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DifferenceMakers: Joel Hoffman - IHM/St. Casimir, Lansing

Please tell us about yourself. My name is Joel Hoffman and I am the 3rd grade teacher at Immaculate Heart of Mary-St. Casimir School in Lansing. I was hired at IHM-St. Casimir after graduating from Michigan State University in 2013. This is my fourth year teaching 3rd grade. I love teaching this grade level, especially math and Michigan history in social studies.

Describe your school. IHM-St. Casimir School is a very close knit community of students, staff, and families. Our school has an exceptional staff of administrators, teachers, and support staff. It is incredible how well we work together and truly care for one another. This staff harmony gives our school a unique, positive, and Christ-centered environment.

I believe in Catholic education because… it offers rigorous academic standards at every level while also maintaining the Catholic identity, which is integrated into every subject. Students grow in their faith and become closer to God.

What drew you to teaching at a Catholic school? What drew me to teaching were my parents. Both of them taught in Fowler for over 38 years each. Further, what drew me to teaching at a Catholic school was my attendance at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Pewamo, (Diocese of Grand Rapids) from 3rd to 8th grade. This experience, along with my high school faith formation classes at St. Joseph, instilled in me the importance and riches of a Catholic education. Coming out of college, I wanted to be part of a faith community which helps students grow in their faith and gives them avenues to serve one another, just as my Catholic education did for me.

What is your favorite part about teaching? What are your biggest challenges? My favorite part about teaching is challenging students to do their best and give them the motivation and belief they can achieve their goals. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” This is the educator I strive to be. I try to challenge students to think critically and encourage them to solve the task. The greatest reward in teaching is to see a student confront a tough task, whether educational or social, and achieve success.

My biggest challenge as a teacher is finding time to get all I want to get done in a day. I have found it is important to find balance in one’s life. I have a beautiful wife, Kelsey, and an adorable five-month-old daughter, Camille, at home with whom I love to devote my time.

In your experience, what do Catholic schools do best? What does your school do best? In my experience, Catholic schools not only prepare students academically but spiritually. This is a whole person education, giving students the academic and social tools to have successful futures but also giving them the spiritual experiences, like weekly mass, prayer services, and Eucharist adoration, to become closer to Christ and become his disciples.

IHM-St. Casimir School is an excellent exhibit of what Catholic schools do best. Our school’s mission statement declares our school “challenges students to discover God’s gifts spiritually, intellectually, socially and physically within a community that nurtures, honors and respects the unique person.” Our school does a tremendous job of striving to challenge and inspire every child, using his or her unique, God given qualities, to be successful.  

What has been your favorite part about being a teacher? One of my favorite parts about being a teacher is that no day or year is ever the same. Whether it be finding a unique way to encourage a student or exploring different ways to present a lesson, being a teacher offers different challenges every day. 

Another one of my favorite parts about being a teacher is witnessing the students’ enthusiasm on a daily basis. From the moment they walk in the door the third graders are so full of energy and eagerness to learn. Their energy is so contagious!