Brushstrokes of Inspiration: Benjamin Hoffman’s Artful Journey from Kutztown University to PA Teacher of the Year Finalist
In the heartwarming town of Kutztown, where creativity blooms with each season, a captivating story unfolds. Benjamin E. Hoffman ’15, a distinguished alumnus of Kutztown University, boasting four degrees from the institution (B.S. Art Education, B.F.A. in Painting, M.Ed. Art Education and M.A. Arts Administration), now stands on the precipice of glory as a finalist for the esteemed Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year award.
Each year, the Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year program recognizes excellence in teaching by honoring K-12 teachers in public education who have made outstanding academic contributions to Pennsylvania’s school-aged children. As we anticipate the state announcement event in Hershey this December, let's immerse ourselves in the rich tapestry of Hoffman’s life – a tale marked by his profound connection to KU, his stellar achievements in education and the artistic brushstrokes that have defined his inspiring career.
The KU Journey: A Canvas Unfolds
Hoffman’s journey at Kutztown University as an undergraduate student was transformative. He underscores the unforeseen possibilities that surfaced on campus, guiding him towards a path he had not initially considered.
“Expecting to be anything more than just an art educator was never a thought,” he reflects. “To think I would have landed where I am today could have never been imagined had it not been for the range of experiences and opportunities [from KU] that led me to this moment in time.” These experiences and opportunities propelled Hoffman toward undergraduate degrees in painting and art education with minors in art history and music performance.
Lifelong Connection: Weaving Threads of Community
Following his graduation in December 2015, Hoffman's journey took an unexpected turn. Initially not anticipating a return to Kutztown, he ventured to Baltimore, Maryland, securing his first teaching position as a middle school art teacher. However, the need to reconnect with his community and family became evident after completing the school year. Applying to almost 30 different schools, Hoffman found his way back to Kutztown that summer, commencing his career at Kutztown Area High School.
Reconnecting with familiar faces from the past six years opened doors to new experiences and opportunities that bridged the gap between the town and the university. One transformative role was his invitation to serve on the inaugural board of the Kutztown University Arts Society. Comprising community stakeholders, arts patrons, donors, the President's cabinet and KU Foundation members, the organization provided a platform for Hoffman to elevate into his first graduate role as the inaugural chairman.
During his tenure on the board, Hoffman led impactful initiatives, including the inauguration of the Arts Hall of Fame, a strategic rebranding and restructuring of the P.L.A.Y. initiative and the cultivation of relationships with major donors. Unbeknownst to him, this experience became the catalyst for pursuing his second master’s degree in arts administration from KU in 2020.
Over the ensuing years, Hoffman actively welcomed numerous pre-service teachers into his classroom, collaborated with university colleagues at conferences and guided his students onto campus as incoming students. Grateful for the profound impact Kutztown University had on his career, he reflects on the trajectory shaped by his experiences as an A/R/T teacher – a metaphor encapsulating his roles as an artist, researcher and teacher.
Teacher Extraordinaire: A Mural of Impact
Stepping into the realm of education, Hoffman recounts a pivotal chapter in his teaching career that unfolded against the backdrop of his deep-seated passion for public art. Reflecting on the surge of public art catalyzed by the Kutztown Community Partnership, Hoffman expresses, "Public art has always been important to me and my work." This sentiment traces back to his early years, where the murals of Philadelphia and New York fueled a dream of one day creating his own.
The unexpected opportunity arose two summers ago when Hoffman assumed the role of lead artist for a monumental 20x60-foot mural, prominently displayed on the Kutztown Firehouse. This venture became a turning point not only for Hoffman, but for the entire community. "Public art is a gateway for conversation and bringing people together," he observes. Over the course of four weeks, the collaborative effort saw nearly 50 volunteers, including students, family, friends, alumni, first responders and community stakeholders, each contributing their unique touch to the vibrant mural.
Since the inception of this transformative project, Hoffman and his students have continued to make their mark on the community canvas by designing and painting three additional murals. The impact of public art reverberates beyond the aesthetic, breathing new life into the school and community. The experience has fueled Hoffman's passion, propelling him to design a curriculum that defies conventional boundaries. His excitement lies in crafting a course that not only imparts academic knowledge but also kindles a profound appreciation for the transformative influence of art in public spaces.
Inspiring Future Educators: Wisdom Brushed with Experience
Hoffman's tale is not a simple narrative; it is a rich tapestry of insight, woven to guide those embarking on the profound journey of education. "Venturing into the field of education is an immensely rewarding pursuit, provided you're willing to invest," he asserts, acknowledging the pivotal role educators play in shaping how we learn, navigate and perceive the world. In this profession, challenges are abundant, but so are immeasurable rewards, a truth resonating across time and cultures.
As an art educator, Hoffman imparts guiding principles that serve as a compass for those considering a career in education. "Creativity isn't confined to artistic endeavors alone; it permeates every facet of our lives," he declares, emphasizing that choices, whether in designing a presentation, developing software or even selecting clothing, originate from a place of creativity and innovation. Central to his philosophy is the celebration of every student, colleague and community member. In his realm, art becomes a powerful catalyst, fostering understanding, empathy and social justice.
Regardless of the trajectory one's educational journey takes, Hoffman's advice remains steadfast: "Stay true to yourself, absorb every experience and create meaningful art." He underscores that this art, in whatever form it takes, possesses the transformative ability to inspire change, lead innovation and uncover the unknown. For Hoffman, the arts are not just a medium; they are his way of navigating the complexities of the world. He feels privileged to share these profound experiences with his students and family, encapsulating the essence of the profound interplay between education and creativity.
Impact and Aspirations: A Canvas Continues to Unfold
As Hoffman awaits the December announcement in Hershey, his story echoes in the Kutztown community. His impact extends beyond the school walls, inspiring students and future educators. "My passion lies in advocating for, encouraging, and recognizing students and educators across the state," he declares. "I am not sure where this journey will lead me, but I am excited to continue to learn and pay that knowledge forward through colleagues, students and our community.”
“I wish to thank my wife, my daughter and my family for supporting me throughout this transformative journey. I also want to extend a thank you to the Kutztown Area School District for a nurturing environment that has been instrumental in shaping my educational path. I am incredibly grateful to be surrounded by a dedicated community, both within my family and the educational institutions that have contributed to my growth. Their support has been instrumental in my journey, and I am eager to carry these lessons forward as I embark on the next chapter of my career.”