Clare County Review & Marion Press

Faces in the Crowd: Tammi Ballew-Hoffman

Like many local Marion graduates, Tammi Ballew-Hoffman – an ’06 grad – couldn’t wait to get out of the small town of Marion and go out into the world.
So that’s what she did. She went to college, found a job, moved to the city, and gained a little perspective on life.
And that perspective led her right back home.
It led her right back to Marion High School, where she’s just getting started in what is sure to be a long and successful teaching career.
Recently married, Tammi and her husband Ryan are finding joy in living the small-town life. Like a sitcom, where everyone knows your name.
We caught up with Tammi recently and she filled us in on where she’s been, and what brought her back to her hometown. We learned that Tammi-Ballew Hoffman is more than just another face in the crowd.
Marion Press: Were you born and raised in Marion?
Tammi: No I wasn’t. I was born down in the Metro Detroit area. We lived in St. Clair Shores until I was in 4th grade. It was very different. I went to a private Lutheran School. My grandparents lived in Tustin, and once they retired, they moved up here. So I grew up spending the summers up here. When the opportunity arose, I guess my parents just liked the idea of living up north.
MP: Do you have any first memories of moving to Marion?
Tammi: I do. So as a kid it was exciting. We never [in the city] got to just go outside and run rampant. We lived on the river, so we were tubing – and we never had anything like that before. And right down the road was a kid my age – Jessica McKenzie – she was gonna be in 4th grade, so that was pretty convenient. I got to meet her over the summer before I went to school, so I didn’t have to go to school knowing no one. When I got to school, Katelyn Michell and Kayla Browne were the two first people I ever talked to. When there’s a new kid in school it’s certainly noticeable!
MP: What kept you busy in school?
Tammi: I was just always involved in everything. I was in student council. I was in band, and choir, and cheerleading. Growing up, I was always in soccer and softball. My parents actually brought the original AYSO Soccer to Marion – we didn’t have the program – so they were super involved with that, and we all played. I tell the kids all the time, “I don’t ever remember being bored as a kid.” Because you were busy. You’re at the school until 9 or 10 o’clock because you’re involved in 500 things. And then you come home, and you’re like, “Well, I’ve got an hour for homework.”
MP: Where did life take you after graduation?
Tammi: Like many of the kids in high school, I couldn’t wait to leave. I picked Western Michigan – I told my parents this – ‘because it was as far away as I could go without going north.’ I just wanted to be away from small town life; I couldn’t wait to get out.
But then as you grow up, it’s home. I like having the small-town feel. My husband, Ryan, is actually the one who wanted to start looking for places up north. And now he’s the guy who loves it when he walks into a restaurant and people know his name. He thinks it’s the funniest thing because we’re very much this stereotypical small town, where everyone knows everyone. Like you see in the sitcoms.
MP: What made you want to get into teaching?
Tammi: I’ve always thought about teaching. I was one of those kids, when I went to college, I had no idea what I wanted to do… All of my friends were teachers in college. So I hung out at the education building, but I was like, “Man, do I want to be in school for the rest of my life?” – that’s what it felt like at the time, when you’re 19, 20 years old.
But I’ve always worked with kids. I worked at a daycare all through college for 5 years. Then I was a live -in nanny in Chicago for almost two years. Then I kind of happened across Girl Scouts, and I spent a decade there, actually. With that, I worked on setting up troops, and getting leaders, and working with the kids again. I’ve just always loved being with kids. They’re fun. They’re not the same thing every day – that’s the best part about them.
I kept talking about going back to school to get my masters, and I thought, ‘Maybe I should get my master’s in education.” And of course, my parents were like, “Yeah, we told you that 10 years ago.”
And all of my friends are teachers – at Marion, and McBain, and Manton – and I know that there’s a teacher shortage, so I thought, maybe I’ll do the long-term sub thing, and just make sure I like it.
I hadn’t even finished my first day, and Danyel walked in and said, ‘We want to keep you. We don’t want you to go anywhere else. We want to hire you as the long-term sub.’ So the only place I only subbed was here in Marion.
It took like a week being a sub, and I was like, “Yep. I think I’m going to go back to school.”
MP: So what subjects are you teaching now? What do you enjoy the most about teaching?
Tammi: I teach predominantly middle school math. I also co-teach a special education math lab. And I teach one high school class of sociology – that was one of my minors – and we need some electives for the kids.
I love how kids are different every day. They’re adaptive. But they are people. They have wants, likes, dislikes. I loved being at the elementary, but by the time they’re here, they’re humans. And I love having the kids of kids that I went to school with in my classroom. It’s fun to see this new generation of kids coming in.
MP: What do you enjoy the most about being back home?
Tammi: I love the community. I do. We were living in Grand Rapids before we moved up here. I love being involved with all the things going on here. And we need new faces to keep things going. It’s fun to see all these people that we went to school with, coming back and reinvesting in this community – a community that many people don’t even know. It doesn’t really exist to anybody but us. And I love that part, being back and being involved.
MP: Outside of teaching, what keeps you busy?
Tammi: I am middle school competitive cheer coach. I was just hired by the board to do sideline cheer in the fall, so I’m excited about that. I’m in school, so that keeps me busy – grad school is no joke. My husband is into Jeeps. We also run this event, Snowfari, and we do that over in West Branch in February every year. We like to go two-tracking and trailing; we do that a lot. We spend a lot of time in the U.P. – my brother Andrew lives in Marquette and we spend a lot of time up there. My brother Ryan lives in Alaska, and we went and visited him for two weeks in the summer. It’s so beautiful there. It was my husband’s first time to Alaska, and he was like, “Why do people leave?”
And we have a dog, Roxie, she’s a German Shorthair, and she’s a runner. We love taking her to the sand dunes, and the trails, and places where she can just book it.
MP: Who have been your role models over the years?
Danyel [Prielipp]. I love to read. I’m a huge reader, and to me, that was Danyel, in high school. The kids, it’s funny, they know Danyel, but they don’t know her as an English teacher. And she’s been super supportive through this. It was, “We want you. We’ll support you.” It felt like coming home. I didn’t have to come into the school and introduce myself or ask where the printer or copier was. You can’t replace that in places that you didn’t grow up in. And my parents are here, so it’s nice to be back with them. They thought I should’ve gone to be a teacher anyways, so they’re pretty on board with that.
MP: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Tammi: I grew up with my parents always just saying, “Be yourself.”
I think that that is so underrated, and it sounds cliché, but you’ve just got to find what works for you. It’s not going to be the same thing for everyone, and that’s a hard lesson to learn. That you may not be exactly like all the others. Over the years, you just find what works for you, find what you like and where you want to be, and it just makes sense one day.

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