I first heard about Dr. Hoeksema’s legendary magic toilet 15 years ago. I was in preschool and it was Dr. Hoeksema’s first year as principal at Timothy Christian Schools. And now, 15 years later, it’s almost impossible to imagine Timothy Christian Schools without him (or his magic toilet for that matter). However, Dr. Hoeksema assured me he’s leaving Timothy in good hands. “This new guy is awesome,” Dr. Hoeksema says. “I think he’s going to be a home run.”
The “new guy” as Dr. Hoeksema called him is the new principal, Mr. Justin Horne. Mr. Horne was the principal at Monroe Elementary in Hinsdale for the past seven years, and taught at The Lane School before that. He earned a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification, the highest national recognition for teaching excellence. He holds a master’s degree in educational administration from Loyola University, and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and psychology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Dr. Hoeksema has a pretty impressive resume, too. Over a 47-year career in education, he earned his PhD at UCLA and served at five other schools. But for many students, including me, it’s not his resume that really matters. It’s how he’s treated students over the years.
Dr. Hoeksema is the engine that makes the elementary and middle school hum. But he’s also never too busy to stop and talk. He remembers students’ names long after they have moved on from middle school. He genuinely cares about his students.
“What’s at the end of the word principal?” Hoeksema asked me. “Pal,” he quipped, with a smile, before I could answer. “I don’t want the principal’s office to be scary. I want to connect with the kids.”
This is the best staff I’ve ever been a part of. I hired really good people. They are committed to Christ and committed to Christ-centered education.
He’s built his whole career at Timothy on connections. In fact, his office is organized to help him connect with students. Somehow he has managed to balance the necessary discipline of students, which comes naturally with being a principal, with developing lasting relationships. Every morning, students line up to get a coveted spot in his office for his morning magic show.
The students are allowed to shoot on his mini basketball hoop and he’s mastered several impressive magic tricks. His most storied item, however, is the legendary magic toilet. If you are a parent of an elementary school kid, you have almost certainly heard of it. I can remember in elementary school when there were rumors that the magic toilet was 12 feet tall. Another rumor was that an alligator lived in it. To a student, this possesses a certain kind of wizardry. However, a parent could be forgiven for asking what is the point of all of it? Surely, a principal has more important things to do, right?
It turns out that nothing is more important to Dr. Hoeksema than his interactions with his students. “I really like kids and I really like to make them smile,” he explains. “And silly stuff like this is just one of the ways I can connect with them.”
Dr. Hoeksema didn’t always have these tricks up his sleeve though. Interestingly enough, when he first applied for the principal job at Timothy, he was told that he was the second choice. Hoeksema was actually relieved. He liked his current job, he liked where he lived, and he didn’t want anything else to change. When Timothy called back saying that their first choice had declined, Hoeksema felt like God was calling him here. So, he packed his bags and drove down to Elmhurst.
He has been a firsthand witness to the physical changes that have happened on the campus over the years. During his tenure at Timothy, there have been radical improvements to the campus—the new middle school and Ward Athletic Center, the new parking lot, renovations to the elementary school and entrance, and the new preschool playground. He credits the improvements to the generosity of the Timothy community. “The commitment of the Timothy community is incredible,” he says. “Just look around you and you see everything that we’ve been able to do by God’s grace, just from a building standpoint.”
Hoeksema’s most lasting impact on Timothy though, is not the new buildings or the new programs. It’s the faculty of the elementary and middle school. “This is the best staff I’ve ever been a part of,” Dr. Hoeksema says. “I hired really good people. They are committed to Christ and committed to Christ-centered education.”
During Dr. Hoeksema’s tenure at Timothy, MTSS or the Multi-Tiered System of Support was introduced. Three times a week, support staff flood each grade level, and every student receives personalized and targeted instruction in flexible groups without missing any core instruction. This could mean intervention to fill gaps, extra practice for repetition and automaticity, or enrichment and extension.
“We accommodate a much, much, much wider range of student needs than we did in the past,” Dr. Hoeksema says. “That’s the single biggest change. We used to be pretty narrow. One size fits all. We started moving out at the edges. And now, you know, we serve such a wide range of needs of God’s people, that it’s just really rewarding to see that happen.”