Hoffman added to cohort for education leadership

Published 5:58 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2018

For Ellen Lyons Hoffman, working with students in the Clark County Public School system is an opportunity to make an impact.

While Hoffman acknowledges she can sometimes have a “rough exterior” at first impression, deep down, she has a desire to show the students she encounters that someone is there for them.

“At first, I may not come off as very caring or attentive,” Hoffman, who is an assistant principal at George Rogers Clark High School and manages the day-to-day operations of the Phoenix Academy, said. “I think once people get to know me, they can see that I want all kids to be successful. I want all kids to be able to find the resources they need to help them in times when they are struggling at school or at home.”

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Hoffman, a Mount Sterling native, earned her teaching degree at Morehead State University, and began her career teaching home economics in Prestonsburg. She later earned a master in guidance counseling from MSU and has also earned her rank one in school administration and her director of pupil and personnel certification.

Throughout her career, which has spanned 24 years, Hoffman has been a teacher, coach, counselor and/or administrator at schools across the state — from Pineville and Floyd County to Boyd County, Powell County twice, Fayette County and Fleming County.

This is her second stint at Clark County, where she actually worked as a guidance counselor from 1998 to 2004 in the same alternative program she helps lead today.

“Clark County has been very good to me,” she said. “I’ve worked in a lot of districts, but I absolutely love Clark County schools.”

Hoffman returned to the district in 2014 as the principal of the newly-established Conkwright Elementary School. After two school years there, Hoffman made the transition to working under GRC Principal David Bolen.

In her role at GRC, Hoffman is in charge of all court-related issues concerning the student body. She handles truancy and attendance. Hoffman said she enjoys the challenges of working with high school students, and is happy the opportunity arouse for her to work with the students at the district’s alternative program again. 

“Las year, we saw an opportunity to allow me to handle the day-to-day at Phoenix, but continue working at GRC in the same capacity,” Hoffman said. “It was an opportunity to connect the programs and bridge the gap for some of the students who transition between the schools. I can help them transition back into GRC when they are ready and I can keep an eye on them because I am there as well.”

For Hoffman, her toughness is laced with compassion.

“I work a lot with kids who are in the court system,” she said. “I follow them through district and family courts. I believe it’s important to hold students accountable so we don’t lose track of them. At the same time, I want to make sure my students know I am here to help them if they want it.”

Often, that means changing the course of students’ lives.

“We are working with many students who otherwise would have dropped out of school the first chance they got,” she said. “They would not have seen an avenue for success. Many of them are facing challenges at home. I just try to remind them that I will help them be successful if they want to be. But, they have to want it first.”

Sometimes, that means being more than compassionate for a child, but also proactive.

“A lot of kids will go through something and tell a teacher or administrator about it and they’ll just get a ‘I’m sorry you’re going through that,’” Hoffman said. “They just leave it at that. But I try to follow up that ‘sorry,’ with ‘What can we do to get you out of this situation or to fix it?’”

This method has proven effective.

“I have students who come back a couple years later and will tell me, you were tough on me, but I needed it,” she said.

In the future, Hoffman would like to work as a director of pupil and personnel, so she can continue working closely with students.

“I don’t want to lose the connection with the kids,” she said.

One accomplishment that will aid in Hoffman’s career aspirations is her recent induction into the Kentucky Women in Education Leadership cohort.

Hoffman is one of 30 female educations who were selected for the first KWEL cohort, which is facilitated by the Kentucky Association of School Administrators. Participants were selected after a competitive application process and were inducted at the KWEL leadership forum, Jan. 19-20, where they also participated in various workshops, heard from Secretary of State Allison Lungergan Grimes and participated in discussions about the place of women in educational leadership.

“KWEL… brings generational leaders together for an extraordinary growth opportunity,” according to the KWEL press release. “Its purpose is three-fold. First, it will give women that are currently serving in an executive leadership role the opportunity to mentor other women aspiring to lead at the same level. Second, it will support women who aspire to lead but may need the confidence, courage and support to take the next step. Finally, this network can give all women serving in an executive leadership role an additional support system unique to the needs of women and they challenges they face.”

Hoffman said she has not found herself intimidated by her male counterparts, but knows that some women find it difficult to navigate their way into leadership positions that have traditionally been held by men. She hopes her inclusion in this program will allow her an opportunity to be a role model or source of guidance for other women in the district.

“I hope that others will feel comfortable coming to me and asking me questions about getting into administration,” she said. “I hope I can get others to consider going on and getting their administrative certification. I look forward to being able to share my experience.”

About Whitney Leggett

Whitney Leggett is managing editor of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. To contact her, email whitney.leggett@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0049.

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