A+ Principal on a Mission

Justin Horne, the Pk-8th grade principal, has an impressive resume. He was a teacher at The Lane School in Hinsdale when it was awarded the National Blue Ribbon Award. Then he served as the principal at Monroe Elementary in Hinsdale for seven years when it was awarded the National Blue Ribbon. 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.

His list of professional accomplishments is indeed impressive. But what sets Justin Horne apart is his deep desire to inspire others to use their gifts and talents all for the glory of God. We sat down with him to talk about Timothy’s mission and how he connects with students.

You left a very successful and highly ranked school district, Hinsdale District 181, to come to Timothy two years ago. What is the difference between Timothy and a public school in Hinsdale?

I really believe the most critical difference is Timothy is Biblically-based and Christ-centered. Timothy teachers pray for and with their students. I’ve seen it in preschool, in the elementary classrooms, and even on our middle school athletic teams where the coach will do devotionals and pray with the athletes. Amazingly, I’ve had students pray for me! That’s just something that can’t happen on a daily basis in the public school arena.

You used to teach fourth and then fifth grade at The Lane School in Hinsdale. Do you miss classroom interactions?

I miss it a lot. But I’m always looking for opportunities to get back in the classroom. I always ask the teachers if I can sub, read to the class, or even come and play the guitar for students. I’m currently teaching a 6th grade boys Bible study class every Wednesday.

More than ever, parents want a traditional school without all the extra secular agendas. They crave Timothy’s Biblically-rooted approach.

A guitar playing principal is always popular!

Yes, the kids love it! In fact, I was able to start a middle school praise band. It’s been a really positive experience and gives me another opportunity to connect with our middle school students. There are many talented musicians and it’s been an honor to play with them and praise God with them during chapel.

What is chapel at Timothy like?

It’s a time to worship, pray, and to hear God’s Word. For many, many kids it’s their favorite time of the week. Our chapels are really planned around the kids and are age-appropriate, of course. So imagine getting a preschooler or kindergartner excited about chapel!

It’s pretty cool to watch them sing praise songs — they get really into it especially when there are movements to the songs. We also have chapel buddies, which means we pair older kids with younger ones. So a sixth grader would have a kindergarten chapel buddy. It’s really inspiring to not only watch relationships grow across grade levels, but it’s also leadership training for our older students. To be able to teach kids the importance of worship is really an invaluable experience, then to have them actively participate just really deepens their faith.

Timothy is seeing more and more parents applying from district 181. Why do you think that is?

Ha! As much as I’d like to think it’s me, it’s not. Parents at public schools want more than ever to feel as if they are in control of their child’s education. I think the past two years have put every school under a microscope. Parents see what a profound impact the environment, culture, and values of a school have on their child. More than ever, parents want a traditional school without all the extra secular agendas. They crave Timothy’s Biblically-rooted approach.

Timothy’s mission says that it exists to uphold Biblical truth, ignite academic growth, and inspire courageous leadership one student at a time. What does that look like in the elementary and middle schools?

It’s a pretty tall order to accomplish all of that! I think it starts with seeing our students as individuals with God-given gifts and talents. We have a team of support staff that surrounds our students and teachers as we work to meet the needs of every student. We have a robust MTSS (or multi-tiered system of support) that provides small group instruction and individualized attention, allowing students to flourish academically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

What is the parents’ role at Timothy?

It’s our goal to remain in lockstep with parents. We see parents as the first stakeholder in their child’s education. We believe that it’s crucial for parents, the Christian school, and church to be united in their Biblical worldview to train and equip students for life.   

Why is Christ-Centered education so important?

There seems to be a popular secular agenda that is aimed right at our youth — even our youngest students. We are countercultural at Timothy — everything we do is taught through the lens of faith. One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 22:6: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Christ is truly at the heart of everything we do here.

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