by Jennifer Wilson
You may have heard about Teresa Weatherall Neal in the news recently. She’s been getting a lot of ink and air time. She happens to be the superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools and Teresa just received a unanimous vote from the School Board to proceed with her transformation plan. It wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen overnight.
So Women’s LifeStyle sat down with the superintendent to chat with her about anything but the big plan she is ready to enfold. We wanted to get to know this firecracker that’s making big things happen in her short tenure for the world of children. Here’s what we talked, laughed and smiled about:
When did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?
I went to school to be a social worker, but I always knew I wanted to help people, especially children. I like to fight for the underdog.
What is something you haven’t done yet that you plan to do?
I’ve never taken a cruise, perhaps one day to the Caribbean.
What’s your favorite song to listen to right now?
I listen to Christmas music from October through December. And, I love music. All kinds; R&B, gospel, rap, 60s and 70s, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, and The Temptations.
What is your favorite drink?
Margaritas, but those are high in calorie. Otherwise, Diet Coke.
Favorite local restaurant?
Beltline Bar… I go there three times a week!
Do you have any tattoos?
Yes, I do. I have a butterfly from 20 years ago. In fact, I took my daughter to get her first tattoo when she was 15 years old.
What are you reading?
Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands by Terry Morrison. I’m learning about different cultures.
What is your most cherished possession?
My family. I’m a great grandmother… I mean I’m good at being at a grandmother.
Favorite thing to dress up in?
I’m all girl. I love lace and high heels.
Favorite room in your home?
Definitely the sun room. It’s a room of my own.
Who is someone that might be surprised to learn that you admire them?
It’s not someone specific. I really admire single parents and what they can do.
Paper or plastic?
I’m not fussy. Whatever they give me.
Where do you go to get away from it all?
I just don’t get away from it all. I’m always in it. I’m a workaholic. Even after church on Sunday I come to the office and sometimes my husband, Dennis, comes with me and watches the game there.
What’s the kookiest thing in your purse right now?
I just started Weight Watchers last week, so for me it’s the Weight Watcher’s calculator.
Best topping for an ice cream sundae?
I’m not really a sweets person. If I had to I would cut up some banana and put it on top. Just give me a bag of chips.
What is one thing you wish I had asked you?
I love to sew. I actually have four sewing machines, one of which was my great grandmother’s. I also like to cook dinner and bring things in for the GRPS staff.
What I learned about Teresa is she’s just like you and me. She’s funny, humble and loves her family, and the children of GRPS. When you see her on the news discussing educational over haul with a reporter or a picture of her flashed across newsprint, you know. That’s Teresa. She’s the woman that makes things happen in Grand Rapids, but also the gentle hearted woman that goes to church, listens to cool music, likes to eat a bag of chips and comes home to cook dinner for her husband. She could be your neighbor next door.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jennifer Wilson is editor-in-chief of Women’s Lifestyle Magazine and CEO of Grand Development Associates, a nonprofit consulting firm. She enjoys hanging out with her teenage daughter, Morgan, reading library books and shopping for the latest bargain.