LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Crystal Sparks

Position: Principal
School: Pleasant Valley Elementary School
School District: Calhoun County Schools
City, State: Jacksonville, AL

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Crystal Sparks was nominated by her colleague, Jackie Williams.

One does not have to spend much time around Mrs. Crystal Sparks to recognize that she is a LifeChanger. The best example of Mrs. Sparks making a difference in the lives of her students is by giving two of those students her last name, her home, and her family.

Approximately two years ago, Mrs. Sparks took in two students (a boy from her elementary school and his sister who was a student at the neighboring middle school) on a safety plan.  At the time, the plan was for the Sparks family to provide a safe haven for these students for a few days until they could be relocated with appropriate family members.  However, Mrs. Sparks quickly realized that these students were meant to be a part of her family. They proceeded with adoption, and Mrs. Sparks is now a proud mother of five thriving children. What more of a difference could one make in the lives of her students?

Mrs. Sparks’ devotion to making a difference is not limited to the two students she took in to her own home.  Each choice she makes is done intentionally in order to benefit all students as much as possible. She devotes one hour of her day to provide reading intervention to two groups of first grade students. The data for these students proves that Mrs. Sparks is making a difference by helping these students develop critical foundational skills in the area of reading.  Mrs. Sparks’ willingness to work with these students also sets the expectation for teachers, showing them that intervention is a priority. She is inspiring her teachers to also make a difference in the lives of students.   

Mrs. Sparks’ commitment to improving the lives of her students extends beyond the school day. She frequently gives students rides to church to receive a hot meal as well as a message of hope and love. During the summer months, she conducts a “Books on Wheels” program, through which she delivers library books to students throughout the rural community where her school is located.  

Mrs. Sparks seeks to involve all stakeholders in the positive development of her school’s atmosphere. When she came to Pleasant Valley Elementary two years ago, she sought to help create a school-wide mission and vision to be shared among teachers, parents, and students. The first year’s motto was “Rise Up,” and teachers took that theme and created beautiful murals in common areas of the school. Seeing the students’ excitement and pleasure when they came back to school and the beginning of last year was heartwarming.

This year’s motto is “Rise Up to Victory.” Mrs. Sparks worked with teachers to extend the murals and theme into the lunchroom with displays to help students work toward school-wide goals. At the beginning of the year, Mrs. Sparks took the teachers and staff on a challenging yet rewarding “Vision = Victory” hike to help reiterate the importance of having a vision. The atmosphere at Pleasant Valley Elementary School is undoubtedly a direct reflection of Mrs. Sparks’ commitment to creating a positive school culture and climate.