Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Ms.+Sugar+used+to+live+right+by+Time+Square+during+her+time+at+Columbia%2C+and+she+would+frequently+attend+Broadway+shows.

Ms. Sugar used to live right by Time Square during her time at Columbia, and she would frequently attend Broadway shows.

Nora Bitar, Staff Writer

If you have yet to notice her teaching in lower Scripps, it probably won’t be long before you meet her. Ms. Kate Sugar has already started to make a name for herself here at Bishop’s, as the new six grade English teacher and the leader of the middle school Knight Writers Club. Outside of our community, she’s also had fascinating experiences working as an English teacher, living in New York City, taking care of her kids, and was even a part of the founding Canyon Crest class (class of ‘08). 

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Carmel Valley and I went to Canyon Crest Academy. I was actually in the founding class at Canyon Crest—the year that I went to my freshman year of high school was the first year of the school opening.

How did that lead to you becoming a teacher?

There were only 250 of us [students] or something like that. That was a super unique experience because we got to determine what the mascot was going to be, what the school colors were going to be, and every club—we had to start it. It was a really great opportunity to be a leader and to develop leadership skills, but also to have really close relationships with my teachers because they had such small classes. Everyone was very excited, it was all new and everyone who was there—teachers, staff, and students—were all part of the same project of creating a school. So, to go back to your question, that really inspired me to become a teacher because I had such impactful relationships with the teachers at the school who helped me find myself and develop leadership skills and figure out what I was passionate about. 

As an English teacher, what do you like about teaching English? 

I think one of the things that I certainly like is that there are no right answers. I like that there’s so much conversation happening in English class, because if you have the evidence to support your idea, your idea can be correct, you know? Even just today [in class], we were talking about different ways that writers characterize characters, and everyone has such a different opinion or understanding of a certain character. They said “Oh no, this character trait” or “This character trait,” and as long as they had the evidence to support it, you can argue your point and you can be right. And there’s no, “No, that’s the wrong answer.” I really like that it just creates a space [where] you can defend your argument and not be told that you’re wrong…I [also] really like the moment when students understand that the writer is a person who’s made real decisions about what they’re writing, as opposed to just reading a book and letting it stand on its own. Stepping back and being like, “Okay, what did the author do to make this an effective story or an ineffective story? What moves did they make?”

What do you like about teaching in general? 

I like that each day is different. I don’t think I could do a job where everything is the same and everything is expected. As much as I plan a lesson or plan for a discussion, students always take it in a different direction. Even class to class, period one is never the same as period three…It is funny because we’re doing the same thing, I have the same questions and we’re reading the same text and everything, but it’s because—as you know—everyone’s their own unique person. Whoever’s sitting around the table really gets to decide the direction of the class, what is discussed and what we learn. It’s really nice to be surprised all the time by what students are capable of and what they’re passionate about and where they wanna lead the conversation. I find teaching has never, once in one day been boring. I’ve never been bored as a teacher.

What led you to become a teacher?

I moved to New York to attend a Master of Fine Art (MFA) program at Columbia, which was really awesome. I worked with some incredible writers and some incredible poets while I was there. I was there for two years, and then I graduated from the MFA program and I didn’t really know what to do with a master’s in poetry writing…So, a charter school network offered to pay for my master’s in education if I came and taught there for two years. At that point, I didn’t have any experience teaching, but I knew that I loved school and I knew that I wanted to be around students and I wanted to be reading and writing with [them].

You worked as a learning specialist in New York, can you describe what that is?

When I started at my second school in New York I was hired as a learning specialist, which allowed me to really focus just on different learning styles—differentiating curriculum and assignments for students who learn in a variety of different ways. I worked specifically with students who have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or ‘learner profiles’ to modify or provide accommodations—so that they could access the lesson plans in the curriculum in the same way the rest of the class could access [it]. I taught in New York for six or seven years before moving back home to San Diego…Then I taught at High Tech High for the last two years, including during COVID.  

Could you talk about teaching the Knight Writer’s class here at Bishops? 

It’s a creative writing class. We just started today, but we were discussing how the students wanted the class to go. A lot of them just wanted free time to write, and so that’s what we did today. I showed a video and had some prompts up on the board and then the students could just write in whatever direction they wanted, inspired by any of the prompts. 

What types of things do you like to do outside of teaching or school?

I love hanging out with my family. I have a wife and I have two young kids. I have a three-and-a-half-year old son and my daughter just turned one…Mostly it’s entertaining the kids—we go to the zoo a lot and we walk around. We love walking around Balboa Park, we love going to playgrounds. My son is very into splash pads and we go to the beach a lot. My one-year-old daughter loves the ocean and will just crawl straight into the water every time, which is really cute, and it’s just fun to watch her. So mostly [I’m] with my family. 

From having a uniquely interactive high school experience, to teaching on two separate coasts, to being a mother to two young kids, Ms. Sugar is a wonderful new addition to the Bishop’s community. Make sure to say hello if you see her around campus!