Behind the Scenes of the PLC

Aisling Coleman

When teacher Luan Sparks was a young girl, her great aunt ignited her value and passion to be involved in education. She was enlightened to what a privilege and honor it could be to provide education to students that have been challenged, whether it be through special education, personal struggles, or health issues. 

The Panther Learning Center is a non-traditional program of student support for DHS students, with Sparks as director of alternative learning offering a place for students from a multitude of backgrounds.“One size does not fit all” is a mantra Sparks reiterates often when speaking of the PLC, as it is home to many students struggling in various troubles in life, whether it be physical health, mental health, home life, etc. 

Sparks truly believes in a “holistic” viewpoint of education where she can connect with students to help them take charge of their future and be involved. Parent involvement benefits students’ education, because no matter how a child is struggling they deserve every form of support for their needs that can be met and offered to them in their paths to success where many are “so busy judging they have no time to learn,” Sparks said.

Sparks believes in not only accomplishing academic benchmarks but also real-world adult benchmarks that offer an integrative way in bridging the gap between high school to adult-life and are intentional in helping young people for their futures. 

Sparks’ passion for the PLC stems from her love of seeing her students succeed and how the students are so authentically themselves in everything they do, making interacting with them on a day to day basis congenial. 

Students deserve to be treated like real people, and every student in the PLC has an individual plan with personalized benchmarks that benefit the students through ‘respect, responsibility, and accountability’. Essentially “all of the students that want to get out of that hole will take whatever help is offered when it’s offered”. 

As a final piece of insight Sparks encourages everyone – especially educators – to think outside of the box when it comes to how education is delivered to students as living, changing, growing people as they emerge into the adult world.