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WGU Graduate Speaker, William Sparkman, Winter 2008

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WGU Graduate Speaker, William Sparkman, Winter 2008
Western Governors University
<p>William Sparkman earned his Bachelor of Arts, Mathematics Education degree. On February 16, 2008 Sparkman was a graduate speaker at the Winter 2008 WGU Commencement. This WGU Commencement took place at the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Fellow graduates, family, friends, and those watching on the internet, I want to share a little about the road I took to get here today. My mother began her career in education at the elementary level, but realized that it was not exactly what she wanted. So she quickly switched to secondary education and loved it. She eventually became a high school principal. Hi, Mom. [Laughter] She's watching, I hope.</p> <p>While I was in college the first time, many years ago, I substituted the high school level and didn't exactly like it. Since my mom had the same opinion of the elementary level I didn't think I would like that either. So my career path began as a sports editor of the Mulberry Press, my hometown paper in Mulberry Florida. I was also the sport reporter, sports photographer, sports layout, and even delivered papers to circulation boxes around town. Small paper.</p> <p>I was also spending my summers at Boy Scout Camp, where as an Eagle Scout, I served three summers as an ecology director and two summers as program director. I decided then to enter the ranks of professional scouting, serving 12 years in several councils, including a three-year stint as the Associate National Director of the Order of the Arrow.</p> <p>I eventually landed in London, Kentucky, the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken and home of the World Chicken Festival, where my son was now to enter elementary school. My son was an interesting student. He could ace any test, but would not do any work. I spent time volunteering at the school to see if I could offer any help with his situation. Eventually I was offered a job as an instructional assistant, or para educator, as they're called now, working with the fifth grade. I did that job for nine years.</p> <p>Several years into the job I realized that I was doing a lot of the same things that the teachers did. Two other instructional assistants were going to school working on their teachering certification. Now, I knew being a single parent that I couldn't quit my job to go back to school and I would have limited nights to go to school, so it would take a long time to finish. I checked around and discovered Western Governors University. Now, I still knew that even with WGU, when it came time for my student teaching income could be a problem.</p> <p>It was the United States Census Bureau that solved that problem when I went to work in a permanent, but part-time position, three years ago. I then took the plunge into Western Governors in August 2005. My job with fifth graders all day, doing census work for about 35 hours a month, keeping track of my son who was now 16. [Groans] [Laughter] He's now 18. That doesn’t make it any better. Sorry, Josh. And working towards my degree kept me busy, but WGU offered everything that I wanted. I didn't have to sit in class, I could go as fast or as slow as I wanted. My degree would be accepted in Kentucky and Pell Grants and other financial assistants were available to me.</p> <p>The communication has been super between me and my mentors. First Emily Lyman who got me off to a roaring start. And then Carol Williams who continued to push me towards that degree. The communities, the resources, and my mentors were all of invaluable assistance through the process. Western Governors University offered everything that made it perfect for me. And as more people discover WGU I believe that more great teachers will be there for more great students to find success in the classroom.</p> <p>The one problem that I knew that I would have would be in having to write everything I did through Taskstream. [Laughter] When I was in tenth grade my English teacher said to me, "Bill, you will never be able to write." I'd always believed that. It's amazing what impact a teacher can have on a young person's life. It almost kept me from going back to school. The influence that each of us have is larger than you can imagine. Be careful in not only what you say, but how you say it. Make those experiences sincere, and make them positive.</p> <p>Now, writing sports is not exactly rocket science, the Taskstream would need a lot more polish. It didn't take me long, however, to see that I could write. What one teacher nearly did to me I have to make sure that I do not repeat. But sometimes brick walls may pop up. For those of you who might be a little squeamish, you might want to close your ears for a few seconds. It's the story of a brick wall that started with a toenail and how the toenail saved my life.</p> <p>Back in June I had an ingrown toenail on my left big toe that had to be removed. The doctor checked it again on September 18th, I was right in the middle of my student teaching. And I'd also had a cyst that had appeared on the right front side of my neck in early September. I had a cyst removed several years ago from the back of my neck and I didn't think anything of this little thing. The doctors sent me straight to the hospital. After the tests it was determined to be Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Doctors don't know what causes it, but there it is.</p> <p>I've been knocked down, but I refuse to be knocked out. I continued to do my student teaching and my Taskstream work lagged behind some, but I persevered. Without my toenail problem I believe that I still would not have seen the doctor today, probably waiting until the summer to have the cyst removed.</p> <p>So those brick walls will appear from time-to-time in your career, do not let them stop you. There are no failures, just teaching moments. As Thomas Edison once said, "I have not failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Find a way to make it work. Persevere, use your resources, ask your fellow graduates or colleagues for guidance. For those of us who will become teachers, become a super teacher and brick walls do not hurt you, for it's too important in the life of a child.</p> <p>Now, I want to thank South Laurel Middle School in London for having me as a student teacher. Tanya Lewis, my host teacher, Sheila Webb, her para educator and right arm, Shawn Sweeny, an assistant principal who set everything up, the staff and students were all wonderful in helping this old man get through his student teaching. And to Carrie [Inaudible] in helping for the cohorts' seminar, it was an outstanding experience. I have to say a very special thank you to the staff and students at Johnson Elementary School in London. I spent nine glorious years there, but the last several months have had its ups and down and they have cheered me on through all of it. I would not be feeling as good as I do without their support. I would like to mention all their names, but I'm thinking of you right now. Mmm.</p> <p>To sum up about my road to get here, another small brick obstacle, my doctor since I was still taking treatments that I should not fly on an airplane. So the last road that brought me here today, and it was a tough one through Wyoming, [Laughter] was the one from Kentucky to Utah as I drove across country. I want to thank the folks at WGU who worked with me to get me here. And thanks, Mom, and my son Josh. Good luck everybody.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
Western Governors University
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Original Format: 
Commencement Video
Digital Format: 
MP4 (Moving Picture Experts Group)