Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter
May 31, 2023 // Diocese

Enjoyment of Working with Kids Leads to Vocation in Education

Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter

Principal Stephen Hoffman of Christ the King Grade School in South Bend was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to his career path. He did not attend college right away and took time to discern what exactly he wanted to do with his life.

“My wife Cathy kept telling me I needed to go back to school to teach since I loved working with students. In 1995, we moved to South Bend and I started working at Martin’s Supermarket. Then in 1996, I started at Bethel College and graduated in 2000 with my Bachelor of Science in Education with a minor in business,” said Hoffman. “I then was offered a grade 6-8 mathematics position at Our Lady of Hungary and started teaching. While I was teaching, I applied to Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) and started taking my Education Leadership classes there, graduated from IWU in 2004, and started as the Christ the King principal in 2004.”

After 19 years of working with children in the primary grades, Stephen Hoffman is retiring from his position at Christ the King Grade School and taking a new education journey as a principal in Indianapolis. He and his wife are moving to the Indianapolis area to be closer to their family.

Provided by Stephen Hoffman
Christ the King Grade School Principal Stephen Hoffman poses for a photo with Father Stephen Lacroix, Pastor of Christ the King Church at a Key to St. Joseph County Recognition Ceremony.

“I have a sister in New Whiteland. We have a daughter in Speedway, three grandchildren in the Speedway area, and my wife has a brother on the west side of Indy,” noted Hoffman. “In fact, we put a down payment on a home in Shelbyville, Indiana. We will be moving there and I will be next year’s principal at St. Joseph Catholic School. I am super excited about the next chapter in my life, but I will also miss all the students here at Christ the King School. So, it is bittersweet.”

He said his time at the school has been filled with many memories, fruitful collaborations, and dedicated staff that have made his time at the school unforgettable.

“There are so many moments that were awesome here at Christ the King School. I would say the biggest would be the school receiving the Blue-Ribbon Award,” recalled Hoffman. “This brought so much excitement to the school. It is something that not just the school received, but every student, teacher, parent, parishioner, and community received. It took everyone to accomplish getting the Blue-Ribbon Award and everyone contributed to this great feat.”

Hoffman said he will also miss his interactions with the community when he leaves.

“I will really miss the students, teachers, staff, and parents. The school is the biggest ministry of the church, and everyone must work hand and hand to make it work. I feel God brought me here for a reason and now He is calling me somewhere else. It is hard to just identify one thing I will miss because there are a lot of things that I will miss but the students would be at the top of the list,” Hoffman said.

Being in education comes with obstacles, especially for the leader of the institution. “I would say the biggest challenge as a principal would be to never stop and become stagnant. Education changes every year, and we all have to stay up to date with what is going on and keep pushing forward. Education does not stop after you get a job. You always need to keep learning and improving,” said Hoffman.

One special moment that happened recently was Hoffman was awarded the Key to St. Joseph County at a St. Joseph County Council meeting. Bill number 69-23 was passed unanimously.

“Getting the key to the county was very humbling. To have people thank you for things that you have done over the years is very nice, but very humbling at the same time. Yes, I was the principal, but there are a lot of people that also helped me make those things a reality. A lot of people know that I try to stay out of the limelight so getting recognition is just not in my wheelhouse. So, I was just very humbled by the key,” said Hoffman.

Inspiring students has been a goal for Hoffman since day one. Recently, he received a message from a former student upon hearing about the retirement that noted Hoffman made everyone’s experience at Christ the King Grade School special and how the love the principal sent through the halls and students’ hearts was unforgettable.

“I hope that the students learned kindness, caring, loving, and friendship. I hope that the community knows that I care about everyone and will do what I need for them,” said Hoffman.

Principal Hoffman has made a lasting impression on the Christ the King community and will be missed by all. “Steve really cares about the students. Even though our school has close to 500 students, he knows all the kids by name, and each of them feels known by their principal. He consistently puts in a lot of extra hours that no one sees because he is so dedicated, and he takes a lot of pride in our graduates, often following their accomplishments and even going to their high school events. Being a principal is a demanding job, but I’m pretty sure that it’s Steve’s love for the students that have given him the stamina to do it for 19 years,” said Father Stephen Lacroix, Pastor of Christ the King Church. “Steve is a quiet leader, but he possesses a deep faith and a strong trust in the Lord. I’ve seen that faith guide some of the biggest decisions he’s had to make at Christ the King, and I’ve been grateful to have someone with that kind of faith leading our school. I’m grateful that he’ll be able to move closer to family and hopefully have a job that’s a little less stressful. He’s earned it.”

Longtime Christ the King volunteer and past parent Aimée Matthews said upon Hoffman’s arrival, the school had several different principals, and the community was anxious for a new leader that would provide stability and be invested in the children.

“That is exactly what we got with Mr. Hoffman. He quickly learned the names of all the students, and he busily set about making improvements and advancements to our curriculum, building, and staff. Our building was equipped with state-of-the-art technology, he updated safety protocols and cameras, as well as our school was awarded a national Blue-Ribbon status for excellence in education,” said Matthews. “Most importantly, the students felt loved and valued by Mr. Hoffman. He was often seen in the classrooms as well as at Christ the King School sporting events. He also attended high school and college events for former students. For 19 years, Mr. Hoffman has been loved by the students. I wish him the best of luck in his new chapter and hope he knows how much he is appreciated and that his legacy will live on at Christ the King School.”

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