The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

Staff Profile: Emily van Sebille channels her passion for AP Seminar

Samantha Crowther
Emily van Sebille sits at her desk getting ready for a lesson. When she is not teaching, she is working on her dissertation about teacher burnout.

Carlmont teacher Emily van Sebille has known she wanted to be a teacher since she was four.

“When my sister was born, I was like, ‘Great, a pupil!’ and I handed her a worksheet,” van Sebille said. 

She teaches three classes at Carlmont: English II, Advanced Placement (AP) Seminar, and AP Research, and she explains that while they are all different, she enjoys them for various reasons.

“My bread and butter, or what I’m most confident teaching, is English II since I’ve taught it every year I’ve been at Carlmont, but my baby is AP Seminar. I really took that and made it my own,” van Sebille said. 

AP Seminar is an interdisciplinary course that teaches students research and presentation skills and how to evaluate the media they interact with daily. Throughout the year, students complete performance tasks for a portfolio that they will turn in to the College Board, which includes a team research paper and presentation on a topic of their choice and then an individual paper and presentation partially based on stimulus materials. 

This class is a part of the AP Capstone program, a two-year set of courses, AP Seminar, and AP Research. According to Collegeboard, these courses equip students with independent research and teamwork skills applicable to many other disciplines. Upon completing this program, students receive a seal on their diploma.

“When I describe the class to someone who hasn’t taken it, I explain that it is essentially critical media literacy and research-based writing. AP Seminar is focused on skills rather than content; you’re thinking about how others use writing to elicit a response from the audience, and then apply these skills to your own project,” van Sebille said. 

She emphasized that the class is more passion-based than many others, where students are free to choose a topic they are interested in researching instead of following a set curriculum. 

Carlmont AP Seminar student Umi Tomita agrees that she enjoys this aspect of the class; she is currently researching methods of reforming the prison system in the United States. 

“I love that there are very few set boundaries on the things we research; it really makes it more fun and engaging than some of my other classes,” Tomita said. 

As a teacher, van Sebille tries to connect with the students and says this is the most rewarding part of the job. 

“What I really missed during Covid is those side conversations you have with the students, watching them engage with the curriculum and enjoying things; you don’t get that from behind a screen,” van Sebille said. 

Tomita echoed this sentiment. She enjoys interacting with Ms. van Sebille for a variety of things. 

“I like the way she teaches. She’s like a teacher and a friend; you can easily talk to her, and she’s very understanding if we need an extra day for something,” Tomita said.

Another AP Seminar student, Ivory Miller, felt the same way about van Sebille’s teaching style. 

“She’s really helpful and is always willing to answer our questions the best that she can,” Miller said.  

They both agreed that she is really helpful in preparing them for the AP test, showing high-scoring examples to model their writing after and creating helpful class activities to practice. 

Still, it can be a challenging class, and Miller emphasized that organization and time management are essential skills. 

“You need a good work ethic because you have so much freedom. It is easy to procrastinate and choose how detailed you want to be, but you have to put in the effort because the work you do at the beginning of the school year reflects how the rest of the year will play out,” Miller said. 

Still, van Sebille emphasized that as long as students can manage their time, it is an enjoyable class with less work than people say. She explained that she loves teaching the class and interacting with students throughout the year. 

“I wish everyone could take this class for many reasons: it helps students develop a critical eye for the media they interact with daily, and they get to focus on topics they are interested in that might not be covered in one of their core classes,” van Sebille said. 

Overall, she enjoys watching her students grow throughout the year and is happy to be back after maternity leave.

“It was a little hard to come back, but the student relationships are the best part, and now that I’m back, I can’t imagine not being here,” van Sebille said.

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About the Contributor
Samantha Crowther
Samantha Crowther, Highlander Editor
Samantha Crowther is a junior at Carlmont in her second year of journalism. She enjoys interacting with her community and is excited to start editing for the magazine this year. In her free time, she likes reading, writing, and spending time outside, and is a member of the Carlmont cross country and track teams. To view her portfolio, click here. Twitter: @SamCrowther25

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