HINSDALE – A skiing, snowboarding, guitar-thrashing basketball lover isn’t exactly the stereotypical make-up of a grade school principal.
Justin Horne, 33, was recently named the new principal at Monroe School after receiving approval from the Board of Education on June 24. He started his career at District 181 in the 2004-05 school year as a fourth-grade teacher at The Lane School, and moved to fifth grade the following year.
But his journey didn’t simply start in 2004. As early as third grade, Horne knew he wanted to be a teacher after seeing his own teacher’s style and after she asked her students what they wanted to do when they grew up.
“On my first day of teaching, I called Mrs. Toth and thanked her for inspiring me all those years prior,” Horne said. “There was a sense of passing the torch, as it was her final year of teaching. We still keep in touch.”
Of course Horne dreamed big.
At an early age, Horne loved shooting hoops with his father, and up until eighth grade had dreams of playing in the NBA. When he got to high school, he started coaching younger players and realized his knowledge of the game surpassed his skill.
He now is the owner and operator of Just Hoops, a summer basketball camp for middle school-aged children in Hinsdale.
“When I moved to this area, I saw a need to host a small camp, never more than 15 players, so I could work with players that love basketball and could give them more individualized attention,” he said. “At times, my camp will have a 2:1 player-to-coach ratio.”
Horne said he was “ecstatic” when the Board of Education approved him as principal of Monroe. He said his immediate goal for the year is to just build relationships with the staff, parents and students, and said District 181 has been ahead of the curve in regard to education in Illinois.
“New children coming eager to learn every year keeps me motivated to work even harder to do what is best for kids,” he said.
Not specific to Monroe, but Horne said all schools in Illinois will have to adjust to the new Common Core Standards, and said that may mean making adjustments to how the curriculum is taught. For now, though, he is looking forward to a challenge many knew he was born for.
“People who I’ve told said they’re not surprised,” Horne said, of telling friends and family of his new role. “I think they knew I’d be a principal even before I did.”
For now, Horne is just going to look forward to his new role in the district, and enjoy what he has wanted to do since the third grade.
“For the last 10 years I’ve smiled going to work every morning so I wouldn’t want to do any other job,” he said.