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School Stories

Taking It Up a Notch

When I walked into the Fries Family Theater early one February morning for a Middle School assembly, I expected to be entertained by visiting artist, Armando Silva. What I hadn’t expected was to leave completely inspired. 
A Colorado artist, Silva’s talents include a unique ability to paint large canvases, using his hands to spread and throw paint on his creations just as skillfully as he handles a paintbrush, while simultaneously dancing to pulsing music. Another surprise came when I realized he was painting his masterpiece of Albert Einstein upside down...completing it in about six minutes.
 
I thought his impressive performance would be the highlight that morning, however I was proven wrong. Silva soon had the Middle School students enthralled with his personal narrative about immigrating to the United States from Mexico at the age of five and ultimately becoming the “architect” of his own life, as he put it. He shared his story of perseverance and dedication, estimating having painted Einstein about 500 times before visiting Graland. 
 
I couldn’t help but think about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, first highlighted in his book, Outliers. The idea is that, even with raw talent, many hours must be dedicated to a craft in order to become an expert at it. However, time isn’t the only factor in success. Gladwell also points out, “Practice isn’t a sufficient condition of success.” Silva seemed to know this principle as he spoke about the need to practice one’s craft with purpose and passion while also taking care of the other details of one’s life. He emphasized his ongoing goal of balancing artistic pursuits with giving back to the community and responsibly managing the more mundane business components of his career.
 
As the assembly progressed, a sense of gratitude permeated the theater. While students were grateful to learn and be inspired, Silva expressed his deep appreciation for both his creative gifts and the opportunities given to him along life’s journey. One opportunity he singled out was his education, specifically in the discipline of visual arts. 
 
At Graland, students are fortunate to be inspired during both visual and performing arts classes starting at a very young age. Along with building artistic skills and appreciation, knowledge transfers to other arenas of learning and life. Students can recognize proportions in nature, discuss how historical events inform works of art, build understanding of different cultures and see how artists sometimes use their craft to make political statements. 
 
Additionally, participation in performing arts builds students’ verbal and non-verbal communication skills. I am constantly moved when I witness Graland students on any stage, whether presenting their learning to peers and teachers, speaking in front of a parent group, or at our graduation ceremony. Their confidence and poise is notable, and I attribute much of it to the many experiences they have had to perform and speak during the academic day. 
 
Opportunities to be inspired abound at Graland. As I went about my work day, following that February assembly, I reflected on the uplifting experiences Graland has offered me over the past 14 years, including multiple professional development experiences. I felt renewed and recharged to continue to support faculty in finding their passions with regard to learning and professional growth, to ensure students hear a variety of stories from the greater community and to look for ways to keep the Graland program creative and dynamic. 


With a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Colorado, Gail manages Graland’s professional development and faculty recruitment efforts while assisting the Head of School in day-to-day school affairs. Before coming to Graland in 2004, she worked in finance and as a private chef. While her twin daughters are away at college, Gail enjoys skiing, cooking and traveling.
 
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Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.