Nearly everyone remembers a teacher who has touched their lives – whether it be a fifth grade science teacher who instilled a love of experimentation, or a college English teacher who pushed students to explore their writing in ways they didn’t think were possible. However, it’s quite possible that no teacher touched the lives of as many students as Adult Education Art Instructor Tom Sparacino. Sparacino, who passed away in February 2011, was honored by the Adult Education Center on Benton Street with a room dedication ceremony on October 26.
“Tom taught art in this room for over 20 years,” said Sparacino’s supervisor Rachael Peterson. “He had a big following of students. Through his mastery of art and his skills and abilities through teaching, he moved students beyond their perceived limitations and blocks to endless possibility and creativity. He encouraged his students, through his artistic ability, to see the world differently and, with that, to see themselves differently. As one student noted on her painting, ‘I found myself blocked and discouraged in midstream and ready to give up thinking to myself I will never be able to paint. Tom came up to me and began to tease me. He grabbed my paintbrush saying, ‘give me that,’ and, to my horror, started to paint on my painting. Through that experience, however, I understood that Tom understood the reality of my feelings and wanted to me to bring forth without judgment nor fear her inner painting.’
“He knew his students and he knew his students well. Tom had a very large following of students and we all thank him for his many gifts. As you look around this room today, you can see Tom’s dedication to his students, his skill, his mastery – to reach in and draw out from each student their inner artist. Again, welcome to Tom’s room.”
Student after student, with many choking up in the process of speaking, shared their memories of Sparacino’s teaching style, wit, humor and genuine passion for the arts. Each one commented on Sparacino’s incredible memory and ability to push students past their boundaries to become the best artists they could be, but none were more touching than the memories shared by his daughter, Bricken Sparacino.
“I wasn’t sure if we were going to say something or if it would be appropriate, but I decided it is,” began Sparacino. “And here’s why. What I want you guys to know is how important you were to him. And I knew that in many ways. One way would be when I would come to class – maybe I got done with school early one day and I would check in here to see if dad wanted to go to lunch and you guys would all be sprawled out, laughing, having a great time and there would always be chocolate chip cookies…In the house, there are hundreds of little trophies that he kept from all of you…all sorts of random and wonderful little memories that you all gave him that he cherished and kept and now we have. I wanted to thank you all for being such a wonderful part of his life and for sharing your memories with us.”
A plaque reading, “This room is dedicated to the memory of Tom Sparacino – celebrated artist, teacher, colleague, and friend,” will hang next to one of Sparacino’s paintings in room H2 at 1840 Benton Street in Santa Clara. In addition, the Sparacinos and Mission City Community Fund have established a scholarship for students who are unable to afford art classes or materials and the American Legion in Willow Glen will refer students to the program. For more information visit www.santaclaraadulted.org.