By Stephanie Overbey, Associate Director
A couple of months ago, I was looking through an old scholarship file when I came across a note written in 1998 from then high school senior, David Hoffert. He wrote, in part, “I am looking forward to attending Anderson University so that I can become a teacher. Thank you for your willingness to invest in my future!” Just prior to finding that note, I served with David on the committee to bring Holocaust survivor Eva Kor to our community. I was impressed with his management of the people and logistics required to get 3,000 students from all across the county to hear Ms. Kor speak. He worked hard. He inspired others to help. He delivered what he promised.
I emailed David a copy of the note he had written and asked if I could interview him for our 10 Questions series. He agreed. I interviewed him in April. A few weeks later our community learned that David had been selected as the new Superintendent for Warsaw Community Schools. Here is a bit of our conversation:
KCCF: Tell me a bit about your family – now, and growing up.
Hoffert: I’m married to Rachael. She’s a professor at Grace College. We have three children: Ryan, a third grader; Robinson, a first grader; and Roosevelt, who is two. I grew up on Clark Street here in Warsaw. I have one older brother. My dad worked for Zimmer. Our family has been here for three generations. My grandpa moved here after the Spanish-American War.
KCCF: Favorite music/TV/movies?
Hoffert: I listen to Jimmy Buffet and U2. I prefer historical movies and television, but at this stage in our lives I mostly watch Lego movies, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and Cubs games.
KCCF: Tell me about your education and career, and what made you decide to go into education.
Hoffert: I always knew I wanted to be a teacher because of the really great teachers I had at Warsaw like Jeff Gross, Jim Gilmer, and Dan Kuhn. I attended Anderson University. Rachael and I met freshman year and were married by our senior year. I ran track in college and worked for Congressman Pence and as a university track coach. I received my Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Olivet Nazarene and received my Principal’s licensure from Indiana Wesleyan University. I taught U.S. History at Warsaw Community High School and was the head boy’s track coach. After seven years, I had an offer from MSD of Wabash County to be Principal of Northfield Jr./Sr. High School.
I thought I’d spend the rest of my career there, but one day my phone rang and I found out a position was open at Warsaw’s central office (Chief Academic Officer). I had the opportunity to get to know Dr. Hintz and Tom Kline. It felt like another moment where God opened the door. Rachael was offered a job at Grace College at the same time. There is nothing like coming back home. I’m currently finishing my PhD through Indiana State University.
KCCF: You mentioned having great teachers who made you want to go into teaching. What made those teachers so great?
Hoffert: An incredible teacher is one who cares about you as a person. Their teaching goes deeper than their subject matter. They mentor and serve as role models. The teachers I mentioned are perfect examples of what a community hero looks and acts like.
KCCF: What’s the best homework excuse you ever heard?
Hoffert: I once had a student who did her homework in the room next door to mine and by the time she walked the 10 feet to my room, she had lost her homework! She never did find it. I’ve heard the standard “My dog ate it.” The most popular was “It’s in my locker.” Others were, “Someone stole it,” and “The other teacher has it.” I operate under the policy of “trust, but verify.”
KCCF: Why don’t some kids succeed in school?
Hoffert: Every student has to have a role model and good relationships. They don’t succeed when relationships weren’t formed or were lost. Another reason kids don’t succeed is when they don’t see the relevance of what they’re learning in school to their lives. My passion is to put relationships first, followed by the idea of offering non-traditional courses that are relevant. The diploma from just a few years ago is obsolete. I’m really excited about new opportunities at Warsaw for students to explore science and careers. Students can learn to run a restaurant, fly a plane, and become a firefighter.
KCCF: You said relationships are the key to helping students succeed. There are more than 2,000 students at Warsaw. How do you put relationships first with that many students?
Hoffert: You have to hire the right people – people who believe in the mission, in student learning and in putting relationships first.
KCCF: How can the community help kids succeed?
Hoffert: Get involved! Opportunities through Baker Youth Clubs, Junior Achievement, and other youth organizations give community members the chance to support and mentor kids.
KCCF: Two of your children were adopted from Africa. What prompted your family to adopt internationally?
Hoffert: I never wanted to adopt. When my wife brought it up, I thought, “Why?” We already had a son, who was two-years-old at the time. Then, one Sunday our Pastor, Denny Wilson, preached a sermon called “Big World, Little Me.” He asked, “What are you doing for the world?” I was so moved. I told my wife, “We need to look into adopting.” The next day, we both took the day off of work and made a trip to Michigan to visit an adoption agency. Within nine months, we were in Ethiopia.
Our first trip was the scariest. We went to Ethiopia, outside of the capital city. A car in front of us was carjacked by two men with large soviet rifles. We’ve been there a total of three times. Now, Alaba, Ethiopia is the only other place in the world we consider home. It’s the hometown of Robinson. What we learned through this journey has shaped us. We saw first-hand the impact of absolute poverty and of HIV and AIDS. We are incredibly blessed in this country. Whatever you do, have it make a difference. Whether big or small, life isn’t about money or things. It’s about what you give to others.
KCCF: What excites you the most about your work?
Hoffert: Being able to work with students, parents, teachers, and the community. Every day is different. Some days, I still get to be a teacher. Other days, I deal with school law or professional development. The best part is getting to watch students succeed.
KCCF: What do you hope will be your legacy?
Hoffert: I hope I will have made a difference, left things better than the way I found them. I just want to give back in the same way people have given to me.