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Teacher Is Finalist for Award


arshana Shah's Portola Middle School science students know that when it comes time to present their term projects, creativity counts. So writing songs about photosynthesis, constructing DNA models with jewelry beads or assembling a cartoon strip about diffusion are welcomed by their innovative teacher.

The Tarzana educator, who teaches five science classes--four to highly gifted magnet students--was recently named one of 11 state finalists for the National Science Foundation's Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching.

In January, two math and two science teachers from each state will be selected to receive the $7,500 award, which will be used to improve their schools' science programs. The winners will be chosen based on their creative teaching styles, among other criteria.

"I love working with young people," Shah said. "Every year I get feedback from the students, who help me add a different dimension to the topic we're studying. I want them to get excited about science."


Valley Vampires: Van Nuys High School Performing Arts Magnet drama students will present four performances of Hamilton Dean and John L. Balderston's "Dracula," beginning tonight and running through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium. The audience members wearing the most original Halloween costumes at the Friday and Saturday night performances will win compact disc players. Tickets cost $4 to $8 and are available at the door, at 6535 Cedros Ave.

Sweet Idea: Students at Vintage Math, Science and Technology Magnet are especially excited about Saturday's sweet-fest for the best reason: The North Hills elementary students will donate half their Halloween haul to the Frontline Foundation in Van Nuys for distribution to Skid Row's homeless. Last year the trick-or-treaters handed over about 1,400 pounds of candy to the nonprofit food-distribution organization.

"Some of the kids staple notes with friendly messages onto the back of their candy bags," said third-grade teacher Noreen Castellani. "The kids feel like they're really contributing to something worthy."


Passport to Fun:More than 2,000 students and parents rocked out and read books recently at Taft High School's Passport to Reading event, where book lovers of all ages were treated to the oratorical talents of Kim Kirberger,co-author of "Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul," Bill Fitzhugh, who wrote "Pest Control," and several other popular authors. Professional storytellers, performers and student readers also entertained the book enthusiasts.

The children's rock band Erock performed at the event, which was sponsored by Calvert Street, Fullbright Avenue, Serrania Avenue, Woodland Hills and Wilbur Avenue elementary schools, as well as Parkman Middle School and Thoreau and Taft high schools. A number of local corporations also served as sponsors.


Parents interested in learning about West Valley public- and private-school programs are invited to attend Temple Aliyah's seminar, "Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Kindergarten but Were Afraid to Ask," Thursday at 7 p.m. at 6025 Valley Circle Blvd., Woodland Hills. Local educators will be on hand to discuss their schools' curricula. For information, call (818) 346-1552.

Class Notes appears every Wednesday. Send news about schools to the Valley Edition, Los Angeles Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth 91311. Or fax it to (818) 772-3338. Or e-mail them to

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