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David Heinke

David Heinke, smiling, in an outside photo
"I know what I know about teaching largely because of David."

David Heinke,
MA '08 Stanford Teacher Education Program

A teacher's teacher

David Heinke, who will receive the GSE’s 2022 Alumni Excellence in Education Award on October 20, has taught math for 16 years and serves as the math department lead at Fremont High School in Sunnyvale, Calif. His master’s degree from the Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP) focused on math. But math was not his first love.

No, that would be the drums.

In high school, Heinke had lots of interests: English literature and composition. Soccer. And, yes, math. But his real passion was music. He played drums in jazz band and timpani in concert band, and even was a studio drummer on a few grunge CDs. He enrolled at San Francisco State University as a drum performance major, though he quickly switched to English literature.

Later, while working on a master’s at SFSU, Heinke took a gig substitute-teaching math at East Palo Alto Academy. There, a fellow teacher showed him a new way of teaching the subject. Not only did she rekindle Heinke’s interest in math, she inspired a teaching style that he uses to this day.

In Heinke’s classes, students often work in groups, and he makes them feel safe about speaking up and sharing ideas — “full ideas, partial ideas, correct ideas, incorrect ideas.” He emphasizes not memorization but tools that can be applied to real-world situations. Students in geometry class, for example, redesign their home bathrooms using what they’ve learned about scale drawings. In another class, an activity called “You’re 26” lets them apply their math knowledge to create and weight metrics for future life choices. 

As department lead, Heinke led an initiative to de-track geometry classes, ensuring that all students have access to challenging content. And he succeeded in making a 20:1 student-teacher ratio in algebra part of teachers’ contracts, so teachers can better help struggling students.

Heinke is also deeply respected for his mentoring — he has served as cooperating teacher for 10 STEP students. One colleague said of him, “I know what I know about teaching largely because of David.” The principal, Bryan Emmert, puts it this way: “As a math teacher in the classroom, he is as good as they get.”

Register online for the October 20 awards presentation, or RSVP to Tiffany Ah Tye at

September 21, 2022
Photo by Marc Franklin

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