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East Bradenton educator returns to McNeal Elementary as principal

Sheila Waid lands her first principal role after three decades in education.

Sheila Waid feels like she's returning home as the new principal at Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary School. Waid served as a student support specialist at McNeal Elementary from 2015 to 2018.
Sheila Waid feels like she's returning home as the new principal at Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary School. Waid served as a student support specialist at McNeal Elementary from 2015 to 2018.
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Country Creek’s Sheila Waid can’t wait to reunite with her Data Divas at Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary School.

From 2015 to 2018, Waid served as the student support specialist at McNeal Elementary, where she worked with a group of teachers who all wanted to learn more about data to help with their students. They called themselves the Data Divas. 

“It was great," Waid said. "They would come, we would read, and we would discuss: ‘Oh, what are you doing in your room to help the kids become in charge of their own data?’ The Data Divas, man, they were one remarkable group of people at McNeal. And they’re all still there, so I can’t wait to see what they’re doing now in their rooms four years later. To see that passion in teachers is great.” 

Waid, who had been the assistant principal at Williams Elementary from 2018-2021 and assistant principal at Garden-Bullock Elementary this past school year, will be able to work with her Data Divas once again as she takes on the role of principal at McNeal Elementary starting with the 2022-2023 school year. 

When Waid went back to McNeal Elementary in May to be introduced to the teachers and staff, she was thrilled. 

“I truly felt like I was going home again,” she said. “I’m honored and ecstatic to go back and start this new chapter in my career and help them to move forward.”

After 30 years in education, McNeal Elementary will be the first school in which Waid serves as principal. 

Her philosophy is the idea everyone in leadership positions should be lifelong learners with the desire to inspire others to be the best they can be. 

“As a school leader, I have to collaborate with every stakeholder and understand the importance of keeping myself grounded in my values and who I am,” she said. “If I keep myself grounded, then I can support, encourage, mentor and challenge everybody in the school community, but if I, myself, am not grounded, I can’t do that.”

Walking into school every day, Waid said she chooses joy. She chooses to remain positive no matter what happens during the day or week, and she encourages her students to do the same.

“Attitude is a lot,” Waid said. “Sometimes things aren’t great at home, but when you walk into (the school), we love you. It’s going to be a good day. That’s why I’m in it because (the students) change my life. They make me happy.”

Waid keeps a gratitude journal on her desk, and she lists three things she’s thankful for at the end of the day. For example, she wrote about when two students at Garden-Bullock Elementary School found two $20 bills on the ground during the fifth grade graduation ceremony in May and turned them in rather than keeping them for themselves. 

“That was so touching to me because they could have easily kept that,” Waid said. “That’s what the world needs, honest people, that’s what we’re raising.”

When she’s not at school, Waid likes to read, go hiking, go to the movies or watch any sport she can, including teams from the University of South Florida. 

Her sons,Tyler, Alec, Quentin and Spencer, all either graduated or are attending the University of South Florida and Waid herself received her principal certification from USF.  

During her time at McNeal Elementary, Olivia Swartling, a fourth grade teacher at McNeal Elementary and USF graduate, gave Waid a sock monkey dressed in USF gear that Waid took with her to Williams and Garden-Bullock elementary schools.

Her sock monkey will be going with her as she returns to McNeal Elementary. 

Waid’s passions include learning about local nonprofits. She started the Loeys-Dietz Syndrome Foundation in 2007 because her son, Quentin, has Loeys-Dietz Syndrome, which is a genetic disorder that affects the connective tissue in the body. 

She loves to get her students involved in nonprofits to help the community and organizations whether they are writing cards, collecting pennies or participating in a service project. 

“We need to support (nonprofits), and there’s so many right here in our community,” Waid said. “That’s a big part of my heart. As soon as you tell a group of kids, they want to do it. You don’t have to think of the ideas because the kids are going to do that. I’m hoping that’s something we can continue at McNeal.”


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