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Mill Valley High School Principal, Dr. Gail Holder Named 2023 Administrator of the Year

Mill Valley High School Students and Principal Dr. Gail Holder, center, celebrate Dr. Holder winning the 2023 KSPA Administrator of the Year Award on March 31, 2023 at Mill Valley High School.

Dr. Gail Holder, Mill Valley High School principal, has been named KSPA’s 2023 Administrator of the Year, an award which recognizes secondary school administrators who have stood up for the First Amendment and advocated for journalism students.

KSPA congratulates Dr. Holder on this award and thanks her for her continued efforts to support the work of her students and the First Amendment.

Words of nomination: 

Kathy Habiger and Laurie Folsom, Mill Valley High School journalism advisers have had many interactions with Dr. Holder regarding their journalism students. They shared their reflections in nomination for the award, writing: 

Dr. Holder understands the Kansas Student Publications Act and encourages my students to tackle the important issues facing teens today. If the topic is important to them, it’s important to her, regardless of the risk of readers being upset about the content.

Habiger and Folsom also reflected on Dr. Holder’s experience with journalism in secondary education:

When it comes to the importance of journalism’s place in the curriculum, Dr. Holder just “gets it.” Prior to becoming a principal, Dr. Holder was a teacher at Olathe East High School, where she shared a classroom with former long-time yearbook adviser and KSPA member Gary Glenn. She witnessed first hand everything that goes into creating publications, from managing teenagers to meeting deadlines to grappling with technology to dealing with angry parents. She understands how important the real-world learning that happens in a journalism classroom is to the development of successful students. In her short time as principal at Mill Valley, she has given full support to the journalism program by ensuring financial assistance and a classroom schedule that allows the program to thrive.

Habiger and Folsom conclude their nomination  by writing, “These last three years have been particularly challenging for every educator at every level. For this reason and many more, having a supportive administrator can mean the difference between surviving and thriving in education. Dr. Gail Holder is one
of those rare administrators who goes out of her way to support teachers and students.”

From the Mill Valley High School Student News Publication: 

MVnews.org reported on Dr. Holder winning the award: 

Holder felt honored that Folsom and Habiger considered her a supportive administrator.

“It makes me feel very humble that I would even be nominated because I really feel like this is just who I want to be as a leader of a school. I want to be a person who makes everybody feel like they are the most important thing in the school,” Holder said. “I was very shocked and surprised but of course, above all, just incredibly honored to even be nominated. And then to win, that’s a huge deal. And I know how much work it takes just to nominate someone, and then to actually win. It is a really big deal to me.”

From the judge: 

Below are the comments from our judges in the contest.

Dr. Holder meets and exceeds all criteria set forth for the KSPA Administrator of the Year Award. Her encouragement and support for scholastic media outlets and for student expression model the leadership all such outlets need and deserve.

Dr. Holder is an administrator who values the role student journalism plays within the school community. Always advocating for the students’ right to make editorial decisions, Dr. Holder believes what’s important to students is important to her — even if it means meeting with parents to hear their grievances and explain the school’s support of student journalism and the Kansas Student Publications Act.

On behalf of our members, our board and our staff, KSPA congratulates Dr. Holder from Mill Valley High School for her continued efforts to support student journalism. 

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