One teacher’s life-long passion paves the way for Intro to Law course


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The DVHS new Intro to Law course is greatly supported by English teacher Susannah Faria.

Often, students joke about how the content they learn during school hours has no application in real life. Not many people use the Pythagorean theorem or Avogadro’s law in day-to-day life. 

On the other hand, many students leave high school misinformed about basic information such as their rights as a citizen, how to file taxes or how the government is run. In 2022, only 47% of adults  could name the three branches of government.

In this aspect, classes like Intro to Law can come in handy. 

Intro to Law is a new course scheduled to open next year, led by Susannah Faria, who currently teaches English 10. It will cover a variety of topics including street law, family law and criminal law. However, for a course about laws, Intro to Law is surprisingly fluid. 

“If we had students who were really interested in true crime, we would focus more on the criminal law aspect, we might do a criminal mock trial. If I had a student..who was talking about business, we might talk more about contracts and warranties,” Ms. Faria said. 

As laws in the U.S continuously shift, the course keeps up with the most recent trials and cases. Previously, when the course was taught at Deer Valley High School, students inspected the O.J. Simpson case and did a project involving immigration laws when an immigration law  was passed in Arizona during President Obama’s term. 

Ms. Faria believes that everyone should have a basic understanding of law, especially high school students who are making moves to become more independent. Actions such as buying a car or setting up a business involve the law. Furthermore, she believes law is an essential part of most career paths. 

If you’re going to be anything in life, law is going to touch you

— Susannah Faria

“If you’re going to be anything in life, law is going to touch you. If you go into real estate, a fourth of the test is law. A fourth of a contractor’s test is law. If you are a doctor, you must know the law,” she said.

Ms. Faria’s knowledge of law comes from a long history of jobs at various law firms. Her interest in law started in middle school. 

“‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ had just come out…and of course everyone falls in love with Atticus Finch. What would Atticus do? I think that was a real eye opener,” Ms. Faria reminisced. 

However, getting into the field of law was no easy task. Growing up in Berkeley, the University of Berkeley was both a big deal and an unreachable dream. No one in Faria’s family had attended college and her high school didn’t offer courses in law. In addition, in the 1950s, law was a male dominated field. 

Faria entered the world of law when she got a marketing job in a law firm. Despite getting the job, her inexperience with law meant that she’d have to do a lot more work than a regular employee.

She was not one to let anyone stop her. 

¨I didn’t even know what a judgment was. So I went to the library and I started reading about what I was going to be doing and I did very well with that. That’s how I got into law.¨

It would be a long time until Faria would achieve her dream of going into law school. She applied to various jobs at a variety of different law firms including the American Arbitration Association and finally attended the John F. Kennedy School of Law.

After experiencing her own struggles getting into law, Faria wants to ensure the path is easier for students today. She has put many hours of work into developing the most instructive course possible. 

¨We worked with a group out of Berkeley and obviously attorneys [and] a state bar. In developing what our curriculum would be, we decided to use “Street Law and other materials as well,” she said. 

All that stands in Faria’s way currently is getting the minimum number of students to join the class. She encourages all students to try the class, whether they want to be lawyers, or simply educated about law. 

“What does a contract look like? What is a contract? What are your rights as a student? Everything you do,” said Faria. “The law is interested in you.”