Phillip Lyons and Diane Ichikawa
English teacher Diane Ichikawa and social studies teacher Phillip Lyons have both taught at Gunn for almost two decades, with a friendship stretching just as long. Their commonalities have brought them together, and what they value about their friendship keeps it going strong.
The year she was hired, Ichikawa said around 30 new staff members were brought on. The next year, another 30 were hired, Lyons included. “Most of us were of the same age, so many of us bonded very quickly.” Ichikawa said. “About half of the current teaching staff were hired within those first two years of my career, and my friendships with those people are pretty tight.”
Lyons attributes the camaraderie between the two in part to the layouts of the classrooms at the time. “When I first got here, the English department and social studies department were in the same building, and we shared offices, so everybody knew each other pretty well,” he said. “Back then, we were all pretty young, so we would socialize on the weekends—people would sometimes go out to get dinner or to bars.”
As time has passed, weekend get-togethers have taken more planning. “Things have definitely changed a lot—people get older and get married and have kids, like myself.” Lyons said. The departments of social studies and English have since been separated, with the English department moving to the N-building and social studies to the F- and C-buildings. “I try to make a point to leave my classroom and walk around the school to visit their classrooms and say ‘hi,’” Lyons said.
Ichikawa and Lyons both grew up in the Bay Area and share a mutual friend group. The two teachers are also UCLA alumni and enjoy catching up on updates from their alma mater, such as the college’s qualification for the NCAA Sweet 16 during March Madness. “Sadly, UCLA lost by three points last night,” Ichikawa said.
The two also share similar personality traits. “He’s kind of a quieter person, an introvert, and I am too, so I think some of the times when we don’t talk in big groups, people tend to think: ‘oh well they’re snobby,’ and I think maybe he and I had the same reputation,” she said.
Over his years in the district, Lyons has witnessed numerous changes, including in administration. “Everyone comes in with a new vision for what they want changed,” he said. The continuity of Lyons and Ichikawa’s friendship is something he’s especially appreciative of, given both teachers’ long history with the school. “It’s nice to know people who have an institutional memory of this place: the way it used to be and of how it’s changed over time,” he said.
Lyons also admires Ichikawa’s professional approach and her intelligence, while Ichikawa appreciates the deep conversations that she can share with him, characterizing Lyons as a fount of knowledge. She also thinks he is warmer than most may think. “He’s also a really loving father, and it’s fun to see him with his kids,” she said. “He’s funny and can really make you laugh. He’s also a decent dancer when it comes to ’80s music. If you throw on some OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark), he might start busting some moves. He gets a reputation for being really harsh—after all, his last name is Lyons—but I think he’s way more of a kitten than people realize.”
Lyons and Ichikawa continue to set aside time to spend with each other, maintaining their friendship through hikes in their free time or just spending time together when available. “We do set aside time to go out to lunch together, if we ever have common preps,” Ichikawa said. Both teachers look forward to their friendship in the future, especially after retirement. “It can only get better as we get older and have more time in our lives,” Ichikawa said.