Humility and Respect: Hueneme Teacher Tells Us About Southern Oxnard


Citlali Diaz

“Why should people come to Hueneme High?” Michael Chapman repeated the question, his right knee bouncing up and down as he looked around his classroom at Hueneme High School. “It’s a safe harbor here — we are literally a beacon of light for our community.”

Around us, members of the Pull-up Club — the club which Mr. Chapman advises — chatted away, making it difficult to hear him over their excited talking and laughing. They scarfed down a pizza to celebrate a recent award they had received, waiting for Mr. Chapman to finish the interview so they could memorialize their achievement with a club picture. 

Their success would not have been possible without Mr. Chapman’s encouragement and caring attitude, which he showcases in his classroom every day.

Out of two decades of teaching, 18 of those years have been spent at Hueneme. Currently, Mr. Chapman teaches Economics, Government, and World Civilization in a small corner classroom that overlooks Bard Street. He weaves in and out of his student’s desks as he teaches, smiling often and finding ways to incorporate jokes into his subject matter while the street sweeper, ambulances, and loud cars barrel down the street. 

Regardless of how noisy it gets, Mr. Chapman loves Hueneme.

“If it wasn’t for Hueneme High, I wouldn’t have been born. My parents met here,” he said while pointing to the hallway where his mother’s locker had been. 

He has roots not just in Hueneme, but in Oxnard itself, where his father and grandfather both grew up. He loves Oxnard too — specifically South Oxnard. 

As lovely as the seaside city is, there is an economic and social distinction between its north and south. Most residents of Oxnard may recognize that in its north, there is a whiter and more upper-class population compared to the people of color who populate the southern parts of the city in lower and middle-class households. It creates a bias against South Oxnard.

Schools in Southern Oxnard also feel this division, often not receiving the same funding or respect. 

Like many other educators, Mr. Chapman is aware of the infamy of South Oxnard. He’s had his own share of negative experiences here. “I had an opportunity to experience what many of my students go through probably on a daily basis.” Mr. Chapman recognizes the struggles that some of his students go through. He explained that this year he has had an increase in students who have had guns pulled on them on their way to school. 

He was hesitant to share more because the last thing he wanted was to speak ill of the community he cares deeply about. He believes that the city “did not deserve the reputation that everyone thought of it.”

One example he gave of the beauties of the city had to do with the small 7-Eleven close to our school. He described how he has always seen customers open the door for others going in and out of the store. It is a simple act of kindness, but one which Chapman respects deeply and acknowledges in his daily life as a teacher — he always gives a sincere “Thank you” to any student he sees holding open the door of his classroom for others. 

While some people may be quick to judge without knowing more about Hueneme’s side of Oxnard, Chapman is quick to describe the successes of students he’s had. He has seen students from humble beginnings graduate from some of the best universities in the country, going from struggles to improving their own lives and the lives of their families. 

“It’s an awesome thing to be a part of this community,” he remarks with pride. “It’s so diverse here.” With years of myriad students sitting at his desks, Chapman knows that the diversity of backgrounds is what makes Hueneme so unique. 

However, he also acknowledges that it is our common ground which brings us closer together. “People have to grow up quick here,” he admits. “We all go through a lot of similar battles.” It is these similarities that bring us more humility at Hueneme, according to Chapman, as well as more common respect.

Chapman shows us that regardless of location or misguided beliefs, it is the community and persistence of faculty and students that keeps Hueneme’s torch lit bright among Oxnard’s high schools.

At the end of the day, I took the picture of the Pull Up Club members. The students grinned at each other and laughed at poses as they huddled together to fit in the frame. Chapman was in the center of the glee, kneeling between the desks, the reaps of his hard work and care all around him.