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Assistant Principal Meredith Kaltman’s Backstory Reveals an Interesting Path

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A Strong Voice: Assistant Principal Meredith Kaltman enforces the rules, but does so as students’ greatest advocate and fan.

A Strong Voice: Assistant Principal Meredith Kaltman enforces the rules, but does so as students’ greatest advocate and fan.

Olivia Chewning

Olivia Chewning

A Strong Voice: Assistant Principal Meredith Kaltman enforces the rules, but does so as students’ greatest advocate and fan.

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For the largest high school in Atlanta Public Schools — more than 1,900 students strong — the hallways can be crowded and even rambunctious corridors. Given this action-packed reality, the hallways between classes necessitate a commanding voice and invariably that voice saying “Get to class!” is that of Assistant Principal Meredith Kaltman. The building’s lower floors — floors four and five — is where Kaltman holds particular sway as the Ninth Grade Academy leader.

Only the bravest of characters would attempt to pull a stunt in front of her. However, what most students don’t know is that there is much more to Kaltman than simply writing discipline referrals and dress coding students. If there is a disruption on the campus, students can trust that Kaltman is not far behind ready to defuse the situation. Because discipline is so much of her job, students can sometimes get a limited picture of her. An in-class press conference with Kaltman conducted by Jack Stenger’s Journalism 2 students, revealed that she is only tough on students because she hopes to see them transform into successful academics in the near future.

Kaltman was not always set on becoming an educator. When she was younger she had high hopes of training to be a police officer. Unfortunately, her diabetes held her back from ever achieving this dream and she went on to pursue her career in education. She said she is glad things played out the way they did because she couldn’t see herself living her life any other way. “There are some people who are just meant to be educators, I’d like to think that I’m one of them,” she said.

Kaltman grew up in a single-parent household. Without her mother in her life, she developed a very strong bond with her father and brother who were some of her biggest supporters and sources of inspiration. She was especially close with her older brother who even inspired her to go to the same college she chose: the University of Florida. Kaltman recalled the first time her brother ever took her down to Florida where she eventually fell in love with the scene. “Throughout my life, my brother has influenced me the most, I would follow him anywhere and most of the time I did,” she said.

Kaltman presents herself as the epitome of a professional and an always-put-together administrator. Given that, it may shock some students that she was a self-proclaimed “mediocre” student in high school who cared more about social status than studying. While her grades were nowhere near failing status she does admit that she could have tried harder in school. “High school is a hectic time — a lot happens,” she said.

Kaltman eventually followed her brother to the city of Atlanta later in her life. Her brother was the first to make the move and Kaltman was quick to follow after she graduated from college. Kaltman and her then-boyfriend found the place to be a great compromise on distance so that they could stay together. “I just came to Atlanta and fell in love with the city. Plus, I really wanted my boyfriend to stay with me,” she said.

Things certainly worked out because Atlanta became her professional base and that boyfriend later became her husband. The two have been married for 26 years and they have two children, aged 22 and 18.

Her next Kaltman’s move was the first step in starting her career in education. She quickly realized that there was not much she could do with a degree in history so she went back to school and got her masters degree. A 22-year-old Kaltman started out teaching in a high school, but an awkward run-in with a 19-year-old dropout convinced her to transition to working in middle school. The student asked her out on a date and she felt that she was too young to be working in a high school at that time in her life. “Working for so long in the same career path, I’ve seen a lot of crazy and interesting things. You just can’t make it up,” she said.

Kaltman’s career in education eventually led her to North Atlanta High School where she now works as the ninth grade assistant principal. While some students choose to over-simplify her job into the sole action of issuing dress codes violations, Kaltman handles much more than that. Her job is not easy and it definitely is not always pleasant. According to Kaltman, the most difficult part of her day is dealing with disobedient students and even parents who are not fully supportive. However, she finds her job rewarding because she is able to see students develop over time. “Seeing a student graduate and become successful makes everything worth it to me. Every graduation, I cry like a baby,” she said.

While some people hold a skewed views of Kaltman’s role at North Atlanta, she accomplishes a lot more than most would think and the school would not be the same without her. And it’s her love of students that keeps her going, even in the face of the day-to-day challenges that accompany the task. “When I’m having a bad day, the students keep me going. That’s why I do what I do,” she said.

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Assistant Principal Meredith Kaltman’s Backstory Reveals an Interesting Path