Middle School News
 

The Graded Gazette -

DAVID ALLEN, UPPER SCHOOL MUSIC TEACHER
David is currently in his fifth year as the Middle School Band Director at Concordia International School Shanghai. Previously, he lived in West Palm Beach, Florida where he also taught band. His concert and jazz bands have earned consistent superior ratings at annual district music performance assessment festivals. In addition, his bands have won Disney Festival Awards in 2014 and 2015. David holds a BA in music education from the University of Southern Mississippi and an MA in education administration from National-Louis University. Outside of school, David can be found at the gym, reading and studying cultural and social anthropology, exploring new restaurants, struggling with Portuguese, or traveling with good friends. Having spent much time in the US and Asia, he is now looking forward to exploring South America. David already considers Graded his forever school!

 

ALASTAIR BOYD, HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER
Alastair is a new arrival to Brazil, having started at Graded at the beginning of the semester. Prior to moving to São Paulo, he lived in Melbourne, Australia, where he worked as a science teacher at Northcote High School. In this role, he was also given the opportunity to lead school trips through Cambodia and Central Australia. Before becoming a teacher, Alastair was a scientist, studying homing behavior in honey bees. After spending ten long years at university, he earned a BS in Nanotechnology, a Graduate Diploma in education, and a PhD in biophysics and microscopy from the University of Western Australia. An avid traveler, Alastair has been on a variety of adventures, including a hiking trip up to Everest Base Camp and a journey through the Trans-Siberian Railway. He is excited to explore Brazil and other Latin American countries. Alastair enjoys playing board games and video games, trying out new foods, and hanging out with his cat Grimes.

 

JANELLE DAY, MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER
Janelle is currently working as the head of the Science Department at the American International School of Kuwait. She has been there for five years, both as a middle school science teacher and DP biology teacher. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she spent most of her childhood in between the city and the snowy mountains until she moved to Nova Scotia to attend St. Francis Xavier University. There, she graduated with a BS in human kinetics and a BA in education with teachable concentrations in science, physical education, and French. She is now pursuing an MEd to continue her professional development as an educator. When she is not teaching, Janelle can be found playing football, scuba diving, exploring nature, or hopping on a flight to a nearby country. Having never stepped foot in South America, she is looking forward to exploring a new part of the world.

 

JON EXALL, MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER
It is with great excitement that Jon joins the Graded community. Currently in his twentieth year as a middle school educator, Jon began his career as an environmental educator in Sonora, California before moving to Denver, Colorado, where he taught science, literacy, and humanities. Jon currently teaches middle school science at the American International School Dhaka and exercises his passion for integrated learning opportunities as the middle school service learning program coordinator. Jon holds a BA from the University of Vermont and an MA in education, curriculum, and instruction from Concordia University. When not creating student-engaged learning experiences, Jon and his wife Lori can be found on adventures in nature. Jon loves rock climbing, cycling, running, skiing, and many other outdoor activities, and is greatly looking forward to all the possibilities offered in South America.

 

KEVIN HEALEY, HIGH SCHOOL IB PHYSICS TEACHER
Currently completing his fifth year teaching physics at American International School · Vienna, Kevin has also taught in England, Belgium, and Canada. He earned an MA  in theoretical physics from the University of Durham and maintains teaching qualifications in Ontario, Canada, and the UK. Kevin is an enthusiastic supporter of service learning and a long-term robotics coach. When he is not in the lab, Kevin enjoys music, cooking, running, and following Manchester United (well, sometimes). He is excited to experience a new language and culture, to visit South America, and to cross the equator for the first time.

 

LYNDSAY HEALEY, LOWER SCHOOL GRADE 4 TEACHER
Lyndsay is currently a fourth-grade teacher at the American International School · Vienna, where, despite her dislike for skiing, she has enjoyed the last five years of her career. Prior to working in Austria, she has worked at the International School of Brussels and held various lecturing positions at colleges around the Toronto area. Lyndsay completed her BA and MA in English literature at McMaster University and then obtained her BEd from the University of Toronto. She is very interested in the alignment between social justice and education, and has high hopes of completing a doctorate on this topic. In her free time, Lyndsay is either spinning, reading, despairing about the Blue Jays, or herding her pack of cats.

 

LORI LALIBERTE, LOWER SCHOOL GRADE 1 TEACHER
Lori began teaching abroad four years ago in Bangladesh at the American International School in Dhaka. Prior to moving overseas, Lori taught for sixteen years at a diverse public school in Denver, Colorado. She holds a BA from Assumption College and an MA in curriculum and instruction from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Lori has spent most of her career teaching kindergarten and first grade. Her last two years have been dedicated to supporting English language learners in the primary grades. She has a talent for creating an intentional classroom environment in which students thrive as self-directed learners. Lori has a passion for helping young learners build strong social-emotional and academic foundations, empowering them to create high-quality work, and address real-world issues. Outside of the classroom, Lori enjoys exploring the natural world with her husband Jon. Although they love the hum of a colorful and vibrant city, they are happiest in the forest, on a mountain, or by the sea. Lori is looking forward to joining the Graded community and exploring Brazil... and beyond!

 

SALLY ANN MERRIMAN, LOWER SCHOOL GRADE 3 TEACHER
Sally is currently a third-grade teacher at Korea International School, where she has worked for four years. Previously, she lived in Memphis, Tennessee teaching at an elementary school in the Shelby County Schools District. Sally holds a BS from Crichton College and has been teaching for more than 17 years. Outside of school, she can be found looking for sporting events, races to run, and parks to visit with her dog. She is excited to learn the Portuguese language and explore all that Brazil has to offer!

 

CLAIRE MORRIS, MIDDLE SCHOOL HUMANITIES TEACHER
Claire is currently a high school IB Language and Literature teacher at the American International School-Riyadh. She has worked there for ten years, teaching both high school theater and English. Previously, she worked in Dubai, United Arab Emirates teaching both high school and middle school English, and before that in South Africa (Claire is a proud South African). She holds a BA from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa and a Postgraduate Certificate in education. Outside of school, Claire can be found running, racing with the Riyadh Road Runners, baking, reading, watching live theater productions, or hanging out at the pool or beach with her family. Having spent much time in the desert of the Middle East, Claire and her husband Justin, along with their children Nathan (11) and Mikalya (8), are now looking forward to exploring and experiencing new adventures in South America!

 

JUSTIN MORRIS, IB COORDINATOR AND HIGH SCHOOL ECONOMICS TEACHER
Having spent the past 13 years in the Middle East (three years in Dubai, UAE and ten years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia), Justin is very excited to start a new adventure at Graded. He is currently a DP economics teacher at the American International School-Riyadh, where his wife Claire teaches DP English. Prior to this, he taught at Dubai American Academy in the UAE and at Maritzburg College, a boys-only high school in South Africa. Justin holds a BA in commerce and a Postgraduate Certificate in education from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Outside of school, you will find him cheering for the South African cricket and rugby teams along with his two children, Nathan and Mikayla, have no choice but to join him in his sporting interests. Justin loves keeping active with his family, trying to stay fit and healthy.

 

EVA PALMIERI, LOWER SCHOOL GRADE 3 TEACHER
Eva Palmieri is currently in her fifth year as a grade 3 teacher at The American International School of Muscat in Oman. She prides herself on being a Colorado native, where she taught for four years in her hometown of Conifer before moving overseas. Eva has earned an MA in elementary education from Regis University in Denver, Colorado. Outside of school, Eva is known for her love of Spartan Obstacle Course Racing, paddle boarding, camping, and hiking. Eva is always seen out and about with her husband Thomas Yates and her adorable 14-year-old dog Lilly. She is beyond excited to continue her amazing journey of international education and experience South America.

 

MARK PATE, MIDDLE SCHOOL STEM TEACHER
Mark is currently a middle school math, science, and design technology teacher at The International School of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he has had the privilege of teaching for the past five years. Originally from Canada, Mark has traveled to nearly 40 countries, including Vietnam, China, and Thailand, but has yet to experience the vibrant cultures of South America. He holds a BA in contemporary studies from Wilfrid Laurier University and a BA in education from Nipissing University. As a Canadian, he naturally enjoys hockey, but in the spring, his attention turns to the Six Nations Rugby Championship; his team is Ireland. After having lived in Asia for 13 years, Mark is excited to move to Brazil and explore Brazillian coffee, food, dance, and maybe even take a roll on the mats with some Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

 

COLLEEN QUINN, LOWER SCHOOL GRADE 4 TEACHER
Colleen is currently a grade 5 teacher at Jakarta Intercultural School, where she has been teaching for six years. Prior to this, she taught in Kuwait and Vietnam. Colleen has an MA in education and a BA in theater. In her free time, she enjoys spending time at the gym, baking treats for her colleagues, reading, or finding interesting sunglasses to add to her collection. Colleen is in her eleventh year of teaching internationally and is excited to begin a new adventure in Brazil!

 

MARLA STARR, LOWER AND UPPER SCHOOL OPTIMAL LEARNING SERVICES (OLS) TEACHER
Marla is currently an academic coach at The American School of Bombay and has previously worked in Egypt, Japan, Germany, and the US. Marla is half-American and half-German. She grew up in Colorado and calls Düsseldorf, Germany her home. She holds a BA in linguistics from the University of Chicago, an MEd in curriculum and instruction from Loyola University Chicago, and an EdD in educational leadership from Bethel University. Outside of school, Marla is an avid marathon runner (32 full marathons and 4 ultra marathons completed to date), an ardent cyclist, and a yoga teacher. She is also passionate about Japanese ink painting and has twice exhibited works in the National Gallery in Tokyo. Marla is coming to São Paulo with two cats and is very excited about teaching on her fifth continent.

 

DAVID TRAJTENBERG, MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL
Dave was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He earned his BA in chemistry from Franklin and Marshall College. David also holds an MA degree in teaching and curriculum from Harvard University and an MA in school leadership from the University of Southern Mississippi. David completed his PhD in educational leadership and innovation at the University of Colorado, Denver. Dave has taught and served in a variety of teaching and leadership roles, ranging from preschool through high school. He has worked in the US in Virginia and Colorado, as well as internationally in Japan and Peru. Before coming to Graded, he was a Secondary School principal in Hanoi, Vietnam. Whenever he is not at school, Dave enjoys spending time with his wife Helen, his three daughters, Rose (13), Olive (11), and Violet (8), and their dog Buddy. In his spare time, David is an avid distance runner, cyclist, magician, juggler, surfer, reader, and photographer. Dave and his family are thrilled to be a part of the Graded community.

 

HELEN TRAJTENBERG, HIGH SCHOOL THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE (TOK) TEACHER
Originally from Dallas, Texas, Helen Trajtenberg graduated from the University of Texas, Austin with a BA in visual arts and in psychology. She also holds an MA in art therapy from George Washington University and is a licensed art therapist with the American Art Therapy Association. With 14 years of experience in the classroom, she has taught in US public and charter schools, mostly in the state of Colorado, and also internationally in Japan, Peru, and Vietnam. Helen is passionate about teaching and learning, and enjoys helping students develop their own passion for lifelong learning. She is excited to be joining the Graded High School faculty as a TOK teacher. She is coming to the Graded community with her husband, David Trajtenberg, the incoming Middle School principal, and their three daughters. In her spare time, Helen enjoys spending time with her family, going for walks, traveling, painting, cooking, and practicing yoga.

 

ALEX WASHKO, LOWER SCHOOL GRADE 1 TEACHER
Alex is currently in his fifth year at The International School of Macao in China, where he has taught both Kindergarten and first grade. Before that, he hopped around a bit, teaching and living in Mexico City, Seoul, and Albania. Alex holds a BA in education from DePaul University and an MA in education from the University of Pittsburgh. When not at school, he is probably cooking something overly complicated, trying to stay active and fit, or watching terrible sci-fi and horror movies. After traveling through most of South America, Alex is looking forward to settling in São Paulo and working at Graded, hopefully, for many years to come.

 

THOMAS YATES, HIGH SCHOOL MATHEMATICS TEACHER
Thomas is currently in his fifth year of teaching high school mathematics at The American International School of Muscat in Oman. Previously, he lived in Evergreen, Colorado with his wife Eva and dog for 10 years, and was the head of the Math Department at Conifer High School during that time. He holds a BS in mathematical education from Illinois State University and an MA in administration and supervision from the University of Phoenix. Outside of school, Thomas enjoys playing and watching sports (especially winter sports which he misses dearly), traveling, grilling, finding and enjoying breweries with his wife and dog, and being outdoors. Thomas is an avid Chicago sports fan and cannot wait to learn about the soccer culture of Brazil. Having traveled around the US, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, Thomas and Eva are thrilled to live and learn all about South America. 

 

Colleen Boerner, Upper School Librarian -

Graded booklovers were ecstatic!

In April during the quarantine, the school Libraries offered the community an opportunity to retrieve more good reads via Curbside Checkout. The initiative was a huge success. Ninety-seven requests were submitted and the Library team curated more than 1,000 books for students and families to enjoy. 

To participate in the Curbside Checkout, students and families completed Google forms to request new titles. The Library staff then selected books, checked them out, and packed them in bags for students and families, which they made available for curbside pick up in the Graded Parking Garage. A member of the Library team was in the garage to hand families their books, so there was no need to get out of the car. 

Graded parent Natalie Della Rosa, whose family took advantage of the Curbside Checkout opportunity raved, "This is such a great resource you and the team are offering families. We love reading hard books more than electronic editions. Having access to the library is a bit of a godsend when we are stuck at home like this!"

Reading is a fundamental skill for academic success. During this period of social distancing, it is also a wonderful way to travel, escape, experience, learn, connect, and develop empathy. The Graded Libraries' goal remains to get books into the hands of students. To this end, we have added a number of resources to our Google sites, so that students may access both eBooks and audiobooks.

However, even with these wonderful digital collections of fiction and nonfiction titles, we know that many students prefer to read in print. After days of Zoom meetings and online classwork, a break from screen time is welcomed. While most school libraries have closed their doors during the pandemic, our team really wanted to go the extra mile. Promoting reading and making our wonderful collection of books available to students was the impetus for Curbside Checkout. 

The Library team orchestrated Curbside Checkout while adhering to the best health and safety practices. Following the recommendations of the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we made sure to quarantine returned books before handling them and making them available for checkout. In addition, while handling and distributing books, Library staff wore masks, gloves, and practiced frequent handwashing.

Prior to distance learning, the Graded Libraries have always allowed returning students to check out books for vacation reading. We know many students and families look forward to this opportunity each year. After experiencing a successful Curbside Checkout, the Library team will make Vacation Checkout a reality this year, too. Keep reading!

The Graded Gazette -

1. In college, you majored in communication and psychology. Tell us about your journey to the classroom at Graded. 
As an undergraduate, I didn't quite know what I wanted to be when I "grew up." However, I knew that I wanted to take classes that were intriguing, challenging, and inspiring. I've always loved reading, research, sharing ideas, and collaborating with my colleagues. My love of learning eventually led me to graduate school where I studied literacy with an emphasis on children's literature. I spent several years teaching middle school in Chicago and Denver before arriving at Graded. Teaching internationally occurred to me after spending several summer vacations backpacking through Central America, South America, and Europe. The idea of moving away from everything I'd always known was daunting but the adventure that I was longing for. I moved here in 2014 and have been fortunate enough to build a career, life, and family in São Paulo. 


2. What inspires you? 
My students inspire me on a daily basis. The best moments occur when they become engaged with their own learning, not because they want to earn high marks, but because they have stumbled upon something that genuinely interests them. 


3. When you visit the US, what one item do you make sure to stock up on to bring back to Brazil?
There are several: French vanilla coffee creamer, ranch dressing, Kind Bars... The list could go on and on!


4. If you could trade places with any other person for a week, living or dead, real or fictional, famous or not, who would it be?
Depending on the day, my answer to this question could change. But today, I would choose to trade places with a travel journalist – someone like Samantha Brown or Philip Rosenthal. I'd spend the week traveling to a remote locale, exploring the sights, meeting new people, and eating delicious food.


 

5. What do you do in your free time? 
Being a new mom, I don't have much "free time" these days. With so many responsibilities at work and at home, I make it a point to carve out time for hot yoga at least twice a week. I usually try to read something unrelated to school, and currently, I'm reading Black Wave by Kim Ghattas, a complex account that weaves together the history, geopolitics, and conflict in the Middle East after the 1979 Iranian Revolution.


6. If you were asked to unload a school bus full of jelly beans, what would you do?
I'd display the bus for all to see and advertise a competition, asking the community guess "How many jellybeans are in the bus?" Students, parents, and faculty/staff would calculate their estimates, and the person with the closest number, without going over, would win a lifetime supply of jelly beans!


7. What was your favorite book when you were in middle school?
I loved The Baby-Sitter's Club series by Ann M. Martin. Each novel is a first-person narrative and deals with real issues that I could relate to. I also enjoyed reading The Giver because it was totally different from any other book I had read up until that point. It was dark and suspenseful, and there were so many deeper layers. Luckily, I get to reread this book each year because it's part of our grade 7 curriculum. 


8. If you could be a superhero, what power would you possess?
I would choose the magical power of "apparition," as shown in the Harry Potter series. It's the ability to travel from one place to another in an instant. Bouncing back and forth between my home here and my home in the US would be super cool. 


9. What's your favorite thing about Graded?
The people. Hands down. 


 

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