Dr. Monifa McKnight, the principal of Ridgeview Middle School in Gaithersburg, was recently honored with the Middle School Principal of the Year Award sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP) at Ridgeview Middle School on February 26th.
“Dr. McKnight was recognized for the collaborative leadership she established at Ridgeview, the increase in student achievement that has occurred at the school, and the importance she places on closing the achievement gap,” said Scott Pfeifer, the Executive Director at MASSP.
While the award recognized himself, Dr. McKnight saluted the Ridgeview community. “It has been a fantastic feeling to bring the work of the students and staff to the forefront for everyone to see! I am excited that this award allows my school community to be proud of its accomplishments,” she explained.
Many principals may use slogans or sayings to motivate their students. RMS uses HERE, which stands for High Expectations Rigor Engagements, as well as the model “Value it, model it, believe it.” Both are taught to the students to encourage self-improvement.
“As principals think about ways to maintain a building physically, my advice would be to make sure a school is always a place that exudes pride in the students. Maintaining the academic integrity of a school should represent the heart of a school. Establishing high expectations around teaching and learning should be the primary responsibility and focus for every principal,” Dr. McKnight said.
“Dr. McKnight was nominated by a colleague for the award. She completed an application which was judged by a group of principals from around the state of Maryland. We had a record number of applicants this year–12. She will now compete at the national level to become the NASSP National Principal of the Year,” Pfeifer explained.
While she has served a teacher and assistant principal, Dr. McKnight had always wanted to be a principal. “I started moving into teacher leadership positions during my fourth year of teaching. I served as an English Department Chair and staff development teacher prior to becoming a school administrator,” Dr. McKnight said, also emphasizing the importance of an education. Before the start of her career, she attended the University of Maryland, South Carolina State University and Bowie State University, and has a Bachelor and Master’s degree in science for education and a doctorate of education.
She has been the principal of RMS for four years, and though Dr. McKnight works primarily with sixth graders, she still makes sure that her influence reaches the other grade levels. Her goal is for each student to have equal opportunities to learn and develop. “I think I earned this award because if what others often tell me about myself: that I am very passionate about my work as a principal and am always striving for excellence in all that we do at Ridgeview MS to support our students!”
Article by the MoCo Student Staff Writer Syllia Newstead of Richard Montgomery High School