Lower School News
Susan Burnquist '73
Graded Faculty from 1986-2021
Susan Burnquist has been a teacher at Graded for the past 35 years. The entire school community is extremely thankful for her dedication and passion. A Graded alumna herself, Susan has positively impacted the lives of countless students. This month's Graded Gazette highlights Susan's trajectory as a Graded student and faculty member.
Susan and her brothers were born in Bahia and Pernambuco to a Brazilian mother and an American father. Susan and her family relocated to São Paulo in 1961, where they settled in Morumbi. It was a peaceful neighborhood with very few vehicles at the time. The Burnquist children began attending Graded in August 1961, the school's first year on the Morumbi campus. The red-brick campus stood on top of a hill, surrounded by trees, forests, thickets, and dirt roads. Susan has incredible sensorial memories of being in class and hearing the gentle rustle of eucalyptus trees across the street swaying back and forth, as well as their invigorating scent permeating the hallways.
In 5th grade-front row, 3rd from the right
On weekends, she remembers Graded-organized sporting events and magnificent Lower School plays. Susan was a member of the choir and the Do-Re-Mis, a singing ensemble directed by Music Teacher Mrs. Delora Tuthill. It was a tremendous honor for her and her classmates to perform at neighborhood schools and nearby theaters. The Braniff Meet, now known as Big Four, was a highlight for Susan as a junior and senior at Graded. The school's athletics teams also competed against those from other American schools in South America and learned about sportsmanship and culture.
Susan moved to the United States to study psychology after graduating from Graded in 1973. However, she returned to São Paulo after two years to pursue a degree in elementary education. Exceptional family circumstances increased her desire to become a teacher. Two of her instructors at Graded also influenced her decision. Her first grade teacher, Mrs. Wing, was unforgettable and made her students feel very special, while Mrs. Schlenker introduced her to the pleasures of reading. Susan worked at an English language school during her undergraduate years, teaching children and adults. She also spent two years at Erika's Kindergarten and fell in love with teaching during those early years.
In 1981, Susan took a brief hiatus from work and life in São Paulo and moved to Canoa Quebrada, Ceará, a fishermen's village 220 kilometers east of the state capital of Fortaleza. There was no electricity or running water, and she slept in a hammock. "Those were some of the best years of my life," she recalls, "where I learned to love the simplicity and value the little things in life. This short hiatus ended up lasting five years! "I met my ex-husband, an Argentine, and we had our daughter Duna Sol. Life would never be the same again."
Susan returned to São Paulo in 1986, eager to resume teaching and provide her daughter with an education and a more comfortable life. She started working at Graded, and for the next 35 years, taught students in grades 1 through grade 4. Susan, better known as Ms. Burnquist or Ms. Burnie, stressed the importance of establishing meaningful relationships with her students, helping them build self-confidence, and ensuring that they had the basic skills needed to succeed in the next grade.
Teaching 4th grade, late 90s
Ms. Burnie's love of books did not go unnoticed by her students. For Coranina Rocha '18, reading time was a favorite class experience. "Ms. Burnquist was an amazing storyteller!" she exclaims. Vittoria Quirino '17 shares the same favorite memory, and Gabriel Alves '08 has "vivid memories of Ms. Burnie reading The Witches by Ronald Dahl." Ms. Burnquist's storytelling style was one-of-a-kind. Cazzie Ferreira '06 remembers her using "all of the different voices [when] reading aloud to the classroom,'' while Tatiana Wlasek '02 recalls "her sweet voice during storytime." Ms. Burnie's students evidently had a strong impression of the books she read to them, as they remember book titles to this day. The BFG and The Tale of Despereaux were two highlights for Ricky Bilton '17. "My most vivid memory," Gabriela Schwartz '03 says, "was her commentary while reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.'' Isabella Cassinelli '12 remembers Ms. Burnie reading Chronicles of Narnia. Isabella adds, "It's still my favorite book, and she is one of the best teachers I've ever had!"
According to Paige Geiger, vice president of Graded's Board of Directors and former Lower School principal, it is unusual to witness someone progress from childhood to the role of a young teacher, and eventually the role of a seasoned teacher. "Susan Burnquist has dedicated a lifetime of very personal work to Graded School, years of connection with the school, students, and parents. Susan will be remembered for the many lives that she has touched, the students she has mentored, and the growth that she has fostered." Paige continues, "I deeply appreciate the years that we spent together in this rewarding profession. May the next years bring you equal reward and joy."
Ms. Burnquist, often teaching from her rocking chair, as mentioned by Gabriela Gholmia '06, was unique. The "iconic birds she had in her classroom" were unforgettable for Thomas Greco '20. Priscilla Venturini '00 remembers that Ms. Burnquist used to carry a mug full of ice and that "she loved hearing her crunch the ice in her mouth." While Gabriel da Nóbrega '12 was convinced she was related to skateboarder Bob Burnquist, his classmate Arthur Churchill '12 thought there were really skeletons in the closet! Ms. Burnquist's caring smile and charisma were a highlight for many, including Patricia Camacho '05 and Marcela Martins '18. Marcela adds that Ms. Burnie was the best teacher she ever had. "She helped me through all my difficulties."
Lower School Principal Vance Boisjoli says, "[Susan] has a genuine warmth that resonates to those around her. Her passion for supporting children both emotionally and academically is evident as soon as you walk into her classroom. Sue is also a passionate learner about not only her students' growth but also her own growth. I vividly remember the first interaction I had with Sue about digital portfolios about seven years ago. She expressed that it was going to be a challenge for her. However, days later, she was showing some of the other teachers how to support students. While I will miss having Sue teaching first grade, I am grateful to have worked with Sue and have learned a tremendous amount from her."
Susan Burnquist describes her time at Graded as "full of both challenging and incredible learning experiences." She continues, "I met, was inspired by, and learned from amazing colleagues. I made friendships that will last a lifetime. Duna, my daughter, attended Graded for 13 years, and we are grateful for her rich and memorable experiences as a student. I am thankful to Graded for the quality of life I have had, for the privilege of working with children, for teaching me so much, and for allowing me to do what I love for so long. I will miss the students and all of my Graded friends. With a lump in my throat, I announce my retirement in June 2021, completing a 60-year cycle that began in 1961. Graded has been my life and my love for many years. It is time for my family and me to move on to something new. Thank you for the memories."
What was your favorite memory of Ms. Burnie?
- Sofia Renault '14: Ms. Burnie used to call my best friend and me the "Bobbsey Twins," and we still call each other by that nickname!
- Isabella Muszkat Besborodco '14: She's the best! She said my best friend and I were inseparable, so she called us the "Bobbsey Twins."
- Julia Vieira '03: Ms. Burnquist was my teacher in second grade! It's always a pleasure to see her at Graded! Good times.
- Andre Ahn '15: Show-and-tell and the biography show will always be a memory for me.
- Marcelo Kheirallah '07: I once got in trouble for making a ruckus before my teacher arrived in the morning.
- Daniela Otterloo '05: We did an endangered species project with Ms. Burnie. Loved it. I still remember the animal I picked (manatee) and most of my classmates from the time. I live in Miami today, see manatees all the time and still remember fun facts about them.
- Claudia Nevermann '99: Love her enthusiasm for teaching! I am so grateful one of my kids had her, too!
- Lilian Ngobi-Pryor '03: Her daughter Duna was one of my closest friends and the first person to welcome me! I love her and her whole family.
- Helena Segall '19: When she used to show me pictures of herself and my aunt Berta back when they studied at Graded.
Graded Faculty Member, 1979-2021
"Is Graded my family? My home? My professional curriculum? My soul? My essence? My happiness?" Sanda Mendonça asks herself. To her, Graded - The American School of São Paulo is all of the above.
Sandra's Graded story began in January 1979 while she was just a college student at Mackenzie University. At the time, she was searching for an internship to supplement her pedagogy curriculum. Sandra was studying the Montessori method and wanted to delve further into this area of education. As an English speaker, seeking a job at an American school was the obvious choice. Sandra recalls her visit to Graded. "We lived in an analog world at the time, with no internet and no mobile phones. So it was just my map and I – on a bus heading to Morumbi."
The day after she visited the school, Mrs. Pickering, the Lower School principal, invited Sandra to join a Montessori classroom and help out during a January vacation course. Overjoyed by the prospect of assisting with everyday tasks and presenting Montessori materials to parents, Sandra gladly accepted a permanent part-time teaching assistant position. During her first years at Graded, Sandra participated in the further implementation of the Montessori program.
Upon graduation from college, Sandra got married, had two children, and decided to leave Graded to stay at home for a few years. During that period, she never lost touch with the school. In 1983, Sandra became a co-teacher and started a new program at Graded called Transition 1 (or T-1), an intermediate-level grade for students not yet prepared to enter grade 1. She then went on to become a grade 1 teacher.
In 1986 after remarrying, Sandra moved to Saudi Arabia and served as a volunteer at the American International School – Riyadh. She returned to São Paulo in 1990, then, already a mother of three children: Karen, Daniel, and Gabriela. "When I arrived, guess where I went first? Graded School!" Sandra recalls. She was in luck; a grade 2 teacher had recently resigned. Mr. Apple, the Lower School principal at the time, interviewed her and offered Sandra the teaching position. She has been teaching second-graders since then. Sandra vividly remembers discussing this opportunity with her best friends, Graded teachers Susan Burnquist and Itanira Heineberg. "Together, we formed the 'dream team!'"
Paige Geiger, Graded Board Vice President and former Lower School Principal recalls, "From student teacher to experienced teacher, Sandra Mendonça has lived a significant professional experience at Graded. I so appreciate the time we spent together in this work." Paige goes on to say, "Sandra's dedication to the work of the school, the demands of a challenging school day, and the ever-evolving needs of her students over so many years should inspire. May you find challenge, reward, and happiness in these next wonderful years."
Graded teachers and principals were incredibly supportive and willing to help Sandra from the very beginning. "I have been learning every day since my first day at Graded, 35 years ago," she explains. She has earned a Master of Education from Senac School and attended several postgraduate courses in Brazil and abroad, at Columbia University's Teachers College, through Graded's Professional Development program. Even as an experienced teacher, Sandra believes it is important and rewarding to continue to learn.
The entire Graded community is grateful for Ms. Mendonça's commitment and zeal throughout her long and fruitful teaching career. Many who are fortunate enough to have been her student, mentor, or friend have only positive things to say. Former student Gianpaolo Hickey '13 remembers her being "so patient, kind, and passionate; an incredible person!" Sofia Renault '14 fondly recalls 'reading time,' and Pablo Arenas '14 remembers the 'Hopes and Dreams' assignment. "Ms. Mendonça always brought the best to class," classmate Kaique Castro '14 added. Sandra also left a strong mark on students' parents! Last year, Beta Sabra's daughter was in Ms. Mendonça's class. "She LOVED her and so did we!" she exclaimed.
"Sandra is passionate about everything she does," says Lower School Principal Vance Boisjoli. "Whether it is teaching her students, baking a cake, caring for her cats, exercising, or engaging in any of her other many favorite activities. When I enter Sandra's classroom, I know I will be greeted with a smile and an excitement to share the work her students have just completed. Sandra's positive nature and sense of humor are memorable. Last year, Sandra told me she was teaching the child of a student she had previously taught. How many teachers can say that they have taught two generations within one family? Both Sandra and the parents were filled with joy to have this experience! Sandra has told me repeatedly she will continue to return to campus to be part of our community after this school year. We look forward to it!"
"Graded means everything to me," Sandra states. "I owe the school thanks for a fulfilling professional career and the education of two of my children. I even met the love of my life, Francisco Di Bella '68, here at Graded in 2002, and we are happily married. Thirty-five years have flown by! This is NOT my goodbye. I will be available to continue my Graded 'career' as a volunteer, a substitute teacher, a tutor, or a storyteller! See you soon, Graded family!"
Julia Beatriz Camargo - High School Science Teacher
Silvana Gili - Lower School Grade 1 Teacher
Melody McCambridge - Lower School Grade 2 Teacher
Ann Neill - Lower School Counselor
Jeffrey Neill - Director of College Counseling, Head of Department
Joseph Pomainville, High School Counselor
Janan Sabeh, Director of College Counseling
Jennifer White - Lower School Grade 4 Teacher
Natalia Zanivan, Middle School Physical Education Teacher
Founded in 1976 as a non-profit-organization out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), EXPLO, or Exploration Learning Center, "celebrates learning through exploration." Teachers, top graduate schools, faculty, and education experts worldwide have come to the center to hear about new approaches to student-centered teaching and learning. EXPLO's Elevate is a cooperative that assists schools in designing, building, implementing, and continually improving the conditions that all learners need to thrive now and in the future.
Graded was a case in point in a case study produced by EXPLO Elevate's Director of Research, Sudipti Kumar, a researcher with 15+ years of experience in education. Kumar bases her analysis on two grounding principles that Graded has implemented for students and staff:
- Investing significant time and effort in developing students' metacognitive capabilities to help them progress to higher learning in a sustainable way.
- Embracing design thinking principles and training teachers on processes they can use as fundamental frames when preparing and thinking about their curriculum.
To learn more about how Graded uses the two principles listed above to foster learners who are empowered to reach their potential and positively impact the world, click here to read the full case report.
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.
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.
by Elizabeth Marvel, Associate Director of Admissions
When the school day ends, Eaglets flock to the Graded Athletics Fields. A wide array of Lower School student-athletes are enthusiastic members of the Eaglets Soccer Program, which introduces the basic principles of soccer and keeps the game fun. A great success, the club continues to grow and has almost doubled in size over the past year.
All students are welcome to join the Eaglets, with no tryouts necessary. Olivia H. saw her older brother play with the Eaglets and followed in his footsteps, joining two years ago. Nicholas H., also in his second year in the program, says he participates because he loves soccer and wants to spend time with his friends.
Graded Eaglets build individual technical skills under the guidance of supportive coaches and later implement them by participating in scrimmages and friendly games. These matches also allow young athletes to realize their roles as parts of a team. The Internal Soccer Championship, consisting of games in which students from third to sixth grade compete, became one of the program's highlights. Gabriela B. enthuses that the matches are very fun and adds, "I really liked the medals!"
These student-athletes learn valuable lessons on and off the field. "We have two big targets: developing soccer skills and life and cognitive skills with the same importance," says Eaglets Program Coordinator Carlos Pereira. "Commitment, self-control, cooperation, self-confidence, respect, discipline, meritocracy, leadership, and solidarity are part of our methodology."
Through the program, young athletes notice their improved soccer skills. Hamilton A. notes he's become better at defense, and Gabriela B. and Olivia H. say they've been working on a new technique to kick the ball. The Eaglets are also aware of the skills they can take off the pitch. Gabriela B. smiles, "I used to be very competitive, but I've learned the value of teamwork." Olivia H. adds that she's cultivated leadership skills while participating in the program. Nicholas H. exclaims, "I've learned a lot about sportsmanship!"
Of course, this year looks different. The program has implemented safety protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic, such as mandatory masks and more individual activities. It has also suspended matches against fellow clubs and schools. Hamilton A. says he misses these games and is very eager to resume them in the future. However, he comments that his favorite aspects of the program remain: being with his coaches, playing with his friends, and learning new skills. Mr. Pereira is glad to offer the Eaglets program during this time, remarking that it's an "opportunity to return to socializing and playing sports, which is very important for students' physical and mental health."
Mr. Pereira and his cadre of talented coaches lead a transformative soccer program in which students work hard, grow stronger, and become a part of a community. Rafa V. has played soccer since he was three, but his time with the Eaglets has deepened his appreciation for the beautiful game and given him new opportunities, like being invited to play with the JV team. When asked if he's proud to be an Eaglet, he beams, "Of course!"
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.
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.
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.
1. You are passionate about the Montessori Method. What is this method and how is it different from other ways of teaching pre-primary children?
Dr. Maria Montessori broke barriers. She became a physician during a time women were not allowed to attend medical school in Italy. She also studied natural sciences and engineering. But most important of all, she studied the child. Her method is based on scientific evidence, taking into consideration a child's development and needs. She developed materials and believed that well-prepared adults and the environment are key to fostering children's natural desire to learn, along with choice and autonomy. I am really proud of being a MACTE (Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education) certified teacher. I learned so much about the methodology and its peaceful philosophy during my Montessori training at Centro de Educação Montessori de São Paulo. I feel lucky to have done my internship in a Montessori classroom here at Graded.
2. Have you ever lived outside of Brazil?
After working for a couple of years as a bilingual secretary for a Dutch company, I was offered a job in commercial operations. That was an interesting opportunity. They sent me to the Netherlands to be trained where I lived for two months that year. I lived in a city called Delft and was thrilled by their way of living, biking everywhere I could. I rented a bike the day I arrived.
3. You have two children at Graded. What have you learned or studied because of their education that you might otherwise not have?
My oldest son has just started middle school and my youngest is in grade 4. It has been interesting to learn how different an American school can be from a Brazilian one. Most Brazilian schools, for example, do not offer a full-day experience for their students. The Middle School curriculum at Graded also differs from the curriculum in Brazilian middle schools, especially with regard to electives and advisory classes.
4. What is your all-time favorite band or singer?
I have a very eclectic taste in music, but on every playlist, you will find a hit by Queen.
5. What lasting lesson did you learn from your parents?
Education is the pillar of one's life. My father passed away when I was only nine years old, and my mother dedicated herself to bringing up both my sister and me. She made sure that both of us attended good schools and went to university. I am very grateful for all they did and all they taught me.
6. As a Pre-primary teacher, what are your happiest moments with students? What moments, if any, discourage you?
Maria Montessori once said, "The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, 'The children are now working as if I did not exist.'" It is so beautiful to see children moving, choosing, and discovering. It is for sure one of the happiest moments in the classroom – seeing children showing love for what they are doing with interest and autonomy. There certainly are more challenging days, but they can be great opportunities for us to get to know ourselves and our students better. On those days, it is always a good idea to stop, take a step back, sit on our hands, and observe. This can lead to better days.
7. What's something you've done that's surprised even you?
A couple of years ago we spent our vacation in Minas Gerais. We visited Inhotim and were amazed by the beauty and diversity of the place. As we were traveling by car, we stopped in a small town called São Lourenço. When we arrived there, we found out the city had some adventure options. There, I was convinced to fly in a hot air balloon. I can't say that I was feeling 100% sure about it. It was a lovely ride, but we had a bumpy landing in the middle of a farm.
8. What is a fabulous place that you, a native of São Paulo, know about, that people in the Graded community don't necessarily know about but should?
São Paulo is very democratic in terms of leisure. I like places that can connect me with nature and involve outdoor moments with my family and friends. If you happen to go to Campos de Jordão, make sure you visit Amantikir, a lovely garden with a great view of the Serra da Mantiqueira. It's a quiet place that will guarantee you fabulous shots.
9. What's your idea of a good time?
Taking walks and watching good movies or a series that make me laugh or think about life in the company of my family. Lately, I have also been experimenting with some meditation and yoga, and I like the well-being these practices offer me.
10. What's your favorite thing about Graded?
Its cultural diversity. Getting to know people from all around the world and learning more about their cultures is a unique and enriching experience.
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.
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.
DAVID ALLEN, UPPER SCHOOL MUSIC TEACHER
ALASTAIR BOYD, HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER
JANELLE DAY, MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER
JON EXALL, MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER
KEVIN HEALEY, HIGH SCHOOL IB PHYSICS TEACHER
LYNDSAY HEALEY, LOWER SCHOOL GRADE 4 TEACHER
LORI LALIBERTE, LOWER SCHOOL GRADE 1 TEACHER
SALLY ANN MERRIMAN, LOWER SCHOOL GRADE 3 TEACHER
CLAIRE MORRIS, MIDDLE SCHOOL HUMANITIES TEACHER
JUSTIN MORRIS, IB COORDINATOR AND HIGH SCHOOL ECONOMICS TEACHER
EVA PALMIERI, LOWER SCHOOL GRADE 3 TEACHER
MARK PATE, MIDDLE SCHOOL STEM TEACHER
COLLEEN QUINN, LOWER SCHOOL GRADE 4 TEACHER
MARLA STARR, LOWER AND UPPER SCHOOL OPTIMAL LEARNING SERVICES (OLS) TEACHER
DAVID TRAJTENBERG, MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL
HELEN TRAJTENBERG, HIGH SCHOOL THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE (TOK) TEACHER
ALEX WASHKO, LOWER SCHOOL GRADE 1 TEACHER
THOMAS YATES, HIGH SCHOOL MATHEMATICS TEACHER
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!
1. Among other degrees, you hold a Doctorate in Education (EdD) and have worked in different school roles, such as assistant principal in Cairo and director of curriculum and staff development in Seoul. How do all of these experiences help you as the Lower School librarian at Graded?
For many years and through different roles, I've enjoyed collaborating with teachers and working across multiple grades. I like looking at the big picture and how all the pieces of the puzzle go together. These are key parts of a successful library program as well. Literacy leadership has also been a primary focus of my work in both my master's and doctoral degrees, and it drives my work as a librarian.
2. What adventurous pastimes have you engaged in at different points in your life?
I spent much of my 20s and 30s looking for the next big thrill – skydiving, ballooning, bungee jumping, mountain climbing, rock climbing, rappelling, sailing, scuba diving, and wilderness backpacking. I've toned things down a bit, but I still love to travel.
3. What book that you have read in the past five years has made a big impact on you?
Too many to count, really. Many of the books I read leave a lasting impression. Two that come to mind are Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children's Learning by Peter H. Johnston.
In Half the Sky, the authors share numerous devastating stories about the oppression of women around the world, while also sharing information about organizations that are changing lives and empowering women and girls. It is the lasting message of hope from those who have suffered greatly that impacted me the most.
Choice Words is a short but thought-provoking book about the power our words have to shape the experiences of the children around us, often in ways we don't realize.
4. What do you do if you can't sleep at night?
I read! (And sometimes I listen to a recording of waves crashing.)
5. What's your favorite quote about libraries? And why do you like it?
I've always appreciated one from the 1800s that is every bit as true today as it was originally:
"He is wise who knows the source of knowledge – where it is written and where it is to be found." A.A. Hodge
We are now inundated with a quantity of information that Mr. Hodge couldn't have begun to imagine. It is even more important now that we learn how to discern quality information and how to locate good sources. This is perhaps the most important part of my work with students (and adults).
6. If you had the ability to compete in an Olympic sport, which would it be?
Can we make speed reading an Olympic sport?
7. Have you ever felt excluded? Explain the situation and how it made you feel.
I think there are times throughout our lives that we feel like we would have appreciated being included in something. We all experience FOMO (fear of missing out), and I think social media has made that even harder than when I was a kid.
I do remember a time in middle school when two people I considered good friends were having a sleepover without me. One of them made a point of talking in front of me about how much fun they were going to have and everything they were going to do. I felt jealous and hurt at the time, and we got into a big argument. We made up - it took a couple of years, to be honest – and more than 30 years later, she's one of my closest friends. I consider her to be family.
8. What is your favorite place to be when you're out and about in São Paulo?
I absolutely love taking long walks in Ibirapuera Park for the people-watching, museums, and various special events and performances, which I often discover by accident.
9. What fear are you trying to overcome?
I sometimes feel afraid of the unknown, especially what the future will bring. I think this is why I've deliberately put myself into what could be considered scary situations: to face my fears and push the edges of my comfort zone. This has included adventure sports, but also "leaping into the unknown" (like Scaredy Squirrel) with moves around the world. I think it's good to challenge our fears in safe ways. Sometimes our fears are well-founded and they help us make good choices. Sometimes they are barriers to living our fullest lives. I don't want a fear of the unknown to keep me from taking chances and experiencing the world.
10. What's your favorite thing about Graded?
I love the positive energy at Graded. I love that being happy is emphasized in our strategic initiatives, along with being successful and being involved. Achieving this balance in our lives is key!