When looking back on the course of their lives, many people can identify an exceptional teacher that helped mold them into becoming who they were meant to be. For many residents of Hobart, that exceptional teacher is Dean Wolff. As the Hobart High School Vocal Music Director and an educator for over 33 years, Wolff has inspired countless students, offering them a passion for knowledge and for music.
Wolff grew up in the Region before completing his undergraduate at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Starting off as a business major, Wolff never expected where his journey would take him.
“When I was in college, the last thing on my mind was teaching,” Wolff said. When Wolff dated an education major and would pick her up from her job as a student teacher, Wolff had one thought, “Who would ever want to do that?”
Life had other plans for Wolff, however. Wolff got involved with the college choral and met an exceptional choir director, Dr. Richard Stewart, who helped develop Wolff’s passion for music and forever change the course of Wolff’s life.
“Dr. Richard Steward was a real motivator,” Wolff said. “He’s one of those people that you don’t just necessarily want to be like but that you can see so much in him that is good and you admire him for it.”
Wolff found a home for his passion of music and teaching at the School City of Hobart.
“I think what we do in music offers a different kind of learning,” Wolff said. “We deal with a lot of intangibles. Things like learning how to work in a group-setting, building self-confidence, finding the discipline to practice, or changing performance moods as music changes. These skills are hard to catch if you’re working on a computer. We offer an alternative to that part of learning.”
After over three decades of being an instructor, Wolff still finds himself waking up most mornings eager to get to the school to make a difference in the lives of the students.
“After all this time, I still enjoy working with the kids,” Wolff said. “I still like developing those kinds of relationships with a class or a group of kids. It’s that part of it that keeps me going and keeps me interested in teaching.”
Wolff recently passed a milestone in his career, the point where he could retire if he desired. However, his love for teaching music and helping students keeps him wanting to stick around.
“I’m teaching for the fun of it, and because I enjoy it,” Wolff said.
Wolff thanks his parents for the lessons he learned in his childhood.
“I want to thank my mom and dad for what they instilled in me,” Wolff said. “I didn’t really appreciate that until I got older. It’s like they say. As you get older, your parents get wiser.”
Wolff hopes his love for teaching helps others who are considering going into the teaching field to see the good sides of the career.
“If anybody is interested in teaching, I want to tell them that I think teaching has gone through kind of a rough patch as a profession,” Wolff said. “I think it's going to swing around. Things are cyclical. People only see the bad. However, the good still far outweighs the bad, and if people can see that, they can really make a difference. You don’t go into teaching to get rich, but there’s so much good in it, and it’s a great thing to aspire to.”
With his teaching career centering on music direction, Wolff gets the unique opportunity to blend his love for teaching with his love of music.
“I really enjoy producing music, and I enjoy performing music,” Wolff said. “When you work until you can finally put all the parts together where you’re actually communicating with someone and with an audience, you turn the mechanical parts of it into what we just call ‘music.’ It’s about making it special and making that special connection with an audience.”
For Hobart, it is clear to see the remarkable impact that Dean Wolff has had on his students in his over three decades of teaching and the invaluable experience Wolff has gained through his time at the School City of Hobart.