Sitting at her desk in elementary school, Janis Sparks decided that she wanted to become a teacher. While learning about Albert Schweitzer, she found great inspiration in his words, “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” His reverence for life as the foundation of ethics became embedded in her, along with her determination to serve others through teaching. Spending nearly 40 years in the field of education, she accomplished her goal and more. As the former principal of Donaldson Way Elementary School of the Napa Valley Unified School District, Ms. Sparks dedicated her time to developing a professional learning community, where not only the students learned, but the teachers and administrators were pupils as well as they sought out best teaching practices and then implemented these practices schoolwide.
A recent retiree, Ms. Sparks served as both an educator and an administrator during her 38-year career. She always believed that education should address not only academics, but also the development of character and wisdom. To that end, she would educate students on the required subjects, but also teach them how to become caring individuals and good citizens. In fact, she was given the Community Leadership and Service Award by the state of California. Gifted in multitasking, she managed all functions of the Donaldson Way Elementary School, which held 650 students and 60 employees. She was charged with teacher training and evaluation, program design and implementation, and curriculum development. She holds certifications in elementary education, educational administration, and leadership via the California State Leadership Academy, and Reading Recovery for students who struggle with learning how to read. Ms. Sparks viewed every day as a great gift and an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others, and attributes her success to her listening and conflict resolution skills, and ability to judge when to lead or follow.
Ms. Sparks earned a degree from California State University, Fresno, graduating with highest honors. In addition to a Bachelor of Arts in French and English, she holds a master’s degree in early childhood education from California State University, San Francisco. She loves to travel, and during her college years, she studied abroad at the Aix-Marseille University in France and visits the country again now that she is retired. She also aspires to become involved in consulting and professional writing as time progresses. Continue reading