At Overlake, instructors have one less class to teach, but more time to work with students individually

Marian Sugano and her students listen to another student during a class discussion. Sugano teaches Advanced Placement English Literature and Advanced Placement Spanish. - Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter
Marian Sugano and her students listen to another student during a class discussion. Sugano teaches Advanced Placement English Literature and Advanced Placement Spanish.
— image credit: Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

Class is back in session at The Overlake School, and beginning this year, faculty will have lighter class loads.

Prior to this, most Overlake faculty taught five classes, with department chairs teaching four. Beginning this year, all of their loads have been lightened by one class.

Overlake Head of School Matt Horvat said they made this change to allow teachers more time and opportunity to collaborate and work together.

“You know in a school, one thing that is finite is time,” he said about how limited teachers had been prior to this year.

Horvat said with a lighter class load, teachers will have fewer students, meaning they will have fewer assignments, tests and papers to grade.

Larry Metzger, chair of Overlake’s history department, said it is still too early in the school year to see how the five to four, which is what staff is calling the change, is working but he anticipates a positive outcome. He said the smaller class load will allow teachers more time to respond to student work in a more meaningful way.

Also with more time freed up, teachers will have more prep and planning time. In addition, with one less class to teach, Horvat said the teachers will have one whole class period free in their schedule, meaning more time to collaborate and work with their colleagues.

Marian Sugano, an Advanced Placement (AP) English and AP Spanish teacher, said even though it has been less than a week since school has started, she has already seen a difference.

Prior to this year, Sugano, who is also the English Department chair at Overlake, said she had been the only one to teach the three AP English literature class. But with this year’s class load change, she is only teaching two classes and a new teacher — Megan Vasavada — was hired to teach the third AP English literature offering.

With a second teacher covering the same class, Sugano has been able to bounce ideas off of someone else when it comes to curriculum, lesson plans and grading. For example, she said, the students have just turned in their first papers and Sugano and Vasavada have been able to get together to discuss how they plan to grade the papers and offer feedback to the students so no one class or group of students will be graded more easily or harder than others.

“Since we’ve hired her, I have collaborated with her extensively,” she said about Vasavada. “Her input has been so insightful and helpful.”

Vasavada is one of 18 new teachers at Overlake. Horvat said 11 of the new faculty members were hired specifically due to the five to four to teach the remaining classes. He said every year, they hire six or seven new teachers as a result of attrition from retirements and teachers moving or leaving.

Sugano said before this year, teachers did collaborate and work with one another, but there was not enough time to do it in a meaningful way. With the five to four, she said they have been able to do so in a more organized way. She added that right now, the collaborations have been limited to within school departments, but she anticipates as time goes on that there will be more cross-departmental collaborating.

Metzger said with more time to work together, departments will be able to do more comprehensive curriculum reviews.

In addition to being able to work more with each other, teachers will also have more time to work with students as a result of their lighter class loads and newly open period.

“That’s something I’m really looking forward to,” Metzger said.

And if a student’s schedule does not match up with a specific teacher’s and they cannot seek help during their free period, Horvat said they will be offering “labs” in all subjects, which will be hosted by a faculty member from that department. During these labs, any student can stop by and get help from the on-duty teacher.

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