who hire executives and managers, you, too, know the challenge of finding people who are the right organizational “match.”

So how do we do it?

  • First, we begin by clearly identifying who we are as a school. The principals and I sit together and craft our ideal candidate profile. We ensure that new educators will achieve synergy with our existing faculty. The goal here is to build and add value to the existing team.  Collaboration is essential in education. We want best practices to spread through campus quickly from classroom to classroom and teacher to teacher. This cooperation only happens with teachers who are interested, confident, and willing to share and grow.

  • Second, we spend time, lots of time, reviewing candidates’ résumés, cover letters, and philosophy statements. Eighteen new teachers will join us at Graded in July as a result of the most recent recruiting season.

  • Third, we are aggressive early in the hiring season. We begin interviewing in October, while many international schools around the world are still determining their job openings. We can do this because our departing faculty members inform us early in the school year, enabling us to go out and find the best talent. By hiring early, we get a first look at the market and can secure top-tier candidates before other schools are in a position to compete.

  • Fourth, we speak directly to our existing faculty and seek recommendations. A strong endorsement from an excellent staff member speaks loudly. We know our teachers want to add outstanding educators to our faculty and partner with the best.

  • Finally, when we interview, we tailor our questions not only to teaching but to what teaching looks like at Graded. We discuss our values, our vision, and why we serve our students. We talk specifically about relationship-building and connections. We inquire about candidates’ ability to inspire and challenge students and ask for real-life examples.  

Once our hiring process has been completed, we begin our onboarding process. Here, we also shine. Graded takes extraordinary care in the transitioning our new faculty. As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. These small, but pivotal, steps help us build longevity among our faculty. The longer we keep our faculty, the greater the possibility for more profound relationships and learning at Graded.

In some ways, the hiring process is year-round and ongoing. There is nothing more inspiring to me than finding exceptional teachers. In fact, this has happened eighteen times since October 2016.  We are strongly positioned for the 2017-18 school year, and I can’t wait for you to meet our newest, most talented Graded teachers.

Onward and upward,

Richard Boerner

Ocki Fernandes, High School Principal -

As part of our health education program, we have invited prevention specialists from Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD) Prevention Works, a division of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, to visit our school. FCD is a non-profit organization that provides alcohol, tobacco, and other drug education to schools and colleges worldwide. They will be on campus from March 27 to March 30.

FCD prevention specialists recognize that students make their own decisions about alcohol, tobacco, and/or other drug use, but present the most up-to-date information available on the physiological and psychological effects of various drugs, and provide a forum for discussing social, cultural, and personal issues that relate to the choices people make.

One thing that makes FCD unique is that all of the prevention specialists have achieved long-term recovery from alcohol or other drug addictions. Most FCD prevention specialists began their own drinking and drug use during middle school and high school. They have experienced the pressures, personal issues, and social situations teens face with regard to alcohol and other drug use. They also have first-hand knowledge of the destructive aspects of drug use and how occasional use, in their cases, led to addiction.

FCD believes in educating the whole school community, not just students. There will be educational sessions for teachers and for parents on Tuesday, March 28 at 7:00 pm in the Auditorium.

Vance Boisjoli, Lower School Principal -

Developing strong readers has been one of our main goals in the Lower School (LS) for the 2016-17 school year. We want our students to be passionate about reading and be empowered by what they read. In July, prior to the beginning of the school year, our LS team started with a week of professional training in the Columbia Teachers College reading workshop model. This training was chosen to build on the writing workshop we prioritized in the 2015-16 school year. During our time together, we had two consultants come in to work with our staff.  They assisted us in a variety of ways. First, we examined our current reading assessments and thought critically about how we interpret them for whole class, small group, and individual instruction. We also observed a number of different instructional strategies to help us determine successful methods of differentiation to meet the needs of our diverse range of learners. This in-depth and deliberate focus allowed us to learn about current, research-based best practices in reading instruction. It also helped us align our work as a Lower School.

During the past two weeks, our teachers have continued our reading professional development through a lab site. A lab site involves teachers attending sessions to learn more about using the data from our assessments to guide instruction, observing different instructional strategies, implementing those strategies while being observed, receiving feedback from peers, and, finally, reflecting on the practice through the creation of a plan to move forward. This work takes some time to complete. Consequently, we have had consultant support for the past two weeks.

You may ask, “Why the focus on reading?” We know our students need to be strong readers to be successful in school. Children are constantly reading, whether it be written text or the signs they see around them. Our students also need strong reading skills to be successful in every subject at school. When solving a work problem in math or completing research about a scientific discovery, our students are constantly reading in one form or another. The better we can assist them in recognizing themselves as readers, as well as having them identify strengths and areas for growth, the more successful they will be as their reading demands become more complex.

How can you support your child with reading at home? Let your child know you as a reader. Read in front of your child. Explain what you like to read now and what you enjoyed reading as a child. Create a consistent time for everyone in the family to read and have follow-up discussions about what everyone is reading. Make sure you read aloud to children frequently in addition to having them read to you. Emphasize how you read throughout your day wherever you are. Finally, ensure there are many books available in your home for everyone to read. Please feel free to stop by the LS Library to browse our wonderful collection of books. For additional resources to support family reading at home, click here.  

Happy reading!

Richard Boerner, Superintendent -


We are very proud to unveil Graded’s new Mission, Vision, and Core Values to our community. After initial meetings with members of every stakeholder group -- parents, students, alumni, faculty and staff, administration, and board members -- we embarked upon a four-month, collaborative process to create language that reflects both the community we are and the one we strive to be.

In developing our new Mission, Vision, and Core Values, community members reviewed Graded’s existing mission and core values; examined educational and industry identity statements; and discussed “key words” that represent Graded. Keeping our K3-12 audience in mind, we made sure that the language was clear, concise, and accessible. We developed it to be easily understood and recalled, and to focus on the “whole child.”

Graded’s upcoming strategic planning process will emanate from its new Mission, Vision, and Core Values. Initiatives relating to academics, character, infrastructure and 21st century learning facilities, and extracurricular engagement will be the guided by this language that was shaped and refined by the Graded community.

As you can see from the images, we have chosen to very publicly communicate our new Mission, Vision, and Core Values.  We took time on Tuesday, as an entire school, in every classroom, and with every employee to discuss the meaning behind our new statements.  We hope that your child is able to communicate with you about their experience in performing this exercise and to share how they will personally be impacted by this work.

In consideration of EVERY CHILD,



Susan Clain, Chief Development Officer -

The Interview

When I interviewed for my job as Chief Development Officer at Graded, I was struck by two things -- the warmth of the Graded community and how the infrastructure did not mirror the school’s top-notch academic reputation.  “We’re working on that,” Superintendent Rich Boerner assured me, as he unrolled large campus plans.  Then he threw me a hard hat and led me on a tour of the Graded Campus Project.  I was impressed.  

A History Lesson

Graded was founded in 1920 and moved to its current Morumbi location in 1960.  Fifty-five years ago, the campus was surrounded by bucolic pastures.  In 1977, a growing Graded community inaugurated the Lower School campus, a Brutalist architectural  labyrinth.  Then in 2004, the impressive Lemann-Tully Arts Center opened, replete with black box theater, individual music practice spaces, and a ceramics studio.  

Graded Students, 1964

Graded Campus Project

In 2010, with aging facilities, the school embarked upon a multi-year process of campus renewal and improvement, and the Graded Campus Project was born.  The Board envisioned facilities that reflected Graded’s academic excellence.  Graded hired H2L2, a company specializing in international school design, to develop a master plan for our facilities. Zanettini, a renowned architectural firm, then created detailed architectural specifications based upon the overall master plan. In conjunction with Hochtief, one of Brazil’s leading construction companies, Graded created a strategic implementation approach.

In February 2014, Graded unveiled Phase I of the Campus Project, including a full renovation of the Lower School playgrounds and gymnasiums.

Graded Campus Project, Phase I
Lower School Playground

On September 1, 2015, the school began its second stage of construction.  Fourteen months later, on time and on budget, we are placing the finishing touches on this project.  Phase II encompasses a new main school entrance, student center, 450-space parking garage, athletics fields, beach volleyball court, track, bleachers, wellness gymnasium, and maintenance building.  
Render 1.jpg
Graded Campus Project, Phase II

AC in all Classrooms

Beginning in January, Graded will undergo an Academic Infrastructure Improvement Project to update and modernize campus learning spaces.  Enhancements include air conditioning in all classrooms, new hallway flooring, hallway and garden lighting, and remodeling of science laboratories.

Why Tuition Does Not Pay for a Swimming Pool

You may be surprised to learn that tuition at Graded funds only the school’s operating costs; not capital building projects.  In fact, faculty and staff salaries and benefits alone represent 83% of the school’s operating budget.  While the school could increase tuition to cover capital expenditures, it is sensitive to the challenges that an increased tuition would place upon families.  At Graded, we strive to maintain economic, as well as, cultural diversity.  Therefore, we must find alternative ways to pay for construction.

Centennial Campaign

In 2011, Graded launched a campaign to raise money for the Graded Campus Project.  Then in 2014, the effort was rolled into the “Centennial Campaign,” a drive to support three key long-term strategic priorities --  the Graded Campus Project, the Graded Scholar Program Endowment, and the Excellence in Teaching Endowment.   Centennial Campaign support from both individual and corporate donors has been inspiring.  Their generosity has allowed Graded to successfully complete Phases I and II of our ambitious Graded Campus Project.

The Athletics Center

If you have been to a basketball game at Graded recently, you may have noticed that the gymnasium has seen better days. A state-of-the-art athletics facility will enable the school to enhance our delivery of a balanced and integrated education, while fostering leadership and teambuilding skills among our student athletes.

Pending funding, we will begin construction of a new Athletics Center in June 2017.  Estimated at a cost of R$37M, the Athletics Center will include a multi-court gymnasium with telescopic bleachers; three rooftop tennis courts;  a six-lane semi-Olympic swimming pool;  fitness studio; athletics training room; air-conditioning; solar panels for heating hot water; and locker rooms.  

Athletics Center Swimming Pool, Opening August 2018 (Pending Funding)

Athletics Center Tennis Court, Opening August 2018 (Pending Funding)

Athletics Center Gymnasium, Opening August 2018 (Pending Funding)

A Transformative Gift

Philanthropist, five-time Brazilian national tennis champion, and Graded grandparent Jorge Paulo Lemann recently committed R$12M, a transformative gift which, along with community support, will make our Athletics Center a reality. “I am happy to contribute to Graded’s new Athletics Center,” Lemann wrote, “as I believe it will make Graded even stronger and its students more successful in life. Athletics have played a significant role in my life.  Sports develop discipline, teamwork, and risk-taking.  They teach one how to lose and learn from it.  All of these qualities are essential as young people mature.”

Jorge Paulo Lemann
Graded Grandfather and Campus Project Supporter

The Graded Challenge

In order to break ground on our new Athletics Center in June 2017 and open the facility to the Graded community in August 2018, we need to secure R$9M in additional philanthropic commitments by June 2017.  Multiple naming opportunities are available.  Please join Jorge Paulo Lemann in his unwavering support of Graded.  To discuss how you can help invest in Graded’s future, please contact me at:

+55 11 3747 4800 Ext. 139

Richard Boerner, Superintendent -

Dear Graded Community,

It is hard to believe that we have already entered our second quarter at Graded. In my first Gazette article of the year, I referred to Graded’s four pillars -- Academics, Arts, Athletics, and Service.

In this edition, we are highlighting the arts at Graded, by providing you with a glimpse into the Visual Arts and Theater Departments. Lower School Art Teacher Cristiane Almeida writes about students exploring and engaging with art through the choice-based art method. High School Visual Arts Teacher Amanda York’s article addresses experiential learning -- a field trip to the 32nd São Paulo Bienal, one of the most important art events in Brazil, and how it generates a rich, ongoing dialogue about the concept and the purpose of art itself. Upper School Theater Teacher Emily Grimes talks about the wide range of theater initiatives at the school and their impact on Graded students. Middle School Humanities Teacher Yarrow Ülehman and Middle School Multimedia Teacher Jennifer Kagohara portray their amazing project, which encourages students to explore their own identities through photography.

At Graded, we believe in the power of an arts education to broaden a student’s perspective and foster critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving. I hope that you enjoy learning more about the arts at Graded.

Best regards,

Rich Boerner

Cristiane Almeida, Lower School Art Teacher -


“The result of art education is not the painting. It is the student.” Lois Hetland

This year in the elementary art room, the “Teaching for Artistic Behavior” method is being fully implemented. The method is best known as choice-based art, and as the name says, it consists of offering studio art options to students. The room is set up in centers, opened one at a time. Some basic centers such as drawing, painting, collage, clay, fiber, and sculpture will remain in the classroom all year, while others such as printing, masks, puppets and photography make brief, limited appearances.

Each class starts with a demonstration, a conversation about an art concept, or a presentation of an artist or artistic movement. After the demonstration or class discussion, students get to work. They can choose to work on the newly demonstrated project or to develop their own ideas at one of the centers. Through the experience of designing their own projects, students learn to be creative thinkers who know how to organize themselves and plan things out. Students working on pieces that they care about are more invested in their work. They learn to appreciate diverse skill sets and differences by seeing the many projects around them.

The role of the teacher in a choice-based art room is to constantly monitor students, asking them to persevere and see things through to the end, making sure that everyone is trying new things and pushing themselves to learn more. Students who come without an idea work on the newly demonstrated activity. In sports and music, there are practices times. In art, there are practice pieces used to experiment with media and ideas, so that when students are ready to make finished pieces, they work with focus and intent. When they care deeply about what they create, students are willing to give it the time that it deserves, often over the course of multiple class periods.

At certain times of the year, students are given assignments. Assignment days help students develop a specific skill. They might be given a prompt to explore in a certain medium. Art assignments are open-ended.

Although the finished product may not be as “adult-pleasing” as teacher-directed projects, students who explore their own ideas, learn more about what the materials can or cannot do. Rather than follow a teacher recipe for artwork that is supposed to look a certain way, they test their own hypotheses. As a result, students engage much more deeply with their learning.

Amanda York, High School Visual Arts Teacher -


IB Visual Arts students at the 32nd São Paulo Bienal, September 15th.
Photo: Henrique Montesanti.

“How do you define art, Ms.York?”

“Ahh, the age-old question,” I mused momentarily before responding: “How do you define art?”

“Action with intention,” declared the student with enviable certainty.


We discussed this for a time, applying it to different scenarios. Meanwhile, classmates offered up their own definitions, breaking from studio work intermittently to agree or disagree, or to ponder aloud their own artistic intentions. When class ended, we were no closer to an answer. It is more important that the question is asked.

While the definition may be fluid, art has always been a reflection of society and a mirror to it: sometimes critical, other times questioning. This is precisely what the theme of the 32nd São Paulo Bienal, Incerteza Viva (Live Uncertainty) endeavours to do, by asking viewers to ponder notions of uncertainty in the world today. When Graded’s IB Art students attended the Bienal this past month, they reflected on the uncertainties in their own lives, as well as “strategies offered by contemporary art to embrace or inhabit [uncertainty].” (1)


Yejin On in front of Ebony G. Patterson’s installation,
Da Esquerda Para Direita, 2016. Photo: Nathalia Tone.

Most of the 133 artworks (by 81 artists from 33 countries) were commissioned for the Bienal. Ranging from paintings to videos and installations to earthworks, each artwork presents a unique perspective and approach to the theme of uncertainty. As one student observed: “Human beings don’t like uncertainty; it makes us anxious. But I think that by having the different interpretations, viewers start to recognize uncertainty in everything. It’s a process of acceptance.” In fact, each student came away from the event having made his or her own discoveries, insights, or personal connections with the artwork and ideas encountered there.

“It really expanded my perception of art,” reflected one student on the value of the experience. Others felt validated, remarking that it was, “nice to see ideas or themes [we] have thought about as high school art students, visualized in a professional context.” Students were impressed by the variety of approaches to displaying work, invigorated by innovative uses of traditional media, and inspired to explore new art forms.

For some, the Bienal prompted further questions about the nature of art itself, and the creation and interpretation of meaning: “To what extent is an artist truly able to convey a particular message, in the face of ideas imposed on the artwork by an audience?” and “To what extent is art created to fit a need?”


IB Junior students Gabriela Lati and Isabel Haegler responding
to the exhibition in their Visual Journals. Photo: Nathalia Tone


Senior IB Art student Henrique Montesanti acknowledges that he enjoys the uncertainty in process and outcome, when creating his line compositions. Despite attempts to control placement and direction, small imperfections in the hand drawn lines accumulate and, like a ripple in water, change the course of the drawing process, which takes on a life of its own.


Henrique Montesanti, pen on paper, 2016 (40 x 50 cm).
Photo: Henrique Montesanti


Classmate Subin Jeon also recognizes a strong connection between the Bienal theme and her own artwork. She explores the liminality—characterized by ambiguity and disorientation—where cultures, languages, or identities converge, by giving visual expression to Korean words with no English equivalents. In a situation where spoken language leads to uncertainty, art presents strategies for clarifying meaning lost in translation.


Subin Jeon, 미련 (Milyeon), 2016, mixed media (wire, lacquer, twig), 33 x 10 x 7.5 cm. Photo: Subin Jeon.
Milyeon: A lingering affection/attachment to a point when one should let go; reluctance to give something up.


I encourage my students to ask questions—challenging and difficult ones—about art, about themselves, about the world we live in. But, as art students engrossed in the creative process, I also want them to feel comfortable in the presence of uncertainty. As the curators of the Bienal explain: “Uncertainty in art points to creation, taking into account ambiguity and contradiction. Art feeds off chance, improvisation, and speculation.” (2)


While I’m not sure that any of us is closer to finding a satisfactory definition for art, our field trip to the Bienal continues to feed that dialogue. It is certain, however, that these students are becoming more comfortable with the role that uncertainty plays in creativity and art making, and the expression of possibility it gives to their lives.

(1) Wall text, Incerteza Viva, Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, São Paulo, Brazil.
(2)  Alves, Lisa. (2016, September 17). “Uncertainty Reigns at the the 32nd São Paulo Art Bienal”, The Rio Times. Retrieved from http://riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/rio-entertainment/uncertainty-reigns-at-the-32nd-sao-paulo-Bienal/#.  

Emily Grimes, Upper School Theater Teacher -

Wandering backstage this past Monday, I encountered thirty jittery, yet energetic, Upper School students engaged in the process of preparing for their performance. Despite having led the students to this point, I found myself watching in awe as students took ownership of their individual roles in the production. Here are some of the things I saw:

  • Actors helping one another with putting the finishing touches on their costumes while running lines one last time.

  • The Stage Manager working with the Lighting and Sound Board Operators to clarify recent changes in cues to make sure the timing was spot-on.

  • Backstage Crew Members reviewing their pre-show checklist, making sure all set pieces and props were in the proper places and ready to go.

  • IB students leading vocal and physical warm-ups for younger students for whom this was their first time performing.

  • The Backstage Manager organizing her peers and reminding them that they had 15 minutes to “places”.

Theater is not a solitary activity; collaboration and trust are integral in the success of any production. Each member of the team has a specific role in the production, all of which are significant to the success of the show. As a team, we rely on one another to bring all the pieces together to create one complete production.

Throughout my years as a director, I have been amazed by the ability of theater to bring out a true sense of purpose and responsibility in all of my students. Augusto Boal, Brazilian theater director, politician and founder of the “Theater of the Oppressed” movement, once said, “We must all do theater, to find out who we are, and to discover who we could become.” In other words, theater pushes us out of our comfort zones and allows us the opportunity to not only challenge our own identities but also ponder realities different from our own. For me, this is the power of theater, especially in education.


At Graded, it is my aspiration that each and every student from Pre-K to 12th grade is impacted in some way by theater — whether by watching a preview performance, stepping onto the stage for the very first time, or participating in a full two-year IB course. I hope you and your family members are actively involved in viewing, writing, rehearsing, and performing onstage. If not, please read on to find out what’s happening in the Theater Department:

Semester Festivals

Last spring, we started something new…a performance festival! We strive for the festival to be the outlet that encourages and empowers our students to try out new roles in performances. Our second festival this past week brought authentic student work from the classroom to the stage, including work showcased from English, Music, Dance, and Theater classes. Expect more growth and creativity, as we expand the festival to include a wider range of performers and performances, featuring those within the Graded community and other local international schools.

Mainstage Performances

Upper School students must audition to be cast in the mainstage performances each semester. Rehearsing after school, these productions highlight the growing passion for theater at Graded. First semester, expect a straight play, followed by a musical in the second semester. Join us on November 9 & 10 for our upcoming show “Hoodie” & “Dear Chuck,” which examines the difficulty teens encounter while trying to find their way.

Drama Club

Open to all Upper School students, students gather each Monday afternoon in the Black Box for dramatic fun! Run by student leaders, the group is dedicated to bringing the love of theater to the Graded Community. Next semester, student leaders have committed learning the art of clowning to bring joy into lives of others, specifically in partnership with Casa de Maria Helena Paulina Cancer Shelter.

Drama & Theater Courses

In grades 6-12, students are offered a wide range of elective courses from Acting to Stagecraft. These courses allow students the opportunity to immerse themselves and develop their understanding of the subject in a safe and supportive environment.

IB Theater

This year, IB Theater returned to the Graded curriculum. This two-year course allows students an in-depth practical study of theatrical artists and theories on par with college level courses. Students must take on the creative roles of director, actor, and designer while applying analysis and research to their work. Students are expected to create and perform a wide range of work.

Elementary Show!

There has been a great interest to have elementary students take to the stage. Luckily, we are excited to have administrative support to put on an elementary show this year during the 2nd semester. Stay tuned!

Thank you for your continuous support of the ARTS @ Graded. See you at the show!


Emily Grimes

- - - -

Jennifer Kagohara, Middle School Multimedia Teacher
Yarrow Ülehman, Middle School Humanities Teacher 

"I learned a lot of things about myself and how to show the world who I really am through pictures" - Isabella McGhee

In Digital Art, a new elective co-taught by Ms. Kagohara and Ms. Ülehman, students were guided through the artistic process this quarter, exploring the many layers of their personal identity to create a self-portrait series. Over the course of the project, students transformed their simple portrayals of hobbies or objects into deeply meaningful photographs that relate to their personal middle school experience. These inquiries required a sense of trust and willingness to risk looking below the surface at a time in their development when they are still defining who they are and who they want to be.

This project was designed to help students identify, and explore the layers of their personal identity, in order to articulate how they contribute to their community and how the world impacts them. We aimed to delve into photography as a powerful art form and guide students to realize how critical and communicative we can be through digitally manipulated art. 

Kotoha Kudo "Inside my Walls" 2016 wrote in her artist statement "...I decided to show who I am on the inside. The person that lives inside me; serious, fragile, pressured, deaf of judgment, and valuing communication." In this photo, she communicated a poignant message related to the pressure that she feels to "measure-up" and how that relates to her cultural identity.

Students first analyzed and critiqued self-portraits by both photographers and other visual artists, ranging from Cindy Sherman to Basquiat, seeking to find the intent and power in creating an image of one's self. Students were asked to identify and describe different layers of their identity: personal, relational, and cultural/social. They had opportunities to discuss the positive ways labels can help us feel a sense of community or belonging, but how these can also can have a darker side.  

Aleena Nasruddin "We Can Do It, Too" 2016 explored themes of feminism and the labels that are placed upon women in the modern world. In her artist statement she wrote, "Even though I feel proud of who I am, sometimes I feel like I have to act a certain way or dress a certain way to fit in." In this photo, she alluded to the WWII icon, "Rosie the Riveter," as well as her Muslim background, stating, "Muslim women can do it, too."

Students grappled with identifying "who they are" and sharing personal feelings and experiences in a class setting. However, the final project demonstrated that, for many of our students, the opportunity to share their vision of who they perceive themselves to be and to explore narratives of how others see them was powerful, enlightening, and in some instances, even cathartic.  

Thomas Alves "Burning Inside" 2016 demonstrated vulnerability and strength, as he explored the masks people wear to hide their inner feelings and the effect judging others can have. In his artist statement he wrote, "I want to show that when you talk about someone else, you can be burning him inside."

At Graded, our arts teachers design projects that push students to engage in meaningful inquiry to produce thought-provoking art. We have a desire to empower and engage students in the art world and have a responsibility to mentor and support students in the process of self-expression.  We chose to design Digital Art in a way that required students to be involved, to convey meaning, to express something, personal or not, to make an statement, to encourage them to work outside their comfort zone, to encourage them to see the world and express what they think of it rather than dictate what is right and wrong. This is what the Identity Project did. It involved delivering content through art, where the content is meaningful, the skills are solid and evaluated, and the outcome transforms both teacher and student.
Richard Boerner, Superintendent -

I write to you in transit to Miami, Florida, joined by a Graded Board member, to attend the Association of American Schools in South America (AASSA) Annual Governance Conference. While travel can be exhausting, one aspect I do enjoy is the opportunity to disconnect from the daily pressures of work and take time to do a bit of personal reflection. As I do just this during my first flight, I recall my childhood and the influential people in my life -- particularly those teachers who imprinted my life for the good. As I think of them, I wonder now why they were chosen to teach over others, and why I was lucky enough to have them teach me. That, of course, takes me to the present and underscores the importance we must place at Graded in finding tremendously talented teachers who teach to the mind and to the heart. If we can’t capture an adolescent’s heart, we won’t be able to impact the mind nearly as much. So, how do we do this?

One of my favorite questions to ask candidates who are applying for teaching positions is “Describe a recent moment when you were a CHAMPION for a child?” This question really sums up why we do what we do. We, as educators, are in an incredibly powerful position to positively shape young minds and, in partnership with parents, help, guide, and develop students into productive, ethical, happy, and successful young adults. At Graded, we are deeply focused on developing and enhancing the student-teacher relationship. If you have had the opportunity to attend any number of my “Coffee with the Superintendent” presentations, you have undoubtedly heard me speak to this.

Being a CHAMPION for a child means knowing that child, truly knowing them as an individual, and taking a personal interest and care in their success. This can be accomplished in many ways - by challenging a student to rise above a certain level of achievement or to encourage them to take a risk and participate for the first time in a school play. It can also be as simple as putting an arm around a child who is sad, hurt, or discouraged or greeting every child at the classroom door with a high five and asking each student, “How I can help you be a success today?”

Achievement lies in the hands of our students, and it is their responsibility to make the most of the gifts they have. However, if we leave it simply at that, we are missing an incredibly powerful connection. Teachers are the motivators, encouragers, challengers, and enthusiasts who help squeeze out the best in children. Each one is, indeed, a CHAMPION.

At all divisions within our school, we are making strides to strengthen the connections between our teachers and your children. It’s really about teaching the WHOLE child. Students are more than intellectual beings whose heads we open and pour in information. They need shaping, critical thinking skills, the ability to discern for themselves, discussion, and debate. They also need to be empowered, challenged, and loved.

I firmly believe that as we enhance the personal care of our students, we will see their achievement grow and their desire increase. As a result, we will help develop young people who have the intangible tools to be successful in all aspects of their balanced lives.

I hope you see this taking place at Graded. I do on a daily basis. In fact, I encourage you to ask your children if they have a CHAMPION at school. Our desire is for every child to know there is at least one teacher -- ideally many -- who is present in their life to personally help them to reach their true potential. Our teachers are committed, caring educators, and I am proud to work side by side with them in making a difference for every individual student. While we have 1,238 students on our campus each day, we focus on them one at a time.

I also encourage you to be that same CHAMPION for your child. Together, we certainly have more collective ability to support, guide, and shape them. During the upcoming parent-teacher conferences, I encourage you to engage in a conversation with your child’s teachers about the entirety of their school experience. Discover how your child learns best, is motivated, and achieves, as it all works hand-in-hand together. I look forward to sharing the many successes of our students with you throughout the year.

In celebration of our students,

Richard Boerner
Karen Mattos, Director of Brazilian Studies and World Languages, Directora Pedagógica -

Brazilian Independence Day at Graded is associated with the celebration of Brazilian culture in a fun-loving way. On September 6, our PTA put together an amazing exhibit. It showcased the value of the multitude of stories and memories of those who came from different countries, bringing their cultures and their experiences to Brazil. The story of every immigrant and every refugee starts with leaving and loss; they search for a different life, and they bring hopes and dreams to a new land.

We were able to learn so much about the influences of many different cultures and languages in Brazil during that week. There are over 200 languages in this multicultural country. There are more than 180 indigenous languages, 2 sign languages (LIBRAS and Língua de Sinais Kaapor Brasileira), and more than 40 different languages from various parts of the world. Brazilian Portuguese is filled with words, rhythms, and flavors from different cultures.

Maya Angelou says, “... in diversity there is beauty and strength,” and what a great opportunity we all have to allow this diversity to enrich us.

During our Lower School assemblies, Grupo Parampará explored various rhythms and stories from different places around the world with audience participation.

In our Upper School assemblies, we showcased Yannick Delass and the group Les Serges. Yannick is a Congolese and Sao Tomean composer, singer, and guitarist who had the audience sing and harmonize with him in Lingala. Christof Hidalgo, Franck Oberson, Javier Ibanez, and Egimar Alves are part of the Les Serges band, which also had the audience singing and moving to an amazing beat, both in French and Creole.

The “Museu da Imigração do Estado de São Paulo” is a wonderful place to explore this theme even further. http://museudaimigracao.org.br/o-museu/sobre/

The following are links to the groups that presented at the assemblies:

Grupo Parampará http://www.grupopranayama.com.br/

Yannick Delass https://www.facebook.com/Yannick-delass-128037030693059/

Les Serges https://www.facebook.com/Les-Serges-159803014173728/

Opening our hearts and connecting to different cultures, languages, rhythms, and flavors allows us to realize that there are many people who wish for a more just and humane world. “We have the right to be equal whenever difference diminishes us, and we have the right to be different whenever equality de-characterizes us” (Boaventura de Sousa Santos).

Rob Switzer, Director of Athletics and Activities -

"Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” --Dalai Lama

Graded’s Classroom Without Walls (CWW) trips extend students’ academic skills to authentic, real-life situations through a series of academic, social, and interpersonal learning experiences occurring outside a traditional classroom setting. Learning about symbiotic relationships, indigenous cultures, ocean swells, the biodiversity of the rainforest, or the effects of erosion in a classroom setting is valuable. However, to make these lessons memorable and formative in the long term, there needs to be an experience attached to the idea. There exists a wealth of research that champions the importance of learning in context: learning by doing rather than observing. By actually exploring a cathedral, cavern, or rural community, students will experience higher levels of action, collaboration, and reflection in their learning. Some students will experience puppet-making and stone-carving, while others will ride a boat through a river community. Some will traverse the Mata Atlântica, while others will explore historic gold mines. Some will ramble through the installations and gardens of Inhotim, while others will wade waist-deep in cave waters. In addition to an opportunity to bond with their classmates, students will also get to see Brazil through a new lens and develop an especially keen understanding of what impacts the lives of people and their environments.

We believe that the Graded CWW program enhances the Upper School curriculum by exposing students to new cultures, and academic and personal growth opportunities that cannot be achieved in a regular classroom setting. Each grade level might travel to different destinations, but the program objectives and learning goals are consistent for each trip in the areas of cultural understanding, personal growth, and curriculum enrichment.

Cultural Understanding

To promote an appreciation of cultural understanding, students participate in a number of local activities and interact with residents to understand how life in other parts of Brazil differs from their own experiences. Students may have the opportunity to learn a traditional dance or song or visit a historical site that will help to develop an appreciation for cultural diversity and traditions.

Personal Growth

The CWW experience offers the opportunity for students to grow and mature in their interpersonal relationships and to develop a sense of independence through adventure. Traveling challenges students to be responsible and teaches students to step out of their comfort zone. Trip activities are designed to encourage students to build relationships and further develop social skills.

Curriculum Enrichment

The CWW experience extends the Upper School curriculum and learning objectives outside the walls of Graded. Each destination is truly a classroom without walls, and learning objectives are tied to activities and projects. Trip leaders work with students in small groups and provide prompts throughout the week to challenge students to make connections between the places they visit and their own life experiences.

As we welcome back our trip participants this week, we are excited to hear about the wonderful memories made and to watch the learning and growth that occur as a result of their CWW experiences.

Human Resources -


  Marie F. Beardwood joins the Graded community as the Director of Technology Integration.  She brings a combination of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) experience, as well as a deep understanding of excellence in teaching and learning to her new role.  Marie has worked in various ICT capacities in the public and private, K-12, and higher education sectors.  She is also an experienced educator, instrumental in founding the first writing and word processing courses in Rhode Island.  In addition, she has authored the curriculum for and ensured the accreditation of an Information Technology High School in a Providence, RI underserved community. Marie has directed a Center for Teaching Excellence, where she brought her classroom expertise to the development of online courses. She has two teaching awards to her credit - one from a private boys’ boarding school and the other from Nichols College (Dudley, MA).  Marie holds a B.A. in English/Secondary Education from Rhode Island College and an M.A. from Columbia University Teachers College.  In her spare time, she loves swimming, hiking the beaches and kettle ponds of Cape Cod, traveling, and reading.  She treasures her vintage jewelry and handbag collection and adores hanging out with her best friend and husband of 32 years, Jim.  When she is reincarnated, she wants to come back as a circus clown or a race car driver.  She is honored to join the Graded community and looks forward to collaborating with and learning from her new colleagues.
Susan Clain joins Graded as Chief Development Officer, having worked in the independent school, higher education, and international education realms.  Born in South Africa and raised in Rochester, MN, Susan holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University.  She has served in chief development and admissions capacities at Tarbut V’Torah (TVT) Community Day School (Irvine, CA) and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in partnership with Tufts University (Boston, MA).  Beginning her career in media development, Susan went on to hold administrative roles at EF Education First and the Institute for Shipboard Education's Semester at Sea program.  In her free time, she enjoys lyrical modern dance; collecting passport stamps, sea glass, and friends; gardening; doing crossword puzzles; and reading.  A social-documentary fine arts photographer, Susan has exhibited her artwork in galleries. She is excited to be at Graded, learn Portuguese, and explore a new culture.
Av. José Galante, 425
São Paulo, SP - Brazil - 05642-000
T: 55-11-3747-4800
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