News at WilmU

Delaware’s Principal of the Year

Melissa Brady

Wilmington University alumna Melissa Brady seemed predestined to be a teacher. After all, it was in her blood: her mother, two aunts, and her maternal grandfather all were educators. 

Surprisingly, her mother, Denise Schwartz, who has a master’s in School Leadership from WilmU and was a teacher and administrator in the Christina School District for many years, tried to steer her daughter away from a career in education.

“She knew the amount of work was a lot, and she wanted to make sure that I really had my heart in the right place,” Brady says.

Fortunately, after a brief detour into banking, Brady followed her heart, and 20 years after entering the profession, she has been named Delaware’s National Distinguished Principal for 2023 by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). Established in 1984, the National Distinguished Principals program recognizes elementary and middle-level principals who set high standards for instruction, student achievement, character, and climate for the students, families, and staff in their communities. The honorees are selected by NAESP state affiliates and committees representing private and overseas schools.

The principal at Linden Hill Elementary School in suburban Wilmington, Brady has worked in Red Clay Consolidated School District for the past eight years. Under her leadership, Linden Hill became a National Blue Ribbon School for 2022.

Brady graduated from Newark High School, where she was a cheerleader, a member of student government, and an Ambassador at the annual Blue-Gold All-Star football game. After high school, she initially heeded her mother’s advice and majored in Criminal Justice and Spanish at the University of Delaware, graduating in 1999. 

She spent three years with First USA Bank before pivoting to her true calling and enrolling at Wilmington University. “First USA was so supportive of me going back to school for Education that they allowed me to continue working until I began student teaching,” she says.

Brady chose to pursue her master’s at WilmU because of its reputation for turning out educators. “Also,” she says, “as a young professional, I needed a school that offered evening classes that worked with my schedule.”

“I loved my time at WilmU. . . . It was the first time I felt really, really good at something. And I found an amazing network of people. It felt like a family.” 

— Melissa Brady

She enrolled in 2002 and received her master’s in Elementary Education in 2004. Later, she earned School Leadership/Principal Certification from the University.

“I loved my time at WilmU,” Brady says. “I always tell people my experience as an undergrad was to grow up. I was in a sorority, and I learned to be independent. But my true college experience started when I got my master’s. It was the first time I felt really, really good at something. And I found an amazing network of people. It felt like a family. We went through it together and it’s a group that I am still friends with to this day.”

Brady, her husband, and her daughter — a junior at McKean High School — live in the Linden Hill feeder pattern, and she enjoys encountering her students and their parents away from school, whether she’s walking the family dog in the neighborhood or shopping at the supermarket. She says the community — including the PTA — has been very supportive of the school. 

She credits her staff — which totals 75, including custodial and cafeteria personnel — for the school’s success. “Our staff is so resilient,” she says, “and they put the kids first. Our motto is ‘love, lead, and learn,’ and we do that every day.”

In presenting her award, Dorrell Green, superintendent of Red Clay Schools, said the honor “is a testament to her dedication, leadership, and unwavering commitment to our school and community. We are fortunate to have such an exceptional leader guiding our school to excellence.”

Brady calls her six years at Linden Hill Elementary “a wonderful experience.”

“I enjoy seeing students when they’re excelling,” she says, “and I know that they are our future leaders. I’m energized by the resilience of children, and I’m inspired by the staff that come in and do — and I know I’m biased — what I consider the hardest work on the planet. I understand we’re not curing cancer, but we are teaching the children who will. And we don’t take that responsibility lightly.”

—Bob Yearick

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