Be respectful, responsible, and ready to learn, lead and succeed every day.
What does it mean to be a Knight at North Central Junior High?
As one of three junior high schools in the Iowa City Community School District, North Central Junior High (NCJH) prepares students for their high school career. Known as the North Central Knights, NCJH’s student body of nearly 600 makes the school the third largest junior high in the district. It is a school on an upward trajectory, with above-average student performance in math and reading as compared to statewide data.
But more than this, North Central prepares its students for success beyond the classroom through the Knight’s Code. The Knights focus on these characteristics and attributes through the school’s PBIS matrix. This schoolwide matrix helps students to develop necessary academic, social, and emotional skills.
Knight Ambassadors at Work
For a select group of students, there is an opportunity to serve their school community in a larger capacity. North Central’s Knight Ambassadors are a group of 8th-grade students who represent what it means to be a North Central Knight. These students exemplify the school’s PBIS code of being respectful, responsible, and ready to learn, lead and succeed every day.
The Knight Ambassadors assist with numerous events throughout the school year. This includes assisting with the school’s PBIS celebrations and assemblies and providing babysitting at conferences. They also provide leadership by helping with student registration and new student orientation and leading new student tours. This group also organizes spirit weeks and food drives, prepares birthday locker signs, and recognizes staff for their efforts. For the three dances that occur during the school year, the Knight Ambassadors organize, decorate, and clean up. The proceeds from these dances go to various community organizations that directly impact the school’s students.
Teachers and co-sponsors Lindsey Downes and Thea Steil help to guide the group and have seen a change in the school’s culture. The focus on service and leadership has created a mindset among the student body that values philanthropy and the community they live in. Says Steil, “We look at our service projects as, what’s going to impact the community that the students live in?” Adds Downes, “It’s a conversation that we let them lead.” The pet drive is a prime example. Students collected enough bedding, toys, and treats for shelter animals that it took multiple vehicles to take the donations to the animal shelter. “It was more than just a competition between homerooms,” says Downes. “The kids said, ‘oh, these poor animals, we want to help them out.’ It gave them the community service experience that they normally would not have at this age.”
Becoming a Knight Ambassador
The Knight Ambassadors group replaces the student congress, which relied on popular vote from the student body to elect members. Instead, this group pulls solely from the 8th-grade class. During the last trimester of the school year, outgoing ambassadors can nominate individuals from the 7th-grade class for the group. Teachers can nominate students, as well, and nominees interview with current ambassadors and teachers. The final approval comes when a teacher signs off on each nominee. The group is limited to 30 members.
Though Downes and Steil help to guide the group, it is up to the ambassadors to provide leadership. “At the beginning of the school year, we had so many students wanting to join,” says Steil. “We had to have a cutoff and they had to be nominated in the Spring of their 7th-grade year.”
To ensure a successful program, NCJH created guidelines for the nomination process and a limit to the group’s size. This is extremely important for the success of the program. “We trained new ambassadors during the last trimester of the year before, and that was our cutoff date,” says Downes. “The point of it is for them to be the leaders and for us to be the facilitators. We had to set a limit for the number of ambassadors we could accept.”
The nominating process means that the Knight Ambassadors pull in individuals from all walks of life. As a result, the group provides a better representation of the whole school population.
PBIS Rewards at North Central Junior High
NCJH has been a PBIS school for nearly a decade. Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, North Central became a 1:1 tech school, with each student assigned a Chromebook. Since they were already participating in other “green” initiatives such as recycling, it made sense to reduce the amount of paper they were using, as well. The digital token economy provided by PBIS Rewards fit well with this strategy. Now, teachers are able to recognize students for meeting expectations without the need for paper tickets. During PBIS celebrations, Knight Ambassadors can use the PBIS Rewards app to assist students and staff with purchases from the school store.
Combining PBIS goals, PBIS Rewards, and the Knight Ambassadors program has helped North Central Junior High to positively impact the lives of its students!
About Lindsey and Thea
Lindsey Downes is a 7th-grade science teacher, PBIS committee member, and student ambassador co-leader at NCJH. You can contact Lindsey via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @lindsey_downes.
The student ambassador co-leader is Thea Steil, a 7th-grade math teacher at NCJH. You can contact Thea via email at email@example.com.