Paying it forward

Ken Noller ’75, T.C. ’76, M.A. ’84
By Julie Porter |

Although Ken Noller retired from teaching in 2013, he continues to be dedicated to education and improving students’ lives. A Riverside native and three-time alumnus, Ken spent 36 years as a teacher at Gage Middle School in Riverside. Today, he is an active UCR alumnus: He’s the immediate past President of the UCR Alumni Association and has been instrumental in establishing transformative professional and financial opportunities for students in the Graduate School of Education’s teacher education program. 

Ken earned his bachelor’s in history from UCR in 1975, and his teaching credential in history and political science in 1976. He went on to earn a master’s in history in 1984. Ken credits GSOE’s teacher education program with contributing to his journey to become an educator.

“I received very personalized attention while getting my teaching credential, and that was something that I very much appreciated because I went through at a time when teaching jobs were very scarce; I couldn’t get a job for the first year. One thing I’ll always remember is my student teaching supervisor maintained contact with me, and always let me know when he heard about jobs that were opening. That is not something you get at every school,” he recounted in a UCR video interview

Although Ken set out to become a history teacher, he decided to earn an additional English credential to improve his chances of landing a job. He secured a full-time position teaching English at Gage Middle School in 1977, and, after a few years, became a history teacher at the school, where he remained for his entire teaching career. 

Like many new teachers, Ken’s first two years in the classroom were challenging. 

“The thing that saved me was advice from my mentor teacher, Glen Anderson, who told me: ‘Ken, the first two years will be difficult. You are just trying to learn the ropes. It will get better.’ And he was right. By the third year I was feeling more confident and successful,” said Ken. “That’s what I always tell new teachers: Stick it out the first few years. This is an incredibly difficult career, but it’s also an incredibly fulfilling career, where you truly can make a difference. You need to give yourselves time to learn. You’re going to make mistakes, and it takes time to craft those skills. It is truly an art.”

To help future teachers develop skills to ease their transition into their own classrooms, Ken established the GSOE Alumni Mentor Network, a professional seminar series for students enrolled in the teacher education program. Now in its third year, the seminar series invites veteran teachers to UCR to speak on topics such as how to communicate with parents, time management – in and out of the classroom, and how to survive your first week as a teacher. 

He also created the GSOE Teacher Education Fund, which came about when Ken heard that two student teachers lacked enough gas money to get to their teaching sites in Riverside. Now, the fund provides emergency financial support for student teachers who may fall upon tough times.

“Ken Noller has been a champion for student success and clearing the path to develop more teachers for our communities,” said Interim Dean Louie Rodriguez. “He truly pays it forward, and we are grateful for his continued support and partnership over the years.”

Now more than ever our future educators need our support. If you’d like to learn more about how you can give to the GSOE Teacher Education Fund, click here.

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