FENNIMORE — Five or six of them are working at Sloan Implement in Monroe and another four are working at Sloan in Montfort. A few more are working at all the Ritchie’s locations across southern Wisconsin. They are graduates of Southwest Wisconsin Technical College — and former students of Agricultural Power and Equipment Technician instructor Pete Hoffman.
Hoffman himself is a graduate of SWTC in Fennimore, entering the world of work as a service technician in the early 1970s. He worked at a few dealerships in the area, spending his last years in the industry at the John Deere dealership in Dodgeville — first as a service technician and then as a service manager.
Like many of his students do now, he phoned his former instructor at the college one day to get some assistance with a project he was working on. His instructor informed him that his teaching job was soon to be open and invited Hoffman to apply — and of course, to bring his project to campus so the instructor could take a look.
With just one day before the application period closed, Hoffman applied for the job. He quickly got an interview, and on Dec, 19, 1991, handed his keys back to his boss at the dealership. By Jan. 6, 1992, he was standing in front of students, and “I’ve been here ever since,” he said.
Hoffman is known around campus as someone who goes the extra mile, cares tremendously about his community and upholds strong values when it comes to giving back. He was humbled to learn he was nominated by the college’s executive committee for the Dale P. Parnell Faculty Distinction Recognition by the American Association of Community Colleges — although from the comments and congratulations on SWTC’s Facebook page, the recognition comes as no surprise to those who have been positively impacted by Hoffman.
Nominees for the distinction had to demonstrate passion for students and the classroom, show willingness to support students both inside and outside of the classroom, be inclined to participate in college committees and go above and beyond what is required to ensure that students are successful in their academic endeavors. And it was clear to the committee and Program Dean Derek Dachelet that Hoffman was the perfect candidate for the award.
In mid-February, he was notified he had been selected as one of 50 recipients of the inaugural award, named after former AACC President and CEO Dale P. Parnell.
“I’m fortunate enough to be one of them (to receive the award),” Hoffman said. “I’m pretty humbled I was selected out of all the good faculty on this campus.”
In late-April, Hoffman traveled to Dallas, Texas, with SWTC President Dr. Jason Wood, Chief Human Resources Officer Krista Weber and Executive Services Director Karen Campbell for a three-day conference and the award ceremony. There were many interesting speakers and workshops, and Hoffman was able to take away many new ideas.
“It was a very eye-opening conference,” he said. “People from all walks of life were there with the common goal of education.”
Hoffman never envisioned that he would be working as an instructor but has found the work rewarding. He teaches six basic courses each year in the second and final year of the Ag Power and Equipment Technician Program, which includes topics such electronics, hydraulics and diesel mechanics. There’s typically a wait list to enter the program, which wasn’t always the case in the past, Hoffman said.
“It has been interesting — the students,” he added. “They’ve been fun and challenging.”
In the past 26 years, Hoffman said no two classes have been the same; even though the curriculum is similar year to year, the students are always different and the technology keeps changing.
“Every day is exciting because you learn something new,” he said.
Hoffman has the opportunity to see a lot of cutting-edge technology, equipment and machinery, with his students experiencing it as well because of the many partnerships he has formed with local agricultural equipment dealers. He visits area dealerships each summer and stays connected to them through the school year so students can receive training and guidance on projects, go on field trips and participate in internships.
“The dealers throughout the whole district are extremely supportive of us and the program,” Hoffman said. “It’s good for me, the school and the students. It’s a good relationship — we’re scratching each other’s backs.”
“Dealers will also save parts for me,” he said. “Then I’ll show them to the students and say, ‘Here it is — learn with it.’”
While he trains many students to work at dealerships, return to their family farms or to work at a corporate farm, Hoffman hopes students also leave SWTC with something else they learned from him.
“Giving back is a message I try to have my students leave with,” he said. “Someone said ‘yes’ for you to be where you’re at so be prepared to say ‘yes’ to someone else.”
To Hoffman, being part of the solution makes life very rewarding. He serves as chief of the Montfort Rescue Squad; his wife is also a member of the squad. Hoffman also served as a firefighter for some time, retiring from that after 21 years. He’s active in his church, serving on the grounds committee and helping beautify the cemetery, and has organized a bowling tournament for the past 36 years that draws more than 400 teams to the area.
He is also active on campus, participating on various committees and recently helping with the community college’s 50th anniversary celebration.
“Pete has served in numerous volunteer capacities for the college and in the community, including SWTC Foundation board member, chief of the local rescue squad, state board for the Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators and hononary barbecuer of delicious chicken for fall in-service,” SWTC President Wood said. “We are fortunate Pete is part of the Southwest Tech family.”