For Sibling Principals Dr. Tracy Pickett and Dr. Gregory Pickett, Being Educators is ‘What We Were Born to Do’
For the first time in recent memory, Richland One has siblings leading two district schools. Dr. Tracy Pickett is starting her eighth year as the principal at Pine Grove Elementary School. Her brother, Dr. Gregory Pickett, is the new principal at Heyward Gibbes Middle School.
The siblings say it’s no coincidence that they both pursued careers in education.
“Gregory and I grew up in a family of educators,” Tracy said. “Our mother is a retired educator. Throughout our whole lives, we’ve been around education. This was basically what we were born to do.”
In addition to serving as principals in the district, the siblings are products of Richland One. They attended Denny Terrace Elementary School, and they went to middle school at Heyward Gibbes. Tracy went on to graduate from Eau Claire High School, and Gregory graduated from Dreher High School.
Both say their time as Richland One students influenced them to return to work for the district.
“Tracy and I had teachers, assistant principals, principals and school counselors when we were students in this district who took an interest in us. They loved us. They cared for us. They prepared us for the next phase of our educational journey. That’s simply what we want to do. As brother and sister, we just want to give back,” Gregory said.
Tracy began her career in education in 2002 as a teacher at South Kilbourne Elementary School. She later taught at Pine Grove for a year and in Allendale for three years. She came back to teach in Pine Grove in 2012, before becoming an assistant principal in 2014 and principal in 2016.
“Every day is different for me. I enjoy seeing the students come in, knowing that I’m touching lives and that I’m responsible for making sure our students are growing socially, emotionally and academically,” Tracy said.
Gregory’s career began in 2012 as an English teacher and coach at C.A. Johnson High School, where he later became the school’s athletics director. After leaving C.A. Johnson, Gregory served as a lead teacher at Olympia Learning Center. He was an assistant principal at Alcorn Middle School for three and a half years before being named principal at Heyward Gibbes.
“I’m extremely proud of him and glad he decided to become a principal,” Tracy said.
Throughout his journey as an educator in Richland One, Gregory says making an impact in students’ lives has been his priority. That’s one of the reasons why he says he decided to follow in his sister’s footsteps and become a principal.
“I felt like I was an impactful teacher, coach and athletic administrator. I have constantly been looking for ways to involve myself in the school community and help students. As principal, I’m fully responsible for the total operation of a school community. It’s a responsibility to our stakeholders, district leaders and students,” Gregory said.
The siblings say they bounce ideas off each other all the time and push each other to succeed, even though they have different perspectives about education.
When Gregory started to pursue his path to becoming principal, one Tracy’s biggest pieces of advice was for him to develop himself professionally. He says he did that by participating in leadership programs and courses through Richland One and the South Carolina Department of Education. Gregory also recently completed his doctorate degree from Charleston Southern University.
“Tracy has always encouraged me to be the best version of myself in order for me to be prepared to lead others,” he said.
When it comes to being a new principal, Tracy gave her brother an important piece of advice – breathe.
“Take everything one day at a time,” she advised him. “Don’t feel like you have to get everything done because there’s always going to be something else on your plate. Know that you’ll get it done.”
The sibling principals say they are excited about the new school year. For Gregory, returning to Heyward Gibbes as principal is a homecoming.
“I’m excited to be serving the students at Heyward Gibbes because I used to be one. There is already such a strong foundation of school and community at the school that I’m looking to building off of,” he said.
Tracy and Gregory say they’re looking forward to seeing growth from their students this school year, the same way they’ve seen each other grow professionally.