BROOKLYN — A Brooklyn high school is mourning the shocking loss of a 44-year-old teacher who many saw as the heart and soul of the prestigious school in Fort Greene.
Paul Hoftyzer, an assistant principal at Brooklyn Technical high school who worked there for 22 years, died last night.
Hoftyzer was rushed to Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn after he unexpectedly collapsed at an alumni event. The cause of death has not been determined.
He is survived by his wife, Keisha, and their two young children.
In a letter to students, Principal David Newman wrote about Hoftyzer: “He dedicated his heart and soul to this school, and in turn he is a big part of the school’s heart and soul.”
Hoftyzer was the assistant principal of health and safety and the coach of the championship girls’ handball team.
“Hoffy,” as many students called him, started out as a chemistry teacher in the late 1990s.
He hailed from a family of educators; his father was an architecture teacher at Brooklyn Tech, and his sister, Linda Hoftyzer, teaches calculus at the school.
“It was a family love affair,” said Liliya Nissen, a former Brooklyn Tech student. “Paul had the ability to connect with students like no other. In a school of thousands, he knew everyone by name and made sure to remind them when they returned.”
Randy Asher, the master principal at Brooklyn Tech, had known Hoftyzer for nearly 40 years, developing a friendship as childhood classmates.
“He was one of the smartest people I have ever met and that intellect was surpassed only by his compassion. His ability to push students to be the best version of themselves, even in the most difficult of times, was remarkable. He was a gifted teacher, an outstanding athletic coach, and a devoted family man. On behalf of the students, faculty, and community at large, our deepest condolences to his family. He will be truly missed, ” Asher said.
Students, alumni and faculty alike shared their grief on social media.
Marc Williams, an AP English teacher at the school, wrote a tribute to the man he called his “brother.” In it, he remembered a time when Hoftyzer really showed up, both for him and his students. “When I needed help programming a new school, he came to my office at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night and stayed with me until 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning,” Williams wrote. “When I led school trips in the coldest winters, he was the one who would go out in the show in sweatpants and a short sleeve shirt for a snowball fight with the kids. That is Paul.”
Jackie Graber-Manduley, a dean in the Office of Health and Safety at Tech, said she knew Hoftyzer as a friend and colleague for 16 years. “His heart was bigger than life and he put everyone’s needs before his own. He would literally give someone the shirt off his back. To know him was to automatically become a better person. I loved Paul the friend, the teacher, the assistant principal, the father, the husband, the brother, the son, and the role model. It is a tragic and unexpected loss for our community.”
Mei Schiff, a former student of Hoftyzer’s who now teaches chemistry at Brooklyn Tech, credits Hoftyzer with her career path. “Paul Hoftyzer was the reason I fell in love with chemistry and teaching,” she wrote in a post on Facebook. “It was more honor and privilege to have not only been taught by you, but to have taught alongside you.”
A GoFundMe campaign was created by a former classmate of Hoftyzer’s to help his family with the unexpected loss. As of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, the campaign had raised more than $12,000.
Brooklyn Tech is one of nine specialized high schools in New York City. According to its website, the school has 313 staff and more than 5,500 students.
According to the Department of Education, classroom instruction will continue this week at Brooklyn Tech, and additional support will be provided to students and faculty.
Information about services for Hoftyzer has not yet been announced.