Marilyn Hoffman, longtime teacher and lover of music, dies at 65

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Marilyn Hoffman, well known for her songs and guitar, teaches a group of young students through song. (Photo courtesy of Barbara Masry)
Marilyn Hoffman, well known for her songs and guitar, teaches a group of young students through song. (Photo courtesy of Barbara Masry)

Marilyn Hoffman, a longtime pre-kindergarten teacher for the Great Neck Public Schools and advocate of teaching through music who taught hundreds of children, died on Feb. 8. She was 65.

Friends and colleagues recalled Hoffman as a vibrant, kind woman who enjoyed working with children and helping everyone she could. They also described her as a lover of travel, theater and teaching through play, as well as someone who always pushed for what was right.

“Kind, caring, and selfless are all words I would use to describe her,” Debbie Volk, whose daughter was once in a musical program Hoffman ran in Saddle Rock, said in an interview. “I know that she touched many lives of parents in the public schools.”

“Learning through play was quickly evaporating and she brought that [into the classroom],” Volk also said.

Marcia Retrey, a cousin whom Hoffman grew up with and considered “a big sister,” said Hoffman was very close with her and her family. Hoffman adored Retrey’s daughters, she said, and recalled how Hoffman was “just overwhelmed with joy” when she got to become a great-aunt.

“I don’t think she could have been any closer with them,” Retrey said.

Growing up, Hoffman, a Great Neck resident, always had a passion for music – especially the Beatles. she said.

“She was just enthralled with their music, always had a passion for music ever since I’d known her, and wanted to use music to communicate with children who often didn’t have English as a first language,” Retrey said.

Hoffman, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in teaching at Adelphi University, began working in the Great Neck Public Schools in the 1970s, according to colleagues and her LinkedIn profile, and retired in 2011.

She taught pre-kindergarten and served as a kindergarten enrichment teacher, primarily at the Parkville School but also at other schools like John F. Kennedy, Saddle Rock and Lakeville.

Barbara Masry, who taught with Hoffman in Parkville School for decades, described music as a consistent passion of Hoffman’s. Her songs were not only fun, Masry said, but a way to teach children important words and concepts in a communal way.

“She led every sing-along and always had a guitar with her,” Masry said over the phone on Monday. “They learned through the songs she taught.”

Following her retirement from the Great Neck Public Schools, Hoffman served as a music and early childhood consultant for other Long Island schools, Masry said.

Marilyn Hoffman, as seen here at last year's Women's March in New York City, remained active well into her retirement. (Photo courtesy of Barbara Masry)
Marilyn Hoffman, as seen here at last year’s Women’s March in New York City, remained active well into her retirement. (Photo courtesy of Barbara Masry)

In her later years, Hoffman was also involved in the Transition Network, a nonprofit organization focused on professional women over 50, and its travel group. She also continued her volunteer work and music lessons.

“Whatever you wanted to do, she would say I’m in, and she was very concerned about doing things right,” Helaine Bank, who met Hoffman in the Transition Network, said in an interview.

“I do believe her love was genuine for both music and children and living her life,” Bank added.

Her brother, Norman Hoffman, and his wife, Barbara, her nephew, Scott, and his wife, Sheila, and great-niece Rivka survive Hoffman. She is also survived by surrogate sister Marcia Retrey and her husband, Gil, as well as Barry Marin, Marcia’s brother.

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