High School News

Shannon Beckley, Director of Teaching and Learning -

by Shannon Beckley, Director of Teaching and Learning

Graded's commitment to each one of our students and families is captured in our vision statement:

"Individuals empowered to reach their potential and positively impact the world."

This vision is borne out of community-wide reflection upon our valued traditions and plans for the future and drives our Teaching and Learning team's work. Graded's vision prompts our school and faculty to examine curricula, student learning experiences, and professional approaches. In an ever-changing world, reviewing and adapting our work is an ongoing journey. Over the past several years, we have hosted Graded's Think Tank, studied with experts in cognitive science and design thinking, and begun to weave teaching practices for deep, enduring, and transferable learning into our classrooms.  

At Graded, deeper learning is the convergence of what authors Jal Mehta (Harvard University) and Sarah Fine (High Tech High School) call the virtues:  mastery + identity + creativity. Learning is most profound and long-lasting when it results from the intersection of knowledge and skills (mastery), motivation and purpose (identity), and the ability to produce and create in new ways (creativity). When we plan and organize our classrooms to foster the development of these virtues, we know that we will graduate students who are knowledgeable, action-oriented, confident, innovative, and globally-focused. 

Equipping our faculty to teach in this manner is critical to our overall success. In March 2021, Graded's Learning Lab began implementing an innovative professional learning experience designed by Graded teachers for Graded teachers.  The "Deeper Learning Pilot'' is a 10-week intensive course produced by the Teaching and Learning Department in collaboration with external partners Dr. Kevin Mattingly of Columbia University, the Stanford d.Lab, Explo Elevate, and the Institute for Social and Emotional Learning (IFSEL). The course is delivered by the school's four deeper learning coaches and two curriculum coordinators. Twenty Graded teachers enrolled in the initial offering.

Our pilot is designed as a series of informational workshops and classroom coaching cycles. During the workshops, teachers come together across grade levels and content areas for two to three days to study, learn, and plan. They explore the following guiding questions:

  • What is deeper learning?
  • How do we foster the virtues of mastery, identity, and creativity in our students?
  • How can I apply the deeper learning frameworks to my own learning and professional growth?

Each workshop series is followed by a two-week classroom coaching cycle during which teachers match with a deeper learning coach. Together, they practice applying strategies that promote deeper learning with students.  As part of the coaching cycle, faculty collect and analyze student work to understand its impact on student learning. This sequence repeats three times and culminates in a celebration of learning.

While the faculty learning journey is still in its infancy, teachers are already reflecting upon the impact this work is having on their teaching and their students' learning:

"I have never experienced learning like this.  I have never learned in the  same way the teacher is teaching me to teach."

"I am taking a hard look at my curriculum and standards. I want to examine them through the lenses of a 'focus on the concept' and 'big ideas!'

"The concepts we are learning about will make a HUGE impact in my classroom... I am most looking forward to seeing my students develop as independent problem solvers in a community of learners."

It has been said that when teachers are learning, students are learning. Over the next school year, the Deeper Learning Pilot will expand, and we envision that by the end of 2022 all Graded teachers will have participated in the program. We believe that combining a robust curriculum with purposeful and motivating learning experiences will further develop Graded students, allowing them to demonstrate their understanding in novel ways. They will become individuals who positively impact the world.  

You can follow along for more insights about this work on Twitter @learninglab2 or Instagram at @grlearninglab

Reference: Mehta, Jal and Fine, Sarah.  In Search of Deeper Learning:  The Quest to Remake the American High School.  Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 2019.  Print.

Isabella Krell ‘11, Senior Communications Officer -

by Isabella Krell '11, Senior Communications Officer 


"Art challenges students to see the world differently, to explore their artistic and cultural understandings, to reach beyond perceived boundaries, to analyze and problem-solve, and to recognize possibilities. Most of all, it teaches students to ask questions."
- Amanda York, IB Visual Arts teacher 


There are many reasons why students choose to study visual arts. The world today needs creative thinkers and requires collaboration across disciplines. "People," explains IB Art senior Marcos A., "need to look at things in many ways in order to be successful." Interdisciplinarity is a way of thinking, doing, and relating to the world. Classmate Luisa M. believes she has learned how to do that through her experience as an IB Visual Arts student. "Art is as interdisciplinary" and something that "changes as you change," she states. 

International Baccalaureate (IB) Visual Arts is a rigorous research-based program that is also very student-centered. It puts discovery at the forefront of a holistic learning experience. "The course," says Maja, second-year IB Visual Arts student, "challenges your creativity and your technical skill; it challenges you on an individual level. It forces you to get involved with your thoughts and your struggles and to create something meaningful to you and others." 


Theoretical Practice

Under the guidance of High School Visual Arts Teacher Amanda York, Graded's IB Visual Arts students hone their creativity and problem-solving skills as they work toward technical proficiency and confidence as artists. They experiment with and critically reflect upon a diverse variety of contemporary techniques and media to express their ideas, in addition to analyzing and contrasting the visual arts from multiple perspectives and contexts. Research, investigation, and reflection on artists, art history, and ideas across cultures and disciplines are at the core of their learning experience. For senior Eduardo K., the IB Visual Arts program has "taught [him] to place [him]self in other people's shoes." 


Art-Making Practice

Over two years, students learn to understand the creative process by developing a body of artwork, seven to ten pieces, unified thematically or through related ideas. In the classroom, students have the freedom to explore media, techniques, and ideas, while teacher Amanda York helps to facilitate learning. "Art is not created in a vacuum," says Ms. York. "Exploring the work and ideas of other artists, thinkers, and disciplines throughout history and across cultures is essential to their learning experience. We focus on developing an understanding of the creative process and turning a kernel of an idea into an artwork. For the students, it's a little like learning to walk: they are eager to see quick results but get frustrated with the process, fall often, and sometimes it's painful. Creativity requires perseverance. It also helps to become comfortable with ambiguity because they must learn how to move forward without the certainty of knowing where they will end up. That also takes courage. Students discover new aspects of themselves; they learn to trust themselves and trust in the process of learning."


Curatorial Practice

Ultimately, students implement what they have learned during two years in their Final Exhibition, the culmination of each student's IB Visual Arts experience. Students must apply their knowledge about the curatorial practice to share their artwork with the public. Each artist writes a curatorial rationale explaining the exhibition concept, how each artwork relates to that concept, and the impact of their curatorial choices on the overall presentation. 

"Art is one of those things that you want to be physically present for," says Ms. York, "so I wasn't sure what to expect when we moved to distance learning so early in the process. I'm still struck by surprise and then admiration for this group of students who continued to show up, stick together and even thrive. The diversity in the artwork, ideas, and approaches reflect their styles and personalities; it is a testament to the authenticity that these students bring to their work." 

This year's IB Visual Arts Exhibit highlights the work of ten seniors who will go on to an array of post-secondary pursuits, including the fine arts, education, architecture, design, economics, business, and environmental studies. 

Under normal circumstances, student artworks are showcased at Graded's Lemann-Tully Art Center for several weeks. This year, due to the pandemic, the IB Art Senior Exhibit has a new virtual home. A video interview accompanies each student's work and conveys their process, concept, and art story. We hope that you enjoy this tour showcasing our senior artists. We are very proud of the incredible work they have produced.



Maja G.

Antonia P.

Guilherme Z.

Henrique M.

Isabel P.

Julia R.

Lucia T.

Luisa M.

Luiza M.

Marcos A.

Maria N.

Marina D.

Nathalia T.

Pedro A.

Subin J.

The Graded Gazette -

1. What years did you attend Graded?
I attended Graded from Kindergarten in 2001 to senior year in 2014.

2. You were a member of the Graded Scholar Program. How did it impact your life? 
Access to a Graded education was such a blessing for my family and me! Receiving a scholarship allowed me to pursue everything that I set my mind to. The Graded Scholar Program was a tremendous opportunity that inspired me to work hard and to aim high. Graded exposed me to different experiences and ideas I had not imagined. For example, the concept of studying abroad, or even living abroad, never crossed my mind. In middle school, I realized I would like to attend college in the US, and I started laying out my plans for the future. Graded made that possible for me - from expanding my horizons to offering the best resources and connections to help me achieve my goal. 

3. What made Graded special? What is your fondest memory from your 13 years there? 
What was most special to me at Graded were my relationships with my classmates and my teachers. I always looked forward to going to school because Graded was filled with people I wanted to be around 24/7.  The levels of love, respect, and appreciation I was surrounded by throughout my time at school cannot be measured. Also, the class of 2014 had some of the most amazing people to ever set foot at Graded (and I'm totally not biased). On a serious note, though, I regularly find myself wishing I could relive all the after-school adventures with my friends and all the school trips, which says a lot to me about the amazing experience Graded was for me. 

4. What were your biggest challenges at Graded? 
Some of the courses, especially IB,  were challenging. Learning, however, wasn't that hard. My biggest challenge was time management. My dad worked at Graded and arrived by 6:30 am, which meant that I did, too. I'd wake up at 5:00 am, go to school, attend all my classes, participate in after-school clubs and activities, and get back home at around 8:00 pm to do homework, have dinner, and get to sleep at a reasonable time before repeating everything all over again. 

5. What clubs and activities were you involved with?
In middle school, I joined the soccer and futsal teams. When I got to high school, I gave up futsal and joined the volleyball team instead. I was also a part of MUN (Model United Nations) and the Graded Jazz Band.

6. Did you take a class or have a teacher at Graded who was particularly impactful?
Definitely. To start, my Kindergarten teachers influenced me tremendously because that's when I started learning English. And they did a fantastic job because, by first grade, I was doing pretty well already. Oh boy, I don't want to skip any teachers. They were all so great. Two teachers who immediately come to mind are Guilherme Faria and Robbie Stange. Music was my greatest passion throughout my time at Graded, and those teachers elevated my skill level and my love for music in ways that are hard to define. However, when it comes to molding character, I feel like the most important class for me was Peer Group Connection (PGC). The program allowed me to dive deep into how I interacted with those around me and taught me how to empathize better with others.

7. You studied Computer Science at Skidmore College on a full scholarship! What led you to this field of study, and how do you think it has impacted your view of the world? 
The one thing that I've always wanted to do was be able to help people on a large scale, and very early on (around middle school), I decided that the easiest way to do that was through technology. My objectives haven't changed since then, but being more involved in the field has made me realize how much power I have at my disposal and how much responsibility I bear to help those around me. Computer science reaffirmed both my negative and positive perspectives of the world around me. However, it also taught me to balance and observe people and things not through a lens of judgment but understanding. My minor at Skidmore was in music. So I pursued my passion for Computer Science but didn't forget about my hobby!

8. What kind of work are you doing currently, and what are your professional goals? 
After I graduated, I enrolled in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) Program and accepted a job offer in Jacksonville, FL, referred by a friend. I currently work at CEVA Logistics, a freight management company, as a software engineer. I spend most of my day writing code. I mainly build customer-facing web applications and develop websites/mobile applications in my free time. All of my professional goals are entrepreneurial. My objective is to establish my own companies by age 30 to provide me with a stable income source so that I may take a step back from all the programming and start researching neural technology. Once that has been achieved, my life goal is to create at least one piece of life-changing technology.

9. What are your favorite hobbies? 
Playing bass is my number one hobby. I generally rely on music to give me a break from my routine. My instruments bring balance into my life. I don't typically have much time to do anything other than programming, but I always make sure to allocate some time for music. Videogames are also on the list, but I don't play them as often as I used to.

10. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to Graded students?
I'd tell them not to be afraid to be ambitious. Your chance of failure is higher when you aim too high, but in the end, you'll have achieved much more than you would have, had you set the bar lower. There's a lot of knowledge to be found in failure. Also, make sure you build relationships as soon as you get to Graded because your friends will help you achieve your goals. You can always learn a lot from those who surround you. 

The Graded Gazette -


Men's Choir, Gospel Choir, Bel Canto, Honor Choir, Alumni Chorale, Women's Choir, Guest Conductor, Master of Music Education... all this much before you got to Graded. What are you involved in at Graded?
I'm now doing a few more things that I love just as much. I have an unusual position in that I'm one of the few teachers who teaches all three divisions. In the Lower School, I teach grade 5 music with my teaching buddy Gian Aquino.  In Middle School, I teach grade 6 choir and the junior choir. Lastly, in High School, I direct the senior choir (grades 9-12, mixed voices) and TRebels (grades 9-12, treble voices). I love it! I get to be involved with students of so many different ages and stages, which in choral music is fun because of how their voices change from childhood to adolescence.


When and how did you decide that music, and particularly choral music, was the direction your professional life was going to take?
I have always loved to sing. My mom told me how I sang as a young child (just like I do now, from the top of my lungs). I studied music in college, but I never set my sights on becoming a teacher. I was writing and singing a lot of pop songs, and I wanted to pursue that. However, when I realized how much work, dedication, and rejection it would entail and how time-consuming it would be, I became a substitute teacher instead to help pay the bills. That was the first time I got excited about teaching kids, and I just fell in love with it. Once I was hooked, it was clear to me that I not only loved music but also loved teaching kids to love it, too.


What popular song have you heard on the radio in the past year or two that you think is truly great?
OK, I am a huge Sara Bareilles fan. She has skills playing the piano. She writes lyrics and music. And her voice! This past summer, I heard her arrangement of Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," about which Elton said he'd "never heard anyone sing one of my songs like that, ever." It's a great arrangement, and Sara, in my opinion, improves on Elton John's version (actually, Elton admitted this as well!). Of course, it's a great song already, but Sara draws your attention to the lyrics by giving the song a very spare introduction and builds up until she just kills the high notes, and you're covered in chills. Watch it on YouTube. It has certainly stayed with me.


When was the last time you pushed yourself to your physical limit? Explain.
When each of my three children finished grade 8, I took them on a trip anywhere in the world they wanted to go. In 2014, my youngest chose Peru, and we hiked the Salkantay Trek for five days to Machu Picchu. It was a decent hike, but at 3,000 to 4,600 meters (15,092 feet) up, it's the elevation that can do you in. Of course, the best part about hiking 76 km (45 miles) at that elevation is doing it with your kid! We met some great people from around the world, and it will be a lifelong memory. It didn't push me as much as my four weeks of Shaun T's "Insanity Workout Program," but it was a lot more fun.


Which of the five senses do you treasure most? Why?
Well, certainly I love to eat, and being a singer, I cherish hearing immensely. But if I had to choose which I treasure most, it would be touch. I suppose it's the one that connects us, right? I was raised in a family with German-American roots on my mom's side and Portuguese-American roots on my dad's. So, family gatherings were incredibly different depending on which side of the family we were visiting. My mom's family was very stoic, a bit stiff, hand-shakers, and very solid and reliable. My dad's family was loud, and when you came for a visit, all the aunties stooped down for kisses. I guess my connection with my dad also really imprinted the importance of touch – of a hug. And yes, Brazil suits me well in this regard.


Who's your favorite comedian?
I'm not a huge comedy fan, but it would have to be Trevor Noah. Adorable, smart, interesting, and his book is such a great read (funny too)! 


What would you say to people who have never sung in a choir because they believe they can't sing?
This is a great question because it's so central to what I do. Honestly, here's my question: Did you have to learn math even though you weren't good at it? What about English (or Portuguese)? We don't learn things because we're good at them; we're good at them because we learn them. Yes, some people start ahead of the pack because they're born with a natural head start ("talent"). But if I can learn to do math (which I hate), you can learn to sing. So get out there and sing! (Parents and teachers have asked if I'd direct a choir for adults at school, and I said yes, so I'm just waiting for someone to ask me to run a rehearsal.)


What is your favorite thing about Graded?
Wow, there are so many things I love about Graded. I really love the green campus, students' smiling faces, staff, teachers, and parents. I love the Arts Center and its music rooms. But I think my favorite thing about Graded is the interesting lives of all the people here. There are students from all around the world. As someone who loves to travel and is interested in foreign cultures, I find the exposure to so many people from so many different places fascinating – invigorating, really. I love how I've picked up an interest in Korean culture and language from my students, which I didn't have before coming here. I also enjoy how Brazilians have these wonderful stories and recipes and how they use language so expressively. In addition, I find it interesting to see how Americans, Canadians, Aussies, Kiwis, Brits, and other English-speaking people share a common language, but not necessarily common experiences. It can be cliché, but it really is the people at Graded that make it fascinating and, for me, a wonderful place to be. I totally enjoy teaching here.

Susan Clain, Chief Strategic Communications and Advancement Officer -

by Susan Clain, Chief Strategic Communications and Advancement Officer

Agility. Innovation. Community. As I reflect upon the unprecedented events of the 2019-20 academic year, these words resonate; they permeate how we have operated academically, budgetarily, and philanthropically. The adaptive, resilient nature of our students, parents, faculty, staff, and Board members as we have migrated from in-person, to distance, to blended and dual-synchronous learning has, and continues to be, extraordinary. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe, Graded closed its campus doors for the first time in 100 years. The coronavirus and its social, cultural, political, and economic repercussions have engendered real darkness. Consequential circumstances have thrust us all into unfamiliar, and often uncomfortable, territory. However, we have learned to embrace, or at least tolerate, ambiguity and change. We have grown more nimble. We have questioned how and why we do the things we do and, sometimes, we have discovered better ways to do them.

Such was the case in the Office of Institutional Advancement. After producing a physical annual report for many years, we shifted to a digital version. On behalf of my team, I am pleased to present Graded's online 2019-20 Annual Report. This report provides an overview of the school's financials, highlights our accomplishments during a most unusual year, and recognizes the generosity of our donors. It is dynamic and includes photographs and videos. I encourage you to peruse and explore it on your mobile device (on which it is best viewed)!

Thank you again to our stakeholders for your dedication. We are so very grateful for your support during this very challenging year! I am confident that together we will grow, flourish, and overcome.

Angela Park, Senior Communications Officer -

by Angela Park, Senior Communications Officer

When eighth-grader Ana Lucia B. learned in late-January that Graded's 2020 Upper School musical would be Annie, she was elated. Ana Lucia had performed in several other school theater productions, but Annie was like no other. She jumped at the opportunity to audition. The following month, Ana Lucia was cast as the protagonist Annie, an orphan who sees her life change when multi-billionaire Oliver Warbucks decides to let her live in his home to promote his image. By the end of February, live rehearsals had commenced.

In March, however, the COVID-19 pandemic quickly spread throughout Brazil. In response, Graded transitioned to distance learning and after-school activities were temporarily suspended. Initially, cast and crew members believed they would be returning to school in a few weeks as the show was postponed until April. However, as distance learning was prolonged, faculty advisors Ms. Beatriz Campos and Mr. Tim Cabrera assured students the show would still be happening, albeit online.

"I was disappointed, but I was still grateful we would still be able to perform in some way," recalled Ana Lucia, who is now a freshman.

The musical experience had to be redesigned. "We had to completely transform the show to adapt it to an online format," said Ms. Campos, the musical director. "In theater, you can make expansive movements in a large space. However, online, the acting becomes more like that of a movie. You have to think of entrances and exits in terms of frames and also consider the mirrored images."

According to the Technical Director Mr. Cabrera, the Upper School production became a "musical-film hybrid, with completely different technical considerations." The faculty duo had to first train themselves to direct the students with respect to camera angles, green screens, self-recording, and blocking while simultaneously determining what computer-generated imagery needed to be developed in post-production. While this was a completely new challenge, they knew it was possible to lay the groundwork for students.

Soon enough, blocking instructions for each scene and choreography videos were uploaded and shared with cast members. Piano accompanist Ms. Maristela Neves recorded each score and guided students. While performers weren't able to work together in the same space, they recorded their rehearsals and received individualized feedback from Ms. Campos. "The kids really went above and beyond – all in the middle of a big transition," she said. After individual practice, students proactively convened online via Zoom to rehearse group scenes.

For Ana Lucia, this meant spending three hours per day rehearsing for the show, but she would not have it any other way.

Freshman Olivia D. loved rehearsing the role of Lily St. Regis, one of the main antagonists who has a sassy, whiny personality. "I enjoyed playing a role that was so different from me," she beamed. Olivia frequently met up with her partner Santiago G., who played the role of Lily's boyfriend, Rooster Hannigan. Practicing from home was challenging. From 3:30-4:30 pm, she would ask her family members to keep the noise down so she could rehearse.

Her family got involved, too. Her brother helped her to practice her partner dance scenes after school and rehearse her lines. Olivia added, "Normally in a show, you have a costume designer, a prop designer, a lighting director, etc., but it was actually pretty fun to set up my own lighting, stage my bedroom, and take on different responsibilities."

Although students were not able to rehearse in the same space, they were still able to build a tight-knit community from a distance. Some students found the process to be extremely challenging and considered giving up but would change their minds when they realized theater was an important creative outlet, affirmed Ms. Campos. "Our students also loved hanging out with each other and bonded over their challenges; they relied on each other."

On Fridays, Ms. Campos would leave her Zoom meeting room open, and students would spend hours in conversation. More experienced High School performers reached out to Middle School students, providing support and encouragement. Students made sure each member was supported and held accountable, and throughout this uncertain time, displayed true independence, responsibility, and leadership.

"In theater, you have a lot of skills and roles that come together – acting, directing, designing, managing the stage – and that teaches you a lot about teamwork, respect, and unity," asserted Olivia.

"You meet a bunch of new people, and you make friendships that you keep forever, and not just with people in your own grade," added Ana Lucia.

Through this extraordinary musical season, Upper School students have learned a tremendous amount about the numerous factors that impact a production. They have demonstrated exceptional resilience and patience and also developed more confidence.

"We mapped out this plan and students didn't know what to expect," said Mr. Cabrera, "but they trusted we would be able to produce these fan videos with their individual parts."

A huge congratulations to the cast and crew of Annie!


Click here to watch the musical fan videos on Graded's Youtube Channel.


The Graded Gazette -

On October 8, 2020, Graded reopened its doors, welcoming students back to campus for Eagle Flight Testing, two day-long sessions of non-academic activities, team building, health and safety training, social-emotional wellbeing, and fun. 

In November, we continued to provide students with on-campus learning opportunities in accordance with governmental school opening guidelines. Lower and Middle School students engaged in non-academic, social-emotional, and team-building experiences, while High School students prioritized academic coursework through dual-synchronous (simultaneous in-person and distance) learning.

Graded students have expressed great joy in meeting face-to-face with their teachers and friends. Our hope is that we will be able to reunite as a whole school in the near future.





The Graded Gazette -

Staycation has never been more fun!

In response to the pandemic, Graded launched Graded+, an expansive online vacation learning experience. During the June/July school break, students in grades PP-12 participated in three-week enrichment sessions taught by our talented faculty members.

When enrollment opened in late-May, 621 participants registered, representing a whopping 47% of Graded's student body! Over the two holiday sessions, students immersed themselves in 153 courses listed in the Graded+ Course Catalog.

At the conclusion of the six-week period, 1,892 certificates were awarded in myriad subjects, including science (Synapses and Circuits - Neuroscience and Learning), mathematics (The Mathamagicians), theater and cinema (Non-Academy Award Winners), arts (Let's Get Artsy), languages (Parlons Française!), and sports (Shake it Up).

The photos here showcase our students and teachers in action this winter break.

The Graded Gazette -

1. You're a science teacher. How did you decide that you wanted to teach and what parts of teaching science do you enjoy most?

I've always loved biology, and for a time even considered attending medical school. However, as a senior in college, I actually realized I wanted to teach science. Growing up, many of my friends' parents were teachers, and I always viewed the profession positively. Summers off were also very appealing.

I enjoy teaching anatomy. It tends to generate the most student interest, which leads to more productive class sessions. I have tons of random facts about anatomy stuck in my head. When I notice kids are starting to lose focus, it is easy to get back on track by throwing out, "Hey, your small intestine has the same surface area as a tennis court," or "Humans are the only animals with chins."

2. As you look back at your school years, what was your crowning achievement - your moment of glory - as a kid?

I dominated my neighborhood in Tecmo Bowl in 5th grade. Tecmo Bowl is an old American football video game on the original Nintendo console. If you let me pick the Raiders with Bo Jackson today, I'd still be unstoppable. 

3. What kinds of things do you do on vacation and in your free time? 

We try to get outside as much as possible. Over the last few years, we've spent quite a bit of time visiting national parks around the US. Graded's schedule allows for the opportunity to visit places like the Grand Canyon during the off-season. You pretty much have the place to yourself then. Last year, my son and I hiked down to the bottom and back. He gained so much confidence from the experience. 

Last December, I bought a camper van. We got a good deal because it smells like a cheap motel room and burns oil. We call her Ol' Smokey. While my kids seem to genuinely enjoy it, my wife is undecided; but I think she's coming around. 


4. Do you have any advice for your students as they resume distance learning?

Advocate for yourself! If you don't understand the lesson, ask questions. If you want to know more about a topic, reach out to your teachers. Teaching and learning is a relationship. Relationships work best when both parties feel like they are being heard. 

5. You taught in Saudi Arabia before coming to Graded. From your experience, what was one interesting thing about living there?

We lived in Saudi Arabia before they had traffic cameras. The roads were chaotic. It was stressful when my family was in the car, but pretty awesome when it was just me. Our last year there they started to install radar and driving by myself became expensive.

6. French fries or onion rings?

French fries.  

7. You've worked with your wife Laura, an Optimal Learning Services teacher, for nearly 20 years. What's that like?

We met working together at our first school in St. Paul, Minnesota. We're both passionate about our work, and it is humbling to be the least competent teacher in the house. I've heard some people say they can't imagine working with their spouse. However, our lives, especially since we've started to work abroad, have always centered around school, so it hasn't ever been an issue. 

8. You're a track and field coach. Do you run? 

Since my early teens, I've relied heavily on running to maintain my emotional health. Obviously, regular exercise has physical benefits, too, but as a coach, I try to emphasize that running is a great means to deal with stress and anxiety. I enjoy coaching track because it is such an inclusive sport. Anyone can join the team, fast or slow. We just want kids to work hard, have fun, and, hopefully, become life-long runners.  

Early on, I found that signing up for races was a good strategy to stay focused and motivated. At this point, I think I've run about 45 marathons. The most memorable race was in Rome. The course went by St. Peter's Square as the Pope was giving mass. I was raised Catholic so I took off my hat. The least memorable race was in North Dakota. There was a horse at mile 20 alongside the course - that was about it.

9. What book is on your nightstand right now?

The Outsider by Stephen King.

10. What's your favorite thing about Graded?

I'm incredibly impressed with the quality of education my children have received at Graded. As a High School teacher, I can't imagine the complexities of teaching elementary-aged kids. Year after year, Jack and Cora have had amazing experiences with teachers who have totally different styles of teaching. It has been fun to observe their lessons in distance learning. I often "borrow" the techniques and approaches I see in their lessons and adapt them to use with my own students.

The Graded Gazette -

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 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 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.


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.


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 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 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 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 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!


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 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 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 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 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.


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.


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 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 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. 


Av. José Galante, 425
São Paulo, SP - Brazil - 05642-000
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