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May 31, 2020

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15 minutes with Brigette Hoff

"Music was probably my favorite school activity and 4-H was my favorite activity outside of school."

As this year's graduation fast approaches, the Icon looks to past valedictorians of Bluffton High School to inspire this year's graduates as they set sail on adventures unknown.

Interestingly, a few valedictorians, such as Brigitte Herr, came back to BHS as teachers. She's known now as Brigette Hoff (or Mrs. Hoff to students).

Brigette (Herr) Hoff is a valedictorian of the class of 1986.

What activities were you involved in as a BHS student? Feel free to include all your extra-curricular activities, even if they're from church or other organizations, not just school.
Activities in BHS:  Marching Band, Concert Band, Pep Band, Jazz Band (only 1 year because we only had it one year), Concert Choir, Show Choir, Musicals – Brigadoon (played in the pit), Funny Girl (small part), West Side Story (played in the pit at Ada HS), Latin Club, National Honor Society, Junior Class Vice-President, Track, District III Honors Band (3 years), and OMEA State Concert Band (senior year)

     Activities outside BHS:  4-H – showed horses for 6 years and did general projects for 2 earlier years, VBS teacher (2 summers), played piano and sang in the choir at church, and church youth group

What of the above were your favorite(s)? Why was it your favorite?  Are you still doing any part of that activity now?
Music was probably my favorite school activity and 4-H was my favorite activity outside of school.  Interestingly, I am still involved with both to this day.  I am thankful to my parents for encouraging me with my music since elementary school and for taking my siblings and me to all our 4-H meetings.

In college, I played either in concert or marching band for 7 semesters.  Since college ended, I have continued to play piano or keyboard for church services mostly as an accompanist.  St. John Mennonite Church also has a brass group which has been together playing a few times a year since 1994/1995.  When asked, I have also enjoyed playing for many school musicals over the years.

This past year was my twenty-fifth year as a 4-H advisor.  From 1994-2006, I helped advise the Silver Spurs 4-H Club (horse club).  From 2002-2011 there was also a Silver Spurs Cloverbud Club which specialized in horse education for younger 4-Hers which I advised by myself.  Then from 2007 to the present, I have had the privilege to help advise many different general projects in The Beaverdam Bunch 4-H Club.  The past two years have been spent also helping Future Shepherds 4-H Club with goat projects since my daughters were showing goats at the fair.

What was your least favorite class from high school?
Gym, or Phys. Ed. as we called it, was my least favorite class, if I have to pick one.  It was a class that we all had to take.  My favorite part of the class, though, was learning how to play tennis.  So, it wasn’t that terrible.

What achievement(s), if anything, are you most proud of from your high school career? Did you get the academic award for any classes? Were you part of a winning sports team? Did you just survive gym class or did you thrive there?
Academic Class Awards which I received at Bluffton High School include:  Freshman year – Geometry and Latin I; Sophomore year – Algebra II, Latin II, English 10, Biology, and Health; Junior year – Trigonometry, Chemistry, and Personal Typing; Senior year – Pre-Calculus, Advanced Grammar, and Physics.

I am most proud of my John Philip Sousa Award (given to the top senior band member) and my Robert Shaw Award (given to the top senior choir member).  Along with singing in the choirs, I accompanied them all four years and played ‘Twas the Night before Christmas for two of those years.  During my senior year at the Christmas concert, my sister Tina turned my pages and held our younger sister Stacy who was four at the time.  This is a memory I will never forget. 

Other special memories include competing at Solo & Ensemble contests all four years with trumpet solos and receiving Superiors all four years, and two of those years were Class A solos. 

During my senior year, I was chosen as Bluffton’s top student to receive recognition from the Lima Exchange Club for my academic, community and school involvement. 

At graduation, my classmates voted for me to give one of the speeches, which was an honor to represent them the last time we would all be together.

Where are you now? Did you go to college, what did you study, what do you do for a living, etc? Married? Kids?
In 1990, I graduated summa cum laude from The University of Akron with a BA in Secondary Education, which included teaching fields in mathematics and Latin.  In 2009, I graduated from Bluffton University with a MA in Education with a concentration in technology.  My husband is Scott Hoff who is currently teaching at Bluffton High School (biology and anatomy) and we have three wonderful children:  Andrew who graduated from college last spring and is living in Indianapolis as he works and is applying for grad school possibly in New York, Sydney who is finishing her first year of college studying to be a school psychologist, and Rebekah who is currently a sophomore at Bluffton High School.

This is my fifteenth year teaching at Bluffton High School, although it is my twenty-second year as a teacher.  I have taught at Convoy Crestview and Findlay High School as well as Bluffton, teaching many different math classes, but mainly teaching Latin.  We have four levels of Latin offered at BHS, and I truly enjoy my students.  Education and teaching have changed so much over the years, especially with how technology is used in the classroom.

What brought you back to Bluffton to teach? Was it awkward teaching at your alma mater?
My family roots are in Bluffton and I was interested in coming back to such a wonderful school system when I graduated from college, but there wasn't an opening at the time.  Convoy Crestview (also an excellent school) was my first teaching position and I taught mathematics there.  When Scott and I were getting married, we were trying to move closer to each other and the Latin position opened up when the legendary Margaret Weaver retired.  It was rather awkward teaching here at first because I kept wanting to call my former teachers Mr./Mrs. _____, but they wanted me to call them by their first names.  Dan Rumer, who hired me, warned me that it might be difficult to hear others in the hallway talking negatively about my father, Bill Herr, who was one of the math teachers.  I responded that my dad was one of the best teachers in the school and I couldn't imagine anyone saying anything like that.  I am very thankful for all the opportunities and places I have taught over the years.  Each school (Crestview, Findlay, and Bluffton) has challenged and enriched me as a person.

What advice do you have for the BHS graduates of 2019? What would you tell your newly-graduated self, as you left the high school building after graduation day?
Life is too short, don’t waste it.  Fill your lifetime building positive memories and be giving of your time and talents to others.  Don’t worry about trying to please everyone – you’ll never achieve this.  Be kind and helpful to others.  If you are going to college, find something you enjoy and be involved.  You need something outside of your major for fun, whether that is a music group, sports activity, a Bible Study, or service group – just find something to do with others.  And finally, find a church family or other group with some adults who will be supportive to you when you are so far from your own family.

Please note, prior to 2002, BHS did not officially name valedictorian(s) or salutorian. Instead, they noted the honor students who were the top of their class. Herr was one of thirteen "honor" students or valedictorians from the class of 1986. As she herself said: "I graduated with a 4.0.  We didn't officially recognize Valedictorians, but today I would have that on my diploma."

This is the fifth interview in a series; to read previous interviews, click here

If you were a BHS valedictorian (or equivalent), the Icon would love to interview you. Please contact info@blufftonicon.com.