Larry Prezler on Teaching, Love, and Baboons

by Horizon Reporter

Biology teacher Larry Preszler has two pieces of sound advice for students. The first is a recommendation for baboon bathing. The second is the specific trait one should look for when choosing a spouse.

            Preszler, 64, teaches Biology 106 and Environmental Science.

Upon graduating high school, Preszler headed to Western Washington University on a baseball scholarship. Soon after, he left college and was drafted to the military.

“I enlisted in the Navy,” Preszler recalls. “This was in the ‘60s during Vietnam.”

Only two years out of high school, he was stationed in Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia.

“When I was in Ethiopia, our camp was surrounded by barbed wire,” he said. “And there would always be troops of baboons passing by.”

One morning, he awoke in Ethiopia to find that a mother baboon had died after getting wrapped up in the barbed wire fence. Left behind was her baby.

“We kept it around as a pet but it stank the place up so bad we decided to give it a bath,” Preszler said with a laugh.

This proved to be a daunting task.

            “It was just a little bugger about that high,” said Preszler, holding his hand about a foot above the table.

            Preszler and three other men attempted to bathe the monkey in an empty trashcan, but the four men could not restrain the surprisingly brawny, infant baboon.

            “So we gave it a beer,” said Preszler amusedly. “It drank a whole bunch of this beer, and it relaxed and we were able to bathe him.”

            When Preszler returned home from the military he decided to head back to school. He received his bachelor’s degree in science from Western’s Huxley College in 1974, making him one of the “oldest graduates at the oldest environmental college in the US”.

He returned to Western, where he acquired an industrial tech degree, his teaching certificate, and a wife.

The couple met when they were paired as lab partners in a geology class.

“I tell my students: find a woman who takes really great notes,” he said, smiling. “Because she took really great notes, and then we started a relationship.”

            The two have been happily married for 39 years.

            After receiving his teaching degree he went to work teaching high school in Lynden and Ferndale for a few years. But the competition for a full-time teaching position was fierce.

            In 1983, in search of adventure and teaching opportunities, he moved to Alaska.

            First he taught in Saint Michael, a city in Nome Census Area, Alaska. Next he spent six years teaching American Eskimos on the Little Diomede Island, an island located in the Bering Strait between Alaska and Siberia with a population of 170.

            He finished his teaching experience in Alaska teaching on the last inhabited village in the Aleutian Islands.

            After doing five and a half back-to-back tours in the military, receiving numerous degrees including a master’s of teaching, doing biological research in Australia, and globetrotting around the world, Prezsler settled down here at Whatcom.

            “I’ve been here for 10 years,” he said. “I enjoy teaching here and I really enjoy my students.”

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