Heroes come in many forms. Sometimes they show up in the nick of time to save a life. Sometimes they appear in front of a white board holding an Expo marker.
Nearly 700 Lodi area students nominated teachers they consider to be their heroes. Based on their personal classroom experience, students described excellent teachers as inspirational, dedicated, creative, humorous and caring.
Secondary Level Division
Ryan Heinrich is a science teacher at Tokay High School who is known to do what it takes to keep students attentive and interested. From lying on a bed of nails to demonstrate how matter is displaced, to jumping on desks to illustrate momentum, Heinrich is willing to make a spectacle of himself in order to engage and educate his students.
“Mr. Heinrich is the definition of a great teacher. He does his best to keep the students interested and really wants us to succeed,” Tokay student Haenah Park said. “He is never lazy, always going above and beyond to spread his love of physics to others.”
Heinrich entered the field of education after realizing how much he enjoyed coaching.
“My favorite part of teaching is spending time with the students,” Heinrich said. “Once there is an environment of mutual respect, the time we share does not feel like work.”
After seven years in the teaching field, Heinrich felt he was truly making a difference when he noticed that everyone was engaged in his lessons and students started asking questions because they wanted to, not because they had to.
Watching students succeed fuels his passion. He enjoys pushing students to reach their full potential. One favorite teaching moment was when he encouraged a student to move into an Advanced Placement physics class for the first time. The student had a difficult year scoring well on exams, but Heinrich knew she had the work ethic to triumph and continued to cheer her on.
“I try to encourage students to persevere because it takes time to obtain the skills for improvement.” Heinrich said. “After that student passed the Advanced Placement test, she told me that my belief in her caused her to believe in herself.”
Not only a leader in the classroom, Heinrich also takes command of the worship team at Answers Church in Elk Grove, where he is the music director, sings lead vocals and plays the guitar.
Heinrich was grateful and humbled to receive the Classroom Hero award.
“This motivates me to continue doing the best I can for the kids,” Heinrich said.
Elementary Level Division
Sometimes life comes full circle. After spending seven years of her childhood as a Reese Elementary student, Heather Marini is now a teacher alongside those who instructed her.
Marini spent her first two years teaching first grade at Heritage Elementary School before moving into a position teaching older students Reese Elementary School. She fell in love with the fifth grade and has never looked back.
She leads her fifth-grade class by example, and according to students, can smile and discipline at the same time.
“She uses every life skill each week,” student Kayly Pau said. “Mrs. Marini inspired me so much I didn’t want to stop (learning).”
Instead of focusing her efforts on textbooks alone, Marini strives to enlighten her students by making concepts relate to a student’s world.
“I try to break learning down and give them age appropriate tools so that they can reach their goals,” Marini said. “Keeping the objectives within reach creates a safe environment for them to grow.”
Striving to help students apply academic knowledge on a personal level, Marini is quick to share her own life experiences, both good and bad.
“That’s the key, if you can’t make it fun or relate to them, they won’t buy into what you are trying to teach,” Marini said.
“When I was in her class, she told us personal things that I still remember this very day,” student Nathaniel Renteria said. “It was an honor to be in her class.”
Reese student Violet Gomez recalls how Marini never gave up on her.
“With Mrs. Marini, I always knew I had someone on my side,” Gomez said.
Upon hearing that she was selected to be the 2013 Classroom Hero, Marini felt humbled and grateful.
“I love my job and am very appreciative,” Marini said.