Dan Matthews originally came to Grand Valley to play baseball, but the Comstock Park, Michigan, native also liked that the school was a "young, fresh college and I wanted to be a part of that." More than 30 years later, the 1976 political science major (and elementary ed minor), is still breaking new ground. Most recently the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) named him National Assistant Principal of the Year. In doing so he became the first Michigan principal to earn the prestigious award.
Credited with redefining the role of the assistant principal from disciplinarian to bridge builder, Matthews, assistant principal at Northview High School in Grand Rapids, is proud of his accomplishments more for what they have meant to his students than for the accolades they have earned him. "There are better ways of doing things than punishing kids," he said. "The assistant principal should be a mentor, someone who works with kids to build relationships." And he has results to back up his theory: Eight years ago when he took over his role, there were 800 punishments doled out at Northview High School. In 2004 there were 38. It's no wonder that educators from across the country regularly inquire about his model and how to implement it at their schools.
Matthews was chosen for the award from a field of 52 nominees from across the country, defeating two other national semi-finalists during a rigorous live interview session before a NASSP panel. He was presented the award in front of 2,500 other educators and dignitaries including keynote speaker and former New York governor Mario Cuomo at the 2005 NASSP National Convention in San Francisco
In addition to the event in San Francisco, Matthews also received a trip to a black-tie banquet in Washington, D.C., and a check for $5,000, which he planned to contribute to establishing a fitness center at Northview. "I'm a firm believer in body, mind, and soul," he said in reference to both the reason he came to Allendale in the first place and the road his life has taken since.
Matthews also earned master's degrees in language arts and special education from Grand Valley, for which he holds a special place in his heart. "I loved my time there," he said. "I liked the atmosphere and had such a good experience. It prepared me for my career very well."