Best teacher

“Math has never come super easy for me,” said Hoffman, who now teaches geometry at Fluvanna County High School.  “I was that kid who stayed after school and got extra help.”

Today, Hoffman leads a math department that ranks third in the Commonwealth of Virginia for geometry.  It ranks highly partly because Hoffman is so willing to give what was given to her – extra help.

“I’ll always fight for the kids,” said Hoffman.  “I do extra help every morning, I stay after school every day for help.  I’ll work as hard as they’re willing to work.”

The Standards of Learning (SOL) exam results for Hoffman’s students are off the charts.  At this month’s school board meeting, Principal of Fluvanna County High School, James Barlow said, “she’s never had a student fail.”

“I don’t think that’s quite true,” said Hoffman.  “We only had an 85 percent pass rate on the SOL the first year I was teaching here.  Once I figured out where my kids weren’t scoring well on the test and what we needed to change, we’ve been rolling ever since.”

While only one student was remediated on the geometry SOL last year, Hoffman has not been afraid to fail students in her class.  Hoffman sees the SOL as the bare minimum of knowledge that she should impart to her students.

“I feel like the SOL is the lowest bar I need you to pass,” said Hoffman.  “Students need to know that they have to do their homework and they have to do their classwork to be able to get a credit for the course.”

So single minded is Hoffman on holding her students to the highest standard that the Teacher of the Year award wasn’t even on her radar.

“I was surprised that I even got it for the building, let alone the district teacher of the year,” said Hoffman.  “Everybody in the whole district does such a good job, so you’re up against really stiff competition.”

Originally from Virginia Beach, Hoffman grew up wanting to be a special education teacher.

“My dad didn’t want me to be a teacher, he wanted me to be an engineer.  We compromised and I got my bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics, with a minor in computer science, not ever wanting to program a computer in my life,” said Hoffman.  “I programmed for about three months, and told my dad that I loved him dearly but I wanted to be a math teacher, so I went back to get my master’s.”

Hoffman loves teaching math because of how objective it is.  An answer is either right or wrong, there is no grey area.  But she loves teaching geometry, because it teaches students how to think.

“Every problem is so difference that you’re teaching a process.  You’re teaching them how to reason through problems,” said Hoffman.  “You have to use all of the tools in your tool box to approach this problem.  It’s neat to teach thinking.”

A 17-year teaching veteran, Hoffman started working at Fluvanna County High School eight years ago, when her husband’s job with Tenaska transferred them to the area.  While she loves teaching in the new high school building, which has extra room to break into small groups to help struggling students, she admits that the last two years have been discouraging for Fluvanna teachers.

“We’re trying to give our kids the best education we can, and unfortunately, the best education comes at a cost,” said Hoffman.  “I don’t know any teacher who truly has summers off and works seven hours a day.  You grade papers everywhere you can – at your son’s tennis matches, while watching TV.  It’s nice when you feel appreciated, and the last couple of years it’s been tough to feel like you’re being appreciated.”

Nevertheless, Hoffman holds the Fluvanna community to the same high standards she holds her students to.  She has faith in them.

“I have faith that it’s going to get better,” said Hoffman.

And so far, Hoffman’s faith and hard work have led to extraordinary results.


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