You only live twice: Q&A with Allen Noland


Allen Noland posing for camera. Photo by Hannah Kim, ’25.

In this Q & A, veteran and former teacher at Rockford, Allen Noland offers advice and a look into his life!

Q. Have you always wanted to be a teacher?

Teaching was actually my second career. I wanted to be a businessman or an entrepreneur. It depends on a media thing. Like a movie or song or TV show people can identify with. There was a movie called Wall Street (with Gordon Gekko) and everybody wanted to be wealthy. The 80s was the decade of greed and money. I grew up in the 80s.

Q. How did you go back to wanting to be a teacher?

I ended up coming back to teaching because there’s this saying from Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The school district from where I came from was really struggling, it got sued. I wanted to become part of a kinder, gentler, better Rockford so I went back and got my Masters in Education, so I could be that change.

Q. How long have you been teaching, what was your previous teaching experience like?

It’s my 14th year teaching. I taught in Rockford for 13 of them. I absolutely loved it. It’s a different group of kids than what we have here in Barrington. Rockford was a struggling community. The average incomes were much lower, the schools are much less financed. There was a whole different demographic as far as what the student body looked like.

Q. I know Rockford was really close to your heart, why did you make the change?

I remarried and my current spouse is from the Barrington area. My stepson went here. He graduated in 2020. He absolutely loved this high school and has a lot of very positive things to say about many of the teachers here. You fall in love with your community. It’s kind of like being a parent and having a stepson, he will become your son eventually, you’ll love and treat that child just like you would your own. Rockford is where I was born and raised. And then I moved here two and a half three years ago and I just love it.

Q. Do you think that your upbringing in Rockford impacted your decision to join the army?

I was in a blue collar family and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to afford college and the army would pay 100% of my college tuition and then give me money for my student loans.

Q. Tell me about your experiences at Rockford University and Arizona State. What did you major in?

Business, because I wanted to be Gordon Gekko, be very wealthy. Then I started to see the reality of it. Like the type of house I would be able to afford, the type of lifestyle, and the vacations I’d be able to go on and I felt very okay with that. As I moved through my career, different things appealed to me like having more time with family. Having more time to watch my kids in their athletic events, having more time on the weekends and holidays.

Q. How did that change to you wanting to become a teacher?

My daughter grabbed me by my hand when I was in my early 30s. She was maybe five years old and she asked me why I like work more than her. I was a regional manager for Best Buy. You almost become a creature of your success. My wife used to call me Casper the ghost because I was gone all the time. And as much as I wanted to have that successful, highly profitable income I also wanted to have time with my family and wanted my family to feel like they were valued and that my job wasn’t more important than they were. So that’s what brings me back to education.

Q. What advice would you give students who are really stressed, experiencing burnout?

This is a very beautiful planet we live on. You only get one shot at life. We only have one chance to live. It’s absolutely important that you spend the correct amount of time studying and preparing for your success. But what’s the sense of doing all that if you don’t enjoy a little bit of life? The most successful people on the planet have balance. Somehow they figured out a way to have that balance. And if you don’t have balance after a while, you will burn out and then you’ll lose that momentum and all that drive. You got to find something that lets you keep going at 110 percent and typically that is what you do do for fun. What do you do to let out anxiety, what causes you to take a breath? It’s different for everybody.

Q. I know you talked a lot about business, but why teach global studies?

I love the world. I like everything about foreign cultures. I like things that are different from what I’m used to. To me, global studies is about teaching other kids how to appreciate their culture, their world and then their place in the world which I think is kind of fun.

Q. Why do you think that these two courses are important for every single student to learn?

We live in a global world now, everything’s connected. When I was in the army, I went to Europe, Central and South America, and Iran. I came to understand that even though we speak different languages, even though our religions might be different, we all cherish the same thing. Being loved, loving others, good food, family, being entertained- like there’s certain things that just are universal. People focus so much on differences that I really just feel that teaching is more than just a job. It’s kind of a calling. So if you want to help young people to be better young people, so that they can then help your community be a better community. To me, it all just depends on each other.

Q. Do you think the two courses you teach help students in their everyday lives and will in their future as well?

Most of what you will remember about high school will be feelings, not facts. I would think that if you have a teacher that tries to get you to look at the world, and you have a teacher that tries to help you figure out your place in the world, no matter what class it is, that teacher will help you to be a better you. I still remember two teachers that stuck out. One of them in middle school, one of them in high school. They weren’t my favorite teachers, but they were probably two of the best teachers I ever had. They weren’t the nicest and the most friendly but they always showed me through their actions and through how they tried to coach me. They would have tough conversations with me. They were really trying to get me to look at the future. So when I think about who made the biggest impact in my life, I remember one asking me if I really think that my Dungeons and Dragons was going to help me to pay the bills when I get older. I would just say the two most important classes that you can take are classes that are impactful to you- classes that help you figure out who you are and what you want to do.

Q. I know you talked a lot about what makes a good teacher. So what do you think is the most important character trait that a teacher should have?

I think you have to be adaptable because so many of your kids are going to be so different. None of your kids are going to come in wanting to learn the same way, acting the same way. The most important thing to me I think is just caring. If you care about your kids, you figure out a way to help them to learn what they need. Most teachers in this building want to help you guys achieve success. Then you can see the ones that really care. We come early and we stay late. We give up our lunches. We coach or we come to the other sporting events and we really try to show the students that they’re important.

Q. How do you deal with difficult students? What’s a good thing to remember?

There’s a reason they’re being difficult. The background that I have, the demographic, and how difficult their life was there helps. There were students that I picked up and brought to school and would drop off. I knew some really sad stories. And I had kind of a sad story. My mom had me at 16. So I grew up with my mother. Life’s tough enough and then when you have a whole extra set of problems it can be overwhelming at times. I just think offering as much support as you can to kids is crucial.