November 18, 2010 at 9:16 a.m.

Embrace of students, colleagues gives her hope in confronting cancer

Embrace of students, colleagues gives her hope in confronting cancer
Embrace of students, colleagues gives her hope in confronting cancer

Next time you ask your kid, 'what did you learn in school today' don't be too surprised if the day's take-home message included compassion and charity.

Kim Hofmann didn't want this article to be about her. Her cancer battle is an all too common storyline running through many peoples' lives. What she does find worth sharing, though, is the uplifting chain reaction still reverberating in the community just because Hofmann's students got excited to help. Their youthful exuberance fused with a desire to do something, and now hundreds have gotten involved one way or another in supporting Ms. Hofmann and raising money for breast cancer research and programs.

A Spanish instructor who has taught at Chisago Lakes High School for over 20 years, Hofmann also graduated from Chisago Lakes. She loves being able to teach in the community where she was raised, and where relatives and old friends now live.

Hofmann was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer in July, last summer. She tried to continue to teach this fall on a revised schedule of one week on and two weeks off. That didn't go so well. She's currently on leave and wrapping up a round of chemo therapy treatments; although she's at school so frequently you might never know she's supposed to be on leave.

Chisago Lakes high school students and staff are rallying behind her in this fight in a variety of ways.

Her colleague Deb Flaherty explains that a student member of the Go Wild Committee, Alex Kantorowicz, got an idea for making tee shirts. The committee has been selling the shirts for several weeks and proceeds go into an account for breast cancer organizations.

At a football game last month a "Pink Out" filled the stadium with fans donning anything pink.

Students have dyed their hair pink in support of Ms Hofmann. For those who want something a little less permanent, the high school FACS classes have pink clip-on hair strands students can buy, with proceeds channeled through the Go Wild account and contributed to breast cancer organizations.

It's also quite a sight in school hallways, when students and staff all decide to wear their tee shirts declaring 'We (heart symbol) Hofmann' in bright pink letters on a black background, with the breast cancer awareness pink ribbon symbol on back.

Kantorowicz, who is a senior, did the majority of the work on the shirt project, and teaching staff interviewed for this story wanted her to be recognized, along with the committee. The Go Wild Committee (Wildcat is the school mascot) is a team of high schoolers who help build school community. The committee motto is wisdom. integrity. leadership. dedication.

Long term substitute teacher Emily Thompson has Hofmann's Spanish classes for now. Thompson had Hofmann for one of her teachers when she attended Chisago Lakes, and Thompson commented that it's an honor to be helping out one of her all-time favorite teachers.

Flaherty thinks Hoffman is "...one of the most beloved teachers in the building, because she's always been the kind of teacher who takes time to show an interest in her kids. She is always very positive and upbeat," added Flaherty. She is very open and real when students ask about her medical issues, she said.

For more information on Ms. Hofmann's journey, she has a page on the caringbridge.org website.

Donations to any of the organizations supporting breast cancer research and patient services is encouraged. The school is fielding any requests for tee shirts. Flaherty said past students of Hofmann's and classmates from her graduating class have been e mailing about contributing. The kids will keep doing this, raising money to honor somebody who is more than just their teacher, for as long as it takes.


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