Tackling new roles

Three teachers appointed Department Leads


Photo | Krish Dev

Monica Jariwala will fill the English Department Lead vacancy left by Julia Satterthwaite.

Krish Dev and Eric Zhou


After English teacher and Journalism adviser Julia Satterthwaite was named the FUHSD English Curriculum Lead, the MVHS English Lead position opened up. In the following weeks three English teachers expressed interest in the position, with English teacher Monica Jariwala ultimately being selected.

Jariwala aspires to expand the curriculum further to better represent Asian American and Pacific Islander students, who make up the majority at MVHS. Having experience leading the professional development of colleagues, Jariwala says she enjoys working with other English teachers to improve the English curriculum. Jariwala also explains that the team of students and staff on the Equity Task Force that she helped found has helped her update the curriculum.

“I really think it’s important for students to see themselves in what they read,” Jariwala said. “Especially if we’re reading some of the same texts from when I was in high school, maybe we’re not supplementing them with more updated pieces. It seems like a good idea to just make sure that we’re constantly focusing on the students.”

According to Jariwala, almost every literature class has already incorporated AAPI texts. She anticipates this trend will continue throughout her three years as English Department Lead. Jariwala commends the English Department for the variety of material — ranging from graphic novels to film — and is optimistic due to the consensus among English teachers to modernize the curriculum.

“I also presented to the department back in February [to explain] the importance of talking about race and racism in the classroom, especially because we have such a high population of students of color,” Jariwala said. “Especially if we’re reading a book and it’s written by an author of color [and] there are characters of color, we really have to use the words like race and racism instead of just saying culture and inclusion because we really want to make sure that we are acknowledging that race does play a role in a lot of what we’re teaching.”

One of Jariwala’s goals is to increase transparency and communication in the English Department. Acknowledging the fact she has not had extensive experience with all the courses in the English department, Jariwala hopes all teachers in the department provide input and feedback.

“I still have to talk with [Julia] Satterthwaite about some of the stuff that maybe she wanted to work on that didn’t necessarily happen,” Jariwala said. “I think the main thing is that before the next school year starts, I definitely want to hear from the department [about] what is it that they feel is really important to talk about.”


Sushma Bana will fill the Science Department Lead vacancy left by Michael Lordan. Photo | Krish Dev

AVID and Pre-Calculus teacher Sushma Bana, who has also taught physics during her 20 years at MVHS, has taken over the Science Department for the next three school years as science teacher Michael Lordan stepped down. Bana applied for the position with a desire to take on more responsibilities, building on her experience as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges coordinator in 2020, where she worked on implementing equity and SEL practices at school.

“I feel that teachers in leadership positions have a responsibility to take our school forward by leading work actively,” Bana said. “I’ve been part of this work [as a WASC coordinator], and I thought being a Department Lead will give me more ownership of the work and more leverage in taking our group of teachers on a journey that I truly believe in. I wanted to take the [department lead] position [because] I’ve been here long enough — I feel I have the skill, and I also have the will to take this position.”

As Science Department Lead, Bana hopes to help her colleagues grow as teachers, share new instructional practices with them and form common goals for the department, such as incorporating more students in the feedback process, ensuring that courses with different teachers have similar grading policies and making science more accessible for all students. In addition, Bana wants to ensure teachers are not overworked and have time to take care of themselves.

“Of course, it’s not like teachers have unlimited time,” Bana said. “Part of my role would also be to make the process efficient for teachers, because teachers also have to look at their own mental health and self care. Teachers often times forget and as the Department Lead I would definitely watch out for my colleagues, reaching out to them in any way I can support them in their work while making the work more efficient for them and student centered at the same time — that’s a big ask, but I think that would be an ideal situation.”

Due to the three branches present in the Science Department, Biology, Chemistry and Physics, Bana feels it is inherently difficult to coordinate as each course has its own needs. However, Bana has experience with lab equipment and says she is fully equipped to support newer teachers and make sure materials are distributed evenly. She also says the position has a new role this year as a teacher mentor.

“[I am] helping [teachers in the department as] an instructional lead — that’s the new role that our district wants,” Bana said. “They’ve changed the name from department chair to department lead, that’s a new responsibility that was not there earlier, or at least not as defined.”

One of the significant concerns Bana foresees in the coming years is staffing issues as a result of declining enrollment at MVHS, which has already lost over 600 students in the past decade. While acknowledging that it is out of her control, she empathizes with teachers in her department who are stressed about the situation.

“We may have to share teachers the way the enrollment is, [and] it will be sad, but we may have to lose a teacher because we are just short sections,” Bana said. “It’s stressful every year at this time of the year for the younger teachers who have not been here long enough. There is this constant thing at the back of your head, ‘Do I have a job next year?’ — it’s frustrating, but it’s no one’s fault, and you have to deal with it.”

Despite declining enrollment, Bana is excited about her new position and believes that the Science Department will be quick to adapt, citing the addition of redemptive practices as one way the department demonstrates innovation at MVHS. Not only is she proud of how different teams within the department work cohesively, Bana also says it is a safe space, allowing other teachers to share differences in opinions and new ideas respectfully and constructively.

“In science, I find that people kind of have their learner hat on, and they’re always eager to learn — I think it comes from the subject we teach because science is constantly changing,” Bana said. “[The] Science Department is definitely in [the] forefront of anything that we are trying to change about school, whether it’s SEL or equitable grading practices or just refining our practices and learning new things about how to teach science.”


With 14 years of experience as a teacher at MVHS, French teacher Sarah Finck decided to apply for the role of World Language Department Lead after former Department Lead Molly Guadiamos, who served for over a decade, stepped down. Having served as site representative for the Fremont Education Association, Finck says she applied out of an interest in leadership roles.

Sarah Finck will fill in the World Language Department Lead vacancy left by Molly Guadiamos. Photo | Krish Dev

“We’ll start with a three year term and then I think it’s nice if it works for the whole department,” Finck said. “[But] if there’s somebody else that is interested in pursuing that role, I think it’s not bad to have it rotate — I don’t think any of us are eager to have competition and antagonism between each other. [The position] affects your schedule and what you have to do outside of class. So if it doesn’t work out in three years, then I can step down, and if it does work, then we still have to apply again every three years and go through the same interview process, whether there’s somebody else running or not.”

Finck says declining enrollment in the World Language Department is the pressing issue for most World Language teachers, especially because MVHS will begin phasing out Japanese starting next school year. To address the decline in world language enrollment, Finck wants the department to highlight the incentives of joining its classes.

“I think all we try to do is to make our program as attractive as possible to make our courses enjoyable and to do things like the National French contests that we think are motivating and that kids can put on their resumes for going to college,” Finck said.

Another challenge Finck describes is that the World Language Department is “really four departments in one” since content differs across language courses, hindering collaboration among teachers. Furthermore, Finck wants to ensure equitable grading practices in the department  and adequate attention to special education, socioeconomically disadvantaged and English learning students to help them perform at the same level as other students.

“I’m not looking to rock the boat or revolutionize everything,” Finck said. “I think that I don’t have a huge agenda item, [but] I do think that I can sense from the school that we should look at what students are thriving the least in our programs, and that’s going to come from examining data, seeing who’s getting D’s and F’s and if we’re doing something that’s not accommodating or leading to the success of everyone, that’s something that I suppose I’m interested in looking at because as a non department lead, we get some of the data, but it hasn’t been put on my plate before.”