The DeKalb County Community Foundation is honored to announce two new Funds that support education in DeKalb County. The Funds were made possible from the estate of Sycamore resident Joan L. Hoffman. The Joan L. Hoffman St. Mary DeKalb Scholarship Fund provides educational support to St. Mary Catholic School (DeKalb) to offer student scholarships. The John J. and Katherine M. Hoffman Family St. Mary Sycamore Scholarship Fund honors Joan’s parents and provides educational support to St. Mary Catholic School (Sycamore) to offer student scholarships.
Joan Hoffman was born in August of 1927 and was a resident of Sycamore, IL, for most of her life. She was an active member at the Church of St. Mary Sycamore and attended grade school there. She went on to graduate from Sycamore High School and Western Michigan University.
Miss Hoffman, as she was known to her students, began teaching in 1952 at St. Alphonsus Catholic School in Grand Rapids, MI. She taught at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Albuquerque, NM, before returning to Sycamore in 1963 to teach at St. Mary Catholic School (DeKalb). Miss Hoffman taught first grade there for 28 years before retiring in 1991. Even in retirement, she was a reading tutor for St. Mary Catholic School (Sycamore) students.
During her time as a teacher at St. Mary’s DeKalb, Joan became great friends with second grade teacher Jan Friedlund and third grade teacher Nancy Shoger. The trio bonded through their daily hallway conversations, bulletin board displays, and a shared love of teaching. “Joan was an amazing teacher, loved by her students,” said Nancy. “Years into her retirement, she still remembered student names and told detailed teaching stories. She even had a special place in her house for cards and notes she received from students. She kept them all!”
Nancy continued, “When I changed over to teaching at St. Mary’s Sycamore, Joan, in a sense, came with me. She was retired but still loved to teach. Joan was very gracious with her time and volunteered as a tutor for my students. I recall times that we would get together and stay up late into the morning working on school report cards.”
Roseann Feldmann was another colleague who became great friends with Joan. Roseann was an administrator in the Diocese of Rockford for 20 years. “The story of Joan Hoffman’s life is beautiful,” Roseann exclaimed. “When you met her, you couldn’t help being drawn in by her charm, positive outlook on life, and love of teaching. Joan was a religious woman whose faith was essential. She radiated joy and exuded positivity. Hundreds of students learned how to read through her approach to literacy. Joan loved, and I mean loved, teaching first grade. It was her gift, and she used it. She was an inspiration to so many!”
While further reflecting on Joan’s memory, Roseann beamed, “Joan was an avid collector of nativity scenes. She would set up the scenes and invite friends over to enjoy them with her. There was a variety and a uniqueness to them. Joan designated a specific nativity scene to her friends and gifted them away just before her passing. Each had special meaning, and I am honored to have received one from her.”
In April 2014, Joan Hoffman was honored at the Lancer Legacy Ball for her years of faithful dedication to the first grade students of St. Mary’s DeKalb. She was awarded the Saints and Scholars Award. This special recognition was a proud moment for Joan and a true testament to her teaching career.
Former DeKalb resident Jessica Stewart recalls having Miss Hoffman as her first grade teacher in the early 80s. Jessica is now the Assistant Superintendent of Student Services at Downers Grove Grade School District 58. Miss Hoffman was one reason she chose elementary education when deciding on a career to pursue. “I have great memories of Miss Hoffman,” said Jessica. “She had a structured approach yet made learning fun. One time, we all brought an unused toy from home. Miss Hoffman took the toys and set up a fake garage sale to teach a lesson on money. We used play money to buy ourselves toys from the garage sale. It was a valuable lesson! I also remember turning in a lot of writing and penmanship worksheets. Miss Hoffman would use bright-colored markers and draw huge smiley faces that covered the page from top to bottom. These little touches to grading assignments made her memorable as a teacher.”
Jessica continued with two brief memories of school recess. “I loved how Miss Hoffman would get on our level and play at recess. Sometimes she would come outside with skis and poles to teach students how to ski. We would gather around on this little hill and watch. Other times she would join us in multiple games of jump rope.”
Beyond the classroom, Joan was an avid gardener and an antique furniture finisher. She also enjoyed reading, tent camping all over the United States, and spending time with family and friends.
Joan Hoffman passed away in 2020. The Joan L. Hoffman St. Mary DeKalb Scholarship Fund and the John J. and Katherine M. Hoffman Family St. Mary Sycamore Scholarship Fund came into existence through her estate.
“We are honored to manage these Funds in memory of Joan Hoffman and her parents,” said Foundation Executive Director Dan Templin. “The endowed Funds will support generations of St. Mary’s students for many years to come. The Funds are a lasting tribute to Miss Hoffman and the past, present, and future lives she impacts.”
Donations to any Fund at the Community Foundation can be made online or by mail to the DeKalb County Community Foundation, 475 DeKalb Avenue, Sycamore, IL 60178. For questions or to get started creating your charitable Fund, please contact Dan Templin at 815-748-5383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Donate to the Joan L. Hoffman St. Mary DeKalb Scholarship Fund > Donate to the John J. and Katherine M. Hoffman Family St. Mary Sycamore Scholarship Fund >
“We as teachers must develop each child’s potential to its fullest. I pray that I did.” ~ Joan Hoffman