October is National Principals Month! Our principals work hard each and every day to promote student well-being and support our exceptional staff. Throughout the month we will be featuring some of the principals you know and love and highlight what makes them unique.
The lunchroom at Wilburton was filled with screams from students as soon as Simone Neal, the assistant principal, mentioned “DJ Dance Party”. It’s when Neal becomes the DJ for an entire lunch hour – “the kids love it, but I’m pretty exhausted by the end!” she laughed. The effortless way Neal connects with the students was apparent as she went from captivating an entire lunchroom to congratulating one student on becoming a big brother.
Neal came to Bellevue from Baltimore, Maryland where she worked in education for 12 years and has been with the Bellevue School District for the past three years. After graduating from the University of Maryland, she taught full-time in Baltimore City Public Schools. Over those 12 years, Neal taught English, History and Math at the elementary, middle and high school level. She has also served as an instructional coach, assistant principal and interim principal.
At the University of Maryland, Neal majored in English and minored in Biology, Psychology and Music and she taught music during her undergraduate years to help pay for her education. “I enjoyed teaching kids new experiences, forming lasting relationships with families and planning lessons to reach diverse learners,” says Neal. “That experience catalyzed my decision to enter the field of education.”
“My passion is around closing the achievement gap by creating equal access to high quality instruction that is not contingent upon race, culture or social economic status,” says Neal. She believes in education as a great equalizer. Asked about what drives her and she says she wants to make “invisible students visible.” As an educator and leader, she also strives to create life-long experiences that students will value and remember for their lifetime.
As a principal Neal also wants to operate in excellence and model excellence for teachers and staff. “I want my staff to love coming to work and feel empowered to provide high-quality education to all students.” Watch her interact in classrooms at Wilburton and you’ll see that she knows the students by name, but also the details of what might be impacting them outside of the classroom. She stops to talk with one student about their family’s upcoming move and celebrates another’s phenomenal knowledge of computers.
Asked about her favorite part of being a principal and Neal enthusiastically answers that she enjoys serving students and their families. “I am committed to following through on my promises and providing an excellent education for all students,” Neal says.
Equity and inclusion are core values for Neal because they are personal. “I was inspired to become an educator because I was in the achievement gap,” Neal acknowledges. “Education granted me opportunities and access into spaces I would not typically be invited. I want to prepare students like me for the future world and inspire them to achieve greatness.”