All in the family: Sycamore family’s teaching legacy spans generations

Joe Jordan, 65, retired from Sycamore High School after teaching drivers education and coaching for 29 years. His daughter, Lisa Hoffhines, 36, is a first grade teacher at North Grove Elementary School in Sycamore, and his son, Andy Jordan, 34, teaches social studies at Sycamore High School. From left, Lisa Hoffhines, Joe Jordan and Andy Jordan.

SYCAMORE – For someone who initially wasn’t sure whether teaching would be his path in life, Sycamore’s Joe Jordan didn’t do too bad.

Neither did his kids, it seems.

Joe Jordan, 65, retired in June 2012 from Sycamore High School after teaching driver’s education and coaching for 29 years. Less than a decade later, in October 2021, they named a varsity soccer field after him: “Joe Jordan Field.”

“I was the only teacher in my family,” Joe Jordan said. “I went into education when I started college, and I never regretted it. I always enjoyed working with young people. I also loved being a coach. I played sports when I was in school, so I loved being a coach as an adult.”

His children, Lisa Hoffhines and Andy Jordan, both seemed to have inherited the teaching bug.

His daughter, Lisa, 36, is a first grade teacher at North Grove Elementary School in Sycamore. His son, Andy, 34, teaches social studies at Sycamore High School.

Joe Jordan graduated from DeKalb High School in 1974 and had baseball scholarships to study at Kishwaukee College and Northern Illinois University. When he was starting out, Joe Jordan said, he didn’t know what he wanted to do but he liked sports and decided to study physical education.

He began his educator career at Paw Paw High School in 1979, teaching health and driver’s education. That wasn’t his only passion, though.

Joe also found a calling in team sports, coaching boys and girls basketball and soccer. He started the boys soccer program at Sycamore High School in 1983 and was the team’s first coach. He later started the girls soccer program in 1991.

When Joe began working in Sycamore schools, he moved to the city with his wife of 37 years, Jane, and raised their children, Lisa and Andy. Not to be outdone by her educator family, Jane worked at Northern Illinois University as a financial adviser before retiring.

Lisa Jordan said that growing up with a dad who is a teacher and a coach was like growing up in the high school. She attended her first Sycamore High School basketball game when she was two-weeks old.

“Some of my fondest memories growing up are of the time we spent traveling on the bus to away games,” Lisa said.

Like her father, Lisa didn’t always know that a career in education was for her. It was only during her father’s retirement party that she began to seriously think about teaching, she said.

“At his retirement party, I saw all of the teachers, staff, faculty, administration, and I saw the camaraderie they had,” Lisa said. “I saw that they were friends, they formed a community. That’s when I realized that that’s what I wanted. That’s where I wanted to be. I spent my entire life in and around schools, and I knew it was time to start my professional career as a teacher.”

Her brother Andy Jordan said he was also unsure initially about teaching. During his first year at NIU, he was undecided about his major. His sophomore year, he decided to settle on history.

“My dad asked me what I was going to do with a degree in history, and I told him that I wanted to teach,” Andy said. “I knew he never regretted going into teaching one day of his life. He always said, ‘You’ll never get rich, but you’ll never be poor.’ It’s also a meaningful line of work. So I decided to become a teacher.”

It’s a sentiment Joe took with his career, saying what he loved most was his relationships with students. His children feel the same way.

“My students and their families are almost like my own family,” Lisa said. “I see them grow and learn throughout the year. They come into first grade as kindergarteners and leave as second graders. It’s incredibly rewarding. As a teacher, you’re able to make a huge difference and impact in your students’ lives.”

Like his father, Andy also has become a coach. He used to coach football and he helped start a history club at the high school. Andy and his father co-coached freshman boys basketball.

“I was 22 and I was the head coach, and my dad, who had been coaching 30-plus years was my assistant coach,” Andy said. “I was amazed at what a great coach he was. He was easy going yet firm, and very passionate about coaching. He told me it’s all about teaching students how to play and be a team player, it’s not about wins and losses.”

At the end of the day, Joe is a proud dad.

“The older I get, the more I realize how being a teacher made me a better person,” Joe Jordan said. “As hard as being a teacher is, it’s very fulfilling. I’m happy to see my children find their own fulfilling careers in education, too.”