As students settled into their second week of school at Deer Creek Grove Valley Elementary, they started memorizing their school creed, which states in part, “… as I prepare to be a life-long learner, I pledge to work to make a difference in the world.”

Eager faces full of great expectations streamed through the front school doors of Grove Valley last week. As the 412 students crossed the threshold of the district’s fourth elementary school they were met by 31 teachers, all certified as Great Expectations teachers.

“We are opening as a Great Expectations school,” principal Debbie Straughn said, “as we work toward Great Expectations status this school year.

“We received a scholarship from the Oklahoma Department of Education to help teach the 11 new teachers who were not certified as Great Expectations teachers.”

The Great Expectations teaching/training model is guided by six basic principles.

“These tenets provide guidelines for program training and implementation and serve as standards for evaluating GE schools and districts,” Straughn said. “The eight Expectations for Learning that a Great Expectations school models include valuing each other as unique, using good manners, cheering each other to success, helping one another, recognizing every effort and encouraging each other.”

Straughn said the school’s opening ran smoothly, and she attributed the ease of the opening to the efforts of both the technology and maintenance departments working together.

“Everybody went that extra mile to benefit the children,” Straughn said. “Everyone has worked so hard and we have a good Grove Valley family because of it.”

Straughn was the first principal of Deer Creek Elementary when that school opened in 2002.

“I knew when I decided to help open Grove Valley I would be leaving behind an important part of me,” Straughn said.

Discovering the world

“Deer Creek Grove Valley discovers the world” is the theme for the school.

Building on an ecology theme throughout the school, hallways were decorated with the themes of oceans, rain forests and starry nights. The floors even echoed the themes.

Kindergarten and first-graders’ hallways were teeming with things you can find in the sea. Second- and third-grade students walked down hallways filled with rain forest animals and insects. Stars on the floor were echoed by stars on the walls for fourth- and fifth-graders.

Students worked in art class drawing and cutting out insects and animals that might be found in the rain forests, getting them ready to hang from branches all around the art room and into the hallway.

Outside donations made it possible for the school to have hand-painted murals on the entrances to each hallway.

“We were so glad Katherine Sanders, a Deer Creek parent, was chosen to paint the murals,” Straughn said. Sanders also has done murals at other Deer Creek schools.

The school has 22 classrooms with four additional rooms built for school growth. In addition to the 22 classroom teachers there are nine specialized instructors including a media specialist, art, music, physical education, reading, gifted and talented, and special education. There also are four full-time kindergarten classes.

The 50,000-square-foot building had a completion price of $8 million.

“The construction of the building itself bid out at $7 million,” said Richard Vrooman, operations director. “The increase in price was due to the addition of a parking lot.”

Future plans include an outdoor classroom with a butterfly garden to be shared by residents in the neighboring Grove Valley addition.

TO LEARN MORE about Grove Valley Elementary School and the Great Expectations training/teaching model, go to

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