Gonzaga theatre arts Associate Professor John Hofland is teaching high school students in Poland all about American culture and English literacy in this, his sabbatical year. Hofland and wife Joyce are working with schools and orphanages in Krakow, and neighboring areas.
John Hofland tutors students at the orphange in Poland.
The couple lives in a small apartment on a high school campus in Piekary, just outside of Krakow. Hofland said their apartment is in a building that houses five priests and serves as the office for the foundation funding the high school where he works.
The Hoflands are teaching and doing service work at three different locations in Poland: at the high school where they live, at a dormitory run by Jesuits for rural high school students boarding in Krakow, and at a Krakow orphanage.
The name of the high school where they teach remedial and enrichment English translates from Polish to mean “Good News 2000” or “Gospel 2000.” There they also are building on the relationship between the U.S. Embassy’s Resource Center and the school.
Joyce Hofland and an English teacher there host a weekly English conversation period that provides the high school students with the opportunity to discuss “everything from meaty philosophical topics to travel destinations,” John Hofland said. He attributed the strong interest in English at the school to the rigorous English exam students must pass as part of Polish universities’ entrance exams.
At the high school dormitory in Krakow, the Hoflands also lead two hour-long conversations in English each week.
The orphange where the Hoflands teach.
“The students at the dormitory are some of the brightest I have worked with,” John Hofland said. “Conversations they have requested include the American elections, the place of the media in modern culture and distillations of what constitute essential Polish culture.” Next week’s conversation topic is conspiracy theories regarding 9/11, John Hofland said.
At the orphanage, the Hoflands tutor two teenagers once a week. Every two weeks they travel to the mountain for a weekend with another orphanage, which is affiliated with the orphanage in town. There they play with the children, teach them to speak English, and join in activities. Hofland said the thing they do most is play soccer.
“The first weekend we were there, I played a total of eight hours of soccer in two days,” he said. Along with their teaching, the Hoflands also are engaged making connections with the minister of education and cultural affairs at the American Embassy in Krakow. They have been invited to meet with Philip Bialowitz, one of eight living survivors of the Sobibór concentration camp, who will discuss his new book, “Revolt at Sobibór: A Teenager’s Story of Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland.”
“Of course, it would be a misrepresentation to make it seem that we have only been working,” John Hofland said. “Krakow is a gold mine of historical architecture, museums, theatres, and concert venues, and we have been taking advantage of these cultural offerings.”