“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.” Proverbs
Framed on Marcus Heaston’s office wall, this Bible verse signifies what his family stands on: a firm foundation in Christ and stewarding their last name.
“They’ve always stressed to us, ‘Don’t do anything to embarrass your family. Don’t do anything to embarrass yourself. Don’t do anything to embarrass your son or the young ones. Don’t do anything to embarrass your organization or your community in this case.’ And those things, man, those are taught.”
Heaston made sure to keep his image pure and, in due time, his name was written in the history books. He became the first African-American to be named principal at an integrated high school in Tipton County, but his humility made sure he did not stop the grind of being the best leader he could be.
“I’m just focusing on being a great principal,” he said in an interview with The Leader while he was principal, “regardless of color, regardless of my age, regardless of whatever. It has always been about the standard.”
Heaston 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 an education specialist degree from the University of Memphis at Lambuth.
His grandmother, Rubye Heaston, was the biggest inspiration of his career in education. She served in the school system for 54 years, and she was part of the integration of the Covington schools.
Heaston has been in educational leadership since the second year of his 22-year career, when he became an assistant principal at Crestview Elementary. He had a successful rookie year at Munford Middle and was nominated for Disney’s National Teacher of the Year award. After two years at CES, he transferred over to Munford High where he developed a love for helping high school students’ find their future path.
After several years at Munford, he moved to Covington High School and developed two community-building programs while serving as assistant principal.
Project Excel offered educational support service to at-risk students in Tipton County. Its participants were 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.
He also created the Legacy Awards program in 2009 to celebrate Tipton County’s African-American students who, when faced with hardships, have excelled in academics, community service and athletics. The students were 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 became principal in 2013 and lead the school during two of three consecutive years it won the coveted SCORE prize, before taking a position in the Clarksville school district. In 2021, Heaston returned to Tipton County to become an instructional supervisor over 6-12th grades .
And then another position opened, once which fuels his passion for ensuring the people in his community is prepared for its next opportunity.
Heaston said Tipton County Director of Schools Dr. John Combs had intended to create a workforce development position for years, but after the 2021 announcement that Ford would be building a Blue Oval plant in nearby Brownsville, the position became a priority. Which adds Heaston to the picture.
“I’m getting to work with the economic side more, the business side, the private sector more to see how those pieces of the ecosystem work, and the value of that is that I take those and merge that, marry that, couple that with my years of public education,” said Heaston.
He partners with colleges and trade schools like Dyersburg State Community College, Tennessee College of Applied Technology, the University of Memphis, University of Tennessee-Martin and others to provide and communicate career pathways to students.
Heaston said he enjoys what he does because he wants his community to be equipped, certified, motivated, and prepared for the “endless possibilities” which lie ahead.
Echo Day, Jeff Ireland, and Sherri Onorati contributed to this story.