Superintendent Matt Davidson stands in the middle of the freshmen hallway — he shakes hands, jokes, and laughs with students as they make their way to class. It’s these personal connections that define Matt and ultimately Timothy Christian Schools.
Turning 47 on January 23rd, Matt is a relatively young superintendent. And if you ask him, it’s not a job he ever expected.
After graduating from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois, in 1993, Matt’s career started at Aurora Christian Schools in Aurora, Illinois, as a history and Bible teacher and coaching basketball and baseball. Teaching was a natural choice for Matt: His dad was a teacher and at the age of 72 is still the Athletic Director and boys basketball coach at Parkview Christian Academy in Yorkville, Illinois.
“My dad is my hero,” Matt admits. “I got the phrase ‘Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing,’ from my dad. He’s involved in the spiritual development of our youth and inspiring them to go on and do great things for the cause of Christ.”
Things were good, even comfortable in Aurora. Matt married Julie and as their family grew, so did Matt’s career. At Aurora Christian School he became the assistant Athletic Director, then the Dean of Students, and finally landed as the Grade 6-12 Principal. He also earned his graduate degree in 2005 from Benedictine University in Lisle.
Then a friend mentioned a superintendent position at Northwest Christian School in Phoenix, Arizona. Matt laughed it off. Moving was not an option for the Davidson family. Not when they had three young kids. Not when they loved their school, community, and church. And especially not when they lived so close to family.
But Julie pressed him. She simply asked him to pray about it. “I had zero interest in moving to Arizona,” Matt admits. “But we prayed about it a lot. And I started to feel this tug. I reluctantly sent in my application.”
At the time, Northwest Christian School was a multi-campus system and the 12th largest Pre-K through 12th grade ACSI school in North America. Matt agreed to meet with the board for an interview. “I didn’t even take Julie,” Matt remembers. “Because I just knew we couldn’t move to Arizona.”
But they offered him the job.
And two days later, Matt’s mom was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer.
“I thought that was a showstopper,” Matt says. “I remember sitting on the floor in the kitchen and just saying we could not leave. But my parents told me to follow God’s call.”
Matt knew he had to go. He had to leave the school he loved, his childhood church, his friends and family. And his parents.
“I vividly remember pulling out of my parents’ gravel driveway,” Matt says. “My mom was laying on her bed inside, losing her earthly battle with cancer. And my dad stood there and all he could spit out was ‘I’m proud of you.’”
Over and over Matt could hear God whisper the same question: “Do you trust me?”
Matt drove his family 24 hours to Arizona, second-guessing himself most of the way. The next October, he traveled back to Illinois, back to where he grew up, and held his mother’s hand when she passed away and went home to be with the Lord.
As painful as the move had been, Arizona, it turned out, was the perfect fit for the Davidson family. The kids thrived. They grew up attending Northwest Christian School. “It was the best adventure we had ever been on,” Matt says. “We were close to the Lord and close to each other.”
But in 2009, Matt got another call, this time from a school just outside of Chicago in Elmhurst. Matt, though, wasn’t up for a big move again. His oldest Luke, was a freshman, Macy was in 7th grade, and Joey was in 5th grade. Any expert, Matt admits, will tell you those are not the ideal years to uproot kids and move halfway across the country.
But Julie encouraged him to pray about it. And he reluctantly submitted his résumé.
The search committee at Timothy Christian Schools invited Matt for an interview. And once again, just like when he interviewed in Arizona, Julie stayed home. Moving was simply not an option.
A week or so after the interview, while he was on the playground at Northwest Christian, Matt’s phone rang. It was the head of the search committee from Timothy. He offered Matt the superintendent position.
“I was breathless,” Matt admits. “Panic settled in. I was in the community in Arizona. It was in my bloodstream. I had put my heart and soul into my job and the school had been so good.”
Once again the Davidson family turned to prayer. And once again they felt like the Lord was calling them to move across the country.
The kids were hesitant about life at a new school. “We just challenged them,” Matt says. “Julie and I said: ‘You can tiptoe into this, wishing you were in your old school. Or you can go in and make the most of this opportunity.’”
Like their dad, the Davidson kids found their stride at Timothy within a few months. Even though they have all graduated, the Davidson kids remain deeply rooted in the community. “Some of their best friends are from Timothy,” Matt says. “Even though they didn’t start here, they felt like this was their home.”
Under Matt’s leadership over the past eight years, the campus has transformed. A science addition was added to the high school in 2012. And, perhaps what many would argue is the capstone of his career so far, he oversaw the building of Project IMPACT—the $16 million middle school and athletic arena— that sits squarely in the middle of campus.
Matt, though, adamantly won’t take any credit for it. “Only by the grace of God, by His will and His leading,” he will say.
The theme of grace can be found intertwined throughout the building — Bible verses are scrawled across almost every wall. ‘Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing’ lines the entire 8th grade hallway in red, block letters. It is a constant reminder to teachers and students of exactly what is most important.
And for Matt it’s not the buildings, the technology or even the test scores, it always been the mission that’s been at the heart of his career. “Of course education and performing arts and competition are important,” Matt says. “Of course helping and challenging our youth to reach their goals is important. We want them to achieve. But those things are all a distant second place to inspiring young people to enthusiastically follow God’s will for their lives — to play their role in the great adventure that God has in store for them.”
And that’s why he’s often found mingling with students at lunch, or leading a Bible study on Wednesday morning, or sitting on the sidelines, or in the audience at plays and concerts. It is not unusual for him to attend multiple student events on any given day. His enthusiasm for students’ success is contagious. To the Timothy community he is part CEO, part teacher, part mentor, and the biggest fan of our students.
“I want our students to learn three things from me,” he says. “One, find something that you really enjoy and love. Two, try to be the best at it. Three, do it for the glory of God.”
No matter what his title has been throughout his career the students have always come first.
And the only way to truly inspire them, Matt believes, is through personal connections. So every day he’s out talking and connecting with students.
“I genuinely love our students,” he says. “I want the best for them. I want the most for them. I know God has a plan for each one of them that is full of adventure.”