Teachers attend Expectations workshop here (Lawton)

BY TYRELL ALBIN   STAFF WRITER LAWTON CONSTITUTION  

JEFF DIXON/STAFF   Altus teacher Amber Wilson works on a project at the annual Great Expectations summer institute Thursday, held at Central Middle School this week. About 400 educators from across Oklahoma and Tennessee, Texas and Okinawa, Japan, are participating.

There is a lighthouse on the stage at Central Middle School this week.

The 12-foot-tall replica is a symbol for the 400 educators gathered for the annual Great Expectations Institute of their role in the lives of students.

“A Great Expectations teacher is a beacon of learning for his or her students,” said Linda Dzialo, executive director of Great Expectations and former deputy superintendent of Lawton Public Schools, Thursday.

The institute, which trains teachers and administrators in the ideals and techniques of the Great Expectations program, started Tuesday morning.   

Great Expectations is a professional development program designed to bring major change and innovation to public school classrooms. Founded in 1991, it is based on a belief that education is the key to solving the problems of society, that teachers want to become more skilled in their quest to educate students and that students want to learn. The program emphasizes high expectations from students, a learning climate based on mutual respect and student self-esteem, and a belief that all students are capable of learning. It also promotes positive teacher attitudes and develops highly skilled teachers who can help students achieve success.   

Many LPS schools practice the Great Expectations program.   

The institute at CMS is one of 11 such training programs throughout the country this year, Dzialo said. She said when the summer institutes are over that about 40,000 educators will have been through Great Expectations training since its inception in 1991. Teachers and administrators from many LPS schools, districts  from all over Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee and Okinawa, Japan, are participating.   

Dzialo said this year’s institute has classes in adapting to the new Common Core curriculum that will be implemented during the 2012-2013 school year, as well as the newly revised teacher evaluation systems mandated by the state.  

One of the main reasons for the expanding number of schools taking part in Great Expectations over the last few years is the program’s timeless nature, Dzialo said.   

“Great Expectations lays the foundation of how to be a great teacher and that doesn’t change,” she said.   

Joseph Price, a Navy veteran who teaches at Amelia Earhart Intermediate School in Okinawa, Japan, travels to Great Expectations institutes regularly. Price said he discovered the program his first year at Amelia Earhart Intermediate, when he was dealing with unruly, disrespectful students. He found Great Expectations online and was immediately hooked.   

Price said the program has helped foster a climate of mutual respect in his classroom and earned him a good evaluation in his school’s accreditation report.   

While Great Expectations is most popular in elementary schools and a few middle schools, Eisenhower High School English teacher June Rain is one of a growing number of high school teachers involved with the program.   

She said this is her third summer institute and each time she learns something of value.   Rain said the concepts behind Great Expectations are useful with any age group, including adults.   “I don’t think it’s aimed at little kids. I think it’s aimed at teachers,” she said.