Nolen called personnel administration “the best of all,” getting emotional as he described the enthusiasm and spark of the district’s teachers and the extraordinary, selfless service of NPS support staff. Even in the difficult task of disciplinary action or termination, Nolen said treating individuals with respect and compassion was paramount, and such instances weighed on him.
Though administration has been Nolen’s territory for some time, his beginnings as a coach, physical education teacher, classroom instructor and, later, assistant principal provided some of the most defining moments of his career.
Pointing out a framed letter signed by a young woman nicknamed “Bones,” Nolen described how the girl’s father made a deathbed request that Nolen ensure she graduated from high school. Once “Bones” graduated, Nolen got her into college and even moved her into the dormitory.
“I’ve had three instances in which students called me to say their goodbyes before committing suicide, and I was able to either talk them down or get to their house to prevent it,” he said.
As unforgettable as these experiences were, Nolen said the greatest moments were in the day-to-day interactions.
“The real success stories for me are those kids who come back years after they’ve been out of school and remember something small you did for them,” Nolen said.
“I ran into one former student who was installing carpet in one of our buildings and while I was assistant principal, he had issues with authority and I had to suspend him,” Nolen said. “He told me the following school year, he was dreading coming back and seeing me again, but on the first day of school, I told him, ‘Look, last year’s over — go do well, this is a fresh start.’ He said he’d never forgotten that ... you never know what little thing you’ll say.”