Kaiser has many new faces on campus, one of which is a new Chinese teacher. All Chinese students (other than the new freshmen) know that Kaiser’s previous Chinese teacher left Kaiser last year, with I-Ling Ogawa as Kaiser’s new Chinese teacher.
Ogawa became a teacher because of her passion for Chinese language and culture. And as a teacher, she hopes that her students will develop a similar appreciation. She doesn’t want people to be deterred from learning Chinese by the difficulty of writing the characters. “I personally love hand writing Chinese characters, but I can see how writing Chinese characters can hinder or even discourage students from learning Chinese,” Ogawa says. “Understanding the language is more important than being able to hand write by memory.”
Ogawa previously had worked for the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council, establishing a Chinese program at Mililani High School. Ogawa later transferred to Kamehameha High School and worked as a Chinese teacher for six years. However, four years ago, the school made proficiency in Hawaiian language a graduation requirement. Since students began taking Hawaiian, enrollment in other world languages, including Chinese, was reduced. The Chinese class ended up being discontinued.
Soon after leaving Kamehameha, Ogawa found a job opening. “I heard that Kaiser was in need of a Chinese teacher, and that Mr. Mew is very supportive of world languages. That is how I became a teacher at Kaiser High School,” she said.
Due to current distance learning restrictions, Ogawa has yet to experience face to face teaching at Kaiser. But she still has gotten an impression of a friendly work environment, and of hardworking students. “I was surprised that Kaiser students took eight classes in a year. It is a pretty heavy load, especially for those in the IB programs,” Ogawa said. Mililani has seven classes, where one could be replaced by a study hall. Kamehameha also has seven classes with two extra periods (one will alternate between advisory, study hall and future preparations, while the other is a free period).
Ogawa hopes that by developing a connection with her students she will be able to help them build their character. She wants her students to be honest and courageous, to make the right choices, and to learn from their mistakes. “I hope they will take what they learn from me beyond their high school career, to push through life’s challenges.”