Wesley W. Matthews Bio

WesleyWesley W. Matthews served Dade County Public Schools for 38 years, and in the process left an indelible mark on the entire school system. To this day, his philosophy and achievements affect every student in Dade County. Mr. Matthews was born in North Dakota and moved to Florida in 1912 at the age of three. His family settled near Homestead where Matthews went to elementary school. He was graduated from Miami Senior High School in 1924, attained his bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan, and his masters’ degree from Duke University. He began his teaching career at Shenandoah Junior High School, then became principal at Little River Junior High School. During this time, Mr. Matthews had the distinction of being the first depositor of Dade County Teachers Federal Credit Union! He later served as Principal at Miami Jackson High Schools from 1941-1953, during which time he was responsible for the construction of the gymnasium, administrative offices, home economics classroom and woodshop facility. Mr. Matthews Left Miami Jackson to become Assistant Superintendent for General Education under W.R. Thomas. He later served as a District Superintendent under Joe Hall. As an administrator, Mr. Matthews was known for his fair, even-handed, no-nonsense approach. Yet he strongly believed in getting away from regimentation so as to allow principals and teachers to exercise initiative and judgment. What this brief chronicle does not reveal are two key contributions which M. Matthews made to Dade County Schools. The first was his introduction of the community school concept, which he based upon a successful model in Michigan. He believed in schools serving the needs of each neighborhood, in effect becoming the hub of the surrounding community. Mr. Matthews was also responsible for helping to develop programs for acclimating and assimilating the children who were part of the initial influx of families who fled Cuba in the 1960’s It is fitting that this school be named for Wesley Matthews. The fact that the student population is predominantly Hispanic is an apt tribute, given Mr. Matthews’ tireless efforts on behalf of the newly relocated Hispanics when he was District Superintendent. Another interesting connection to Wesley Matthews is the Global Village’s emphasis on community. Mr. Matthews brought to Dade County the concept of the schools as the center for the community. Now, more than sixty years later, a school bearing his name takes that concept to the next level. Mr. Matthews believed that “education should make people self-reliant and self-disciplined. The emphasis is on “self”, not on the code you have to follow.” Moreover, he believed that effective teachers do not “tell the child answers and keep a tight rein. Our job is to teach a child to follow the trail without a rein eventually to build a trail for him/her.” Students in this Global Village will have the skills necessary to become happy, successful, contributing members of society. As the teachers and administrators at Wesley Matthews Elementary School heed the words of the school’s namesake, this goal is sure to be achieved.