When Sacred Heart School in Lawrenceburg was looking for a new principal in the middle of the last school year, Sacred Heart Pastor Father Joseph Mundakal, C.M.I., turned to long-time parishioner Marian Pickett for help.
After teaching in Giles County public schools for 30 years, Pickett came out of retirement to take over as Sacred Heart’s principal last January. She began her first full year in the role on Aug. 3, when students returned to classes.
“I had been enjoying my life,” retired for 14 years, when Father Mundakal asked her to take over as principal, said Pickett, a Sacred Heart parishioner for 27 years. “I love the school, I love the church, and I felt like I needed to do this.”
“I have found my time here to be really rewarding,” Pickett said in a message on the school’s website. “The students are very special to me, and the teachers are extremely dedicated and easy to work with.”
Pickett is leading the school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced Sacred Heart and all the schools in the Diocese of Nashville to finish the last school year with distance learning.
“We worked so hard during the distance learning,” Pickett said of the teachers and staff at Sacred Heart. “I think it was harder on them,” she said of the teachers who had to shift from in-person to distance learning. “But it was also hard on the students and parents.”
Pickett and her staff were busy over the summer preparing for a return to in-person learning and keeping students and teachers safe.
“We are practicing social distancing,” Pickett said, and the school has ordered desk shields to further protect students against the spread of the virus.
Teachers and students also will have temperature checks every day and visitors will be limited, she said.
“The students have done great” on their return, Pickett said. “They are thrilled” to be together again.
Sacred Heart only lost one student because of the family’s concerns about the pandemic, Pickett said. But the school has gained 15 new students, not including the pre-kindergarten class, whose families have taken advantage of a diocesan tuition assistance program.
“It’s been very successful for us,” Pickett said.
Sacred Heart’s enrollment started this year at 71, which is up a net total of five students from the spring.
Pickett has introduced some new programs at Sacred Heart.
The school is now offering four exploratory classes for students in third through eighth grade, including: music theory and appreciation; technology and computer skills; history and geography; and creative writing, which Pickett will teach. She and her husband Ray have written three books of historical fiction.
For another project, “I want to really work on cursive writing,” Pickett said. “That’s one of my goals. I think a lot of parents are happy about it too, because we’ve gotten away from it.”
Studies have shown that practicing cursive writing can help students academically in other areas, she noted.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” Pickett said. But it was a push from her husband that got her started. He suggested she would be a good teacher. “I wouldn’t be in this job if it wasn’t for him,” she said.
She earned an associate’s degree from Martin Methodist College, a bachelor’s degree in education from Athens State University in Alabama, and a master’s degree in education from Tennessee State University.
Pickett started her teaching career as a high school teacher in Giles County, but spent the rest of her career there teaching seventh and eighth grade English.
Since coming to Sacred Heart, Pickett said, “I’m really enjoying it. It’s been a real challenge.”
“For more information about Sacred Heart School, visit http://www.shslburg.com/