The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

Profile: Travis Overley

Overley’s story, from the woods to the classroom

Travis Overley has been a core member of Summit’s social studies department for 10 years, forging student connections and providing transformative teaching to his U.S. government classes. Unfortunately Overley has taken a leave of absence until the end of the 2023-2024 school year and will be taking the next year off teaching as well. With Summit students missing Overley at least through next year, it’s worth taking a look back at Overley’s time in and out of Summit, to see what experiences brought our school such a unique and effective educator.

Overley wasn’t a teacher from the jump. Although education has been Overley’s latest focus, it’s hardly been his only career. Overley has dedicated years to both the American Coast Guard and Wildland Firefighting. Although switching careers is a common occurrence, this kind of varied background is shockingly rare among Summit teachers.

“I’ve been a teacher my whole life,” said Marni Spitz, a social studies teacher at Summit. “[Overley] has this kind of window into the world.” It’s true that this kind of experience makes him a unique personality at Summit. Overley finished boot camp in 1988, and from there, the Coast Guard took him to the Gulf Coast of Texas to the Pacific Northwest, finally landing at the Oregon Coast. 

“I met some of my best friends in the military and even saved a few lives,” said Overley.

After a similarly storied firefighting career, Overley took up teaching in 2013, but he didn’t forget his older professions and still carries their perspectives and lessons with him. 

“Those jobs taught me attention to detail,” said Overley. “Details matter, whether it’s ensuring your air crew’s survival gear is dialed, or even something as simple as using correct grammar and punctuation in your essays, lesson plans or job resume. The devil is always in the details.”

His wide range of experience may also be the key to his ability to form student connections. This ability to develop genuine relationships is highly sought after, and finding an educator with similar skill, especially in public education, is always a boon for students.

“You can definitely tell he cares,” said Olivia Cosby, a senior in Overley’s U.S. Government class. “He’s just a genuine person.” Spitz voiced similar sentiments as well.

“When you’re teaching social studies you’re really teaching the future of America,” said Spitz. She feels that in this way, Overly is able to passionately mold students into not only better learners, but more well-rounded people.

More than just giving him a unique teaching style though, his career choices highlight what he values most; variety.

“In teaching, fighting fires or being a rescue swimmer, each day is different. The day-to-day grind can be monotonous, so I’m always looking for new experiences and problems to solve,” says Overley. “Activities and professions in which I can form personal connections are the ones I often gravitate towards. For me, activities or jobs where the participants are dependent upon one another for success just seem to be more interesting.”

And something else that seems to be driving everything from behind the scenes is passion.

 “He feels so deeply about youth and what our job means…he takes it really seriously,” said Spitz. “He was kind of always a reminder of what an important job we all have.” Even though it’s not the sole reason Overley has taken time off, his investment in teaching has clashed with some of modern teaching conventions.

“My decision to take next year off is an opportunity for me to do some soul searching and to see if a new environment might be a better fit. The current environment at Summit is too screen driven for me. I think we might all be better served if we put the screens down for a bit and get back to the basics,” said Overley. “What does it mean to be a human being and to share space with other human beings? For me, that’s connecting face-to-face, and working to limit distractions so that we can be more present with our learning. There are just too many distractions.” 

Overley’s rejection of technology is certainly similar to many other issues raised by students and staff alike. The debate over technology will seemingly never end but it’s clear Overley’s decision is based on a desire to work and teach in an environment he can be passionate about so that he can best support his students.

To those students who won’t get the pleasure of his teaching, Overley says this: “I don’t know if I have advice, but maybe a request—some might hate this, but I’ll say it: Put your phone down. Search for meaning and purpose in real people, not screens. Listen to people. Ask questions. Ask someone out, dance with them, experience love, experience rejection, failure and success. We can’t taste the sweet without the sour. Always try and be a better version of yourself and express gratitude. It might sound cliche, but it’s true: you only get one shot at this thing called life, don’t waste a single breath.”

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About the Contributor
Jackson Crocker
Jackson Crocker, Crest Editor

Being a senior has given Jackson a wealth of free time. Many would take this time to work, prepare for the fast approaching future, and attempt to better themselves. Jackson has, however, made the tactical choice to spend his endless free time writing and listening to music, becoming alarmingly involved in such useful fields as fashion and casual rock climbing, and, of course, looking longingly into the woods dreaming of what could have been. Luckily though, these hobbies do make for interesting Crest stories.

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