Creative fourth-grade teacher’s spin on California mission projects

Fourth-grade teacher and Vice Principal Margie Chu

Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLG) School’s fourth-grade teacher and Vice Principal Margie Leimomi Chu began the 2016-2017 school year with a creative plan for her students’ California mission projects and a passion to encourage each child to walk with honor.

Chu graduated from Chaminade University with a bachelor’s degree in English and later sought a masters in education at the University of Phoenix, specializing in curriculum and instruction. She has been with OLG since 2002 and previously taught in the New Haven Unified School District from 1997 to 2002. 

Over the years, Chu witnessed the evolution and developing complexity of the education field.

“A single solution is no longer feasible. Innovation and balance are critical to success in the classroom,” she said. “Technology and common-core standards have been the biggest change in the classroom. Students are more (technologically) savvy now. When I came to OLG, having one or two desktops was considered an amazing feat.”

Chu went on to explain that, in the past, it was once considered acceptable for 90 percent of the students to comprehend the lesson, whereas today, the expectation is to address the individual need of each student and help them achieve their personal best. She also noted that, considering the importance of integrating certain behavioral and scholastic processes, it’s more critical than ever for parents to be involved in their child’s learning career.

In working with children at a private Catholic school, Chu believes in providing for each child’s spiritual, religious, social and academic needs.

“The Dominican spirit of education has been evident throughout my years at OLG. The staff dedicates themselves to the children and the four Dominican pillars of prayer, service, community and ministry,” said Chu, noting that the Holy Spirit and Our Lady of Guadalupe never fail her with their inspiration and guidance as she walks through her career.

Tia Fernandes proudly stands with her parents beside the mission she created.

It is with that strength and faith that Chu cultivates projects intended to make her students think beyond the standardized boxes of education. This year’s 21st-century mission project began after the students studied traditional California missions. They were then assigned another U.S. state and asked to create missions of their own, using eco-friendly materials. The missions were to reflect the aforementioned four Dominican pillars and the culture of their assigned region, all of which surmounted to weeks of research and preparation. 

Mrs. Chu’s fourth-grade classroom, filled with mission projects for Catholic Schools Week.

Another beyond-the-box assignment for her students involved the ‘walk with honor’ project. At the beginning of the year, the class brainstormed together and came up with ideas about what it means to ‘walk with honor.’ Five ideas were selected and placed on a ‘hand,’ which was then placed by the door of the classroom. Each morning since then, the students have placed their own hand over their artistic hand upon entry – symbolizing a pledge to bring honor into the classroom.

“When they leave the classroom,” Chu explained, “they place a hand on the ‘hand,’ and this symbolizes that they will take the honor out to the world around them.”

‘Walk with honor’ has helped to instill a culture in her classroom that Chu says is filled with helpful students who respect one another. Above all things,  she says that the most rewarding part of her position is when her students are no longer afraid to make mistakes, learn from them and grow as individuals who she hopes will spread peace into the world.

For more information about the privatized curriculum of Mrs. Chu’s fourth-grade classroom at Our Lady of Guadalupe School, visit http://olgweb.org/grade4/ or call 510-657-1674.