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Marie Nieto, Head of Middle School Humanities, Champions Global Scholarship

A truly internationally minded educator who has lived on several continents, Marie Nieto brought the World Scholar’s Cup (WSC) to Dwight — and was named Coach of the Year at the Global Round in Beijing in the same year!

In just a few short months, she coached our first Middle School World Scholar’s Cup team to success, as they advanced from the Regional to Global Rounds — and on to the Tournament of Champions, where the top competitors will test their mettle against each other in November. Ms. Nieto, who will prepare them for their big moment, also steps into the role of Head of Middle School Humanities this academic year. 

We sat down with Ms. Nieto to find out more about her connection to the World Scholar’s Cup and her dedication to global education.

Please share your journey to becoming a teacher.
My personal learning journey began in my home country, Scotland, and expanded with my family as my father’s job as an engineer took us through Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Australia, where we lived in many countries. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to experience living among so many diverse cultures when I was growing up. 

My initial interest before teaching was in writing and I earned a degree in journalism back in Scotland. Later, I studied international policy and diplomacy in the UK. I worked as a news journalist for a short time before earning a post-graduate degree in education from the Hong Kong Institute of Education. I went on to teach at international and IB Schools in Hong Kong and was also an IB examiner for the Language and Literature Diploma Program before joining Dwight here in New York. 

What is your educational philosophy?
I believe that education is an individual, unique experience for each and every student who enters a classroom, which fits well with Dwight’s strong commitment to personalized learning. As a professional entrusted with the education of young minds, I aim to facilitate learning and growth not only academically, but also personally and ethically, equipping students with the skills to succeed in life outside the four walls of a classroom.

What do you enjoy most about teaching Middle School?
I love the unpredictable nature of middle schoolers: their humor, their wisdom, and their fresh take on life! I especially enjoy having the opportunity to connect with students over the course of several years — to watch them learn, grow, and mature.

What do you like about being an IB educator at Dwight?
I truly believe that above all other curricula that I have taught, the IB excels at preparing students for the future. Developing a global perspective is an essential part of becoming an IB learner — not an afterthought — and I believe that our students need to be equipped with this attribute more than any other to be successful and make a difference in the world. Dwight stands out as a true international learning community that values innovation from its teachers. Dwight also does so much to support faculty both within and beyond the classroom.

Congratulations on winning Coach of the Year! Tell us about the WSC and bringing it to Dwight.
Thank you! It is such an amazing and fun academic competition! The Cup celebrates learning, brings young people together from around the world, challenges them to think about the bigger picture, builds great teamwork skills, and so much more.  

I was the WSC Coach at the school where I taught last in Hong Kong. Our team did a great job and went on to win the Tournament of Champions competition, so I was quite proud. I saw what an enriching experience it was for students and I knew that our Dwight students would be up for the challenge. And they certainly have been!

How did you select and prepare students for the WSC? 
Students “auditioned” to represent Dwight. They completed a timed writing piece, an impromptu speech, and had to be recommended by their teachers to take on the extra workload. Once selected to be on the team, students met once a week to practice skills like debating and to study a whole new curriculum from January through June, totaling six hours weekly. 

The World Scholar’s Cup curriculum has six subjects — science; literature; art and music; social studies; history; and a special subject, which was “unsolved mysteries” this year — all of which relate to a larger theme. The 2019 theme is “A World on the Margins.” During study sessions, students worked together to answer questions related to a specific section of the curriculum and then we created study notes from their answers.

How does the competition work?
The Cup draws approximately 9,000 students from top international schools in over 82 countries to a series of competitive rounds. Regional Rounds take place throughout the year, followed by Global Rounds over the summer. Teams of three face off in collaborative writing, debating, and other contests called the Scholar’s Bowl and the Scholar’s Challenge. Competitors are required to tap into their critical-thinking skills as well as their knowledge to come to a conclusion, rather than relying on memorization, to answer questions. For example, students are asked to consider things such as, “What does it mean for a group to be marginalized? What are some examples of marginalization from your own country?” So these are not yes or no questions; students have to delve deeper and voice their own opinions.

The top 10% of scholars who do well in the Global Rounds qualify for the Tournament of Champions held at Yale University — including three Dwight students from our senior team who will compete this November! 

I am so proud of each and every student who competed for the first time on both our junior and senior teams — all of whom won medals — and three who earned an impressive final place in the Tournament. They will compete against the very top students from international schools across the world. As we prepare, students will be working hard after school once again, honing their debate, research, and writing skills to make sure we’re ready for the final challenge!

What do you most hope students get out of the competition? 
It is an amazing opportunity for Middle Schoolers to meet other top students from all corners of the globe, to develop their academic skills, challenge themselves, and to really showcase their abilities on a level they’ve not seen before. 

What do you most look forward to this year?
In my new role as Head of Humanities, I’m looking forward to working with our amazing Humanities Department and continuing to develop meaningful and fun learning experiences for our Middle School students. This will involve bringing in more guest speakers and expanded collaborations with Dwight’s international campuses. I want to connect our curriculum more to the world beyond the classroom and beyond New York City to encourage a truly global vision for students.

What is a little-known fact about you?
I have seven-year-old twins who keep me on my toes!

What is your spark of genius?
My personal spark of genius is being able to adapt to any situation. After having lived in many countries and experiencing many cultures, I think that I have a unique insight into international-mindedness, which I hope I bring to the classroom to benefit my students.

We know that Ms. Nieto most certainly does!