Middle School News
 

Richard Boerner, Superintendent -

By Richard Boerner, Superintendent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One School, One Community, One Graded,

Richard Boerner
Superintendent

 

The Graded Gazette -

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


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


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


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

 

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


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


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


Colleen Boerner, Upper School Librarian -

By Colleen Boerner, Upper School Librarian

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

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

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


Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2017)

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


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

For more information about Alan Gratz, visit his website: https://www.alangratz.com/.
Av. José Galante, 425
São Paulo, SP - Brazil - 05642-000
T: 55-11-3747-4800
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