High School News

The Graded Gazette -

Congratulations to a class of very special Eagles! We are happy that you, graduates, were able to join us in person on Saturday, June 5, 2021 for this celebratory occasion. To parents, family members, and guests who watched the ceremony from home via live streaming, we wish you could have been here face-to-face. However, we know you were with us in spirit, cheering on our graduates through your electronic devices. As a school community and a society at large, we have been challenged throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The Class of 2021 will forever be shaped by this experience, yet its members have become better versions of themselves as a result. To our 112 recent graduates, we are so proud of what you accomplished during your time at Graded. We wish you success and happiness as you embark upon the next stage of your lives. Stay in touch and come back to visit. Remember: once an Eagle, always an Eagle. Welcome to the Graded alumni family!


The Graded Gazette -

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.
The Graded Gazette -

Sandra Mendonça

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!"


Isabella Krell, Senior Communications Officer -

by Isabella Krell, Senior Communications Officer

Distance learning did not stop tutoring and mentoring from happening at Graded!

Success at Graded - The American School of São Paulo entails more than just academic achievement. Students must have strong communication and organizational skills, as well as perseverance, motivation, and confidence to thrive.

Mentoring and tutoring can help children and adolescents flourish in school (Miller),1 and, according to Charles Bonas, founder of an educational company in the UK, both principles can be viewed "along a spectrum" (Rowe).2 Tutoring focuses on academic development, whereas mentoring goes a step further and addresses one's overall well-being. "If tutors are ski instructors teaching perfect technique," Bonas explains, "mentors are the mountain guides enabling pupils to explore unimagined places and perspectives, cultivating a unique craft" (Rowe).3

Graded's Mentoring and Tutoring (GMT) Club pairs high-schoolers with Lower and Middle School students seeking academic support and general life advice. Weekly one-on-one meetings provide students with the opportunity to work with a dedicated tutor/mentor, promoting intellectual and personal growth. Young students meet with the same tutor year after year, which fosters a solid and trusting relationship. High School students interested in tutoring choose the subject areas and grade levels on which they would like to focus. Once matched, tutors assist students with their homework assignments, projects, and test preparation.

"While academic support is key and at the heart of GMT," says Olivia P., a Graded senior and GMT leader, "the club's mentoring component is arguably even more important." Mentors help students with time management, organizational skills, friendship support, and goal setting. "They act as thinking partners for their mentees," Olivia explains, "which is critical during the pandemic, when students may be struggling with social distancing and virtual learning."

Some mentors are experts in a specific subject, while others are generalists. However, all Graded mentors and tutors must be natural motivators and trust builders. The trick is to match students well. Having common interests and similar experiences is beneficial in ensuring that the mentor and mentee will get along.

Olivia explains, "We might choose to pair a young, Korean child who recently moved to Brazil with a Korean high-schooler, who speaks the same language, comes from the same background, and has also gone through the experience of moving to Brazil." By drawing on passions or interests, mentors can successfully inspire further learning.

Between 50 and 70 high-schoolers sign up for GMT annually and undergo training to become tutors and mentors for younger students. Under the guidance of GMT advisor Ms. Carla Hillman and club leaders Isabela A., Olivia P., and Rafael J., more than 100 Graded students participate in the program either as mentors or mentees.

GMT's leaders devote time and resources to train tutors and mentors at the start of each school year, providing basic advice on working with younger kids. One of the club's primary goals for the coming year is to invest more in training and development to guarantee mentors are more equipped and confident. Aside from training, Lower and Middle School teachers provide year-round assistance to tutors. When a teacher or counselor recommends a student for GMT, the tutor communicates with that faculty member regularly to learn about the student's specific needs. Tutors frequently meet with students' parents to gather additional information. 

The benefits of GMT are noticeable for both mentors and mentees. "I like meeting every week," says Lower School student Rafaella. "If I could, I would meet twice a week with my mentor. I have improved in my classes because of him, and he has helped me get through a lot." Santiago G., Rafaella's mentor, states that "One of the reasons I decided to join GMT was because I understood how it felt to struggle in a class or to feel out of place at Graded. I had a lot of trouble socially adapting and academically succeeding while I was in Lower and Middle School. My own GMT tutor, who supported me throughout my Lower and Middle school years, was important in helping me overcome these issues at Graded. GMT allowed me to grow both socially and academically and helped me to achieve great things subsequently. My own experience made me want to become a GMT tutor since I was aware of the socio-academic influence that a tutor can have on students."

Similarly, GMT tutor Marina S. notes that she joined the club because she wanted to provide a form of support that is rare to find. "Different individuals learn in different ways, and I believe GMT allows mentees to learn in a way that is most beneficial for them. I, for one, am a visual learner who color codes my notes to help things stick in my head. As a tutor/mentor, I've discovered that experimenting with various teaching and learning approaches with my mentee has helped me become more adaptable. It also helps the mentee discover more about themselves and what they require to be successful." Marina says that a large part of her ability to stay organized and focused stems from the support she has had from her teachers, tutors, and mentors, so being able to exchange roles has been enriching and rewarding. "What I love most about being a GMT tutor is being able to connect with young children! They are so funny and outgoing - it is refreshing and inspiring to see little humans being so honest and true to themselves." Marina also believes that being a GMT tutor has helped her develop strong communication and leadership skills. It has been gratifying to see that her effort helps her mentee succeed academically and socially.

Tutoring and mentoring may be traced back to ancient Greek poet Homer's epic tale The Odyssey.4 Since then, these practices have evolved. Tutoring and mentoring are now used in academia, businesses, and even personal lives.5 Just as no two people are alike, no two mentoring pairs or relationships are the same. Some mentor/mentee pairs focus on teaching and academic support, while others choose to explore their personal lives and experiences. Regardless of the technique used during a session, the outcome is the same: mentors assist mentees in unleashing their full potential. Graded's Mentoring and Tutoring Club is doing a tremendous job of combining both principles and applying them to students' everyday lives to foster their social and academic success.

Works Cited

1Mentoring Students and Young People: A Handbook of Effective Practice, by Andrew Miller, TAYLOR & FRANCIS, 2016, pp. 130.

2,3Rowe, Jenny. "Best of Mentors: What Makes a Good One?" School House Magazine, School House Magazine, 11 Feb. 2019, www.schoolhousemagazine.co.uk/education/tuition/what-makes-good-mentor/. 

4"Mentor." Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mentor. Accessed 3 Jun. 2021. 

5Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering, by National Academy of Sciences et al., National Academy Press, 1997, pp. 1–2, www.nap.edu/read/5789/chapter/2#2. 

The Graded Gazette -


Julia Beatriz Camargo - High School Science Teacher 
Julia has worked at Graded as a laboratory assistant for the past three years. She earned a bachelor's degree in marine biology and coastal management from the São Paulo State University (UNESP) and a Master of Science in biological oceanography from the University of São Paulo (USP), with a focus on ocean pollution and contamination. While in college, she served as a volunteer rescuing wildlife animals. Julia is passionate about Brazilian culture and traveling. When not working in the lab, she likes to spend her time dancing, practicing capoeira, watching movies, and crocheting. 



Silvana Gili - Lower School Grade 1 Teacher 
Silvana is returning to Graded after having spent many years pursuing different adventures. One of her greatest passions has always been children's literature. A decade ago, she became a researcher to learn more about the language of picture books and what makes them so interesting to young (and not-so-young) readers. Silvana earned her PhD in literature from the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Florianópolis, where she lived for eight years. She also holds a BA in English language and literature and an MA in international education from Framingham State University in Massachusetts. Silvana has always been interested in learning languages, and while living in Barcelona and Madrid, she had the opportunity to learn more about her Spanish roots. Silvana loves both the ocean and reading, so a day spent at the beach with a good book is her idea of bliss. 



Melody McCambridge - Lower School Grade 2 Teacher 
Melody is currently a second grade teacher at Alexandria Country Day School in Alexandria, Virginia. She has spent the last 13 years teaching children of all ages in public, independent, and international schools. Melody earned both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education degrees in the United States. Because Melody's husband works for the US Foreign Service, Brazil will be her fifth country of residence. She will be coming to Brazil with her husband Kieran, son Liam, daughter Ana, and Goldendoodle Elvis. Due to her recent three-year stay in Botswana, she has cultivated a love and respect for nature. She enjoys going on nature safaris, connecting with her local community, running, reading, cooking, and meeting new people.



Ann Neill - Lower School Counselor 
Annie, the daughter of two educators, has joyously worked as the elementary school counselor at Taipei American School and is currently at the International School of Dakar. Before working abroad, Annie worked in boarding schools as dean of students and director of student activities and service-learning, among other roles. She also has experience working as a clinical social worker in residential treatment facilities. Annie earned her BA in human development from Connecticut College and her MSW in group work from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. Annie is married to college counselor Jeff Neill, and they have two lively children: Chase and Stella. Annie is excited to explore São Paulo, but she is really eager to push through the city's perimeter and check out the trails and outdoor spaces. 



Jeffrey Neill - Director of College Counseling, Head of Department 
In 2021-22, Jeff will begin his twenty-first year in education, having spent his career among six schools on four continents. He has recently spent time at the International School of Dakar in Senegal and Taipei American School in Taiwan after working at three boarding schools in the US. As a professional, while he has experience across all areas of school life, Jeff has focused primarily on his love of working with students on the university search process. Active in the international school community, Jeff presents, consults, and mentors regularly across the globe. This year, Jeff will complete his EdD from Northeastern University. He has an MA in English from Middlebury College and a BA in government and German from Bowdoin College. A product of independent schools, Jeff is a proud alumnus of Northfield Mount Hermon. He is married to elementary school counselor Ann Neill, and they have two children, Stella and Chase. In addition to being an avid reader, film buff, and sports fan, Jeff loves to spend time with his family, especially outdoors and traveling.



Joseph Pomainville, High School Counselor 
Joseph Pomainville has been teaching and counseling internationally for the past eight years. He will join Graded after serving as the head of counseling and learning support at the North London Collegiate School on Jeju Island in South Korea. Joseph has worked in New York, Alaska's Arctic Circle, Dubai, and South Korea. He graduated from St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, with teaching and counseling degrees and is now in his (hopefully) final year of a doctoral program in educational leadership. When Joseph is not counseling or teaching, he enjoys coaching girls and boys volleyball, girls soccer, girls and boys track and field, among other sports, which he has done over the past 12 seasons. He also enjoys exercising, hiking, and playing ultimate frisbee and Quidditch.



Janan Sabeh, Director of College Counseling 
Janan is the daughter of a former international student from Syria, which inspired her decision to study abroad in Egypt as an undergraduate. Her semester abroad turned into a year, and eventually, a job assisting other American students do the same. After graduating from the University of San Francisco with a BA in politics, she returned to Egypt to continue studying Arabic. There, she discovered the world of college counseling. She began her career as an EducationUSA advisor in Egypt, where she crisscrossed the country, assisting students applying to undergraduate and graduate programs in the US. After six years in Egypt, she moved to Jordan and joined the university counseling team at King's Academy, a liberal arts boarding school with students from more than forty countries. Janan returned home to California five years later to work as the director of college counseling at Khan Lab School. She counseled the school's first graduating class and worked with the Mastery Transcript Consortium to develop a mastery transcript for the school. In addition to working with Graded students, Janan looks forward to learning Portuguese and exploring a different part of the world. When she is not walking or cuddling her dog, you can find Janan reading the news, traveling, and hiking -- most likely with a cup of coffee in her hand.



Jennifer White - Lower School Grade 4 Teacher 
Jennifer is crossing the Equator to begin her eighteenth year of teaching. This move to the Southern Hemisphere is quite a departure from eight previous years spent in Korea, China, and Japan. Before moving abroad, her first nine years as a teacher took place in the US, in her home state of Arizona. Jen grew up surrounded by Saguaro cacti and the hot temperatures of the Sonoran Desert. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in education from Arizona State University. In addition to teaching grades four and five, she spent her first six years post-university teaching middle school language arts. Jennifer is a desert girl at heart. She loves the sunshine and everything outdoors and can often be found hiking, trail running, traveling, and stand-up paddling. Reading, hitting the gym, and practicing Japanese keep her busy most days after work. From food and culture to the language and vibrant cities, Jen is excited to explore and discover all of the wonderful things Brazil has to offer.



Natalia Zanivan, Middle School Physical Education Teacher 
Last October, Natalia "Nati" Zanivan became a full-time Middle School physical education teacher at Graded. She started her career as an activities leader for school trips before studying physical education at Senac. While Nati was in college, she taught swimming, dance, and gymnastics. Nati was born in São Paulo and learned English by babysitting English-speaking children. Her English skills, teaching experience, PHE studies, and enthusiasm for teaching and learning paved the way for a PHE/swimming internship at Graded. When she's not teaching, Nati follows her passions for dancing, painting, drawing mandalas, and playing rugby.


The Graded Gazette -

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:

  1. Investing significant time and effort in developing students' metacognitive capabilities to help them progress to higher learning in a sustainable way.
  2. 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.

The Graded Gazette -


1. Before receiving your Master of Education at Colorado State University, you earned a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. How did you end up at the Naval Academy?
My father had a career in the US Air Force. He inspired me to become a pilot, and as an alternate path into the Armed Forces, I applied to the US service academies and civilian universities with ROTC programs. Ultimately, I received an appointment from the US Naval Academy and an Air Force ROTC scholarship to the University of Colorado at Boulder. I had no genuine desire to attend the Naval Academy, which I had only applied to at my father's recommendation of maximizing my opportunities and applying to all academies. Thus, I set my sights on Boulder, Colorado. Later, I received a phone call from a Navy officer to congratulate me on my appointment to the Naval Academy, and he asked me if I would accept. I told him that I had no interest in being a sailor; I wanted to fly - and that I would do that at Boulder. The Navy officer turned out to be a pilot from the US Navy Blue Angels, one of the most highly regarded pilot programs in the world. We spoke for another 30 minutes about his experiences. Once we hung up, I told my father that I was going to the Naval Academy instead. It would be one of the best decisions of my life.

2. What is one thing you learned while at the United States Naval Academy that you bring with you to every class you teach? And is there anything that you learned that has proved to be utterly useless to you as a teacher?
A hallmark of any military training experience is having recruits do tons of pointless, stressful, demanding activities and pushing them to physical and mental overload. For example, I had to recite - no, shout - long lists under the pretense that this exercise would improve my short-term memory in high-pressure situations. At the Academy, we learned many things through simple brute force. Through my military experiences and my experience as a teacher, I hope to inspire longer-lasting learning using more effective practices.


3. What was summer typically like when you were a child?
When I was younger, summers were a lot like what is portrayed in the show Stranger Things: riding bicycles everywhere; playing games in my friend's basement; and just exploring with the neighborhood kids. I always worked during the summer. My first jobs included mowing lawns and delivering newspapers. Once I got my driver's license and could drive places, I worked at restaurants and landscaping companies. An essential part of every summer, though, was participating in sporting activities of all kinds. My friends and I were constantly training and competing. 

4. You've taught in Istanbul, South Korea, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Colorado. How does Brazil compare?
My international teaching experiences have been quite different than my public school teaching days in Colorado. There are many similarities between the international schools I have taught at, but each has its own "vibe." Here in Brazil, for example, I teach a nice mix of students who are dedicated to their studies and know how to enjoy life. While the school is large and offers a wide variety of programs, it is also small enough, allowing everyone to know one another.

5. What are your three favorite TV shows? How often do you watch them?
Before last year, I hadn't owned a TV for more than 20 years. As a result, I've missed a lot of popular shows. We inherited a television last year, and I have been able to catch up a bit. My favorite shows so far are Stranger ThingsGame of Thrones, and more recently, Cobra Kai (though I'm Miyagi-Do all the way.) 

6. What fears are you trying to overcome?
I don't want to seem disingenuous, but I am not currently working to overcome any fears. I have quite a number of goals I want to reach, but I believe they are motivated by desire, not fear. 

7. Do you have a favorite spot where you like to hang out in São Paulo?
In my short time here, I've enjoyed hanging out in Liberdade and walking along Avenida Paulista on Sundays (before COVID). I'm looking forward to discovering more places in the city.

8. Do you have a favorite saying? What is it?
There are a lot of quotes that I like. "Without the bitter, the sweet ain't as sweet" is something I think about regularly. 

9. What's your favorite thing about Graded?
The people! Cliché but undeniably true. I'll also throw in that I love how deeply the many generations of Graded alumni cherish the school. I admire the history and their fidelity to this institution. 

10. What is something people might not know about you? 
My brother's kidneys shut down when he was 20. After much uncertainty, we discovered that he suffers from a rare disease called Alport Syndrome. At the time, transplant technology, medication, and know-how were still in their early stages. No one in my family matched my brother's tissue type, so he had to wait on the kidney donor list for over a year. He finally received a transplant in 1993. Kidneys transplanted from cadavers generally only last around 10-15 years; my brother's lasted 25! There had been considerable scientific advances by then, including new medications and advanced donor technologies, which allowed me to donate my kidney to him in 2008. I can live a completely normal life with only one kidney and don't have any physical or dietary restrictions. I highly recommend that others consider joining an organ donor program to potentially save a person's life.

Isabella Krell, Senior Communications Officer -

By Isabella Krell, Senior Communications Officer

As the popularity of podcasts has grown over the years, Graded students have launched their own audio platform Gradio, which encourages students, teachers, faculty, and parents to articulate their thoughts and share their values, passions, concerns, and accomplishments.

So, what exactly are podcasts?
Simply put, podcasts are audio programs, like radio talk shows, which may be listened to anytime and anywhere. While it's difficult to pinpoint when podcasts first emerged, they quickly became one of the most significant and thrilling cultural phenomena of the 21st century. Podcasts provide us with information, inspiration, and entertainment and cover various topics ranging from music to current events.

Gradio, Graded's Radio
Gradio, established in 2019 by then-student Pedro C. '20, has four active podcasts. Each club member, or podcast owner, maintains complete autonomy and control over their program. They choose the general theme, title, and artwork for the podcast, as well as the topic and format of each episode.

Gradio leaders João Guilherme and Lucas encourage club members to be themselves when recording their podcasts. One of Gradio's main goals is to provide students with a safe place to be authentic. "The club is very flexible," says João. "We don't want Gradio to become yet another homework assignment or an inconvenience in someone's schedule. Gradio should be a passion and hobby for both creators and listeners." In their M&M Podcast, João and Lucas discuss trending topics, such as the media's influence on body image. At the end of each episode, the co-hosts give their listeners a movie suggestion. Be sure to listen to the end, so you don't miss out! 


With more than 150 downloads, Roberto "Bob" J.'s Cultural Zeitgeist covers all things music-related. Bob is a trumpet player in the Graded Jazz Band and an avid fan of indie-rock, R&B, and rap music. He started the Cultural Zeitgeist podcast to "voice his opinions about what's going on in music and engage in meaningful discussions" about the subject. Bob covers a range of music styles from multiple decades and discusses topics such as overrated musicians and most promising rappers — often with the help of a guest speaker. In one episode, Rodrigo invites Graded jazz bandmates and friends Tomas and Inacio to speak about their experience as members of their band, Floating Flamingos.


The Globalist podcast is a joint effort between Gradio Club members and Graded's Global Issues Network (GIN) Club. The podcast's primary focus is to raise awareness and provide listeners with information and updates on global issues. Students explore and discuss real-life events focusing on topics, including racism, education, and poverty. 


With catchy episode titles, like "Baby Talk" and "IB With Fish," This Week at Graded's host Diego C. interviews fellow students and teachers and discusses current school events. Are you curious about what compiling Graded's weekly High School Docket entails? Then this is the right podcast for you.


While Gradio is predominantly a podcast platform, it also provides its audience with a bonus: music playlists! Studies have found that listening to music while studying or working can increase performance and productivity. Gradio's music playlists explore genres ranging from Funk & Soul to Lo-Fi Beats for Studying to Movie Soundtracks. Besides creating fun playlists, Gradio club members also DJ  for Graded's on-campus events, including athletics tournaments and Celebration of the World. 

Regardless of your preferred audio streaming platform, Gradio has you covered. Their music playlists are available on Spotify, and their podcasts may be found on most podcast-streaming sites, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Amazon Music. To learn more about Gradio and subscribe to all podcasts, visit their website!

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.

Av. José Galante, 425
São Paulo, SP - Brazil - 05642-000
+55 11 3747 4800
powered by finalsite