“Nothing could be as hard as middle school,” according to actress Zooey Deschanel, and depending on your own experiences, perhaps you might agree. However, if you walk into Beaver Dam Middle School today, you’ll almost instantly reconsider your point of view as you observe the interactions among the people inside. You will see students, teachers, staff, and school leaders treating each other with respect. You will see students engaged in their learning, and you will see a clean and orderly facility. This is something that Beaver Dam Middle School students, teachers, staff, and leaders work hard each day to achieve.
Creating a positive and welcoming school climate requires close attention to the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of all students. “Our students, teachers, and staff deserve school environments that are safe, inclusive, and conducive to teaching and learning,” explains Associate Principal Kerri jo Patten. “In order for us to create and maintain this supportive school climate, we offer weekly lessons centered on school-wide behavioral expectations with positive interventions and supports; caring school-climate programs, including our Safe School Ambassadors; and violence-prevention programs such as social skill development and conflict mediation. We also expanded our school-counseling services to include after-school contact with students.”
Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) is a data-driven program that promotes positive behavior, improves school climate, and increases student achievement. Beaver Dam Middle School utilizes PBIS to set clear expectations and inspire new ways to recognize desired behaviors while reducing negative behaviors. Currently, 95% of the 770 students meet or exceed school-wide behavior expectations and enjoy the satisfaction of creating a positive-learning environment.
Safe School Ambassadors is a group currently made up of 40 students from 7th and 8th grade, and will increase with 20 new 6th grade members in early winter. The school social worker, counselors, and select teachers empower these students with five targeted skills to notice and then minimize or diffuse situations that could lead to mistreatment. Grace Madeiros, an 8th grader, says, “I like being looked at as a leader in school. Safe School Ambassadors taught me the skills to stand up for what’s right.”
The Beaver Dam Middle School community takes pride in knowing that their collective efforts to improve the school climate will result in today’s students looking back fondly on their middle-school years.