By DAVID GREEN
Sixty years have passed since the General Federation of Women’s Clubs–Lenawee chose Morenci teacher Rex Riley as the very first recipient of the Teacher of the Year award.
Years later Eula Widmer received the honor, and since then Morenci teachers Myrtle Solomonson, Robin Borton and Deborah Hojnacki were selected as the county’s Teacher of the Year.
This year the award came back to Morenci with Dan Hoffman as the recipient. Hoffman was given a trophy to keep for a year during the award ceremony last week in Adrian.
“Before I became a teacher, I think while I was in college, Rex Riley told me it was important for teachers to continue to better themselves throughout their careers,” Hoffman said. “That stuck with me. For 30 years I’ve taken on new challenges throughout, many that definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone.”
Hoffman spent the first nine years of his teaching career at Britton, mostly in a sixth grade classroom. He also taught some physical education classes and ninth grade science.
He was later hired to teach middle school science in Morenci and he remembers when former principal Kay Johnson challenged him to
turn his physical science class into an active get-out-of-your-seat environment. That led to many lab activities and demonstrations to show science in action.
Over the years he taught some history, health and physical education. For two years he taught in a fifth grade classroom and he’s also taught freshman science and computer classes.
“I had so much to learn,” he said. “I’ve found that teaching may be the best way to learn. I’ve had to be flexible and I have learned from all those changes.”
Although he has spent time in a variety of subject matters, science is what he generally teaches and he credits his former teachers Greg Lamley and Tom Buehrer for leading him in that direction.
In 2011 Hoffman began summer training for Project Lead the Way (PLTW)—curriculum that blends computer science and engineering in a hands-on, problem-solving mode.
“It has been quite challenging becoming comfortable with some of the new technologies involved—CAD, 3D printing, robotics, etc,” he said. “It has been rewarding though.”
He schedules a summer engineering camp using PLTW equipment and oversees robotics activities after school.
Morenci superintendent Mike McAran is impressed with the time Hoffman devotes to children, and sees the value of the PLTW activities, in particular.
“I like those activities that draw kids in who aren’t necessarily excited by sports,” McAran said.
Hoffman’s experience with PLTW makes him a valuable member of the middle school faculty as they are trying out the STREAM project-based curriculum. The approach blends science, technology, reading, English, the arts and mathematics.
Hoffman has also served as a coach throughout his career, currently leading teams in football, powerlifting and track.
“I feel like coaching has been equally important as teaching in the classroom throughout my career,” he said. “I’ve been able to connect with kids in a variety of ways.”
Hoffman knows that he speaks for a lot of teachers when he talks about some of the rewards of the career.
“The most rewarding things are simple,” he said. “Thank-you’s go a long way. Getting an unexpected call, visit, e-mail, etc. Knowing that I’ve had some type of positive impact is huge.”
Hoffman puts a lot of effort into teaching, but he also expects a lot of effort from his students.
“The things I like most about teaching and coaching are when kids work hard and do what’s necessary to be successful. I love to see kids accomplish things they didn’t think they could. I really respect hard work.”