SCHENECTADY — Schenectady High School has lost a beloved science teacher who served two decades with the district.
Mary Hoffa, who taught biology and chemistry at the school, passed away Wednesday after battling an illness.
The district held a reception on Friday morning where high school staff members paid tribute to their colleague.
High School Principal Dennis Green praised Hoffa’s dedication in her 20 years of teaching biology and chemistry to Schenectady students from grades 10-12.
“She was a beautiful person and she was always here for our students,” Green said on Friday. “She rarely, if ever, missed a day of work. I don’t remember the last time she missed a day. She was always giving our students a second, third or fourth chance. She was that caring adult that our students needed. It’s a real tragedy, not only for the adults in our building, but for our students as well.”
Assistant High School Principal Wendy Ausfeld noted that Hoffa was highly intelligent, yet humble while also exhibiting endless patience with her students.
“She was here before school and after school for many hours,” Ausfeld said on Friday. “She was a constant presence. Her sister opened her phone and found multiple posts to Mary from students saying how sad they were and how she made a difference and how Mary made them feel like they had something to offer.”
Hoffa fell ill in January and went on sabbatical from the district. She did not return to teaching before her passing on Wednesday.
“She will be greatly missed by her students, colleagues and the Schenectady community,” Schenectady Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. said in a statement. “Please continue to keep our Schenectady High School campus students and staff in your thoughts and prayers as it has been a tough week impacted by loss.”
Ausfeld said that the school’s science team held a gathering at Hoffa’s house six days before her death to honor their colleague.
“We had a get-together with her and we did that because we wanted her to feel supported in what she was going through,” Ausfeld said. “We’re very glad we did that now, because that happened to be her celebration.”
Hoffa’s death came two days after Schenectady police confirmed that missing Schenectady high ninth-grader Samantha Humphrey was confirmed dead after her body was recovered from the Mohawk River on Feb. 22.
“As a district we’ve had a tragedy in this community that I don’t want to overlook or forget,” Soler said during the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday evening. “As a school community we continue to grieve the loss of Samantha Humphrey. Her life was taken away way too soon and will be dearly missed. We offer our sympathy and prayers to Samantha’s loved ones during this difficult time.”
During the meeting, the district observed a moment of silence to pay tribute to both Hoffa and Humphrey.
“I’m proud of the students and staff who continue to pull together to support one another during these challenging times,” Soler said during the meeting.
Schenectady Teachers Union President Michael Silvestri sent a letter to the school board honoring Hoffa on the day of her passing.
“Mary was smart, lovely and a kind woman,” he wrote. “She was so smart that I learned today that she was the one person who everybody would want to be on their trivia team. While I did not personally know Mary, what I know from our interactions over the years is that she exuded a warmth that left you with a smile on your face.”