June Tinkhauser, 30-year Baldwin high teacher, dies at 90

Educator was a force in the classroom


June Tinkhauser wasn’t content with keeping her lessons inside the classroom. The longtime Baldwin High School English teacher took several students to England to see William Shakespeare’s hometown and sites described in his plays, and organized trips to the Salem Witch Museum in Massachusetts to learn more about the events described in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.”

The trips were just one way that Tinkhauser inspired her students to think outside the prescribed curriculum, said Megan Ferguson-Koci, a 1997 graduate of Baldwin High who now leads the orchestra program.

“She always wanted us to think for ourselves,” Ferguson-Koci said. “She always wanted us to think and take what we read and apply it to real life.”

Tinkhauser, who taught at Baldwin High from 1966 to 1996, died at her Freeport home on Sept. 8, of heart failure. She was 90.

Her former students and colleagues recalled her as a dynamic force who could be seen and heard throughout the school. “I think all teachers have a certain level of connectivity with children, but she had an even more intense connection with children at many levels,” said Peter Lynch, Baldwin High’s principal from 1982 to 1988. “She was very vivacious, and she loved children.”

Tinkhauser, who went by “Tink,” was often seen wrapping her arm around or hugging a student. But she was also stern with her pupils when it came to ensuring they got their work done, her grandson Michael Kaplan said. “One of her former students told me she was the only teacher he could never put anything over on,” Kaplan said.

Ferguson-Koci ech-oed that statement. “She always held us accountable,” she said. “You still needed to get your work done in her classroom.”

Teaching was Tinkhauser’s second career — she worked in public relations before having children. In 1964, she earned a master’s degree in education from Hofstra University, and was hired by the Baldwin School District in 1966. She taught at the junior high school for a short time before being transferred to Baldwin High, where she remained until her retirement in 1996. She primarily taught juniors and seniors, and also coached the debate team to numerous awards at Long Island competitions.

Although she taught the works of many playwrights and authors, her favorite was Shakespeare. “She was always able to bring it to life,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan took many trips to Massachusetts with his grandmother, he said, to see performances by the theater group Shakespeare and Co. His grandmother’s favorite play was “Macbeth.” Lynch recalled one lesson in her classroom in which she drew a circle on the blackboard. “She said, ‘That is the world of King Lear. Now tell me all about it,’” he said. “The kids just flew with it. They all had different interpretations about relationships in the family and the political scene at the time.”

In 1988, those lessons took on a new life when Tinkhauser successfully lobbied the school administration to allow her to take students to England during winter break to see places they read about in Shakespeare’s plays and other works — including London, Stratford-upon-Avon, Canterbury and Bath. The students who made the trip were known as Tink’s Travelers, and over the years, nine groups of them — more than 100 students — went to England from 1988 to 1996.

Tinkhauser was born on June 22, 1928, in New York City, but moved with her mother to Eastern Europe after her parents divorced shortly afterward. “Her mother was worried that her husband would try to take custody of my grandmother,” Kaplan said. The two traveled around Czechoslovakia and Germany until the Red Cross advised them to move back to the United States in 1936, during the rise of Adolf Hitler.

“The Red Cross just told them to get back home as fast as they could,” Kaplan said.

Tinkhauser earned a degree in English from Hunter College in 1950 and worked in public relations until she and her husband, Emeric, started having children. The two moved to Freeport in 1951, living in the northwest part of the village before moving near the Nautical Mile later in life.

Her decision to go into teaching, Kaplan said, was in part based on her desire to find a job that was near home. “She wanted something that was easy to commute to,” Kaplan said.

Lynch, who taught English at Baldwin High before becoming principal, said that Tinkhauser was as good a mentor to other teachers as she was to students. “She was always very, very helpful in teaching you the ins and outs of department meetings,” he said. Lynch called her “the most scholarly person on British literature that I encountered during my years in the English department.”

When Tinkhauser wasn’t teaching, she advocated for the Village of Freeport through letters written to Newsday, The New York Times and the Freeport Leader, now the Freeport Herald-Leader. “She always wanted to make sure Freeport got a fair shake of resources,” Kaplan said. She also wrote to bigger papers to make sure they understood there was more to it than the Nautical Mile. “There were some instances, she felt, where people thumbed their nose up at the village,” Kaplan said.

In retirement, Tinkhauser enjoyed swimming, and volunteering at the New York Botanical Garden. She also traveled the world with her husband.

In addition to him, Tinkhauser is survived by her three children, Lisa Kaplan, Kristen Dougherty and Erik Tinkhauser, all graduates of Baldwin High; and seven grandchildren, Michael Kaplan, a 2003 BHS graduate, Kimberly Kaplan, a 2000 BHS graduate, Ryan Dougherty, Jacob and Noah Tinkhauser, and Jared and Kyle Field.