During an evening filled with both laughter and tears, current and former colleagues of Lovell Elementary School Principal Cheri Hoffman said goodbye to their retiring leader during a gathering at the LES gym after school last Wednesday afternoon, May 20.
Hoffman will retire at the end of the school year after 20 years in education in Lovell, seven as a teacher and 13 as principal of the elementary school. She taught Title I for four years and second grade for three years at LES, then was hired as the elementary school principal, working in the position for four years – 1997-2001 — before moving to Utah for five years. She was rehired in 2006 and has served nine more years as principal.
After a time for visiting and snacking, School Counselor Brian May presented the “Cheri Hoffman story” including her love of family, her career and her passion for endurance horse racing. He then read a series of quotes and comments from the LES staff about their “boss, leader and friend” including statements like “She always puts kids first!” and “I admire how Cheri always has time for the students. She always has a hug and a smile for them and takes time to listen to what’s important in their lives. She does the same for her staff.”
May read a list of “remember when” items such as remember when “the courtyard was dirt, weeds and rocks,” “smoking was allowed in the teachers lounge” and “we had a lockdown because there was a moose on the playground.”
May wrapped up his prepared remarks by saying, “She’s not really old enough to retire…she is only 18…with 42 years of experience. And though she is leaving us now, she has provided the leadership that will best ensure that her staff will carry on the work that continues to place students first and foremost at Lovell Elementary School.”
A number of colleagues took turns at the microphone giving
memories of their boss and colleague. School Nurse Meredith Despain noted that Hoffman created a strong sense of family in the school and an atmosphere “where we can do our jobs for the kids,” adding, “I’ll miss her.”
Former Rocky Mountain High School principal Joe Davis said he talked to Hoffman a lot early in her career and said her philosophy always boiled down to “the kids and integrity for the community and the kids,” adding, “Well done!”
Former teacher Phyllis Bronkema read a poem she wrote, and teachers Patty Despain (retired) and Geraldine Allred spoke of Hoffman’s love for the children.
Lovell High School Principal Scott O’Tremba laughingly quoted one of his favorite movies, “Napoleon Dynamite” in saying that Hoffman possesses some “sweet skills” for education and said he learned a lot from her about creating a safe and secure school.
Longtime colleague Linda Morrison said Hoffman brought a passion for making a difference with children with her to school every day, and that translated into support for her staff, too.
“She wanted us to get better and better and better and never be satisfied with the status quo,” Morrison said. “We kept abreast of changes and what makes kids better like Reading Recovery. Think of the children who have benefitted from that. I’ll always be grateful for the passion she had to make us the best we could be.”
Jennifer Hessenthaler, Teri Winland and Betsy Sammons presented a picture book of “glamour shots” of themselves and joked, “We know we’re your favorite three. We made you a book so you’ll never forget us ever.” She said Hoffman created an atmosphere where staff members could do a job but also have fun.
At one point Robyn Winland and Ilda Garcia unveiled a banner that reads, “She got ‘er done.”
Hoffman choked up when presented with her retirement present – a large Stone Quest Quarries engraved stone that reads: “You have changed the world because you have touched our lives. Love ya Cheri. Lovell Elementary 2015.”
In an emotional response, Hoffman thanked her many friends and colleagues in attendance.
“I can’t thank you enough for everything,” she said. “Here, it’s always been safe, always family, always OK. Someone said you can never be friends with people you lead. What a sadly mistaken belief that is. I’ve been able to watch miracles with children because of all of you.
“The very most important thing in the world is relationships with your friends, family and children. You touch their lives and change their lives. We are family.”
Hoffman spoke of the great collaborative effort at Lovell Elementary.
“Every day someone comes in and says, ‘Cheri, let’s try this.’ Your ideas and your creativity make this school great,” she said. “I’m blessed by you and have learned so much from you. You do make a difference and it’s been a joy to work with each and every one of you. I love you.”
By David Peck