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Teacher, coach finds new call in church

Erik Hoefer resigns from CC school system for a new career in the ministry

Contributed photo Erik Hoefer goes over classwork with a few of his fifth grade students.
Contributed photo
Erik Hoefer goes over classwork with a few of his fifth grade students.

By Amie Johansen

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When it comes to local celebrities, few are more loved than Erik Hoefer. Hoefer wears many hats: fifth grade teacher, middle school cross country coach, high school track coach, “Voice of Charles City Comets” on KCHA radio and an active volunteer and member of Saint John Evangelical Lutheran Church.

This last hat is guiding Hoefer into the next phase of his life.

“I am resigning from teaching because I am headed into the ministry,” he said. “God has been talking with me about this for a few years, but every time He would ‘plant the seed,’ so to speak, something would happen at school that was clearly God saying, ‘Erik, I have you right where I want you. It’s not time yet.’”

A spring break trip with his family in Orlando, Fla. indicated the time had finally come to answer the call. Having found a non-denominational church online — which held services in a middle school auditorium — the Hoefer family decided to attend.

“We arrived at 10:30 am for the 11:00 am service only to find that the website was wrong and the next service started at noon,” he said. “I felt we needed to stay, even though it was going to be a long stretch until worship began.”

The Hoefers waited outside, enjoying the weather and one another’s company as they waited for services to begin.

“God wanted me to be at that church service… The theme was ‘Jump In!’” he said. “Well, I had been feeling called for quite a while and this was the final piece of the puzzle. I felt God making His final argument with me in this sermon I was listening to in Orlando. Later that day, I announced to my family my decision. I told them it was time for me to ‘Jump In!’”

Having taught for 26 years, leaving the classroom will not be easy.

“I love teaching. I love teaching here in Charles City. I will miss teaching immensely, but I know this is the right path,” Hoefer said. “I have loved every single year, every single class, every single student. Teaching has been an amazing blessing in my life.”

Past students left Hoefer’s classroom also feeling blessed in having studied under his tutelage.

“I was privileged to have Mr. Hoefer as a teacher at Washington Elementary,” Ana (Westergard) Blickenderfer said. “When I think back on my fifth grade year, I mostly remember our Viking project, grammar lessons — ‘can I?’ or ‘may I?’ — and the use of manners, always referring to us as Miss or Mister. To this day he is still Mr. Hoefer. I don’t know that I’d ever be able to call him ‘Erik.’”

As Hoefer enters this next stage of life, he steps into the student roll.

“I will be attending Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque,” he said. “I will be taking the great majority of my classes online with only occasional trips needed to go back to Dubuque for classes on campus.”

Hoefer will spend the next four years completing seminary on his way to ordination. While taking online courses, he plans to remain active in the Charles City community.

“I hope to continue coaching both middle school cross country and high school track. That is a goal of mine,” he said. “We will see what life brings in the upcoming weeks and months to see if that is indeed possible.”

As Hoefer nears ordination, it is possible he might be called away from Charles City.

“During my fourth year of seminary, the call process really gets going,” he said. “It is possible that a call could come from a Lutheran church in the local area, but there is also a possibility that call could come from a Lutheran church anywhere in the country.”

Whether called close to home, or called away, Hoefer’s presence in Charles City has been greatly appreciated.

“I think it’s without a doubt a great loss to our schools and our community and yet it is a marvelous and wonderful gain for Christian ministry,” Dennis Niezwaag, former Saint John Evangelical Lutheran Church pastor, said. “I think he has just an amazing array of gifts that will just shine through his pastoral ministry.”

“Charles City is very lucky he chose to teach here and for his countless hours of volunteering,” Blickenderfer said. “As his role in the community changes, his impact will be seen for many years to come. Thank you, Mr. Hoefer.”

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