Longtime Milpitas High School science teacher Eric Hentschke poses for a photo with chicken chicks from his anatomy and physiology class. Hentschke will be retiring after 38 years with the school district. Photo by Aliyah Mohammed
He is known for his sense of humor and unique style of teaching science at Milpitas High School. And this June, after 38 years, he will graduate to the next stage of his life with the class of 2017.
Eric Hentschke, 61, began as a science teacher at Samuel Ayer High School in 1979 and then came over to Milpitas High School when the two schools merged a year later.
Hentschke comes from a long line of teachers; his parents, aunts, uncles and siblings are all teachers. Born and raised in Santa Barbara, he moved to the Bay Area when his dad became a teacher at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont.
Hentschke said he was a senior at San Jose State University majoring in biology, with no idea of what he was going to do afterward. But the mother of one of his friends told him she was going to get him into the teaching program.
“I probably should have figured it out, but I have no regrets at all,” Hentschke said. “I was very shy in high school, extremely shy, so I couldn’t see myself in front of a classroom and here I am all these years later.”
Hentschke said although he gets nervous when speaking at public meetings, he’s always felt at home in front of his classroom.
“I feel like I’m in the right place,” he said.
Hentschke has taught the gamut of science classes including biology, chemistry as well as his favorite discipline — anatomy and physiology. He said he teaches science the way he liked to experience it, especially in his biology classes, with a greater focus on ecology and the natural environment and less time looking through a microscope.
Many of Hentschke’s fond memories of teaching at the high school involve one of his closest friends Robert Armstrong, a fellow “irreverent” science teacher at the high school, who passed away in December 2015. As teachers, they would often come into each other’s classes and make jokes or play pranks.
Hentschke said his wife, art teacher Irene Hentschke who is also retiring at the end of this year as their youngest daughter graduates from the high school, is very creative in her art classes. He added he shows his creativity too, especially when he takes technical science information and creates lesson plans that make it easy for students to understand.
He said he will miss interacting with his students and serving as an adviser for the Vietnamese Student Association on campus.
“I am 61, they are 17, but I don’t feel that chasm. I have been advising the Vietnamese Student Association since the ‘90s, they are my babies, I am going to miss them,” he said.
Hentschke added that he’s going to take his retirement as a time to “get my life in order” and to pursue his different passions, including public service. A Newark resident, Hentschke has run for city council in that city and currently serves on three commissions there.
Meanwhile, Hentschke said he also wants to learn to play the piano, garden and work on repairing motorcycles he owns.