Defining Hawk culture

AHS Principal, Dr. J, redefines AHS culture


Art by Julien Noble using Procreate

The 2022-2023 school year marks Dr. Daniel Johnson’s first year as AHS principal. According to staff and students alike, it has not taken long for Dr. Johnson to make an impact by becoming more of a presence. From senior selfies and inspiring all to have a “Hawksome” day, Dr. Johnson is establishing a culture at AHS that supports every individual in the Hawk nest.

Ava Tomlinson, Web/Print/Multimedia Editor

Approaching the 2022 to 2023 school year, students and staff were curious as to who would fill the principal position for Ankeny High School (AHS). With five of six administration positions being replaced, change was inevitable for AHS. Many staff members and students seemed eager for a fresh start, a new culture.

It looks as though Ankeny has found that new culture in the form of their new head principal, Dr. Daniel Johnson. Hawk culture can be described as the way AHS operates to collectively work together and build a healthy environment for learning and success.

Prior to Dr. Johnson’s start, some felt as though he was already making an impact on AHS. 

“I was a part of the interview team that got to sit in on some interviews,” social studies and video and audio broadcasting teacher Patrick Asmussen said. “Even then, he had a presence.” 

Before Dr. Johnson’s arrival, both staff and students felt unheard, as if themselves and their opinions were unimportant. 

“I think in the past we’ve asked kids for opinions and it’s been screamed into the abyss,” science teacher Morgan Stapp said. “I think it’s very similar for teachers too…nobody listens.” 

Prior to being offered a position, Johnson visited AHS and recognized the silence. Now that he is head principal, Johnson seems to be indebted in making both staff and students feel heard. 

“I can tell that there are some students who don’t feel heard, and haven’t been heard,” Dr. Johnson said. “As I continue to try and work with our building to help build that culture, I want to make sure I can tell students are being heard.” 

Dr. Johnson prioritizes school culture throughout AHS. He expresses how important students are in the process of building it up.  

“We need to build something here for our students,” Johnson said. 

Johnson is not the only one who values school culture. Both staff and students feel that it is very important to build a strong foundation. 

“We are in a town with lots and lots of people of lots of different backgrounds,” junior Sydney Howe said. “So culture should be very diverse and different, but we can all understand each other and sometimes that’s hard.”

Some students feel that Johnson’s changes have already been making an impact on the culture at AHS.

“I think that he [Dr. Johnson] is trying to do a better job at keeping the students engaged,” senior and student school board representative Jemma Bullock said. 

Students feel Dr. Johnson is taking a non-traditional approach in building the school’s culture, yet it seems to be changing things for the better. 

“He boosts morality and inclusion by going over the loudspeaker every week and he’s also very supportive of all the clubs that we have,” junior Josie Parton said. “He actually tries to make stuff fun.” 

Although some positive changes have been made at AHS, students feel that there are still some things that need to be prioritized. 

“Everyone is separated through their own cliques and groups that they have,” Parton said. “Everyone is separated by sports and by their own friend groups, so it’s not the most inclusive.” 

Many things could be implemented to improve inclusion and break the barrier between social groups.

“We should have more events similar to UTL (Under the Lights),” Parton said. “It’s a competitive nature, which kids love, and gets kids involved.” 

With the array of activities offered at AHS, it can be difficult to keep track of them all. Some feel as though their activity can get drowned out by all the noise. 

“There’s a lot going on that people don’t recognize or know about,” Bullock said. 

In spite of this, Johnson has continued to make efforts by connecting with his students. He performs regular walkthroughs of the building to check on kids. 

“When those bells ring, we hop up and we go for a lap and we try to be visible,” Associate Principal Wade Grinhaug said.

Staff feel Johnson’s presence, and they express gratitude towards the efforts he is making to improve the culture and build relationships.

“Anytime that you do that [build relationships], you are making connections where they won’t see you as an authority figure. They see you as a human,” Asmussen said. “And because you are human, it’s easier to talk to you, and it’s easy to go to when you have problems or situations.” 

Since Johnson’s arrival, a boost of school spirit is apparent for both staff and students. Associate Principal Grinhaug expresses how he feels what the new administration is doing is working. He feels that their presence is impacting students.

“We are trying to take care of our Hawks, take care of the nest,” Grinhaug said. “And help kids to be successful when they leave Ankeny High School. I think all of our students have kind of recognized this.”