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March 14, 2008

Never give up

Laurel County man doesn’t let cancer stop him from obtaining teaching degree

Click here to see the March 15, 2008 Neighbors section in its entirety



By Amber Podlucky / For the Times-Tribune

William E. Sparkman’s education story is one of thoughtful parental involvement for his son and for himself, and personal fortitude in the face of very difficult circumstances, including very serious personal illness.

He thought of it as volunteering in his son’s classroom. He never imagined it would lead to a career change.

Sparkman began his career path as a sports editor for the Mulberry Press in Mulberry, Fla. and through various jobs thereafter, landed him in London, Ky., just as his son, Josh (now 18 years old) was entering Johnson Elementary School.

His son could pass any test, but was struggling with completing the required assignments, so Sparkman thought that by volunteering in the classroom, he could help his son’s learning situation.

Eventually, he was offered the job of a paraeducator. Several years into the job, he realized he was doing many of the same things that the teachers were doing. Talking with several other paraeducators, he learned they were all going to school, working on their teacher certifications.

“Being a single parent, I knew I couldn’t quit my job and I would have limited nights to go to school, so it could take a long time to finish, “said Bill. “I checked around and discovered Western Governors University, and began online classes in September 2005. WGU offered everything that I wanted. I didn’t have to sit in class and I could go as fast or as slow as I needed to.”

Bill was making great progress when a life-threatening brick wall popped up. A cyst had formed on the right side of his neck and it was found to be Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

Refusing to let that get in his way, he persevered. He began the necessary medical treatment and continued to do his student teaching.

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