The Great Expectations® Foundation was founded in 1991 by Charlie Hollar, a retired insurance executive from Ponca City. The Foundation dedicated itself to developing a teacher training model and disseminating this information to teachers throughout Oklahoma. To sum up the Great Expectations® philosophy about children, education reform, and the program itself, the Foundation adopted a slogan: “Transforming Lives Through Education“.
With blessings from state education leaders and donated space from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Great Expectations® held its first Summer Institute in 1991. This week-long training session was attended by 175 elementary teachers and administrators.
“From the very beginning, we knew that the dream of Oklahoma
classrooms with Great Expectations would be classrooms filled
with bright futures for all children. I have seen this spirit and
dream move throughout the state.”– Sandy Garrett, Oklahoma
Superintendent Of Public Instruction
During the program’s first six years, enrollment grew steadily to 775 participants. Workshops were free, funded through private donations. By 1998, the Great Expectations® Board of Directors had convinced state legislators of the program’s merit. Subsequently, they appropriated funds for Great Expectations® scholarships. Even though the scholarship funds were limited, enrollment increased to 3,135 with institutes on two Oklahoma college campuses, Northeastern State University in Tahlequah and the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. The next year, teachers and administrators lined up before dawn at the State Department of Education building vying for the coveted $1,000 scholarships. Since 1999 Great Expectations® has enjoyed an attendance of over 4,000 educators each summer at multiple sites in Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri.
The Oklahoma legislature has continued to support the program on a limited basis; however, tremendous program growth can be attributed more to the successes that teachers and students experience as the result of Great Expectations® and the word-of-mouth advertisements of these successes.