Kathleen Hoffman has been part of ICA Cristo Rey’s Family for 30 years. In that time her spirit for justice and integrity has touched the lives of countless Spartans. A consistent member of the English Department, having taught the subject at every grade level, Ms. Hoffman has also had a stint as the Athletic Director and even dabbled in the Art Department. She has been known for a deep commitment to the students and that has only grown during the time of our response to COVID-19.
In her English III course, the juniors have been reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Ms. Hoffman engaged her students in reflections on the book, but true to form she also chose an assignment that would support and develop the intimate relationship between student and teacher. That relationship is especially critical during our current stay-at-home isolation. To briefly summarize, the book’s main character is an African-American girl in the post-Depression era who, during a traumatic childhood, associates her abuse with not having blue eyes. Among many topics, Kathleen and her students looked at beauty standards today, and how marketing and social media play a role in one’s identity and self-worth.
In response to her students’ situation now, Kathleen chose to have students write a letter to their younger selves, at an age no older than twelve. “It has been lovely to read these. The girls’ spirit and tender-heartedness are remarkable,'' Ms. Hoffman shared. One student wrote to her much younger self because she’d been given her first social media hate comment when she was four. Another spoke to her younger self saying, “There are going to be many situations where you are going to doubt yourself. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you; it just means you have a lot of questions.”
In reflecting on this online teaching experience, Kathleen is also pleased with her new comfort in video conversations. “That’s something I’ll be able to use next year [in a return to campus]. Before students would email and ask if I could look at something. I’m now more comfortable getting online and helping them. It’s hard to show where they are getting it wrong in an email. I can now be that extra help with video meetings, as I should be an expert in all things tech by next year,” she says with humor.
When asked what’s kept her at ICA Cristo Rey so long her answer was immediate: “The students and the Dominican Sisters have.” The Mission San Jose Dominican Sisters are the religious order that sponsors the school. “The sisters have been very kind to me personally and professionally. They are remarkable,” Kathleen continued. Sister Mary Virginia, our President when ICA joined the Cristo Rey Network, had actually been the one to hire her years ago at St. Elizabeth in Oakland. Going on Ms. Hoffman said, “The students may come in rough around the edges. It's hard; it’s that transition from grade school into high school, but as they get comfortable, they grow into beautiful, confident, intelligent young women... Just being a small part of that experience--you can’t put a price on it really.”
And so we are grateful for the ongoing commitment of Kathleen Hoffman and are proud to hold her as one of our teachers worthy of a Spotlight. Brava!