Shannon Richards

Shannon Richards

Welcome Kinder-Stars!

 My name is Shannon Richards and I was born and raised here in North County.  I graduated from Cathedral Catholic High school and went on to receive a Bachelor Degree in Liberal Arts from Sonoma State University. A few years later, I went back to school to get my Masters of Education from the University of Southern California. In my free time, I love rooting on the San Diego Padres, traveling, spending time with family, reading, and binge-watching shows



Fifth Grade

Welcome to 5th Grade!

by Mrs. Alonso

About Me

My Class

Please let me take this opportunity to speak briefly about the Fifth Grade to let you know what to expect.

Fifth Grade is an important year in a child's development. This is their last year in the Elementary grades and they are starting to feel the freedom and responsibility of their growing independence. After Fifth Grade they will be entering the Middle School and they are excited for the future challenges.

Students in Fifth Grade are competent readers at this point and are discovering the diversity of different literature genres and beginning to express themselves in many forms of writing at a more advanced level. They will be introduced to structured writing that teaches narrative, persuasive, informative, and research report writing. This structured writing instruction will prepare students for the academic challenges of our Middle School. We also devote a significant amount of time on our literature program. This allows us to read four novels together as a class to practice our reading comprehension and discussion skills. Finally, our class will spend time memorizing, writing and reading poetry. The diversity of the language arts program is intended to create an interest and passion for reading and to develop the student’s linguistic skills.

Reading for comprehension in all subject areas is important. This is especially true for Social Studies. In the Fifth Grade our focus is on early American history. We will cover units on the first Americans, the Colonial period, the Revolutionary war, and the forming of our government. Students will be able to incorporate their learning into fun field trips, “Colonial Days,” and other engaging activities.

I like to incorporate hands on learning experiences as much as possible throughout the curriculum. Two subjects in which this is a priority are Math and Science. Our Math program has recently been upgraded with teacher training, new textbooks and the purchase of student manipulative kits with hands on learning tools for each child. In Fifth grade, students are introduced to Earth, Life and Physical science. This foundational knowledge is needed as preparation for the more in depth learning that follows in the years to come. Our Science program focuses on the NGSS standards and utilizes scientific inquiry based learning. Experiments accompany each area of learning and students are encouraged to make connections to current events and their everyday lives.

Along with a diverse and challenging academic curriculum it is a blessing to incorporate our Faith into our learning and our lives. The practice of religion at St. Mary’s is more than just our studies in Religion class, and one of the advantages of teaching in a Catholic school is that the teacher is free to utilize the moral teaching of the Church in our efforts to shape the character of the students. Religion Class itself is important, however, and in our Fifth Grade we focus specifically on the Seven Sacraments of the Church. Students will be expected to learn the process of the sacraments and they will explore the meaning of these sacraments in Faith and as they relate to their own personal lives.

I have very high expectations for my fifth grade students and am confident of achieving these expectations with teamwork and communication. While I expect students to take initiative and responsibility for their learning, success in school depends greatly on the support and guidance of all involved—teachers, parents and student. I look forward to working with parents to better enable my students to reach their maximum potential. Fifth grade is an important year for preparing children for Middle School and we will need a focused, positive attitude, and a bit of risk-taking in order to achieve our goals. The work is challenging, but very rewarding. I am truly excited for next year.

Fourth Grade

Welcome to 4th Grade!

by Mr. Englund

About Me

My name is Josh Englund and I am the Fifth Grade teacher and Vice Principal at St. Mary, Star of the Sea School.

This is my thirteenth year as a teacher at St. Mary's. I am not only a teacher, but I am also a school parent. My daughters Lily and Madelyn attended St. Mary’s Preschool, and are now in ninth grade and second grade. I am very proud to be a part of St. Mary Star of the Sea school as a teacher and as a parent.

I look forward to meeting you and your child and I invite you to speak with me further about next year. Please call the office with any request to meet and I will be happy to contact you to set up to arrange a time to meet.

Josh Englund

4th Grade Class

Fourth grade is an exciting time as students are gaining more and more independence and their curiosity is at an all time high as is their ability to articulate their questions and wonderings. I am continuously fascinated at the types of questions and responses they give! My job is to make learning as fun as possible while teaching them everything they need to know. Here is a little bit more about each subject we have in 4th grade:

Religion: In 4th grade we are working on developing a more personal and deeper relationship with Jesus. We recite new prayers including the Peace Prayer. We use a text called, Jesus Our Guide, as a guide, and we learn about the Fall of Man in the Old Testament, the story of Cain and Abel, Noah’s Ark, Abraham, Moses, and more! We perform an annual Last Supper Reenactment with the 5th grade class every Holy Thursday as a remembrance of the night before Jesus died. We participate in the school Masses by singing and reciting the responses, and when it is our turn to lead mass, we do so wholeheartedly. 

Reading: We love to read in 4th grade! We do a class novel and a class read aloud. Some of the novels we read in a given year are, Frindle, Bridge to Terabithia, Holes, and Island of the Blue Dolphins. Students read independently at home as well and fill out a reading log to track their progress. The students participate in Literature Circles and can choose a different job each time to be an artistic artist and illustrate a scene from the reading, a word wizard and find a new word in the reading, be the discussion director and lead their group’s discussion, be a super summarizer and summarize a portion of the book, or be a creative connector and find a connection between something in the book and either another book, a movie, their life, or the media.

Writing: We write 8-paragraph essays in 4th grade including personal narratives and biographies! We also write a 5-paragraph essay for Catholic Schools Week, examining why it is that we go to a Catholic school. By the end of the year, students should be able to write clearly and effectively using complete paragraphs, transitional sentences, and a cohesive theme with an introduction and conclusion. 

Spelling: We follow the Words Their Way program. We divide up into spelling groups and we have a 15-word test every two weeks. We have a spelling menu that the students use to choose activities from. They can draw a picture of the word or write the words in ABC order just to name a couple! We also learn Latin and Greek roots and prefixes and suffixes and use that knowledge to help us spell! 

Grammar: We review the parts of speech, learn about prepositions, prepositional phrases, comparative and superlative adjectives. We are constantly on the hunt for more juicy words that we can use to write more detailed sentences. 

Math: We focus on three areas: (1) developing understanding and fluency with multi-digit multiplication, and developing understanding of dividing to find quotients involving multi-digit dividends; (2) developing an understanding of fraction equivalence, addition and subtraction of fractions with like denominators, and multiplication of fractions by whole numbers; and (3) understanding that geometric figures can be analyzed and classified based on their properties. 

From the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics website:

The California Common Core State Standards: Mathematics (CA CCSSM) reflect the importance of focus, coherence, and rigor as the guiding principles for mathematics instruction and learning. California’s implementation of the CA CCSSM demonstrates a commitment to providing a world-class education for all students that supports college and career readiness and the knowledge and skills necessary to fully participate in the twenty-first-century global economy. 

Take a look at the Mathematical Practice Standards here: mathematical_practice_standards_3-5

Science: We use Generation Genius, a teaching resource that brings science standards to life through fun and educational videos paired with activities, quizzes, reading materials and more. It is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and provides fun, innovative ways to explore new ideas and topics such as Weathering and Erosion, Natural Disasters, and Renewable vs. Nonrenewable Resources. We want our students to be inspired by the awe and wonder that science has to offer. 

Social Studies: We focus on California’s rich history and the important role Native Peoples had in the development of our beautiful state. In the 2019-2020 school year, a new online program rolled out across the state. Read below for more information on it. 

Here is an excerpt from the CA Catholic School Superintendents' Curriculum Committee (CCSSCC):

All fourth grade students in our California Catholic schools participate in a Social Studies e-learning course through St. Mary’s Press called “California Native Peoples and Missions.” This course, created by California Catholic educators and experts in the field, came to fruition based on the request from every California bishop and archbishop.  It was, and is, their mandate that every fourth grade student in every California Catholic school is taught the truths about California Indians and St. Junipero Serra through this course. Because of the seriousness of misunderstandings and incorrect information in textbooks, the arch/bishops promised the Native peoples of California that we would teach the truths.

At St. Mary’s, we follow the CCSS, NGSS, and Diocesan Religion Standards. 

Click to view the standards by subject. 

California Common Core State Standards for ELA

Religion Standards

Math Standards

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) 

Social Studies Standards

Third Grade

Welcome to 3rd Grade!

by Ms. Kathy Nielsen

About Me

Kathy Nielsen - 3rd Grade

Dear St. Mary Star of the Sea Families,

  • I am looking forward to being a part of your school community as St. Mary Star of the Sea as the 3rd Grade teacher with much excitement and anticipation.
  • While there were many signs along my life path that indicated teaching in a Catholic school would be life’s calling and vocation, it was not until I began teaching kindergarten over 12 years ago that I would realize it was both my passion and preferred way of practicing my faith.
  • Both of my daughters attended Catholic school: preschool – 8th. My oldest daughter also attended University of San Francisco. They attribute their academic success to the rigor and disciplined way of studying that they encountered in their formative years. I look to provide the same Christ-centered education, rigor, and life-long learning skills to your children.


  • My husband and I come from the same small, Iowa town, attended the same Iowa university and moved to San Diego just over 25 years ago. We have made it our family’s home and have welcomed a nephew - who is a recent Iowa transplant - to the same sunny, active life-style that we enjoy.


  • I tell you about my family because it will be with great honor that I consider the children who come into my classroom, part of that family. It will be with a sense of dedication, love of learning, and spirit of fun that I hope to infuse into the 3rd Graders of St. Mary Star of the Sea.


Ms. Kathy Nielsen

My Class

3rd Grade is the beginning of independence for students! This is the time where the students are slowly gaining trust in themselves and independently making choices in their learning.

Growth Mindset

Throughout the school year we will be practicing helpful activities and strategies for Social Emotional Learning. Emphasis will be placed on Growth Mindset, as it is a catalyst for instilling confidence in students and their learning. In Third Grade we acknowledge that certain obstacles will arise, some of which may be challenging; with Growth Mindset, children will learn that these obstacles are opportunities for growth and with practice and confidence, challenges can be overcome.

Watch an episode of Growth Mindset from ClassDojo here.

English Language Arts

Reading is of utmost importance in all grade-levels. In third grade, students have received some of the skills necessary for reading, and are now in the process of learning how to comprehend and interpret the information in any given text. In addition, students are continuing to learn new reading strategies which will help them to decode difficult words and to increase their fluency.

Writing will come with a few exciting opportunities, such as learning how to put together logical sentences and paragraphs in a cohesive manner in order to complete an Opinion, Narrative, and Informational essay. Students will be using (and learning) new skills to complete works such as an Imaginative story and an Informational Animal Report. Throughout our writing time the students will be given choices of different prompts to pique their interest in each of the writing topics; in this way students may learn to have a positive relationship with their writing skills and the writing process.


3rd Grade math is especially fun! This year we are learning and memorizing our multiplication and division facts, all the while using fun strategies in order to recall them at a moments notice (because who doesn’t love last-minute multiplication quizzes?). Furthermore, we are learning the importance of understanding fractions and equivalent fractions and how they are simply part of a larger whole. Area and perimeter are also introduced this year and tie rather nicely when building animal enclosures during our animal science units. These are just a few of the topics that we will be focusing on, but rest assured we will be touching upon all the important math standards so that the students will be ready to go for fourth grade!

Second Grade

Welcome to 2nd Grade!

by Mrs. Mattei

2nd Grade Class

Second grade is an exciting year! This is the year when body and mind begin to work together instead of as separate entities.  The children are beginning to think in an abstract manner and more importantly, they begin to be morally responsible to a degree that younger children are not. This is why Second Grade is traditionally the year that Catholic children take First Communion along with Reconciliation. It is truly a joy to be part of this journey of faith and to witness together the adventure, responsibility, and awareness. Whether Catholic or not, they all make this journey together.

Our Second Graders also begin the stair step to independence - allowing them to do things on their own under the watchful eye and guidance of their parent/guardian.  I think it's important for our children to speak with confidence.  This year is important in the development of a child's self-esteem, indeed, their very sense of self. We all know that self-esteem or its lack can impact the development of a child's identity and that it has a profound effect on the ability to make friends and succeed academically. However, self-esteem is not natural and must be cultivated by both the family and the school. That is why I place a great deal of emphasis in making sure that all the children feel valued, and in developing their confidence. Speaking from my own confidence, I have had much success in cultivating secure and happy students, and I know that parents appreciate this aspect of our Second Grade.

Fostering imagination is important and is the key to remembering if you can think it, say it, you can write it. This is also the level in which play becomes more dramatic, more imaginative, and more competitive! This is where our second graders begin to realize "I'm pretty good at this!" and push to experience more.

In Second Grade, more emphasis is placed on vocabulary and comprehension, the importance of following directions (both orally and written exercises), and independent thinking.  Our students will identify and correctly use nouns and verbs, recognize simple prefixes and suffixes, and identify simple multiple-meaning words. By the end of second grade, students will be able to write a basic story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. They will also be able to edit and revise their writing to make it clearer and to correct errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization.  The strides the children make in vocabulary and reading comprehension during the year are truly remarkable.

Math is important in school, as well as life. In addition to counting, reading, writing, and ordering sequential numbers up to 1,000, Second Graders will be able to add and subtract two-digit numbers more quickly and accurately. They will learn to add and subtract whole numbers up to three digits, and will hone their understanding of place value with three-digit numbers when adding and subtracting. Second graders will also solve multistep addition and subtraction word problems, and gear up to learn simple multiplication, which will be an important third grade skill.

Second graders will measure length to the nearest inch or centimeter. They will be able to describe geometric shapes and classify them according to the number and shape of faces, edges, and vertices (corners).

Children this age will tell time to the nearest quarter hour, and will understand relationships and units of time, such as the amount of minutes in an hour, hours in a day, and days in a month. They have a better grasp of when things happened or will happen.

Our science program will be a "hands on" experience. I will be using the Next Generation Science Standards to plan our lessons and activities. Science is a great way to explore the world around us and learn problem solving for real world application. We are able to make sense of the world around us by using the strategies learned through investigating science. In science, we learn that even the smallest of things are dependent upon one another and work together to create something amazing.

In Social Studies, students develop a sense of the world around them. They study maps and environments as well as learn about types of community jobs and people who have made a difference. They begin to realize one person can change the world! They will naturally identify with some of these people and be inspired for the future. It is always interesting to see the children grow in their awareness.

First Grade

Welcome to 1st Grade!

by Mrs. Kathryn Naughton

About Us

What is 1st Grade Up to!


Welcome to Kindergarten!

by Ms. O'Malley

About Me

Hello!  My name is Maggie O’Malley and I am so excited to be joining St. Mary, Star of the Sea, this upcoming school year!  


I am originally from Chicago, IL but am thrilled to be moving to sunny San Diego. I attended the University of Dayton, and this will be my fourth year of teaching.  I attended Catholic School from Kindergarten through College and it truly shaped me to be the person I am today.    I hope to help my students grow in their faith and develop a true love for learning.  


I look forward to meeting my students and their families and making this an incredible year!  My hope is to help your child grow socially, cognitively, and emotionally by setting up a classroom environment that welcomes and excites them to learn every day.


Go Stars!