Daniele Gatti of School Year Abroad in Italy wins this month’s Faculty Spotlight award for his commitment to youth literacy and News Decoder’s local-global mission.
Daniele Gatti is a storyteller, musician and teacher with a heart for youth education. This month, he wins News Decoder’s Faculty Spotlight award for his commitment to youth literacy and News Decoder’s local-global mission.
A self-described “person who’s always searching for something,” Gatti seems to consistently be involved in multiple projects simultaneously. In his decade-plus career in education, he has taught social science, music and Italian. He also holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Siena.
Gatti has worked at News Decoder partner institution School Year Abroad (SYA) in Italy since 2011. He credits his experience there for broadening both his own perspective and that of his students.
As our faculty point person at SYA Italy, Gatti especially appreciates News Decoder’s commitment to finding local angles to globally-relevant news stories, making complicated world issues accessible to youth.
“For example, let’s take migration,” Gatti said. “Migration has a local impact, but of course it’s a global issue. In my class, in line with News Decoder’s mission, we want to understand what’s going on locally and globally. Using the local to understand the bigger phenomenon, and vice versa.”
How to get youth to read
In addition to classroom teaching, Gatti has also long been immersed in the world of youth literacy.
As part of his doctoral research, he formed an organization dedicated to promoting reading in young people. In this role, Gatti engaged reluctant readers through multimodal performances of stories. Through years of experience, he’s learned the value of intrinsic motivation in getting students to pick up a book.
“It’s so important to start with the young generation,” Gatti said. “Get them to read without forcing them, but just through fascinating them. Never imposing, because you can’t impose a passion.”
Unsurprisingly, Gatti is a book-lover himself, and counts philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and Italian author Italo Calvino among his favorite authors.
After years of observing trends in youth literacy, Gatti notes his concern with existing data on reading, especially with the advent of new technologies that divert attention away from paper books.
Technology must be used with caution.
At SYA, he regrets that few students access campus bookshelves the way they did 10 years ago. Technology, Gatti suggests, is a tool that ought to be used with caution. He cites research from American scholar Maryanne Wolf indicating that reading on screens is affecting memory, empathy and the capacity of students to interact with texts.
“There’s a technique that we all use when we read something on a screen,” Gatti said. “We start by reading the entire first line, then the second line we don’t complete and the third even less. So how much can we get in retaining those texts? Imagine reading books or complex essays on screens.”
While not wanting to be overly-alarmist, Gatti warns against adopting technological advancements without moderation, especially in the realm of education.
Outside of his role as an educator, Gatti finds time for other passions. He’s a frequent tennis player, avid hiker and talented guitarist. Gatti’s dream dinner guests include British guitar player John McLaughlin, known for his eclectic musical fusions, along with Barack Obama and Pope Francis.
“With John playing, the pope dancing and Obama singing – that would be great.”
News Decoder is grateful to faculty members at our school partners for their dedication to teaching global perspectives and media literacy to young people. To read past Faculty Spotlight features, click here.
[Quotes used in this article were transcribed from an interview with Gatti on 10 March 2023. They have been edited for length and clarity.]