Simonica Erler von Erlea, class of 1980
First as a pupil and then as a mother, Simonica 's life has been always connected to our school. Being a European family, the Erler von Erleas were looking for an international school which would match their expectations about a complete curriculum, what made St. Paul's School their choice. Happily, the Paulean spirit was cultivated and keeps growing among the family, bringing the next generation to our classrooms as well.
In this interview, Simonica shared with us her best memories of her school years and how the values learned inside the campus affected her entire life. Also, she tells us how the school has changed from when she was a pupil to the years when her son became a pupil. It is a very interesting perspective.
What brought you and your family to St. Paul’s?
It's a very silly answer, but it's a very clear one. My parents are from Spain and Romania and they were living in Brazil. I have an older brother that was studying at Santo Américo, he's 10 years older than me. But my parents were looking for an International School, and just by riding along the neighbourhood, they tripped at St. Paul’s and they found the school they wanted. It was too late for my brother, but early enough for my sisters and me. So that's how we found St. Paul’s, a ride around the neighbourhood. It was 54 years ago.
They wanted an International Education. And it was not necessarily for the English, they just wanted International Education. Brazilian schools are amazing, but one of the biggest bonus that we had here is that we learn about the world, the past, the present, and the perspective of the future. You really learn History, you really learn about Napoleon, not only about the Kings and Queens of England. You learn about Finland, Antarctica, and everything. And that is a big plus for the school, and that's what my parents were looking for because that's what they had.
And then you had your son, Thomas. How did you decide which school to choose?
Well, for me it was a no-brainer. I always believed that living in São Paulo the best school is always a school close to your home. However, I have a French husband who attended a French school. Therefore, there was a big difference of opinion and mine prevailed. Mine prevailed due to St. Paul's' curriculum. Basically, the curriculum of St. Paul's is flawless. It has all about Maths, it's not just simple Maths. It has all about Physics, not just simple Physics. The school goes all the way, and I'm not talking about the technology that we have today because Bunsen burners didn't change very much from then to now. I'm talking about the curriculum itself, the curriculum here has no match in this country.
You must have so many fond memories of your time, and then as a parent. Share with us some of the fondest memories you have.
Well, as a Paulean, I had amazing and interesting moments at school. First and foremost, with sports. This is a school that really emphasises going outside and fighting for your team. During my school period, we had York and Lancaster and I was York all the way. But my point regarding sports is that it was about the competition, it was about training, it was about winning. But it was mostly about being as one trying to reach a goal together. The goal was to learn the skills of playing basketball, of swimming, of high jump, of soccer... The important thing about sports here at school was really making you take the challenge. Success is accepting the challenge and doing your best to achieve the best you can. That is what St. Paul's gave us in sports at the time with this amazing, fantastic human being, Mr. Santos. He came from the military and as far as I remember, he was here many years before me. And he was just this amazing strength of teaching us. Not in a military way, but in the mandatory mentality of you going forward. He was a good mentor for many challenging pupils.
Another very important teacher at the school for me was Mr Folley. He taught Chemistry. However, having said that, he was a very strict teacher. He was one of the unreachable as per se, but I told him “I don't understand a single word. I don't get it. I need help”. Mr. Folley came to my rescue and he helped me. He didn't give me extra marks for my test. But he did help me. He would always check on me to see if I understood the line. He wouldn't tutor me, but he would give me tips to go home with and practice.
One other very big influence on me was Mr Hayes, the most amazing house captain ever. My best Maths teacher. Mr Hayes was a loved and hated person. He was very strict with a huge heart willing to help anyone. And he was a brilliant Maths teacher, who helped me very much. I am very good at humanities, but numbers were never my thing. But for me to get good at numbers, I had to have good teachers at this school, otherwise, I would never have gone through as well as I did in my vestibular for my three Majors. I studied economics, business administration and I went to Law School.
Mr. Downey was also an amazing Geography teacher. He was fun and he was serious, but in a funny way. Mr. Maxwell, I owe him History and English so much. He was not my only teacher, but I'm pointing out the ones that affected me the most.
Did you study at St. Paul's from Pre-prep to the last year?
No, I left a year before. I left a year earlier because my father didn't want us to study abroad. So I left for the Brazilian School.
And what about the path you choose? What about your career?
I was hired by Abril to open TVA, the first cable network in Brazil. It was something big. I was invited to be a Programming Manager and I stayed there until the birth of my child and when my eldest was diagnosed with a severe degenerative syndrome, I decided to stop working and watch for my girl.
So, working for TVA was not the highlight of my career. I had a very successful career before that. But it was certainly the most interesting part of it. I never thought that I would work with a TV network and at the time, we produced very little. MTV was in the same building and I was not the Manager of Programming of MTV because they did their own inside programming.
It was very exciting, different, and out of my scope... I wanted an international career and that was an international company. I used there all my skills of organisation the school taught me.
What kind of skills have you learned at school that you apply in your life?
Staying home was my biggest job and there was where I most applied my skills which I have learned at St. Paul's, were exactly raising my child. That is where I really got a grip on what St. Paul's taught me. To be organised, to seek answers, to break barriers... These skills that St. Paul's gave me throughout my years here were fundamental to raising my special needs child. By the way, I taught my daughter English. I decided to teach English to my daughter because I didn't know where life would take me, or where my husband's job would take me. My daughter needed to understand English. What if I moved to London? What if I moved to whichever country in the world?
I also studied a lot with my son, and we did something interesting. What we did as parents was to see the curriculum for the next year, so if they were going to learn about the pyramids or about Napoleon, we would try to arrange trips that year so that my son could see locally what he was learning. It was very interesting, and we did it for many years.
What school moments do you keep in memory?
I had the privilege to see the Queen. It was in 1968. And also I had the privilege of being invited to see Lady Di.
Someone who I tenderly remember is Sr. João, our candy man, he was an amazing influence. He was Brazilian, and barely spoke English, but he was fun and kind. His kindness was outstanding. The kindness was how he treated us, how nice he was to us, and how he would try to have our special treat available at the school.
Well, the uniform changed quite a lot. I don't have the uniform, but we were very proud to use the badges. We were very proud of our houses.
And of course, the Rio trips are important to be mentioned. The Rio trips were like this, we travelled by train to Rio de Janeiro every year with the soccer, basketball, and volleyball teams. That's what I remember. We used to go to the British School of Rio de Janeiro and we would sleep over on the train, traveled all night, arrived early in Rio, went to school and after a day of games and sports we would sleep at British School pupils' houses. And we stayed there for a couple of days.
And it was every single year, and when and we would go to Rio once and they would come to São Paulo once as well. And they would stay at my house and it was always different assignments.