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You are here: Home Section Table School News Maggie Favretti Makes her Mark on SHS and the Rest of the World
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Maggie Favretti Makes her Mark on SHS and the Rest of the World

Maggie in the gardenIn her 25 years at Scarsdale High School, Maggie Favretti evolved from being a traditional teacher in front of a classroom to designing a project based learning curriculum that is now modeled by other teachers and other schools. A passionate educator, she taught her students to learn by doing, rather than listening, and to craft novel solutions to real world problem.

So, how did Favretti wind up teaching at SHS? After graduating from Yale University, majoring in art history, minoring in history, and tripling up in student teaching, with a teaching certificate, she was paired with Eric Rothschild, an SHS teacher, to be her mentor in part of Yale’s teaching program. After teaching for two summers at Taft School, a boarding school, she decided she wanted to teach in a public school. For Favretti, who teaches with an immense amount of emotional intensity, boarding school was just too exhausting. After receiving job offers from private schools including Taft, she called Eric for guidance who told her there was an opening at Scarsdale. Favretti took the job and stayed at Scarsdale for two years, then moved to Middlebury to teach, only to move back to Scarsdale eight years later.

What makes Favretti such a prized teacher at SHS is her passion for learning and her teaching philosophy. A large part of this philosophy is that collaboration between teachers is necessary for success.

As a 22 year-old, the youngest in the department by 15 years, with no masters degree and very little experience, the entire department collectively mentored her. “It was a much better experience than what new teachers have now,” she remarked. In her opinion, although the mentor program is wonderful, she believes it leads other teachers to be less inclined to mentor and help the new teachers. “Teaching is collaborative,” said Favretti, “reflective teachers are normally good teachers because they are constantly thinking about their practice and how to do it better… they are constantly asking their colleagues what they think.” She believes that relationships between department heads and teachers should be less evaluative and more collaborative, as it was for her. When Favretti first started, she looked to the department chair as her mentor and had a very open relationship with him.

Favretti has team taught almost her entire career, and relies on others to be successful. In both City 2.0 and the STEAM programs, students must collaborate with each other in projects in order to be successful, a methodology that Favretti has used throughout her entire career.

A key to Favretti’s teaching philosophy is her belief that teaching should occur inside and outside the classroom.

Favretti is also passionate about the way students are educated. “I have always believed in student centered education but also student ownership of education,” she said. According to Favretti, because of technology, the demands and expectations of the world are constantly changing. She believes that education must be interdisciplinary in order to cater to this rapidly changing world. “Everyday you hear about how young people are using those technologies and social media to solve really complex problems… this is where they are putting it all together,” using problems like climate change, and how to create an equitable city as examples. “Currently, school is opposite to interdisciplinary,” noted Favretti. She added that the school is still operating in a model that was formed 100 years ago and is not equipped for the way the world works today. Since the kids she teaches today are going to be the business and world leaders of the future, she believes it is necessary to adapt schooling to prepare students for the challenges ahead.

Favretti has already implemented programs to push SHS forward in modernizing education. One way she has done this is by implementing a City 2.0 class. In this class, students learn the true meaning of an interdisciplinary class as they help solve the biggest problems facing Scarsdale, New York, and even the country. “Students feel a huge disconnect between what they’re doing and the world,” said Favretti. Favretti combats student’s tendency to “get it done and get a grade,” rather than do something that matters. She stressed, “Schooling has to be about purpose… students won't engage unless what they’re learning has real world accountability.” Favretti continually referred to Ted Dintersmith’s book, “What School Could Be,” in which Dintersmith shares many of Favretti’s concerns. The struggle to keep students passionate about education and keep topics relevant prompted her to launch the City 2.0 program four years ago. See how City 2.0 allows students to respond to real world situations here

This philosophy is also what why Favretti, along with Lisa Yokana, got involved in implementing a STEAM program at SHS. For Favretti, this program is another way to stimulate innovation for students. According to Favretti, this program has been rapidly growing all over the world, “they have to be able to do something other than take tests and get good grades,” she said. This program helps kids learn to view failure as a part of the learning process, not as just something negative.

Favretti is also very passionate about climate change and wishes to “create a global network of college students networking and working against climate change so they can act and innovate in their hometowns”. This love of nature also prompted her to start the garden club and plant and maintain an impressive vegetable garden at the school. Here she is able to share her passion for gardening with fellow students and help the school achieve sustainability. In August 2014, she was even invited to the White House to recieve an Honorable Mention for the Presidential Innovation in Environmental Education Award. Read more about it here

Even though Favretti has grown as an educator and thoroughly enjoyed her experience teaching at Scarsdale, she is retiring early to pursue a new path. Professionally, Favretti wants to continue her work on educating kids for a changing world. She wants to bring these ideas into communities that are facing challenges, so education can solve these problems. She traveled to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria to work with the state education department to rebuild communities. Learn more about the impact Favretti had during her trip to Puerto Rico in our previous article

She says she met “amazing people” and witnessed how with a little guidance, children could solve real world problems. She hopes to share the City 2.0 curriculum with other schools and use it to help students solve problems in their own communities. In her retirement, Favretti hopes to continue to help communities like the one she visited in Puerto Rico to expand education, build back better and form more resilient communities.

In her future work, Favretti is hoping to change the meaning of a diploma, and offer credit for work beyond sitting in class. This may mean continuing her work with STEAM programs and other programs similar to City 2.0 worldwide.

While teaching in Scarsdale, Favretti has lived apart from her husband who is a photographer for the U.S. Coast Guard in Connecticut. She now commutes on the weekends visit him and is excited that she will be able to spend more time with him and her daughter after she retires.

Favretti has created a lasting impact on not only the people at SHS, but also on the school’s curriculum and has designed courses that are at the forefront of new trends in education. While she will be missed in the halls, her work at SHS will live on through the students and teachers of the future.

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