Steamboat high school principal receives student media award
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Named 2018 Administrator of the Year by the Colorado Student Media Association, Steamboat Springs High School Principal Kevin Taulman said he holds First Amendment rights in high esteem.
“Everyone should have the right to voice their opinion, as long as it doesn’t harm other people,” he said.
Taulman accepted the accolades at a state journalism conference Sept. 27 at Colorado State University.
While not a person who likes attention, Taulman was honored and humbled by the award, especially in being “recognized for supporting my teachers and supporting my kids.”
Starting at Steamboat Springs High School assistant principal in 2005, Taulman became principal in 2008.
In his acceptance speech, Taulman spoke about the 1968 Tinker v. Des Moines case in which students sued the school district over their right to wear armbands in support of a truce in Vietnam.
Taulman said he often thinks about a quote from the majority opinion, in which Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas wrote, “It can hardly be argued, that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
While he must balance protecting rights with ensuring education is not disrupted, Taulman said he works to “let young people find their voice and express themselves in a healthy way.”
About 16 members of the award-winning Steamboat Springs High School’s Galleon yearbook staff attended the conference.
Senior Samantha Marten said she was proud to see Taulman at the podium, especially given the large number of schools represented.
“He’s a really good principal,” Marten said. “He looks out for his kids and wants the best for everyone at the school.”
Morgan Kraska, fine arts teacher and Galleon adviser, said Taulman was deserving of the award because of how he believes in others.
Kraska described her efforts over the past six years to shift the yearbook from a scrapbook into a legitimate form of journalism and explained how Taulman gave her freedom and support every step of the way.
“He never doubts you if you are passionate,” she said. “He empowers you to be the best you can be.”
The yearbook staff has worked to create a yearbook that she said, “encapsulates the moment, gives students and the community more of a voice and provides a more comprehensive history.”
Because there is not a newspaper or a journalism class, the yearbook is the place for students to get the hands-on experience with interviewing and writing, photography and design, and publishing, Kraska said. Marten said the class has inspired her to pursue journalism in college.
Taulman said he tries to give his staff and students the freedom to make their own choices.
“The best thing I can do is hire great teachers, give them the resources they need and get out of their way,” he said.
Taulman also praised his students as “phenomenal” and said they are always capable of meeting a high bar. If they make mistakes, that’s OK — they are held accountable and move on, he said.
“His support for the First Amendment does not waver with the partisan politics of the times,” wrote social studies teacher Meghan Hanson-Peters in nominating Taulman for the award. “He supported any student who wanted to participate in last spring’s national school walkout on March 14, and he has created unisex bathrooms for any student to use at any time, regardless of their gender identity or expression.”
When Taulman heard his students were planning the walkout in solidarity with the students from Parkland, Florida, he said his priorities were to allow his kids to have a voice, while ensuring their safety.
Marten took part in the protest, which she called “very emotional and powerful.” She said it was important because she has strong opinions about gun violence.
“Most students in high school, and teens in general, feel like people don’t hear their voices enough,” Marten said. “Mr. Taulman wants students to be heard and be safe.”
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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