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Medina, N.D., teacher, 84, not ready to retire

MEDINA, N.D. -- With a blow of her whistle, Millie Hoffmann instructed 13 kindergartners to line up and run from one end of the playground to the next.

Millie Hoffmann
In this Wednesday, May 20, 2009 photo, Millie Hoffmann instructs kindergartners during physical education class at Medina Public School Wednesday, May 20, 2009, in Medina, N,D.. Hoffmann, who teaches the P.E. class, turned 84 this month. (AP Photo/The Jamestown Sun, John M. Steiner)

MEDINA, N.D. -- With a blow of her whistle, Millie Hoffmann instructed 13 kindergartners to line up and run from one end of the playground to the next.

The kindergarten physical education teacher at Medina Public School also monitored games of "Smoke and Fire" and "Duck Duck Goose," careful to make sure each student got to be the "goose."

"Raise your hands again if you didn't have a turn," she said.

And Hoffmann made sure every student stayed safe, too.

"She had quite a bump," she said, patting the shoulder of kindergartner Molly Harr who clutched her belly after a run-in with another student.


"You want to go play now?" Hoffmann asked.

Hoffmann isn't like other physical education teachers. She teaches students the standard lessons of teamwork, coordination and staying in shape, but it's something else that makes her different. Hoffmann turned 84 this month.

Most teachers retire in their 60s, said Lois Nenow, kindergarten teacher at Medina. But Hoffmann said she'll stick with teaching as long as she's healthy.

"To be working with 5-year-olds and 6-year-olds, that's amazing to me," Nenow said.

Hoffmann has worked as Nenow's teacher's aide for 26 years. As an aide, Hoffmann teaches phy ed, helps with classroom instruction, disciplines and fills in for absent teachers in both the school's kindergarten and it's first, fourth and fifth grades.

"Her range of things that she does in this school is probably wider than it is for all of us teachers," Nenow said.

Hoffmann began teaching as a high school graduate in 1943, when the school paid her $100 a month, she said.

She taught in country classrooms at the Valley Springs, Iosco and Peterson townships near Medina until 1956, when she quit to farm and raise three children with her husband, Eddie.


After Eddie died in 1982, Hoffmann returned to the classroom in 1983.

"I think it keeps you young, to work with kids," she said.

She's worked in Medina since. Hoffmann said she likes working with all students, but she enjoys the younger students most.

Kindergartner Sebastian Kramlich, who stood on his tiptoes to drink from a water fountain, said he likes learning from Hoffmann, especially when she lets the class play games.

"She's nice, and she helps with homework," the 6-year-old said.

One of Hoffmann's other duties is passing out snacks and paper towels to kindergartners whose height rivals her own. Many students tower over Hoffmann, who barely stands 5 feet tall, by the time they reach third grade, said Phillip Hofmann, a Medina High School senior.

Phillip Hofmann (no relation) is one of about four seniors Hoffmann instructed as kindergartners. In her 26 years, she's watched many a kindergarten class graduate as high school seniors 12 years later.

The teacher's aide said she likes to see how students advance and what they do after graduation.


"It gives you a good feeling when they make something of themselves" she said as kindergartners swayed on the swing set behind her.

Hoffmann has not totally avoided thoughts of retirement. "It'll have to be soon, I'm sure," she said.

Nenow said she's hoping Hoffmann will wait it out just a few years longer.

"You can't put a value on her work because to me, she's just priceless," Nenow said.

The Sun and the Herald are both Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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