Q + A on Relational Teaching with Professor Dr. Rachael Hoffert
Teaching is a relational field. If anyone knows this, it’s the teacher of the teachers. Our School of Education professors must be concerned not only with training the next generation of educators to care about the heart, soul, and mind of their students, but also living this out with the college students who fill the seats of their own classes.
Dr. Rachael Hoffert has been teaching within the School of Education at Grace for ten years, and she truly embodies a relational education model. She serves as the chair of the Elementary Education Department and teaches what she calls the “fun classes.” These include “Classroom Assessment” and “Environment and Literacy I: Foundations and Reading.”
We sat down with Hoffert to hear about some of the ways she seeks to connect with students outside of traditional teaching settings.
Q: What are some ways that you get to know your students while teaching?
Dr. Hoffert: I conduct an interest survey at the beginning of each class. I have my students fill out a name tag with interests on the back. Then I work on memorizing them later to help me get to know them! I host cookouts, and I have a book bingo night. The book bingo allows students to win a book for their future classroom.
Another way is through my advising: I make sure to learn about their families, how their school life is going, and what their dreams are. And whenever anything really good happens in their lives, I make sure to celebrate it with them.
Q: Why is this important?
Dr. Hoffert: Everyone desires to be known. I really believe in getting to know people because knowing students means giving them a better service. The two most important things to me are loving God and loving people. But in order to love them, you have to first get to know them.
Q: Is there a particular student who comes to mind when you think about the importance of relational education?
Dr. Hoffert: One student I advised transferred to Grace a few years ago. She was extremely nervous about her classes when she came in. While I was helping her with her class schedule, I worked at ensuring she graduated on time but also at really getting to know her. Later that year, her basketball team had a “Professor’s Practice.” I was so flattered when she invited me to join! At the practice, I was overcome by her words of affirmation as she described to her team why she invited me. Her words struck me and renewed my motivation to get to know my students.
Q: What is your favorite thing about teaching at Grace?
Dr. Hoffert: One of my favorite parts of teaching at Grace is knowing I can be there for all students. Also, through instilling teaching principles in my students, I am able to not only impact them but their future students as well!
Hoffert’s investment in her students at Grace creates a ripple effect that she may never fully realize. So we asked a few of her students to weigh in on the impact of her intentionality as a professor, mentor, and friend.
“Dr. Hoffert is genuinely one of the kindest professors,” said Sarah Maynard, an elementary education major set to graduate in May of 2022. “I had to take a test to get into my major. Not only did she sit down to help me study, but she also celebrated with me after I passed. She was in my corner the whole time. She genuinely wants to know you, and she pushes you to be the best you can be. There was one time I had to go home because my sister got in a bad car accident. She sent a card and a gift card. That meant so much to me.”
“Dr. Hoffert is one of the best,” said Kiersten Martin, an anticipated May 2024 graduate with a major in Elementary Education, a math concentration, an entrepreneurship minor, and a master’s degree in higher education. “She cares deeply about her students and their success and spends time each day before class, during breaks, and after class conversing with us to see how we are doing. She is so inspiring — she not only pours into us, but she also pours into her own family and families in the community. She is one of the most loving people I have ever met. She has spent several hours working with me on scheduling my classes in a way that sets me up for success as a student, a tennis player, and the Student Body President. She expects us to use the greatness God has put inside of us, but she equips us well to do exactly that. It is an honor to be one of her students.”
“Dr. Hoffert truly is such a caring professor and an all-around amazing person,” said Kennedy Ash, an elementary education and special education double major set to graduate in the fall of 2022. “One specific thing that stands out to me is that when I had to be out of class for a while, she gave me exactly what I needed to be able to continue with the class virtually. She even made the effort to communicate online with me to make sure I was doing okay. Everything she does to personalize her interactions means so much to me.”
Do you want to learn from teachers who embody relational education?
Apply to Grace College’s School of Education today.