She started the interview with a tickle in her throat, and hated to talk about herself. But she had stories to tell.
CSU French special instructor Marie-Jo Hofmann has taught French in Fort Collins for nearly 40 years, after moving to America in 1965 from France when she was 21.
Hofmann moved to the United States after meeting her American husband in high school while skiing in France.
“I was trying to practice my English,” Hofmann said.
Three years later they were married.
He was studying forestry at CSU, while she raised their son and worked at the Lory Student Center for 80 cents and hour in catering.
After having two more children and going through a divorce, Hofmann went back to school to gain her bachelors and masters in French education and did it in less than four years.
She raised three children under the age of seven while living in Aggie Village.
“In the few years of my life, a lot has happened,” Hofmann said, noting the many changes of the University and the town.
She has seen buildings come and go, including the burning of Old Main in 1970, the Big Thompson flood of 1976, the destruction of the flood in 1997, and the fire devastation of 2012 and 2013.
“When I first came here, the city stopped at Prospect,” she said. “It has a grown tremendously.”
She’s seen the original construction of Corbett, Moby Arena, the Towers, and Hughes stadium, and subsequent renovations.
Back then, the football games and graduation ceremonies were held at Jack Christiansen Memorial Track, with the train blasting in the background.
Ever since her move to the United States in 1965, Hofmann has made her home in Fort Collins, and loves the outdoors – gardening, walking, hiking, backpacking, skiing, along with being a grandmother, or mamie, of seven and great-grandmother of two.
“Colorado is beautiful I am happy here. I love Fort Collins, and I love the University,” she said.
Her three children acclimated to American culture and all work in Colorado, but Hofmann has kept her French spirit, and returns to her home country every other year.
“You can take the citizenship, but I’m still French at heart. It’s very important to keep your culture, no matter what country you come from,” Hofmann said.
She said she misses the food, bread and cheese in particular, the public transport system and the flowers.
“It’s my country. I love the landscape, I love the history, I love the quaint little villages, especially the region I am from, East Alsace,” she said. “You don’t see that here.”
Her passion for her culture truly applies to her teaching, and students pick up on that.
“I love teaching, otherwise I wouldn’t do it,” Hofmann said with a laugh. “It’s been nearly 40 years.”
Her students notice her passion of the subject and attention to detail.
“She doesn’t let anything fly,” said Bertrand Kre, a senior studying applied computer technology and French. “Even when I write her an email, I’ll double-check all my vocabulary because she’s one to point out the missing periods or commas.”
Kre, who is no longer in her class, still goes to her office to get some advice and proofreading.
“I just think she’s wonderful,” said Mikala Springob, political science junior, who took French 400 with Hofmann.
“To me, it seems like she broke the barrier between teacher and student,” Kre said. “She doesn’t make you feel like you don’t know anything. She doesn’t just correct you, she really walks you through it.”
Liz Rose, officemate and co-worker of Hofmann, notices the drive behind making Hofmann’s students succeed.
“She really pushes them to do their best,” Rose said. “She’ll drop whatever she’s doing and help you at any moment.”
Hofmann’s passion for the University and the students shine through her humble attitude and glow.
“Everything that I’m doing is enriching. You cannot stop learning. You cannot stop growing. It doesn’t matter how old you are,” Hofmann said. “You have to respect yourself. That’s what I live by, to respect yourself as a teacher, mother, grandmother.”
Collegian Features Beat Reporter Hannah Hemperly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.