Janis Sparks decided to become a teacher while she was still in elementary school. She was inspired by the words of Albert Schweitzer; his reverence for life as the foundation of ethics became embedded in her, along with the desire to serve people through education. Ms. Sparks views every day as a great gift and an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. She retired from her position as the principal of Donaldson Way Elementary School, which is part of the Napa Valley Unified School District, with 42 yeas of experience. In that role, Ms. Sparks was responsible for managing all functions of the school, writing grants, and overseeing curriculum and instruction. Despite her retirement, however, Ms. Sparks has remained involved, and currently tutors children after school.
The highlight of Ms. Sparks’ career was forging a professional learning community at her school site and working together with colleagues who respected one another. Her school faced many challenges, but it was able to rank high with regards to academic achievement in the state. Ms. Sparks has always believed that education must address the development of character and wisdom in addition to academics, however. To that end, she included weekly messages based on the words and actions of the great thinkers of the world in her student bulletins, and acts of kindness and ethical behavior were celebrated school-wide. In recognition of her success, Ms. Sparks earned the Community Leadership and Service Award from the State of California.