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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Granada Hills

Chemistry Teacher Finalist for Award

March 15, 2000|EDGAR SANDOVAL

The students are rowdy, loud and some don't even want to enter the classroom at Granada Hills High School.

Chemistry teacher Bill Lee holds up a plastic bottle with a syringe inside. Wondering what he is up to this time, they walk in.

"Want to find out the volume inside this bottle?" Lee asks.

They do. And so goes another day at the most popular class at the high school. For more than 30 years, Lee, 56, has found a way to make science interesting and exciting, talents he was recognized for on Tuesday, said school Principal Kathy Rattay.

The California League of High Schools nominated Lee as a finalist for the Educator of the Year award in one of the state's most student-populated regions, which includes an area from Santa Barbara to the border of Orange County.

The winner among the nine finalists will be announced March 30.

"This is almost the best thing that has happened to my career," said Lee, who won the 1988 school teacher of the year award. "The best part is just being a teacher."

A number of his students at the 40-year-old campus agree. Legions of teenagers in its 3,500 student body come to his class year after year to learn science in a different way.

The small classroom is decorated with brown and orange posters warning students that "Labels don't lie" and reminding them to clean their stations "because your mother does not work here."

"He always adds a personal touch. He does not teach from the book," said 17-year-old senior David Hass.

Lee's sense of humor and real life examples seem to make the class less intimidating for those students who are not science oriented, Sandra Jou, 17, said.

Lee wants to make sure every student understands the lesson. After all, he said, he sees himself in each of them. He attended the school in the 1960s and took over his father's job teaching science at Granada High when the elder Lee retired in 1974.

Lee, a husky man with gray hair, walks around the class, making sure his students are able to measure volume and pressure inside the clear bottles. One by one, the students begin turning in their assignments. All 38 of them get the right answers and get ready to leave for lunch. Lee watches them rushing toward the door.

"Every day it's a new challenge," he said. "You have to come in and hook the kids to science. If you do, they will always follow science."

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