The day after Labor Day I walked downstairs at Glen Crest Middle School in Glen Ellyn, Illinois and into the 6th grade Social Studies class of Craig Hofmann for the first time. The classroom was different than others. The desk were arranged in a U shape around the room and I found it foreign to the typical setup where everyone looked straight forward at the teacher. It was 1981 and in my short schooling life it was the first time I had a male teacher.
I was use to male figures that were much older, imposing, unhealthy and brash. Mr. Hofmann was young, athletic, patient and kind.
He was not only teaching all day, but leading sports in the evenings and also running Campus Life on Friday nights. He was probably doing even more than I was aware.
Not only was the classroom setup differently, his approach to teaching was a new experience. Learning was fun. He was engaged and excited about the material. There were games used to learn the lessons and the reward of sour balls hard candy. It was in 1981 - 82 that I fell in love with history. Never before had I connected with the past or understood how it was relative to me now, but in Mr. Hofmann's class the dots were beginning to connect for me.
On Friday nights he led Campus Life. This Christian focused organization would meet at someone's home and Mr. Hofmann was once again prepared to lead music, games and a discussion. It was the first chance I'd had to be around older students in 8th grade. It was a place where a dweeby kid felt welcome. There were occasional retreats where we were given the opportunity to lead as well as relax. This is where I discovered great examples of friendship and further life lessons.
It seemed like Mr. Hofmann was everywhere all the time that year. Looking back I don't know how someone could of had the energy, or the ability to be around students so often and yet remain so engaged. Never before had a teacher made time for me outside of the classroom, but he invited me to play golf. It was on the golf course I realized teachers could be more than robotic task master.
Mr. Hofmann began his teaching career at Glen Crest Middle School in 1979 and in just days he will retire from teaching and from the same place he began. I am confident my experience in his class is echoed by thousands. These are endless lessons from this incredible gentleman.
He brings zeal to education. Few teachers have the ability to bring the material alive and connect the student to the value of what they are learning. Because of his investment I went searching the past to understand the present. I did not become a slave to the ideas of our age, but was broadened by the words, art and ideas of those who came before us. This was extremely beneficial when I was a 14 year old seeker wanting to understand the faith choice I had made. Because Mr. Hofmann taught me how to connect the past to now, I was not lost to the latest ideas.
He loves his students. It's easy to feel lost in middle school and high school, but the time investment of one person can save you from being disconnected. Mr. Hofmann made time for me in and outside the classroom, not just me, but countless others. As a child I was surprised and encouraged by his investment of time in my life. Forty years he has dedicated himself to loving students at the same institution. “Love is not blind; that is the last thing it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind." wrote GK Chesterton. He bound himself to one school and one period of time in each child's life.
A few years after his class one of our classmates, Mark Lapitino died of a brain hemorrhage. If I recall correctly, he wrote a poem about Mark that helped many of us heal. It was there in his classroom for us to read whenever we stopped back by Glen Crest.
He shared his talents. Not just his talent for teaching in the classroom, but his love of sports and music. I loved music. On Friday nights at Campus Life he played guitar, and so, I learned enough to do the same and entertain people around the campfire. I shared before he played golf with me. This taught me how to use golf less as a sport, and more as a way to get to know someone. Because of this lesson, one of the friendships I most cherish today started on the golf course.
He was patient and kind. I didn't have many men in my life who were consistent with these virtues. He is an example of a leader without the need to be harsh and aggressive.
While I did not become a teacher, his example led me to want to be a teacher. I've tried to manifest this in different ways: as a homeschooling parent and life-long education advocate in the Port Royal Society.
This one man in just one school year changed the course of my life in countless ways.
We had lunch a couple of years ago when I was in Glen Ellyn. It was a great privilege for me, and once again a testimony to Mr. Hofmann making time for a student.
The world is a better place because of Mr. Hofmann and the thousands of students he has taught, encouraged, disciplined, and invested. Teaching is noble, and many have made the time for this worthy endeavor, but few teachers are great. Mr. Hofmann is one of the greats.