Meet Principal Rita Graves


Mischa Wijesekera, Assistant Editor-in-Chief

As a former principal of Roberts Elementary School, Rita Graves watched a group of playful first graders run loops around the playground. Utter shock fell across Graves’s face as a sweaty first grader forcefully gripped her friend’s shirt while exclaiming “Tag!” The first grader’s excitement quickly dissipated as she looked dreadfully at the gaping hole in her friend’s shirt.

When Graves taught her class the Golden Rule, “if you break it, you fix it,” at the beginning of the year, she hoped that it would come in handy. Fortunately, the rule radiated as a beacon of hope as the class of worried first graders pieced together a plan to sew the shirt together. As Graves watched her students work together based on the principles she had taught them, she felt an overwhelming sense of fulfillment.

“Teaching is something that I have always done but I didn’t always know it was what I wanted to do,” Graves said. “When I was in middle school, I started tutoring neighbors and helping younger kids with their homework.”

Growing up, Graves made a consistent effort to tutor students because of her childhood experience. The lack of resources in her own life motivated her to empower younger students with the necessary tools to succeed in their lives.

“My parents did the best they could and they worked really hard but we still scrapped to get by,” Graves said. “I understand what it feels like to be in a community where everyone around you has access to more resources.”

Graves felt liberated when she began writing for the newspaper at St. Agnes Academy. The school newspaper created an outlet filled with new possibilities for Graves.

“Writing for the school newspaper gave me a level of confidence in myself that I probably wouldn’t have had with my regular course load,” Graves said.

After high school, Graves attended the University of Houston. Graves never fathomed pursuing a career in education but after a few weeks of college, the far-fetched possibility became a reality.

“When I went to college I initially studied business but I didn’t feel impassioned or fulfilled,” Graves said. “I realized that business was not what I was meant to do.”

After graduating from college, Graves started her teaching career at Poe Elementary School and has been fortunate to work at several schools over the years.  

“I started teaching at Poe Elementary School as a first grade teacher and then a reading specialist,” Graves said. “I served as an Assistant Principal at Pin Oak Middle School and Principal of Roberts Elementary.”

When the prior Lamar principal, James McSwain, obtained a new job, Graves seized the moment and stepped into the big shoes left by McSwain during a time of need.

“I had the opportunity to talk and brainstorm with Dr. McSwain about what his vision was for Lamar,” Graves said. “When Dr. McSwain decided to take a position in the central office, it felt like the right move to become the Lamar principal.”

In the coming years, Graves aims to serve as an advocate for students by increasing possibilities and opportunities.  

“Schools say they have many opportunities but accessing those is too difficult,” Graves said. “It is important to make it easier for students to access opportunities.”

Graves strongly believes that giving students access to more opportunities will create unfathomable impacts on our world.

“If we give kids an opportunity and an understanding that they are responsible for their actions, they’re going to work in ways that create a community that we can all be proud of,” Graves said.