Teacher Feature: Dr. William Hinrichs

Associate Dean of Studies Dr. William Hinrichs. Photo credit to Emma Bally, ’17.
Associate Dean of Studies Dr. William Hinrichs. Photo credit to Emma Bally, ’17.

Ayla Safran, ‘15

Dr. William Hinrichs may be new to most of us as BHSEC Manhattan’s Associate Dean of Studies, but he is not new to BHSEC by any stretch of the imagination. As one of the founding faculty members of BHSEC Queens, Dr. Hinrichs began teaching at our sister school when it opened seven years ago. He also taught Sophomore Seminar at the Manhattan campus during his second year at Queens, so he is thoroughly familiar with both schools (Ms. Gamper even interviewed him for his original teaching position!).

When asked about the differences between the two, Dr. Hinrichs acknowledged the “potentially thorny” nature of the question before venturing to answer it by saying, “the main difference is geography. There are consequences to that, for example BHSEC Queens’s student body is probably more international.” In addition, he noted that the differences between the two buildings gives BHSEC Manhattan “more of a unique identity,” since it occupies a self-contained space.

Regardless of the differences, though, Dr. Hinrichs said that the best teaching he has ever seen is at BHSEC, a pretty outstanding statement considering that he attended Princeton University for his undergraduate degree, and Yale University for a PhD. Born in San Francisco, Dr. Hinrichs grew up in Saint Louis, Missouri and was eager to move to the East Coast for college. The change in location, however, did not prevent his high school years from affecting his subsequent educational experiences: “I went to a progressive independent high school that had some philosophy in common with BHSEC, and I’ve tried to pull some of the best of all of the schools I’ve attended into my teaching.”

After graduating from Princeton in 1996, Dr. Hinrichs taught high school-aged students for four years, both in San Quentin State Prison and in an independent high school similar to the one that he had attended as an adolescent. It was during these years that he embraced his love for travel. Each year he left “as soon as school ended,” and spent all of his time off during the summer going to countries including Mexico, Costa Rica, Patagonia, Spain, and New Zealand. He described his experiences mountain climbing in Patagonia and New Zealand, and embracing the cultures of the other countries, as truly amazing. However, he admitted that once he got married in 2001, and had his first child (Anne, who is now eight), he began travelling mainly for professional reasons. Once his children (in addition to Anne, he also has a two-year-old son, William Jr.) are older, Dr. Hinrichs also would like to travel to Asia – specifically Vietnam and Thailand – as well as Morocco, which, in his words, holds draw in its “historic importance for Spain, and as a crossroads of cultures and continents.”

His lack of recent travel, however, does not detract from his impressive involvement with other cultures and languages. Dr. Hinrichs considers himself to have “a strong familiarity with four languages”: English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. He has taught his Don Quixote class, which is currently an English course at BHSEC Manhattan, as a Spanish literature course (entirely in Spanish) at BHSEC Queens. He loves teaching both Spanish and English, because, in his words, “English is my first language, but Spanish is my academic love.” Ideally, if he were employed as a full-time professor, he would like to teach two classes in English, and two in Spanish. He explained, “In Queens my goal was to develop a literature program in Spanish, where students would take Spanish literature courses for all four years. The Don Quixote course that I was teaching at BHSEC Queens was an impressive feat on the students’ part. For me it was fun.” Perhaps he will continue this mission as he settles in as a part of BHSEC Manhattan.

Dr. Hinrichs has a lot to contribute to our school, from his familiarity with teaching high school, college, and early college, to his unusual experiences, like – in addition to his international travels – driving through all 48 of the contiguous United States in one summer (while reading a different author’s work in each region). BHSEC Queens is sad to see him go. As Tulah Fuchs, a Y2 at BHSEC Queens, said, “Señor Hinrichs is one of my all-time favorite teachers, and I’m so grateful for the five semesters I was able to take his class. He not only has a sense of humor, but also an intense passion for literature that translates into amazing and enlightening class discussions.” Nevertheless, many BHSEC Manhattan students are excited to be taking his course this semester, and we are excited to have him at BHSEC Manhattan. Welcome back, Dr. Hinrichs!

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