Her passion for reading and writing partnered with a sincere goal to make a difference in the world by teaching about empathy and kindness inspired Lehighton Area Middle School teacher Sherry L. Hoffman to write a book about something called "bucket filling."
The title of Hoffman's labor of love is "A to Z Character Education for the Classroom."
Hoffman first learned about bucket filling in 2011 when her daughter was a kindergarten student at Franklin Elementary School.
As they were walking down their driveway one day after school, Hoffman asked her daughter, "How was your day?"
"Good," she responded.
"What did you learn today?"
Her daughter said, "I learned about buckets."
Intrigued, Hoffman questioned further, "OK … What did you learn about buckets?"
"Well, our principal came into our classroom and read a story about buckets," replied her daughter. "She said that everyone has a bucket. If you do something nice for someone, you fill that person's bucket and your own. If you aren't nice, you dip into that person's bucket and your own."
That one conversation changed Hoffman's life forever.
"I thought it was an amazing concept for any age group," said Hoffman.
So, she began investigating bucket filling and found several books about it online, including Carol McCloud's "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids."
Inspired by the idea of bucket filling, Hoffman began writing poems for her own three children, as well as for her students at LAMS. She sent her poems to McCloud, who responded that Hoffman might have a book of bucket filling poems that she may want to publish.
"I loved that she believed in me," said Hoffman. "I took it as a challenge to create my own book of poems, but I also decided to be like Chef Emeril Lagasse and 'kick it up a few notches.'"
Hoffman continued writing poems; organized them from A to Z; added three worksheet-type activities for each poem that tied into reading standards; and included extended activities for teachers, students, and parents.
"As I began to write, I included life lessons I wanted to pass on to my children and students," said Hoffman. "It is my hope that my book helps to make a difference in the world by teaching literacy skills along with life lessons."
She added, "It's amazing how far a compliment can go if you believe in yourself as well."
Hoffman began working on her book in March 2011, writing in the morning, at night, and whenever else she had a spare moment or two. With her manuscript finished, Hoffman contacted her publisher in May 2012. The publishing process began in July 2012. She signed off on her book in April of this year and her book was printed and delivered to her home in May.
According to Hoffman, "It was a very exciting moment for me to see that big FedEx Freight truck driving up my street. It represented the point when my dream became a reality. To hold the finished book in my hand for the first time and see my own family reading the book and enjoying the activities made all the hard work worth it."
"I have always loved to read and write and I consider myself lucky for having a literacy-enriched environment growing up," said Hoffman.
To illustrate that point, Hoffman shared a story about when she was 10 years old. She and her friends created, wrote, and published their own neighborhood newspaper "The Whippoorwill Lake Newspaper." It was named after Hoffman's grandparents' campground that was located across the street from her house in Franklin Township.
Using a typewriter, they set up shop in the tent camper in the family's backyard.
"We sold our newspaper for 10 cents and delivered it via our bikes and sometimes by my friends' little red Radio Flyer wagon," Hoffman reminisced.
After their story was featured in TIMES NEWS, Hoffman and her friends were invited to visit and tour the TN building to learn all about the process of creating a newspaper.
"I remember that it was fascinating and thought maybe one day, I would like to be a writer or reporter, as well as being a teacher," recalled Hoffman.
A 1996 graduate of Lehighton Area High School, Hoffman earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Kutztown University and a master of education degree from East Stroudsburg University.
Prior to her being hired as a full-time classroom teacher at LAMS in 2002, Hoffman worked at the family business in which she grew up R.F. Ohl Fuel Oil in Lehighton.
She has been a teacher at Lehighton Area Middle School for the past 11 years 10 years teaching science and reading.
Last year, Hoffman was hired as a reading specialist. She currently teaches reading to sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. In addition, she has served as co-advisor for the Sixth Sense Competition for the past 10 years.
Hoffman and her husband of 10 years, Jared, own All-Points Towing, Recovery, and Service Center in Jim Thorpe. The are the parents of three children: Megan, 8; Jocelyn, 5; and Sawyer, 4.
"I want my children to know that you can accomplish your goals if you put your mind to it," said Hoffman. "I love sharing my story with others."
In addition to her book, Hoffman recently wrote an article that was published in the Keystone State Reading Association (KSRA) newsletter "The Keystone Reader" entitled "Springing into Character Education." It featured the poem "Character" from her book.
She has also been invited to give an hourlong presentation at the KSRA Conference in State College on Sunday, Oct. 20.
Since the publication of her book, which was illustrated by Jacqueline L. Challiss-Hill, Hoffman has been involved in book-signing events throughout the area. Her book is also available through such distributors as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, to name a few.
"It is my hope that this book helps to make a positive impact in the world, teaching literacy skills along with life lessons," said Hoffman.