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Transforming an Educator and a Student

From a teacher to instructor for a whole district, Diana Saylak’s life was changed the first day of Great Expectations training.

First Impression
About 20 miles outside of downtown Dallas, Texas stands Coppell, a landlocked city of 40,000 people. Diana Saylak calls Coppell home and where she began renewing her passion to teach.

During the summer of 2006, Saylak took a position with a new elementary school. The principal, Dr. Marilyn Denison, required that the entire staff be trained through a professional development model called Great Expectations. Only knowing the name and that it was going to take four days out of the summer, Saylak trusted the principal who said it would be well worth her time.

“From the moment you walked in you were greeted and everybody is welcoming of you,” Saylak says. “By the second or third day I knew it didn’t matter what I had to do, I was going to become an instructor for Great Expectations because I believed so much in what they were saying. Everything I have done prior to that I did because I was told to do so and I never questioned it. Finally when I went into GE training, someone put words to what I was feeling all along.”

The GE Impact
Saylak took those four days of training and transformed the way she taught, built relationships with her students and ran her classroom. Students were respectful and weren’t afraid to speak up to show what they knew, even in front of several adults visiting the class. Still in contact with many of her past students, Saylak can see the impact and difference being in a Great Expectations classroom made. 

Dr. Denison, the principal that hired Saylak, is now a board member for Great Expectations, and the school she opened became the first Great Expectations Model School in Texas.

Broadening Reach
In the summer of 2008, Saylak became an instructor for Great Expectations. Then in the summer of 2012, she became an elementary math instructional coach in the Coppell Independent School District, which includes nine elementary schools.

In order to become a Great Expectations instructor, two full weeks of training is required. Teachers learn everything from how to dress, to how to present the specifics to develop lessons and create a Great Expectations atmosphere.

A Success Story           
One morning while doing the daily routine of greeting each student individually to the classroom, Saylak welcomed a student named Malcolm. Malcolm wanted to tell Saylak something but knowing how much the class had to get done that day, she told him, “later,” and moved on. Forgetting to ask him later, Malcolm ripped the classroom to shreds. Posters were torn off the walls, papers thrown on the floor and stomped on, and trashcans were turned over.

Saylak calmly sat down with Malcolm and asked the obvious question, “Why did you do it?” Malcolm said he just wanted to tell her that someone took his snack while on the bus.

“I could have prevented the entire thing if I had just taken a few seconds to engage in conversation with him,” says Saylak. “It was at that moment I realized the importance of greeting each student at the door, engaging in conversation with them, and learning their story. It’s something that can take a few seconds, but can prevent more issues in the future and builds a lasting relationship.”

About Great Expectations
Great Expectations is a school transformation model that emphasizes a climate of mutual respect and academic excellence. Founded in 1991, the non-profit foundation provides intensive professional training to teachers and administrators that promotes improved student self-esteem, attendance, discipline and parent participation – all of which result in improved student achievement. Great Expectations has a presence throughout Oklahoma and seven other states.