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Ashland educator receives national honor

Mail Tribune file photoAshland Middle School Assistant Principal Katherine Holden was named National Assistant Principal of the Year this past week.
Katherine Holden named National Assistant Principal of the Year

In a virtual conversation this week, Ronn Nozoe, CEO of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, had one question for Katherine Holden, who works at Ashland Middle School.

He wanted to know whether the longtime assistant principal was “ready to be recognized” as the National Assistant Principal of the Year.

Holden’s jaw dropped.

“Number 1?” she said, holding up her index finger. “Whoo, yeah. I accept, I’ll take it. That’s awesome. Thank you so much.”

Holden was named this week during a conference of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, which in a news release credited her with “creatively guiding her school through a dangerous fire and pandemic.”

Katherine Holden

Holden, who has served in the position for seven years, beat out two finalists from the Midwest and the East Coast.

“I am very honored to represent assistant principals across the country — we have all had more challenges the last two years than any of us could have ever imagined,” Holden said in an email, fresh off a celebration held for her at Ashland Middle School. “I want to extend my appreciation for all APs out there who work so hard every day to run our schools and help our communities.”

The NASSP credited Holden with going the extra mile in recognizing staff and students for their accomplishments — whether it’s baking birthday cakes or making “silly holiday videos.” The organization also cited Holden for making the school gym into a shelter for families impacted by the Almeda fire as soon as the day after the disaster occurred.

Those examples — and more — are things Nozoe said in a news release were key to his organization giving Holden the prestigious honor.

“Katherine Holden is never afraid to try new strategies to best serve her students, and we’re so proud to recognize her with the Assistant Principal of the Year award,” Nozoe said.

“It has been my mission to do everything I can to create a school environment where students feel safe and staff feel supported so they can be their best and have fun teaching and learning,” Holden said.

She was also sure to credit the people with whom she works.

“This award really reflects the huge effort of the incredible staff at Ashland Middle School — we have an amazing team who is always focused on what is best for kids,” she wrote.

Holden’s boss, AMS Principal Steve Retzlaff, applauded Holden, saying it’s not just the fact that she can accomplish three days worth of work in one that impresses him.

“What sets Katherine apart is her drive to serve and support others,” he said. “Katherine is focused completely on the social, emotional and academic growth of the students she serves and the needs of the staff that work directly with them. Katherine will stop at nothing to make sure that students and staff have the support they need to succeed.”

Ashland Public Schools Superintendent Samuel Bogdanove called the news “exciting.”

“Katherine is a tremendous asset to AMS and makes a real difference for kids. She is organized, committed, tireless and creative,” Bogdanove said. “It is rare that we get to recognize (assistant principals’) critical role in making schools great places for kids to learn and connect.”

Holden said being National Assistant Principal of the Year did not come with a monetary award for her or the school, but NASSP did provide her with a physical award emblazoned with the words “National Winner” and her name that she can place on her desk.

In addition, being National Assistant Principal of the Year involves participation in various NASSP events, but Holden said she is not yet aware of the details.

Asked what this honor could mean for her career, Holden said, in part, “I look forward to more opportunities to network with other accomplished administrators and am excited to see how it all unfolds.”

Holden spoke to the Mail Tribune last year, when she was given the same honor for assistant principals in Oregon. She has spent her entire professional career in Ashland. Holden graduated from Ashland High School and attended Walker Elementary, where her father was a teacher.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.