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SCIENCES WAY OF LIFE FOR TEACHER.

Byline: SUSAN ABRAM Staff Writer

CHATSWORTH -- Lyn Ikoma likes to tell her students she began teaching ``when dinosaurs still roamed the quad.''

It's a lighthearted way of saying she's been teaching biology at Chatsworth High School since 1968, the year she earned her teaching credential from the University of California, Los Angeles.

That's when Advanced Placement biology textbooks were just a couple of hundred pages long -- well short of the current 1,000-page tomes that students have to crack.

``The books just keep getting bigger and bigger because knowledge is growing and growing,'' she said.

Textbooks, jeans, tennis shoes and even principals may have evolved, but Ikoma has remained a favorite at Chatsworth High School, where she holds one of the highest passing rates in the district for her mainstream and AP biology students. That's why administrators at the school chose her as one of several to be honored as part of National Teacher Appreciation Week.

``Lyn Ikoma is one of the students' favorite teachers at the school and she runs a very good classroom,'' said Assistant Principal Beverly Bushner. ``She's very well-respected by both the students and the teachers.''

On Wednesday afternoon, about a dozen of her AP biology students were taking it easy in their classroom, their minds a bit wilted after enduring one Advance Placement exam after another.

Still, Ikoma planned a small lesson for the day, a film about ``the way we come into this world,'' she said. It's in honor of Mother's Day.

``So we can go home and apologize to our mothers,'' quipped 18-year-old Andrew Chung. ``I'm sorry my head was so big, Mom.''

That's just the kind of humor Ikoma says has made her stick around at Chatsworth. Raised in Northern California, Ikoma graduated from Stanford University with a degree in biology. She had no intention of ever teaching, she said. It just happened.

``I wanted to work, because my parents didn't have a lot of money, and I wanted to help,'' she said. ``I think I've been here longer than anybody else.''

In her classroom, where full-size skeletons hang in corners and words such as ``plasmids'' and ``tetracycline'' are scrawled on a chalkboard, Ikoma likes to take teaching down to her students' level.

On her desk, in between dozens of pens and highlighters, scissors and a plant, Ikoma keeps a vial of kidney stones, another of testosterone, and her students' favorite -- fossilized dinosaur excrement.

In the past few years, she has seen the number of her students with diabetes increase. She tells them to bring in vials of their insulin to use as a teaching point.

``What I try to do is make (the lessons) as relevant to their lives as possible,'' Ikoma said. ``I want them to find the value in what they are learning, so they can use what they learn when they leave here.''

Her AP students, all of whom are going off to prestigious universities, say despite all the prerequisites they must take to be in Ikoma's class, it's worth it.

``She returns the same respect we give to her,'' said 17-year-old Jolissa Jones. ``She knows everything.''

And she makes really good banana bread, some students chime in.

``When we take tests, she always brings in food,'' said a pensive Shervin Jaudani, 17. ``She's really nice.''

For Ikoma, who gives all the credit for her success to her students, teaching biology for more than 30 years at the same school offers an interesting version of the cycle of life. Her former students still visit or write, telling her how they've become doctors, scientists and professors. One of her former students is now her husband's cardiologist.

``I'm teaching the children of students I had,'' she said. ``There's a benefit of staying in one place over a continuum. I'm still waiting for one to be a Nobel Prize-winner.''

susan.abram(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3664

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Chatsworth High teacher Lyn Ikoma has been honored by her peers. Teaching biology for more than three decades, she has seen many of her students become doctors and scientists.

(2) Populated by a skeleton and models of body parts, Lyn Ikoma's classroom is where she tries to teach Advanced Placement science classes so they relate to her students' lives.

Gus Ruelas

Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 11, 2006
Words:715
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