Above, science teacher Dina Karathanas is known for engaging with students, both inside and outside her Holmes Middle School classroom. (Photo by Jaime Norris)

Dina Karathanas, affectionately nicknamed Mrs. K, teaches a magnet course that incorporates earth, environmental, physical and life sciences. (Photo by Jaime Norris)

Teacher and Substitute Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-11, and LAUSD Daily is celebrating the classroom heroes who work every day to educate, lead, mentor and inspire the students of L.A. Unified. Each day this week, we are profiling a teacher or substitute teacher selected by their Local District administrators as an example of the highly skilled and dedicated professionals who make up our teaching corps. Today, we feature Dina Karathanas, a seventh-grade science teacher at Holmes Middle School in Northridge.

Whether it’s a hands-on experiment for her honors class or a virtual architecture assignment for the intriguingly named Action Lab elective, Holmes Middle School science teacher Dina Karathanas always makes the connection between the classroom and real life.

Even when she battled breast cancer four years ago, Karathanas not only didn’t miss a day of school, but she turned her radiation and chemotherapy treatments into a science lesson for her students.

“Every day, she teaches us about loyalty and endurance,” said Holmes Principal Kim D’Aloisio. “She has always been a problem-solver who enjoys challenges and accepts responsibility, And she expects the same of her students.”

Affectionately nicknamed Mrs. K, the seventh-grade science teacher is known at the Northridge campus for her energetic interaction with students. Activities like research experiments, model building and demonstrations are essential to both her traditional and honors classes, which are part of the school’s International Humanities Magnet.

In addition, Karathanas leads the magnet’s Action Lab, which teaches kids about careers in areas as varied as health, communications, digital music and video, manufacturing, robotics and animation.

And extending that connection between the classroom and real life, Karathanas is often with her students after school and on weekends, cheering them on at sporting events and offering support in their extracurricular activities.

“I love my craft,” said Karathanas, who is a product of L.A. Unified schools and has been at Holmes for nearly a quarter-century. “It’s not a job. It’s just passion … It’s in my DNA.”