Teacher Feature: Mariana Graciano

Jayna Rohslau, ‘20

Stress. Worry. Occasional sleep deprivation, sending one’s brain drifting off into the depths of oblivion.

All emotions that are natural, to be sure, but all emotions that one would sooner associate with the Hunger Games than a typical Spanish class. Yet Bard isn’t your typical high school, and Mariana Graciano’s class can be challenging, as her students quickly learned. And not just the students– some of the greatest difficulty is faced by the teacher herself.

“It’s lots of work,” Ms. Graciano readily admitted during a break from the typical slog of coursework. “I taught high school for a year in Argentina before, but BHSEC feels more like a college than a high school.” Having previously taught at Hunter, John Jay, and NYU, one would think the teacher and mother of two would know what she is talking about.

Despite the heavy workload, moreover, she also had a lot to say about what she liked about the school. “I like the commitment of the students. You can tell they want to be here.” As we stood in the stairwell and discussed BHSEC, it was easy to see her love of teaching, clearly visible with the care and thought she put into every answer.

Ms. Graciano was quick to offer advice for struggling students in her class and their future success: “Learning a new language is like learning to play an instrument,” she said. “You can’t practice just the day before the recital. You should study every day for at least fifteen minutes.”

A sensible answer, and one that she has echoed throughout my 2nd-period class.  But is there more to Ms. Graciano than what you see in school? I asked her about her hobbies, and she didn’t shy away from giving a cohesive reply to this as much as any question relating to school.

“Well, I miss dancing,” came as a somewhat surprising truth to my ears, expecting something somewhat more mundane (my 7th-grade math teacher enjoyed the simpler arts of ‘netflix and chill’).  Not that dance is particularly unusual, but Ms. Graciano’s preference for flamenco and tango indicates that she had reached a high level. Or at least before she had to quit.

“I don’t dance much anymore,” she said, managing a smile of a sort. “It is hard to fit in hobbies.”  As I scribbled furiously into my binder, I could not help but feel a stab of pity, but also a sense of wonderment. Between teaching at BHSEC and taking care of her two small children, Ms. Graciano did have a lot of work on her plate. And yet she had also managed to, by some mystical power, become a published author of multiple short stories.

Wow, I thought to myself as we parted ways, leaving the stairwell for different floors. Off to my free period, my head spun rapidly, full of dizzying possibilities. Though teachers didn’t have midterms, I processed, they had problems of their own. Though teachers were teachers, they had their own lives.

Wait a minute, I thought, coming to a momentous realization.  

Does this mean teachers don’t live at school?

BHSEC welcomes Ms. Graciano to a new stage in her career.  May the odds be ever in her favor.