One of Gig Harbor’s Finest: Brian Wickens
The power of influence By Rachel Kelly | Photo by In Gear Media
When asked about how he goes about inspiring kids, the vice principal of Harbor Ridge Brian Wickens responds: “I think it has a lot to do with the power of influence versus the influence of power.” At Harbor Ridge Middle School, Brian is finding out how kids tick, and relating to them on a personal basis. “We try to be positive, even if there is some sort of disciplinary action. The goal is to shape their behavior in such a way that they learn instead of just feeling punished.” Brian is using his influence to bring about positive results, to invest in those around him. It’s no wonder as to why Brian Wickens was voted as one of Gig Harbor Living Local’s Finest.
Brian Wickens grew up here in the South Sound. The first 18 years of his career were spent in Tacoma teaching math and coaching basketball, track and cross country. “I liked coaching because of the lessons that kids would learn from sports. Things like teamwork and the results of hard work and practice. It’s easy to measure growth, especially in sports like track, which is a race against the clock. It’s not important to be the fastest, just to see self-improvement," says Brian. It was through his work that he eventually met his wife of nine years, Carole. “We have a blended family of six kids, all around the same age. Our kids grew up together and went to school together and are best friends.” Brian may have worked in Tacoma, but he lived in Gig Harbor. This is where his family was and his kids went to school.
It was because of this connection to Gig Harbor schools that Brian went back to school in his 40s for his administration certificate. It was 18 years ago that he applied to his dream job at Harbor Ridge Middle School—and got in. The rest is history.
Why middle school exactly? “It’s such a short period of time but such a huge period of influence,” says Brian. Middle school is the shortest tenure that kids have in school. Not quite kids and not quite on their way toward adulthood, middle schoolers are open during this time for positive relationships that shape their outlook for the future. Working with middle schoolers requires flexibility and an ability to listen to un-voiced emotions.
Middle school can be confusing. Ages 11 through 13 herald the arrival of adult emotions and opinions, but with child-like inclinations. This is why establishing relationships is so important. In safe, healthy and attentive environments, kids adjusting to new levels of independence and responsibility feel comfortable speaking up. It also helps to feel when staff in schools have a genuine connection to students. “I feel like my humor and personality is at about the middle school level,” Brian laughs when asked what he loves most about his work. After which he lauds the character and capability of Harbor Ridge’s principal and staff, as well as the genuine admiration he has for the kids in our community. It’s obvious that Harbor Ridge is a great place for kids to go to school, especially with people like Brian Wickens around.
“Gig Harbor is the perfect place to live. It’s a great community with a small-town feel, and lots of great opportunities. It’s a great place to raise a family,” shares Brian. He says this, even though through the 30 or so years that Brian and his family have lived here there’s been a lot of change. “Schools have grown and the population has doubled. I mean, it’s a little more congested, but our community is still very connected.”
At the end of the interview, Brian could say nothing else but how blessed he is, how wonderful his community is, and how capable his staff is. And how life, here in Gig Harbor, is just perfect. Brian is bewildered as to why he even won the Gig Harbor’s Finest nomination. Looking at Gig Harbor through his eyes, there are a lot of people here who are deserving of such an acclamation. Perhaps he’s right. Like Brian says, Gig Harbor is the kind of place where a person can feel connected to their neighbor, and yet still have access to all types of opportunities that make the future look bright. Gig Harbor is the kind of place to raise a family. It’s the kind of place that attracts people like Brian Wickens. While no one person is perfect, as a whole we connect with each other in a way that lifts the other up, so that, in the end, like Brian says, Gig Harbor is “just perfect.”