BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - High school teachers stand before us to teach subject matter, but, more than that, some will impart wisdom, guide us to think for ourselves, prepare us for college and work life, and inspire us along the way. When Ms. Olivia Mazzaferro was a high school sophomore, she had a teacher who inspired her, sparked her interest in history, and encouraged her to do what she enjoys most: teach the subject she loves.
Mazzaferro felt great support from her high school history teacher and knew that she believed in her skills. “She was passionate about the content and actually taught us new information while motivating students to be the best version of themselves.” Having this teacher as a role model motivated Mazzaferro to become a teacher who would care not only about the material, but also her students.
Something she wants to share with her students is that history is so much more than people make it out to be, as it goes beyond old knowledge and facts. Mazzaferro feels that “many people misinterpret history as information about the past, but really it is relevant in today's world and is about critical thinking skills as well as reading and writing.” Making sure that her students will learn and apply these skills to all of their courses is a great part of her teaching plan.
Mazzaferro earned her masters in teaching as well as a minor in British Studies from Fairleigh Dickinson University, but not before spending a semester abroad in England. Spending time in England allowed her to see historic monuments that would later provide even greater information to bring to her future students. Travelling is important to Mazzaferro as it allows her to explore historical concepts in more depth. “Since I travel a lot and studied abroad in England, I have lots of pictures and have seen lots of historical places which allows for a better understanding for me and the students.” In the back of her classroom, there are lots of postcard-worthy photos from all of her trips.
Just like the incoming freshmen, Mazzaferro was anxious about the first day of school. Though she was a student teacher at Governor Livingston last year, this year is her first time going through her own lesson plans with students. She made sure to be early on the first day to perfect her classroom and practice her lessons. Mazzaferro not only teaches US History, but also is a Project Connect teacher and is “really looking forward to making combined lesson plans and getting to brainstorm with all of the other PC teachers.” She relates to the freshmen as they are new to GL as well.
“My first day was a challenge for the first class of each section because it was my first time running through the lesson, but by the time I did the lesson two or three times I fixed any issues and had better transitions so everything went smoother,” remembered Mazzaferro. Overall, the new teacher had a pretty successful first day. Once the final bell rang, she felt that all of her hard work had paid off, and she knew that this school year was going to be a great one. Mazzaferro was also surprised by all of the behind the scenes work teachers do. “Though I was overwhelmed, my first day confirmed that teaching students is what I was meant to do and that all of the nerves and paperwork is definitely worth it!” All of the nerves and anticipation of day one made her confident that she and her students were going to not only learn valuable information this year but also have lots of fun.
Part of Mazzaferro’s lesson plan was to share a fact with the class. On her first day, Mazzaferro announced that she recently adopted a puppy named Luna. Hearing about Luna definitely brought a smile to the students’ faces as well as Mazzaferro’s, easing the tension on the first day.
It may be surprising to some that even teachers can be nervous on the first day. Fun fact: teachers were students once too and they can be inspired by their own great teachers to pursue their passions. Welcome to GL, Ms. Mazzaferro!