Grand Rapids — Faith and foundation are central to the philosophy Tim Mabin is bringing to his alma mater, Ottawa Hills High School, as its new principal.
The faith component manifests in the way Mabin endeavors to treat others, while “foundation” is, in this case, all about doing what he can to help teachers succeed.
Mabin comes to Ottawa Hills after spending six years as principal of Shawmut Hills Elementary School, and though he was a beloved administrator at Shawmut, he never intended to stay there forever.
When he was asked to make the move to his old school last spring, he said he was happy to do so.
“I knew that this is where I was supposed to be, right away,” Mabin said of Ottawa Hills.
Prior to his tenure at Shawmut, Mabin served as the assistant principal of Grand Rapids University Prep Academy. He also spent 10 years teaching math at various posts, including Grand Rapids Montessori High School, the prep academy and Ottawa Hills.
Though becoming a high school administrator was always the goal, Mabin said he cherishes his time as a teacher and elementary school principal.
“For me, personally, at this point in my career, it’s nice to have preschool through 12th-grade experience,” Mabin said. “It gives a broader understanding of the developmental process of kids, and what they need at each level.”
Making an Impact
Mabin said he made the move to administration to maximize his impact on students.
“I’m an educator because I love kids, and I want to support them and support their families,” Mabin said. “I left the classroom not because I didn’t love being with kids anymore, but (because) I wanted to figure out how I could expand my influence.”
He champions “taking really good care of teachers so they can take really good care of kids.”
“If you can set teachers up to be successful, then you can ultimately have a more positive impact,” he said.
Mabin tries to foster environments in which teachers feel they’re part of a team, supporting one another and not “working in a silo.” He said he prides himself on building personal — as well as professional — connections with staff members.
‘I’m an educator because I love kids, and I want to support them and support their families.’— Ottawa Hills High School Principal Tim Mabin
As a man of faith, Mabin said the song “Children of God” by the band Third Day is always on his mind.
“I have a faith-based approach to education,” he said. “Living as a Christian person in our world and trying to be a reflection of God’s love for people — that’s kind of like the grounding of the core of where I start from and who I am.”
Mabin said he routinely ponders how best to treat others and provide them with the love, support and resources they need.
He counts the opportunity to inspire others and seeing kids “take ownership over their lives and envision a bright future” as some of the best parts of his job.
Back at Ottawa Hills
Mabin said it’s great to be back at the school where he spent time as a student and teacher, and where he met his wife when the two were first-year teachers during the 2005-06 school year.
His outlook is informed by his former principal, Sidney Bailey, who led the high school when Mabin was a student.
“I remember Ottawa as being … a very diverse school, with lots of different family makeups from the southeast side of Grand Rapids attending school, and having lots of opportunities with advanced classes and dual enrollment classes, exposure to opportunities for summer camps and things like that. I think about the way the school environment felt when Mr. Bailey was here, and I think that’s really what I strive to achieve here.”
Mabin’s goals for the year include filling all the vacant teacher postings and getting everyone properly credentialed. He’s already filled a majority of the open seats, and he expects the school will be “100% staffed and certified” by fall 2024.
Mabin holds a Ph.D. in pre-K-12 educational leadership from Western Michigan University, and a master’s degree in education and bachelor’s degree in secondary teaching, math and history, both from Cornerstone University.
Mabin and his wife, Amy, live in Jenison with their 11-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son.
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