“What is going to be your legacy?” Marcus Heaston asks, sitting behind his desk with his hands folded.
Heaston, the new principal at Covington High School, tells a story about his family that has affected his life.
“My parents were teenagers when my mother became pregnant with me. She was faced with the difficult decision of becoming a young mother,” he said.
Heaston sits back in his chair, his hands together, as in prayer, under his chin.
“They made the decision to embrace their responsibility, and there were times my father worked two jobs to make ends meet,” says Heaston.
Things have come full circle for Heaston, who was recently named principal of Covington High School, and it’s because of the lessons his parents taught him through example.
“They showed my siblings and me how to use where you are from to get to where you want to go.”
And what a lesson it’s been. Marcus and younger siblings Mia and Marlon have become successful adults, a testament to the way they were raised, even by young parents.
In 2007, Mia became the first African-American to win the Miss Illinois USA pageant, then represented Illinois in the Miss USA pageant the same year. Prior to that, she won Miss Tipton County in 2001 and competed in the Miss Tennessee 2001 pageant.
Mia earned her MBA, is in medical sales for Alcon Laboratories and recently founded The Benoit Agency for talent and personal development.
Marlon, 27, was appointed an assistant principal for the Clarksville Montgomery County school system in Clarksville this past June.
He graduated from Southern Illinois University, playing defensive back for the Salukis. While at Covington High School, he was a Conference Player of the Year as well as an all-region and all-metro player who played quarterback, wide receiver, running back, linebacker and defensive back. Marlon was a National Honor Society member and four-year class president.
“All three of us have been groundbreakers in our fields, including me, the first African-American to be the principal at this school,” says Marcus.
Heaston began his professional career in the Tipton County School system with teaching at Munford Middle School, served as an assistant principal at Crestview Elementary, Munford High School and Covington High School and has also served the school system as a court liaison and with pupil services.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Tennessee at Martin, his Masters of Education in school administration and leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University and is currently pursuing his education specialist degree from the University of Memphis at Lambuth.
Before he became principal, Heaston founded Project Excel and the Legacy Awards at Covington High School.
Project Excel offers educational support service to at-risk students in Tipton County. Excel participants are offered academic enrichment/tutoring, mentoring, character education, assistance to behaviorally-challenged students, cultural enrichment programs, parenting skills education, adult education assistance, job readiness training and budgeting and finance programs.
The Legacy Awards began in 2009 to celebrate Tipton County African-American students who, when faced with hardships, have excelled in academics, community service and athletics. The students are recognized for attitude, behaviors and intellectual capacity and are considered all-stars because they have been their own champions in times of adversity. The awards also recognize Tipton Countians who have made a difference to students by being positive role models.
He then takes note of what makes him most proud professionally.
“I’m most proud of my students and the gains we’ve shown. the growth we’ve had. We’ve significantly increased how many students are now college-bound. We are building productive citizens for this community.”
While his resumé is impressive – he’s also the grandson of Rubye Heaston, who was an educator for 54 years – family is the most important thing to Heaston. His parents taught him to be humble and community-minded, a legacy he hopes to pass on to his six-year-old son.
“I’m the first African-American principal of this school, but it’s not about that for me or for them,” he said. “It’s not about being the first African-American principal, it’s about being an effective principal, and I hope that’s what I am.”