Sharpstown Educator Spotlight: Amanda Wingard, HISD Elementary Principal of the Year

Sharpstown Educator Spotlight: Amanda Wingard, HISD Elementary Principal of the Year
Principal Amanda Wingard and former Superintendent Millard House II. Image Credit:

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Amanda Wingard says she didn’t plan to become a principal, but now she’s HISD Elementary Principal of the Year—at the Sharpstown school she attended as a child.

In the entry and hallway outside Wingard’s office at Neff Elementary, bright-colored artwork adorned the walls. Sporting a yellow headband, Wingard sat at a table in front of the eagle-head bookend in her bookcase. Next to it hung large canvas photographs of her husband, daughter, and son.

Wingard attended Neff Elementary, Sharpstown Middle School, and Sharpstown High School. In her student days, Neff Elementary was on the other side of Mary Bates Blvd in the one-story brick building that is now Neff Early Learning Center. After she returned to Neff as a teacher, the school grew so much that it was forced to split: one building for preschool – 1stgrade, and one for grades 2-5.

Now, Wingard heads the approximately 750 students in grades 2-5.

She says she always knew she wanted to be a teacher and “loved working with kids.” When she attended Texas A&M, she worked as a youth intern with her church, so “it was just a natural transition to being a teacher.”

But being a principal wasn’t one of her goals—she says it just “happened organically.”

A typical day for Wingard—there is no such thing. But that’s what she loves about her job. On calm days, she gets to visit classrooms, walk hallways, stop by the cafeteria, and talk with teachers. Other days, she spends resolving issues with students and families. But even then, “you feel peace in knowing you were there and able to help them.”

Wingard estimates that 75% of Neff students are learning English as their second language. That comes with its own challenges, especially after virtual education during COVID. Many students fell behind on their language skills or have had difficulty readjusting to the social dynamics of a regular classroom environment, says Wingard.

The school year that just concluded was the first year that classes returned to normal. The year before that, students had to mask and socially distance, and parents weren’t allowed on campus. The year before that, school was “a mix of hybrid and at home.”

To help students readjust, Wingard supports character education. Neff’s counselor has been giving kids weekly lessons on kindness, respect, self-control, anger management, and more.

Each school day begins with Wingard and her staff greeting every “kiddo” as they enter the school. Some of them may remember her for years.

Recently, Wingard received an email from a former student from the first class she ever taught: “Miss Wingard, do you remember me?” Wingard did. The student, now a grown woman, wrote that her son is going to attend Neff Elementary as a second grader this fall.

To Wingard, “Those kinds of things are what really make it special.”

This is an as-told-by story. We have not independently fact-checked all of Wingard’s statements about herself and her school.

We also asked Wingard about hot-button education issues like grading policies, standardized tests, and phonics versus sight reading. Read the interview.