School of Arts and Sciences

Point Park Ed.D. Student is a Leader in Urban Education and Actress in the Movie Fences

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pictured is Lisa Pickett, Point Park Ed.D. doctoral student and English department director at Pittsburgh CAPA. | Photo by Daniel Kelly

Meet Lisa Pickett

Job title: English Department Director, The Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts and Actress in Fences
Employer: Pittsburgh Public Schools
Degree pursuing: Ed.D. in Leadership and Administration, Professional Leadership track
Expected graduation: Spring 2018
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.
High school: I claim two high schools! The Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts (9-10th grade) and Penn Hills High School (11-12th grade)
Now living in: Forest Hills borough of Pittsburgh, Pa.
Hobbies/interests: Nonfiction creative writing, producing/directing plays, dancing, yoga, traveling, and finding great natural medicinal remedies

"Lisa Pickett is a life-long learner. She embraces all aspects of her career as an educator by honoring what she knows, as well as what she is open to learning to better the environment and experiences of her students. By embarking on this journey to earning her education doctorate degree, Mrs. Pickett has made the commitment to grow her knowledge base by embracing current educational research, engaging in rich philosophical discussions and presenting new ideas to those around her."

-- Melissa Pearlman, Principal, Pittsburgh CAPA


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"Point Park University's Ed.D. in leadership and administration program has allowed me to honor my commitment to being a leader in urban education."

-- Lisa Pickett


What motivated you to pursue a doctoral degree?

As an adolescent, I slept in the houses of strangers, aching for security, longing for fairness and craving answers. My story is sensitive, but familiar to many. Born to two mentally ill parents, my father secretly returned me to the hospital when I was two weeks old. When my mother awakened the following morning, I was a ward of the court. By the time I was 17, I had lived in eight different foster homes and attended nine public schools.

In the midst of my adversity, education became my refuge. Studying for hours on end, the world of academia served as my source of confidence, comfort and security. As a result, my passion for education soon opened doors to a brighter future. Consequently, I made a professional and personal commitment to the field of education, lifelong learning and opening young minds to the value of education and the endless possibilities it may offer. 

Point Park University’s Ed.D. in leadership and administration program has allowed me to honor my commitment to being a leader in urban education. The Ed.D. program is helping me to cultivate my ability to use my personal and professional experiences to develop and manage educational programs that encourage a deeper understanding of how to effectively teach and lead urban educators. 

What factors made you select Point Park’s Ed.D. program?

I selected the Ed.D. program because it offers leadership course work of high interest that aligns with my career goals. The program also blends well with my work schedule since courses are offered in the evenings and on weekends.

Additionally, the tuition was reasonable and the campus is student friendly and in a convenient location. When I attended Point Park for my master’s degree in journalism and mass communication, I had a good experience so when I began thinking about earning an Ed.D., Point Park was one of the first places I considered.

How have your Ed.D. classes impacted the work you do?

I am way more intentional and mindful in every aspect of my practice. For example, when I encounter conflict, I am able to critically analyze the issue and apply a more sound set of possible responses. The information I learned from my peers’ research projects and the student-centered analytical discussions facilitated by our professors have opened my eyes to a variety of resources and tools I can use at my school. 

Tell us about your experience appearing in the Academy and Oscar nominated movie Fences.

Being in the movie Fences was absolutely amazing! From the moment I walked on the set, I felt so honored to be in the presence of such iconic legends as Viola Davis and Denzel Washington. I was in a few scenes in the movie, but the scene I did that was directed by Denzel Washington and featured Viola Davis was my favorite by far. The experience had a profound effect on me, put a pep in my step and made me realize anything is possible!

I played a deaconess, which is the wife of a church deacon. In many African-American Baptist churches, they often serve as prayer warriors for church members in need of guidance. Viola was placed in the middle of all of us deaconesses. Her character’s husband had just informed her that after 18 years of marriage he was going to have a baby by his mistress! The nerve!

Denzel told us to surround her and pray for her character like our lives depended on it. He said, “Now, keep your eyes closed when you pray ladies. It’s not about you. It’s about this woman and her need for prayer.” Then one of the other older ladies who was also playing a deaconess boldly told Denzel the scene wasn’t right. She said, “None of us are wearing wedding rings and this would have never been allowed in an African-American Baptist church during the 1950s.” Denzel grinned with his trademark smile and said, “Well, alright then, let’s get these ladies some rings.” Within what seemed like seconds, a man appeared with a box of 1950s wedding rings!

After about seven hours of praying, tears started to softly fall down Viola’s cheeks. Then, finally we heard Denzel yell, “Cut! Ladies, you made the movie!” As the lights faded and the crew started to pack up for the day, Denzel sat down next to Viola on the edge of the church stage and talked to all of us for about an hour. He wrapped his arm around Viola and said, “You alright?” She grinned and simply said, “Yes.” You could feel the years of shared experiences, camaraderie and respect in their brief exchange.

When the movie was released, I organized a field trip for our entire senior class to view it. My kids were so supportive and excited to see me on the big screen. The best feeling was when my scene came on the screen and the entire theater erupted with applause from my students. Another priceless moment! Now, when I teach Fences to my students, I have a razor sharp sense of all the 1950s elements used to bring to life this play by August Wilson.

What do you enjoy most about being an educator and what are the challenges?

I love making deep connections with my students and then learning how to build on those connections to empower them to do well. Some of my most enjoyable moments as a teacher have been when I’m laughing with my students to the point of no return and then I have to pull it together because I am the teacher! Other great moments are when I see ninth grade students begin to blossom before my eyes and then return to my classroom their senior year with the utmost of confidence, awareness and pride — and ready to face the world. 

Challenges sometimes can develop when I have large class sizes, multiple preps, meetings, extensive paperwork, new curriculum to master, research that needs to be done, new standards to implement, test prep, data to review, parent conferences, after-school activities and mentoring sessions. Sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be enough of me to go around! I have to remind myself to be more mindful and pace myself.

What is your favorite quote?

"Intelligence plus character that is the goal of true education."  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Photo by Emily Wolfgang, Pittsburgh CAPA student

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