by EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Teachers and administrators from Northeast Elementary and Intermediate, Bixby school district administrators, and representatives from Great Expectations professional development program stand with the school’s GE Model School flag, which school officials received on May 18. Celebrating in the second row, center, are Northeast assistant principal Sarah Eisenmann, left, and principal Jamie Milligan.
On May 18, it was officially made known that Northeast Elementary and Intermediate is a Great Expectations Model School and the first Bixby school to receive the designation.
“As a district, we are committed that Great Expectations be established in each of the buildings, starting with Northeast,” said Bryan Frazier, Bixby Public Schools associate superintendent. Frasier spoke during the school’s assembly where school officials received the official GE flag that will be flown on the school’s flagpole.
In April, administrators received word that Northeast had achieved the status of Model School – the highest level within the GE professional development program.
“It’s just good teaching practices,” says Jamie Milligan, Northeast principal. “GE is the whole package. It lends itself to a nurturing environment.”
Milligan joined the Bixby school district in 2013 to serve as Northeast’s principal. The school’s first year of operations was the 2013-14 school year.
Milligan has spent almost 20 years as a teacher and administrator. Before coming to Bixby, she worked for Broken Arrow schools where she played a role in implementing the GE program in two schools.
Upon coming to Northeast, a school without the program in place, “I thought I would try to go forward without Great Expectations,” she says. However, her aim didn’t last long.
Before the school opened, Milligan and her team began working toward the goal of becoming a GE Model School.
Usually it takes schools three years to attain model level, says Milligan. However, it took teachers and administrators at Northeast only two years-something that Frazier praised teachers for during the assembly: “Teachers, the commitment that you put forward in two years to become a model school is because of your belief and commitment in this program,” he said.
Milligan credits teachers for helping one another, including using time before and after school to educate other teachers on program requirements.
The GE program is based around six basic ideas, or tenets: high expectations, teacher attitude and responsibility, building self-esteem, all children can learn, climate of mutual respect, and teacher knowledge and skill.
Backing up those tenets are eight student expectations and 17 classroom practices.
These school-wide expectations provide consistency for students, says Milligan, as well as promote a culture of positivity.
“I believe that’s part of educating. Those expectations should be there,” she continues. “If teachers have expectations for students, they often try to meet those.”
For instance, students are expected to use good manners and to be courteous to others, using the words “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me.”
In each classroom, one student is given the assignment to greet guests at the classroom door and to shake their hand.
“If I’m giving a student an award, they shake my hand and look me in the eye,” says Milligan.
While these may sound like simple acts, “As technology grows, these things are becoming less prevalent because kids are always looking at a screen,” she says.
However, the true proof that the program is having its desired effect is “when you hear students correcting each other,” says Milligan, and when they take the program’s principles home with them.
“All of these things help guide them in general life,” she says.