10 Questions with Tosa West Guidance Counselor Brian Hoffman

Guidance counselor Brian Hoffman can always be found with a coffee cup in hand.


Guidance counselor Brian Hoffman can always be found with a coffee cup in hand.


Lehman: Hi Mr. Hoffman.

Hoffman: Jeez, you scared me.

Lehman: Goodmorning! Would it be ok if we asked you some questions?

Hoffman: Sure.

Lehman: Alright, how long have you been working at Wauwatosa West?

Hoffman:This is my 25th year.

Lehman: What’s the worst or most awkward thing a student has ever told you?

Hoffman: Yeah, so as you can imagine as counselors we’ve seen and heard a lot of different things lately, so I’m going to answer the question slightly differently. And instead I’m going to talk about one of my favorite memories from a student. And if you can imagine I am hanging out in the office here and in walks a Milwaukee police officer, in full uniform. And at first I didn’t recognize her as one of my former students and she hands me a gift card for Starbucks, and she says, “You know, I don’t know if you remember but you know, you were kind of a relentless supporter of me and and I had many doubts that I would ever make it, and I worked as a security guard for a while at the mall and you always said, ‘Keep on trying, you can make it as a police officer.’ I just wanted to let you know how much it meant to me to have your support. And that to me, that was really touching. That’s one of the more touching things that has happened to me.

Lehman: What’s the biggest learning experience you’ve ever had?

Hoffman: I think I have those every day. So I think you know, you’re always learning in the field of education, and it’s a tough job. And, you know, I think I survived the first few years of doing this on naivete alone, so I thought I knew what I was doing. I’ve had good self confidence. But looking back, I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of things that I think every day encounter, encounter new things and learn, learn new things. I think that’s the beauty of being in the field of education.

Lehman:How would you describe yourself in three words?

Hoffman:Three words.Introverted court jester, that, those are the three words. [Gets up] Hey, let’s get some coffee.

Lehman: What is something you want every student to know about you and in general?

Hoffman: I am a relatively shy person and really appreciate working, working with all of them. And I consider that an honor. Let’s, let’s go in this room. This room is where we get our coffee. So, oh yeah, and I think so,e people think I’m constantly drinking coffee. That’s not really true, I probably have maybe like two cups of coffee a day but it’s not. My coffee cup is kind of like my, my security blanket. So a lot of times I’m carrying around a coffee cup. But really, that’s just like, it makes me, it’s like my little friend. 

Lehman: Ok.

Hoffman: It sounds weird. I know. But somehow it’s comforting to me to have my coffee cup in hand.

Lehman: What are you most excited about these days?

Hoffman: What am I most excited about what?

Lehman:These days? 

Hoffman: These days? Oh. Yeah, well, I think, I think one of the things that has been really cool with the pandemic is that we’ve, with it lightening up slightly, is that we’ve actually been able to meet with kids again. So like, we just picked classes with kids and we get to sit with kids and talk to them. And that was amazingly enjoyable. So I hope the kids enjoyed it as much as we did, but to actually talk with students face to face. Because this is fun. You know, getting in front of parents, getting in front of students in the classroom. I think that’s kind of what educators work for. So this is, this is a enjoyable. So even though I’m kind of an introvert, I’m sort of a ham. I like performing. So doing this kind of stuff is actually a thrill for me. So oh, by the way, this is our guidance lounge. You can see our toaster, our little refrigerator. This is where we… Oh yeah. And not many people get to see this but this is Mr. Becker’s tea collection. 

Lehman: Wow. 

Hoffman: So if you, if you ever, if you’re nice to him, he might make you a cup of tea.

Lehman: I’ll keep that in mind.

Hoffman: Yeah, he’s a good guy.

Lehman: So why did you become a counselor? 

Hoffman: Oh, good question. So let’s take a walk this way. Follow me ladies. That’s Mrs. Kraetz, she’s our administrative assistant. So why become a counselor? [Bold walks by] That’s Mr.Bold out there, he’s the associate principal. See he’s coming this way. 

Bold: New student? [Sees camera] No, I’m on camera apparently. 

Hoffman: Yeah, they’re doing a little video interview. So anything you want to say? Words of wisdom to the press? 

Bold: No, I’m good. I’m good. 

Lehman: Oh, ok.

Hoffman: So why did you become a principal? 

Bold: Why did I…Why?

Hoffman: Putting him on the spot here.

Bold: Putting me on the spot . Yeah, I really wanted to have an impact on a school and be able to help kids in a learning environment and have success and help create a culture where people are excited about being at school and as comfortable as possible.

Hoffman: Yeah, I may think in a similar vein, I became a counselor for kind of the same reasons. I thought it would, I thought with my diverse background and different things I’m interested in I could be a good adviser to kids. So you know, I consider myself kind of a bit of a renaissance man and know a little bit about a lot of different things. So I thought that would maybe be a pretty good advisor that does that. By the way, that’s Ms. Van-Zealand, right there, she’s our Career Center person and she is also a counselor in training. So Ms. Van Zeeland why, why are you motivated to be a counselor right? What, what, why do you want to do that?

Van-Zeeland: I really want to help students get through to college, help them with their career readiness and just their overall well being.

Hoffman: Don’t be afraid of them, they’re just the press. Okay, thank you. Thank you for helping us with that. Let’s go outside, this way. 

Lehman: Ok, who is your staff bestie?

Hoffman: Staff bestie? Well, probably Mr. Becker in the counseling office, but I also like Mr. Oliver, he’s a good guy. So oh, by the way down there. That’s the whole administrative team. Yeah. They’re kind of camera shy. 

Lehman: Ok, If you could switch lives with a person for a day, who would it be? 

Hoffman: Switch lives for a day, could it be anybody? 

Lehman: Anybody.

Hoffman: So I am. Actually this is a tough one because, you know, I’m thinking okay, I could be like Vladimir Putin. And I could stop the invasion of the Ukraine. But that would be kind of stressful. And I think, you know, there would be all sorts of political repercussions of doing that for him. And I think I would like to be somebody famous, like a famous movie person or something, but I have to give up my anonymity. And I’m thinking okay, well, I could, I could be my wife. If I could be my wife. I could probably then learn to be a better husband. But I think that would be a really difficult job. My wife works really hard. I don’t think I want to do that because, could I be my dog. 

Lehman: Yeah. 

Hoffman: My dog has it pretty good. I mean, she lies around the house and sleeps a lot. She gets lot of pets, walks. But she has to kind of keep guard in the house, and that is probably fairly stressful for her. I think I’ll just stay myself. Can I pick that one? 


Hoffman: Okay, I’m just gonna stay myself.


Hoffman:I got it pretty good. 

Lehman:That’s good. And lastly, what kind of student were you?

Hoffman:Oh, by the way, this is the Career Center, where we’re standing right now, one other place where the counselors hang out sometimes. Yeah, so this is a, I probably started out as a sort of nerdy, fairly smart kid. And I wasn’t, you know, I wasn’t a good athlete. I wasn’t super popular. But I think as like high school went on, you kind of, and this is kind of a good message for kids surviving high school, that you end up eventually finding your peer group. And you find your place, and it does become better and I think you know, after high school, I certainly blossomed into into more well, well rounded person. In high school you do a lot of living in four years. It’s, it’s a, it’s tough. It’s tough in a lot of ways, but you learn a lot of things in four years.

Lehman: Okay. Great, thank you so much. 

Hoffman: No another question?

Lehman: No other questions. 

Hoffman: Ok, thank you.

Lehman: Ok.