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New Neal principal plans wrestling program

Matthew Erik Hodge is someone we should get to know. This is his first year as the principal of W.S. Neal High School and he said he is happy to be there. He has been a teacher, coach, assistant principal and now a principal.

Since he has been a coach he holds a special place in his heart for sports. One of his plans is to organize and start a program of wrestling.

“To begin with there would not be any wrestling programs in which to compete close by, but it will come,” he said. “I think a wrestling program will go over very well here at Neal. I have been a coach for baseball, football, wrestling, cross country and golf.

“I love it here at W.S. Neal, but it has it’s problems because right now I am going back and forth to Trussville,” he added. “This was a good opportunity for me. It came so quickly that we are still sorting it all out. I was planning on retiring on Monday and I got the call from Neal on Sunday. I was already familiar with the school systems here and I knew several of the coaches at T.R. Miller because we all came from the same area of the state.”

Hodge was born in Corpus Christi Naval Base, the son of a career U.S. Marine. They lived all over the globe, but he said Guantanamo Base in Cuba, was his favorite. He graduated from Battery Creek High School at Beaufort, S.C. He got involved with a teaching program while in high school and decided to become a teacher.

“I had good reason for choosing teaching for a career,” he said. “After being in the military for 25 years, my dad retired and became a teacher for the next 25 years. My sister was a teacher and it just became something I was meant to do.”

He attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1993. He received his master’s degree in 2005 from The University of Alabama and a degree in education in 2007.

After he received his bachelor’s degree in 1993, he taught the third and sixth grades at Fultondale Elementary School for a year and from 1994 to 1999, he taught at Erwin Elementary School. He went to Clay-Chalkville Middle School in Trussville as a coach in 1999 until 2014; to Pinson Valley High School from 2015-2016 as assistant principal; and at Pell City High School from 2016 to 2018 as assistant principal.

This is his first year as principal at W.S. Neal and he seems to be happy about that.

“Neal is the place to be,” he said. “If you want to see great things happening, come to W.S. Neal High School.”

Hodge and his wife, Christine, have three children; Zachary, who graduated from the University of West Georgia in May; Emily, who is a senior at the University of West Georgia; and Gabe, who is a senior at Hewitt High School in Trussville. Right now Christine is still in their home in Trussville while Hodge is commuting, going to Trussville on the weekends.

“I love it here, although it has its problems of going back and forth, but this was just too good an opportunity to pass up.”