Shannon Shay - LW Westfall Elementary

I look back on my first days of teaching and I can’t begin to imagine attempting to step into my classroom without being trained in Great Expectations methodology. I began teaching in 2002, in an inner city school that was just beginning their journey with Great Expectations. The school sent around 13 teachers to summer institute that summer. I did not know the people that I was about to spend the week with, but that was about to change. We went to our classes during the day and sat around in a dorm room at night, energized! In the evening we would talk about what we each learned in our class. I began to learn as the teachers shared their experiences and made applications through their learning. We began to make plans and talk about our responsibility to begin to bring change. Was it perfect when we returned? No, it was not. We did not give up. We were a team and we worked with each other to help build a climate in the school that would inspire the other staff members. Many of those teachers are still teaching and leading today.

Later I moved to a school that was one of the first Great Expectations model schools. The difference was incredible. At the first school we were just starting out and learning the strategies. At my new school everyone was polished and spoke the same language. It was like stepping into the manual. At first, as a new teacher, I placed extremely high standards on myself. It was refreshing to learn that the staff treated me with the same respect and encouragement that they treated the students.

Now, as the principal of this long time Great Expectations model school, we continue to assess our school and I think about those days of starting from the very beginning and how we had to dissect everything we did. Maintaining model school status is an incredible task. We have to take away everything that we think we know and attempt to look at our school with new eyes. We have worked diligently to maintain our model school status because we know the academic, social and emotional difference it makes for our students. Parents are proud to have their children attend our school and students are excited to come to school. We are reminded of this when we receive new students. Watching these students grow academically and socially is extremely rewarding. We are able to see this growth because we center everything around what is best for kids, Great Expectations.

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