Vol 2: The Wingra Years

My name is Angie Sparks and you know me as the Wingra School librarian. I am so fortunate to have held my dream job(s) here at Wingra School for the past 32 years! Forcing my younger siblings to “play school” and “play library” with me when we were kids certainly paid off, perhaps more than my early degree in business. You can lead a young person to business school, but you can’t make it stick.

Making the decision to leave Wingra has been one of the most difficult of my professional and personal life. Since the first moment that I stepped foot into the building as a prospective student teacher, I felt like I had found my home. Under master educator Denise Jess’ guidance during the spring semester of 1989, I began to grow my roots and stretch my wings in this community of learners. A rare job opening for a classroom teacher of nine- to eleven-year-olds was posted the following summer and I feel so fortunate to have found a permanent, professional home here. 

After my seven years as a classroom teacher, I drafted a proposal for our Director, Ann Wilson, that outlined how I would be the “perfect person” to support our new peer-to-peer administrative network and planned classroom technology improvements. “And also, can we add a library? I’d like to do that too.” One beautiful thing about Wingra is that it seeks out the skills in its learners and supports their growth in areas of interest. I returned to UW-Madison for my Masters in Library Science and started learning how to be a network administrator/technology teacher and how to start a school library. Lots of hats! And I loved it. For a long time. 

As both our technology network and library grew, these two school-wide resources became too large for just one person. My heart was really in the library. I spent the next decade teaming with classroom teachers to support student literacy with dedicated instruction in writing, reading, and research skills. 

Thirty-two years is both a lifetime and a blink of an eye. How can that be? As I reflect on my growth in this community, I fondly remember: reading picture books with Nest students and writing and publishing our own, engaging in author studies with Ponders, writing and illustrating books and magazines filled with poetry with Lakers, discussing literature group books with Skyers, problem-solving with my amazing colleagues during staff meetings and collaborating to create multi-age All-School Units on a impressive array of topics, and playing bass with my All-School Teacher buddies in “The Sweat Band” during several Final Follies. Hats off to the dozens of student and parent volunteers who helped sticker/stamp/process/catalog nearly 15,000 books that we’ve held in our small school library. I could not have done it without you. We’ve created an amazing space together!

This is a community that has welcomed, encouraged, challenged and supported both me and my family and it is with “all the feels” (thanks, Kathy, that is the perfect description) that I close the final chapter of this book and look ahead to volume three in my life’s trilogy. 

In June, with a full heart and deep satisfaction, I will retire from my work here at Wingra School. I am looking forward to spending more time with my dear parents, adulting child, patient spouse, and adventurous friends. I will continue to look for ways to support childhood and literacy in the Madison community. I may even try a fall road trip — something that I’ve never had the opportunity to do! 

I extend my deep appreciation to all whom I have had the pleasure of working with here at Wingra School, that includes students, families, student teachers, teachers, administrators, trustees, and so many community partners. Thank you for 32 wonderful years in a school that makes it easy to get up each morning with a smile on my face and enthusiasm and creativity in my soul. 

-Angie Sparks, Librarian