HAMILTON —When Teresa Heinrich started teaching at Butler County’s Badin High School, America’s president was Jimmy Carter, chalkboards were in every classroom and the idea of a world-wide internet was the stuff of science fiction.
Heinrich had already been teaching in the Dayton area for half a decade when she started the 1980-1981 school year as a new member of Hamilton’s Badin High School.
And though the now 70-year-old chemistry instructor has no intention of retiring, she take a recent pause from her hectic, end-of-school schedule to share some observations with the Journal-News as one of the region’s most veteran educators.
Heinrich’s passion remains constant to the unique joy of watching enlightenment bloom in young minds.
“I just like working with kids,” said Heinrich. “My subject (chemistry) is so difficult for many but I like it when you see that light bulb go off in their head.”
And an irony about her has revealed itself over the decades.
As a high school student at the former Julienne High School in Dayton, Heinrich didn’t like chemistry, at all.
“But then when I was in college I did love science and I thought I might teach biology and just took chemistry as a secondary subject. But then I found out I liked it. And I really liked teaching it.”
And that love of introducing young minds to chemistry shows.
Heinrich was a finalist for the Educator of the Year Award through the Hamilton Community Foundation and in 2012 was named an Outstanding Educator by the University of Chicago based on a nomination by a Badin graduate.
In 2019, Heinrich won the Greater Cincinnati High School Chemistry Teacher of the Year by the Cincinnati Local Section of the American Chemical Society.
Heinrich is also well known for her outreach to the elementary schools to help show younger students the value of science. She has organized a Science Carnival for fifth graders at Badin in recent years.
Patrick Keating, a former chemistry student of Heinrich’s and 2007 Badin graduate, is now the principal of Badin.
The modest Heinrich downplays her many contributions to Butler County’s only Catholic high school but her boss doesn’t.
“There are few people in Badin’s history that have had as big of an impact on the school as Mrs. Heinrich,” said Keating.
“She has worn many hats in her time at Badin (besides) chemistry teacher, including Dean of Girls, Academic Dean, student council moderator, mentor, friend, coordinator of Career Day and Science Carnival.”
Since 1980 Badin — and the nation’s schools — have been washed over by numerous sea changes including a technological wave of computer-based learning unimagined.
Gone from classrooms are some things Heinrich doesn’t miss.
“I never liked chalk boards because it was hard to write chemistry molecules out with chalk. I was a horrible drawer.”
She continues to enjoy her work and now teaches a second generation of students for some Badin school families.
Keating said: “Mrs. Heinrich has continually lived out our mission in all that she has done and continues to do so daily. When students are asked at the end of their time at Badin which teacher had the greatest impact on them, Mrs. Heinrich’s name is at the top of that list,” he said.
“Beyond teaching chemistry, she teaches responsibility, ethics and personal accountability. Her classes are challenging but she also supports students every step of the way.”
And, Keating added, “on a different note, I would not be where I am today without Teresa Heinrich. To put it simply, she is the best.”
Each year of her longevity draws a brighter spotlight and leaves Heinrich amused and puzzled.
“I don’t understand all the hoopla. I’m just doing my job.”