You could say that education and working with youth is in Mary Ann Sparks' DNA.
The Wilson County deputy director of schools for human resources listed her aunt, Martha Brincklow, a longtime educator, as being one of the most influential women in her life.
Brincklow was a former Pinellas County Teacher of the Year who founded the international studies program at St. Petersburg College in Florida.
"She started taking students to Europe in 1973 and took her last group at the age of 89 in 2004. She was one of a few outside museum docents permitted by European museums such as the Louvre. She loved teaching and she loved seeing her students as they matured and became part of the community," Sparks said.
"She loved teaching, and she loved seeing her students as they matured and became part of the community."
Sparks, who hails from Kingsport, moved to the Nashville area with her husband Steve for his job in 1985.
"When we looked for a home, the only place that felt right was Wilson County," she added.
The couple met when she was in high school, and he escorted her to her ninth-grade prom. However, they didn't marry until both had graduated from the University of Tennessee - Knoxville in 1975.
"I stayed at home the first year we lived here, but I took a position teaching second grade at Mt. Juliet Elementary School in 1987. My students and parents at MJE were wonderful," she said. "It is such a luxury to still live in the same community and see the responsible and capable adults my second graders have become."
In her current role with Wilson County Schools, Sparks answers to anything HR-related.
The best part of her job, she said, is working with teachers and people who genuinely care about children. "It is my firm belief that the way to an excellent school system is to hire, grow and retain excellent teachers, and I am so proud of our wonderful Wilson County teachers," Sparks said.
When she isn't working, Sparks enjoys time with her family. The couple has two adult sons, Ben Sparks, 36, and Will Sparks, 34, who is married to wife, Courtnie. They are also proud grandparents to granddaughters, Kate, 7, and Sophie, 7 months.
"Who knew I would have two wonderful girly girls after raising two fabulous rough and tumble boys," she said.
Other hobbies include swimming, boating, traveling, gardening and reading.