Psychologist moves back to Albert lea, works in same position as her father

Published 10:00 am Sunday, February 25, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

Jodie Hofkamp joined the Albert Lea school district as school psychologist last year, bringing her smiling face and 34 years of work experience along with her.

What people may not know, however, is that her roots in the community of both Albert Lea and school psychology run very deep.

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Her father, Harvey Hofkamp, began working as a school psychologist at Albert Lea High School in 1972. He was the only school psychologist in the district at the time. Her mother, Jane Hofkamp, was a vision and hearing teacher in Austin and Albert Lea.

“I was proud of [my parents] being educators and knowing people who knew them,” Hofkamp said. She still remembers the most valuable piece of advice her father gave her.

“If you don’t know, say that you don’t know but you’ll find out,” she said.

She explained that the advice saved her many times.

“When I’m in a situation where I am clueless about what’s the next thing we should do or what’s going on, it’s a way to help people understand that everything doesn’t have an easy solution,” she said.

Hofkamp graduated from Albert Lea High School in 1983. Following graduation, she began college with a much different future in mind.

“I started out thinking I wanted to be this international business person … that was not my cup of tea at all,” she said.

She changed her major, earning a degree in hotel and restaurant management, but at her college graduation from University of Wisconsin-Stout, she knew that she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps.

Hofkamp attended graduate school at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and earned a degree in school psychology. She also completed a certification in school neuropsychology at Texas Women’s University.

Following school, Hofkamp moved to California. She worked in the California school systems until her father passed away four years ago.

It was then that Hofkamp decided to move back to her home state. She took a job as a school psychologist in the Rochester school district, the city where she currently still lives.

Hofkamp did not want to work in Rochester schools forever, however, and took the job as school psychologist in Albert Lea when a position opened up last year.

She was hired for the same position that her father had held decades prior. The school also still had her father’s desk, which is in her office today.

“I’m really honored to be in the position that I am,” she said.

When asked what a typical day looks like for her, Hofkamp replied, “The majority of my time is spent problem-solving for kids that have problems in school, whether it’s learning [or] behavior.”

She works to uncover potential things that could cause students difficulties in school. Her work includes looking for signs of the 13 different handicapping conditions under the special education law.

While many people assume that her job includes therapy, this is not the case. Rather, she meets with students and parents for assessments and helps connect them to the resources that they need.

Hofkamp finds it fulfilling to validate parents and assure them that they are not alone.

“Just being able to work with families in extremely difficult situations,” she said. “And the other end of the spectrum … realizing that our battles are the same, they just look different.”

All of Hofkamp’s work is in secondary school, meaning she works exclusively with middle school and high school students.

She said one of her favorite parts of the year is graduation time when she can see students take the next step to becoming successful adults.

“The importance of a student getting a high school diploma is essential,” she said. “It’s a humongous road block to walk away without a high school diploma.”

She loves being able to help students accomplish this.

“I absolutely love feeling like someone feels safe to come and meet with me,” she said. “Sometimes you don’t know your impact.”

One student that Hofkamp worked with in California became a school psychologist herself. She and Hofkamp are now friends on a professional level.

Hofkamp said that one of the most challenging parts of going from California to Minnesota is navigating the differences in the school systems. She explained that laws are interpreted differently depending on the location you are working in, but she also said that there are more similarities than differences.

Hofkamp looks forward to the growth of youth mental health as progress and awareness continues to grow.

“We are only, in my opinion, at the beginning of fully understanding the impact of mental health issues on our kids,” she said. “We’ve realized there’s a lot of room to grow, and that’s exciting… If there could be good things coming out of Covid, it’s realizing there’s a lot of need out there.”

Hofkamp wants to be part of moving towards what kids need in the school system.

Hofkamp said that she wants all students to remember, “You’re enough. Exactly as you are — you’re enough.”

Her advice for those who are wondering what their future holds is “explore things that make you happy versus what people think you should do and find whatever that passion is,” she said. “If you can think it… there’s no reason not to explore that as something that could be part of [your] future.”

One of Hofkamp’s work colleagues and friends, Kristen Erkkila, is also a school psychologist in the Albert Lea school district.

“Jodie is one of the most humble people I have met,” Erkkila said “Her fun-loving personality attracts others to her, and her love of life and celebrating each day is contagious to those who are lucky enough to work with her … She embodies the ethics of the school psychology profession … It is truly an honor to work alongside her.”

When Hofkamp is not working, she enjoys reading, spending time with her cat and watching psychological thrillers. Her passion, however, is always connecting with other people.

“This is a great place to do it,” she said. “I’m really really happy here.”