Teresa Weatherall Neal's experience with Grand Rapids Public Schools goes all the way back to being a kindergarten student.
In urban school districts, where the average superintendent stays on the job maybe three to five years, her institutional history and knowledge provide great insight into the schools and community. Teresa is a product of GRPS and is dedicated to the district. While she became superintendent in 2012, she began working for the district when she was fifteen, as a co-op student in the central office. Later, she served the district in the roles of receptionist, secretary, director of student activities, compliance officer, and assistant superintendent. Teresa earned an associate degree from Grand Rapids Community College, a Bachelor of Arts degree in public administration from Grand Valley State University, and a Master of Education, Educational Leadership and Administration from Western Michigan University.
One of the things Teresa is most proud of is sticking with GRPS. "Grand Rapids has wonderful things to offer—it's a warm place to be. I've passed up other job offers because I believe the best is yet to come—with Grand Rapids, not some other entity. I believe in our children, and I believe in Grand Rapids. I've always loved education, and felt it was my place to be involved in GRPS. Every job I've ever had with the district has helped to prepare me for this role. I believe this was my destiny."
In addition to her GRPS service, Teresa is involved with many civic organizations. "I choose organizations based on what value I can bring to the table, and whether their mission aligns with my values. Removing barriers—clearing a path for other people—that's important to me. Their mission has to align with who I am as a person, not just superintendent." Teresa has served as a member of the Spectrum Health Communities board of directors for fourteen years, in addition to serving on the boards of Covenant House of Michigan, Kent Schools Services Network, and Challenge Scholars Program.
In meeting her responsibilities, Teresa looks to community and family for inspiration. "There are so many great role models in this community. My family provides great counsel—they understand that I believe this is my destiny. I am also inspired by many of the single women who are doing so much with their careers, their community, their children ..." She looks to those who are "bold, caring, strong, and kind—those who share the journey and help those coming up behind them, without being judgmental. We need to show people love, help them to be courageous, help them get there."
Most important, Teresa believes, "You must stay true to who you really are. Stick close to who you are in your heart. Things tend to work out if you surround yourself with positive people, and stay true to yourself."
On April 22, 2015, Teresa will be recognized at the 2015 Women of Achievement and Courage Celebration West Michigan in honor of her community leadership. The event, which takes place at the JW Marriott, Grand Rapids, and is being held by the Michigan Women's Foundation. West Michigan Woman is proud to be a sponsor for this event. Click here for more information about the celebration.
Written by Jennifer Reynolds, staff writer at West Michigan Woman.
Photo courtesy of Kelly Braman Photography.