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Since graduating in 2015, Melissa Pickett has been living her best life. In 2019, Pickett ran in the Chicago Marathon and volunteered a semester to Campus Ministry at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. In November, Melissa along her father, Bill, ran a half marathon in Washington, DC. In December, the pair will run a 10K (6.2 miles) in San Antonio, Texas.
Since graduating college in 2020, Pickett has been a substitute teacher until she was hired into her current position: 7th Grade Physical Education Teacher, Girls Basketball Coach and Girls Track Coach at Collinsville Middle School in Collinsville, Illinois.
“I was always active in sports growing up, therefore I think this led me into loving P.E. in school,” Pickett told us. “My PE Teacher in high school, Greg Gisinger, not only made class fun with badminton tournaments, flag football, etc, but he actually got to know his students.”
Melissa graduated from Olivet in 2020, keeping a promise that she made with a family member. “My cousin, Kennedy Gladding and I made a promise when we were six years old that we would attend Olivet Nazarene University together,” Pickett said. “I really loved that the professors would actually show interest in what they were teaching. They would build relationships with the students and would be open to assist students if they needed extra help.”
Tricia, Melissa’s mother, graduated from Collinsville in 1996. Collinsville seemed like the perfect fit because it gave Pickett the opportunity to teach in the middle school setting that she was hoping for. “Knowing what I know now and after experiencing my first year teaching, everyone is so supportive no matter which school you teach at, what level you teach or even if you are in administration.”
When Pickett accepted the teaching position, the job also included a basketball coaching position. Coaching was something that Melissa had always wanted to do while completing her college degree.
“Growing up, I had three basketball coaches who helped me love the game, Angie Owen, Mike Wyatt and Cole Huber,” Pickett said. “Each coach taught me so much from learning the basics to shaping me into the student-athlete I was, all while having fun and loving the game.”
In coaching, Pickett makes sure that the student-athletes feel like they can be themselves and make lifelong friends, leading the teammates to be their ‘second family’ and parents being supportive and open.
“My philosophy on coaching is if my athletes are working hard in practice, showing up to practice (unless they were not at school or talked with me prior), they’re going to see playing time,” Melissa said. “With the girls knowing this, they all support one another and push each other to continue to improve throughout the season. I think watching my student-athletes try to improve, better themselves and have love for the game, this is so exciting for a coach to see.”
Being a PE teacher can be fun and sometimes challenging, but Pickett makes sure that her students have fun. “I feel like you get to actually know your students better in a PE setting because there is constant interaction with their friends and peers,” Melissa said. “Not only that, but the kids are learning different ways other than running and weight-lifting to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I think that might be one of the many, many, reasons why I love being a PE teacher.”
Though Melissa thinks it would be a neat opportunity to come back and teach or coach at Chrisman, she’s more than happy in her current position and school. Collinsville Middle School has seven PE teachers, giving them the chance to bounce around new ideas, games or activities.
The location of the school is also something that Melissa likes. Her parents recently moved to Tennessee, bringing them closer. “I like that St. Louis is only a hop, skip and a jump away and having so many new things to do with the big city next door.”
For her future, Melissa eventually wants to go back to school and get a Masters Degree in Administration to become an Athletic Director and possibly get an endorsement in Adapted Physical Education and also hopes to one day teach in Texas or Tennessee.