Justin Horne, the new PK-8th grade principal, was originally scheduled to meet the faculty and staff on March 12. But the meet and greet was canceled as Illinois schools prepared to close due to COVID-19. Justin, who is slated to begin as Timothy’s PK-8th grade principal this summer, has an impressive resume: He has served as the principal at Monroe Elementary in Hinsdale for the past seven years, and taught at The Lane School before that. Justin 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.
But his education and experience aren’t the only things that impressed the search committee. “Justin Horne is an educational leader, influencer, and force. He builds trust and moves people through developing authentic relationships,” Matt Davidson says. “He believes in the value of hard work, the power of collaboration, and that love remains our greatest motivation. Above all, he is committed to developing life-long learners and servant leaders who fully live out their purpose in the world for Christ.”
Like many of us, Justin has been working from home for the past month, managing his current school’s home platform - and also helping his two kids, Nathan, a 5th grader, and Catherine, a 1st grader, with home learning. He took some time this spring to chat with Timothy’s Amy Bode through Google Meet. Read on to learn more about how Justin discovered Timothy, Justin’s view on Timothy’s mission statement, and how he connects with students.
How did you hear about Timothy Christian Schools?
We live four blocks away from Timothy and our next door neighbors are the Roozebooms, who are a long-time Timothy family. I’ve been following Timothy and getting the newsletter for years. My wife, Becky, and I always said we wanted our kids to attend Timothy Christian High School. There are also quite a few Timothy families at our church, Immanuel Lutheran in Elmhurst.
Were you actively looking for a job?
No. I’ve been the principal at Monroe Elementary in Hinsdale for the past seven years. I’ve actually been in District 181 for 16 years. I spent 9 years at The Lane School in Hinsdale as a fourth grade teacher and then as a fifth grade teacher.
Why did you leave the classroom to become a principal?
I had been in a lot of leadership roles within the district. I was the teachers’ union president and helped with a lot of committees. I wanted to make a bigger impact than I could just in my classroom and being a principal just offered me that opportunity.
Do you miss the daily interactions with students in the classroom?
I miss it a lot. I would go to specials with my class, so I would do their art project alongside them. I sometimes would go to music and play the guitar, or I would go to PE and either play games with the kids or just watch them in a different environment.
You sound like a fun teacher! How do you connect with students as the principal?
I get a lot of opportunities to get back in the classroom. If teachers are open to it, I try to go in and do guest lessons, read alouds, or I’ll just stop in and play my guitar. Being the principal just gave me that opportunity and now I get to know so many more kids.
Were you the principal when Monroe was awarded the National Blue Ribbon?
Yes, it was my third year as principal that we received the Blue Ribbon. And then a couple years later we received the Green Ribbon. We really like our ribbons at Monroe.
Wow! That’s impressive. What’s a Green Ribbon?
That was for our commitment to sustainability education and environmental education. In my seven years as principal, I’ve gotten to go to Washington, DC twice to help represent our school and district to receive those awards. That’s been a great honor! I was a teacher at The Lane when we won the Blue Ribbon. So I’ve been able to be part of a teaching team that’s won and then also as a leader. So that’s been kind of unique.
God has given us gifts and talents and we need to use them to further His glory.
If you weren’t looking for a job, how did you hear about the open principal position at Timothy?
It was all really organic. One day, I was talking over the fence to my neighbor, Dave Roozeboom, and he mentioned that Dr. Hoeksema was retiring. He said: ‘I know you’re really happy where you’re at and probably wouldn’t ever leave but I thought I’d mentioned that just in case.’
What was your initial reaction?
I thought the position was pretty intriguing. Then another Timothy family from our church, the Zielkes, (Trixy is a high school art teacher and Joel is the varsity soccer coach) encouraged me to apply. The next day, Trixy mentioned it to someone at Timothy and it got around to Matt Davidson that I might be interested in the position. Matt reached out to me and asked me if I had any questions.
This sounds like it was very organic.
Yes, it was. I didn’t want to close any doors, so I just started praying about it. I thought I would just keep walking through the open doors, and God would shut the door if it wasn’t the right thing. Ultimately, Timothy could have said that I wasn’t the best candidate. But everything that happened kept reaffirming that this was the right choice.
The Timothy community is very supportive like a family. Have you experienced that yet?
Absolutely. I reached out to the Moms in Prayer group and asked for their prayers during this transition. I was really impressed with their immediate response and felt very supported in a way that I can already tell it’s a supportive community.
Have you met Dr. Hoeksema?
Yes. He was really gracious in answering all my questions and he gave me a tour early on and we had a good long chat about the position when I was first considering applying. Right before interviews, Tim gave my family and I a quick tour and answered their questions. It was great for them to get to meet him. I’ve also had coffee with Brad Mitchell and started to exchange emails with him to get up to speed on some different things that are in the works, so that’s been great.
What excites you the most about Timothy?
When I was looking into the position the thing that excited me most was being able to pray directly with staff and students. I think that’s going to have a huge impact on everything that I’ve already been able to do, and that’s going to be able to just take everything so much further. I also really believe in Timothy’s mission. When I was going through the application, I told Matt every sentence I read I was getting more and more excited because it was very similar to how I try to live my life and what I believe. I want to see that in action and modeled at all levels.
I’m glad you brought up our mission, what do you think of Go Beyond?
When I saw that, I was really excited because, to me, it means that you’re never going to be stagnant, you’re never going to just settle. We’re going to continue to try to better ourselves, better others around us, help the community, and help people around the world. God has given us gifts and talents and we need to use them to further His glory.