High 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


The Graded Gazette -

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Colleen Boerner, Upper School Librarian -

By Colleen Boerner, Upper School Librarian

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

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

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

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2017)

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

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

For more information about Alan Gratz, visit his website: https://www.alangratz.com/.
Angela Park, Communications Associate -

By Angela Park, Communications Associate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Graded Gazette -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Tell us about your very first job.

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

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

Coffee and green space.

8. What is your favorite thing about Graded?

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

Richard Boerner, Superintendent -

Message from the Superintendent

Graded is continuously striving to enhance educational delivery. We are committed to ensuring that all of our teaching and learning initiatives are meaningful, interrelated, and authentic, and furthermore, that they fully prepare our students for college and beyond. 

To this end, we have invited some of the world’s best thought leaders to join us to participate in Think Tank on April 8-9, 2019. Together, we will work to create an even more robust, vibrant learning environment, fostering transformational outcomes for students and teachers alike. 

Parents and students are invited to attend a Think Tank Panel Discussion with panelists on Monday, April 8, from 3:30-4:30 pm in Graded’s Black Box Theater. Seating is limited, so please RSVP HERE.

Richard Boerner

The Graded Gazette -

1. Tell us briefly about your background and how you arrived at teaching High School biology and Theory of Knowledge (TOK) at Graded.

My husband became a teacher and got a job at a school in England. When they found out I was moving with him, they hired me, too – first as a teaching assistant and then as a full-time classroom teacher. I loved it, so we went back to Canada the following year and I got my teaching degree, specializing in biology and philosophy. Before coming to Graded, I taught biology in Bulgaria and El Salvador.

2. When you were a student, who was your favorite teacher?

When I was earning my education degree, I had two amazing teachers who really influenced my teaching practice. One of them was an incredible model of how a teacher’s organization of things like lesson structure and resources, as well as their accessibility can really help students learn more effectively. The other teacher helped me build skills and confidence in teaching with social justice in mind. This has enabled me not only to manage, but also to encourage discussion of challenging questions inside and outside the classroom; questions about issues such as race, inequality, and identity. I believe this kind of education is just as important as the curriculum we study.

3. What is one of your hobbies?

A couple of years ago, I started learning calligraphy, or lettering, as it’s often called now. I really love drawing, but find it hard to make the time to produce substantial work. I’ve found that practicing lettering has given me a good creative outlet which can take as little or as much time as I have. You also have to choose what to write, which gives me the opportunity to create reminders or practice gratitude. It also makes it easy to whip up a nice card or quick gift for someone!

4. One of the central questions students wrangle with in Theory of Knowledge is "How do we know?" For those outside of your course, what is one thing we should all be doing to begin to answer this in our daily lives?

Part of the challenge of this question is that the answer depends on the context. The criteria for what constitutes valid knowledge changes depending on the field of study. “How do we know?” in our daily lives is more about practicing the basic critical thinking skills our students learn across disciplines every day. When we hear or read something, we should automatically consider the source, the statements made, who we are in terms of our personal biases and backgrounds, and how these things might influence our take on the information. This allows us not only to evaluate the information we come across, but also to be mindful of how our own perspectives affect our knowledge.

5. What is the secret to being content in all circumstances?

I’m not sure this is something worth striving for, to be honest. We learn the most from moments of discomfort, when we are being challenged. If you mean a more general contentedness as you move through different places and stages in life, I’d say the secret is knowing yourself and using that to build meaningful relationships with people.

6. Who is the most creative or artistic person you know?

I went to a special arts high school, and my dad is an artist, so I have the good fortune of knowing a lot of incredibly talented and creative people. Although I have a rather difficult relationship with my dad, one of the things I really love about him is his creativity. He sees the world differently than other people. For example, when we’re walking down the street, he’ll see images in the cracks of the sidewalk and use them later in his art. He taught me to observe the world around me, to question it, to interact with it, and to be inspired by it.

7. You’re often involved in Graded’s musicals. Tell us more about your music.

I grew up in a very musical family. My mother almost became a professional classical pianist, my father studied jazz piano in college before changing paths, and they both have beautiful voices. I took piano lessons and played clarinet in school, and my brother played trumpet, taught himself to play guitar and piano, and is an excellent singer. So I don’t remember a single day when there wasn’t someone playing music or singing. It has always been a part of my life. When I started working in Bulgaria, a colleague asked me to assist her in starting an a cappella group, which I helped run for three years. At my next school, I helped with the school choir and the musical production. When I moved to Graded, I was thrilled to discover Mr. Kelly’s commitment to building a strong Lower School musical theater tradition, as well as Ms. Grimes’ openness to having me help with the High School musicals. I feel grateful to be part of that special community here.


8. What do you consider “progress”?

If we understand progress simply as improvement, then an example of potential progress is the proposal a group of scientists recently made to build solar, wind, natural gas, and water infrastructure along the US-Mexico border. Although, like everything else, there are negative consequences to consider, the proposal addresses many problems, including economic, social, political, and environmental ones. That being said, the idea of “progress” is tricky for me. Can the technological and industrial “progress” we have made really be considered as such when we factor in the destruction it has wrought on the planet? Can the social and economic “progress” some societies have made be considered as such when we know what it has cost other societies that continue to pay for it? Of course, the development of knowledge, including new technologies, is valuable. However, we need to be more considerate of the larger ramifications when nations “progress.”

9. What was one vacation that lasted too long?

When I was 18, I spent three months traveling by myself in Guatemala and Honduras. I learned Spanish, and had many unforgettable, life-changing experiences. I also discovered that three months is probably the limit of time I can personally spend without a little routine and a more focused purpose in my day-to-day life.

10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?

I love the relationships I have with my students and colleagues. I think this comes from the trust that is placed in my professional judgment and abilities, and the freedom that gives me to share my passions in and out of the classroom. I love that I can teach both biology and Theory of Knowledge and also participate in a wide variety of activities like the musicals and Femolution, the student feminist group. This allows me to build real connections with the people here, and that is deeply rewarding.


The Graded Gazette -

1. You studied visual arts at Belas Artes and then took a post-grad course in art history at Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (FAAP). What led you to teaching?

Art was something I discovered by doing. I had always loved doing art, but I didn’t know I loved teaching it until I started volunteering at my sons’ Montessori school in the US when we lived there. It came naturally to me, and I felt I had found my passion!  Once back in Brazil, I volunteered at Graded, and this confirmed what I had discovered in the US — that I really enjoy teaching and, at the same time, learning from my students. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.

2. You started the Hearty Bowl Project several years ago. What is it?

I came up with the idea for Hearty Bowls after visiting ACTC – the Casa do Coração, an institution that supports young children and their families during their treatment for heart disease. There are similar projects around the world, but I adapted the Hearty Bowl idea to fit our needs. For three years now, the Graded community has been spending part of the year creating and decorating ceramic bowls. We then organize an event at which a variety of soups is served in these bowls. When you buy a ticket for the event – for which we receive amazing donations of soups, desserts, music, and decorations – you can choose a bowl to eat your soup in, and you keep the bowl when the meal is over. We donate all proceeds from the event to ACTC, and the project has become a great opportunity to bring the community together to help a good cause. Parents, teachers, administrators, and friends make bowls during students’ classes, after school, or on Saturday afternoons. At the same time, they’re helping a great cause. It’s wonderful to see members of the Graded community relax, learn something new, and interact with different people.

3. What is something about yourself that you’d like to change, but you suspect you probably won’t?

I need to learn how to say no, because too many times I get overloaded and overwhelmed. The problem is that I enjoy it!

4. You have been teaching at Graded for more than 30 years, in all levels from Pre-primary through High School. What’s the most interesting aspect of teaching art to Upper School students?

I love to see the students’ satisfaction in creating something new, discovering a new talent that they did not know they had, or finishing a work of art and feeling proud of what they have just created. I really enjoy talking about their work with them.

5. What’s your strongest sense?

I’m a good listener. I like to listen to people’s stories, and I do it with a real interest, which makes them feel comfortable talking and sharing with me many different aspects of their personal lives.  

6. You were one of the founders of FALA. What is FALA and why was it so important to you for many years?

I have always liked to do community service and get involved in social work, and FALA is a good example of that. FALA started much smaller and was very different from what it is nowadays. There was a small group of High School students who were the teachers, and we just coordinated the program and helped the student teachers plan their lessons. It was very basic at first. We would go to different communities and teach in the living room of someone’s house or at a small center, very informally. We never knew exactly who would show up to go with us and who would attend the classes. As the program grew and needed more structure, we began to bring our outside students to Graded. I spent 12 years working with FALA, and it was really satisfying to see the project develop and grow, as well as see our Graded students commit to and care for their FALA students.

7. What one new thing did you learn in the last week?

Last week, I tried a new recipe for chocolate pudding that I made for my grandchildren who were visiting from Canada.

8. Do you have a favorite painting or drawing? What makes it special to you?

I love Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings. His passion and talent are inspiring!

9. What is a favorite memory of your grandparents?

Sunday lunch at their house! My grandfather had an Italian background and my grandmother always made us amazing meals! We also got to see our cousins and it was always fun – loud, happy, and festive.

10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?

The Lemann-Tully Arts Center is amazing, and the people I work with, both students and teachers, truly inspire me. I’ve been working at Graded for more than 30 years, and it feels like home. That’s special!

Angela Park, Communications Associate -

by Angela Park, Communications Associate


EVA team members at the Knowledge@Wharton High School Investment Competition at the University of Pennsylvania in March. From left: Guilhermo G., Breno S., Edmond S., João A., Felipe L., and advisor Frederico Mesnik '87.

It started out with a small idea.

“A Graded alum approached us about an incredible competition,” recalled junior Breno S. “We brought the idea to Gui, who was the leader of the Investment Club [at Graded].”

Shortly thereafter, several members of Graded’s High School Investment Club organized themselves to form Eagles Value Added (EVA), the school’s first student-led investment team to compete in the University of Pennsylvania’s Knowledge@Wharton High School Investment Competition. The investment competition, launched in 2011, provides an investment simulation for high school students all over the world. Each team manages a $100,000 portfolio of virtual cash, and throughout the competition, students oversee risk, diversification, company and industry analysis.

“We were all interested in investment, but we weren’t all specialists in the beginning,” said senior Guilhermo ‘Gui’ G. “We had to learn about everything, and gradually we followed our interests and passions to become specialists [in our field].”

The team was fortunate to find an advisor, Graded alumnus Frederico Mesnik ‘87, to help them navigate the investment world.  “The first time they came into my office, they knew nothing about finance. I gave them three books to read over the break, so they all went home and read them,” recalled Mesnik. “Then, when they came back in January of 2018, we started to put together [a plan] for the first competition.”

Every Thursday, the students would head to Trígono Capital, Mesnik’s asset management firm, to hear and learn from a group of professionals. “I don’t think I can emphasize how much we practiced,” said junior João A. His fellow team member junior Felipe L. recalled that although they worked very hard, they found the experience to be a tremendously enriching one.

EVA’s first competitive experience took place during the Brazil Knowledge@Wharton High School Investment Competition, hosted by the Wharton Alumni Club of Brazil. Despite their initial nervousness, the team members felt prepared. After all, they had devoted numerous hours over the course of the year toward their strategy and portfolio.

“They won the competition hosted by the Wharton Alumni Club of Brazil, but didn’t manage to go to the final [round of the competition] in Pennsylvania,” informed Mesnik.

Instead of expressing disappointment, however, the students emerged more determined to perform better the following year. According to Breno, “It’s about having resilience, not complaining about feedback, but just working harder.”

. . .

This year, EVA took gold again in the Brazilian competition and qualified to compete in Philadelphia’s Global Region 3 Finale in March. The team, joined by mentor Mesnik, traveled to the United States two weeks ago for 36 hours of real-world experience.

Team members present their investment portfolio and strategy to judges.


During their short trip, members visited BTG Pactual in New York City, where they had the opportunity to engage with the investment bank's key leaders. Immediately thereafter, they headed to the University of Pennsylvania for the competition.

When the judges announced the winners, the team leapt for joy. EVA placed first among more than 650 high school investment teams, and advanced to the May Global Finale, where they will compete against eight other teams from China, India, and the United States.

“We were elated,” said João. “But I was more happy about the fact that our mentors were so happy, so content, and so proud than [I was] actually winning.”

With their $500 reward, EVA will contribute to the Graded Scholar Program. “If we win the Finals in May,” said Felipe, “we also hope to give that back [to the Graded Scholar Program].”

Through this self-driven initiative, team members have grown significantly, learning beyond finance. For Guilhermo, “It has really been about learning to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations.”

“It’s really about passion,” asserted junior Edmond S. “I’ve learned that it has to be much more than curiosity or interest [in order to persist].”

Most importantly, "students were able to learn a lot about leadership skills, team-building skills, and motivation, and all of these things that are important in the adult and professional life,” said Mesnik.


Members celebrate after winners are announced.

Photos are courtesy of Knowledge@Wharton High School.
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