dallas isd

Dallas Elementary School Students March Toward Their Future

The SLAC program at Paul L. Dunbar Learning Center uses a military-style model to teach students discipline and set goals

NBCUniversal, Inc.

School at Paul L. Dunbar Learning Center in South Dallas is not just about books. It's about boot camp, too.

"Forward march," physical education teacher Teno Myles shouted as elementary students marched in formation. "One, two, three, four."

Myles is the physical education teacher at Dunbar, one of few who has contact with all students at the school in South Dallas, which serves kindergarten through 5th grade.

Four years ago Myles started SLAC, which stands for Service Leadership Academics and Courage. He noticed students were getting suspensions and referrals on a regular basis, hampering teachers' ability to teach.

"I started the program, actually, to help fill the void of discipline and leadership at this campus," Myles said. "So I said, you know what, Teno? This is an opportunity for you to make an impact and not a regular impact, you can make a very large impact on the whole entire student body."

Myles used his military background to craft the program. Students march in formation, and get rank promotions based on how well they do, both inside and outside the classroom.

"If you can't stand at attention with your hands to your side, or at ease with your hands behind your back, how am I going to trust you to walk to the printer down the hall to bring me back some papers," Myles asked. "So they start realizing, hey look, the small things build to the bigger things."

Part of the SLAC program includes junior occupation studies, so students can explore careers they might not otherwise have contemplated.

"I've become a better person," 4th grader Jairah Taylor said. "It has made a change in my grades." Taylor said she wants to be an anesthesiologist one day.

Myles said the program lends itself to students encouraging other students to be better.

"You can help other people," 5th grader Cedric Collins said "My behavior became better after the SLAC program."

Myles said he sees himself in the students he teaches. He grew up in South Oak Cliff and was the first in his family to go to college, graduating from TCU in 2000. He said as a Black man, it's important for his students to see him leading their class.

"To be honest, because I look like them," Myles said. "Because they can mimic the rappers, they can mimic the rap songs and the movements. So why not mimic the doctors? Why not mimic the lawyers? Why not mimic the educators?"

Myles said with SLAC, grades and behavior in school have improved.

"It warms my heart," Myles said. "I. Am. Blessed."

Contact Us