UpClose with HCS
Meet Denise Knoll; Advanced Math Teacher and Championship Coach at St. James High School
Last October, St. James High School’s Lady Sharks claimed their third consecutive State Championship in golf, winning the last two years in Class 4A and in Class 3A in 2015. Denise Noll is the coach of the championship team and a teacher of advanced mathematics. Next school year, St. James will move up to Class 5A. Noll is already scoping out the competition. HCS UpClose introduces you to a fierce competitor who champions for both athletics and academics at St. James., HCS UpClose invites you to get to know the people who are Inspiring Possibilities.
When Oley High School announced it was going to add a golf team to its roster of student sports 15 years ago, Denise Noll didn’t hesitate to sign up. It didn’t matter that she had never played a round, nor did she own clubs. When the coach of the new team cautiously asked Noll if she needed right-handed or left-handed clubs, she wasn’t sure. She compromised, saying she wanted to swing with her right hand and putt with her left.
It was a rather specific request for a newcomer, yet the only thing new to Noll was the game of golf. The multi-sport student athlete was already on the school’s softball, basketball and soccer teams. She was born a competitor. Golf was just one more opportunity.
Although less apparent at first, Noll was also born to be a teacher. Nine years into her profession, she now admits that she was drawn to the classroom because she loved math, not because she loved kids. It didn’t take long for that to change.
“It is now all about the kids,” Noll said. What has not changed is her relentlessness for results, generously applied to everything
“I always want to get better,” Noll said. “Pretty good is not good enough. I feel success when I can bring an end to failure.”
In her Honors Probability and Statistics class, Noll begins
instruction with a short game using Kahoot!, an online learning platform. She gets quick feedback on how well students understand complex concepts and uses the information to structure the lesson. Groups form for blended learning. Data sets are turned into graphics. Noll walks students through a series of exercises to identify normal distribution, skewness, and outliers. Answers are not always obvious.
In many ways, Noll is an “outlier”, a mathematical term used to define a data point that falls outside of the norm. She seems to have an endless energy supply and an expectation for excellence in all things. While Noll is noticeably humble and modest about recent accomplishments, she faces every task before her “game on.” There is no off season.
Noll describes herself as a passionate teacher and coach. She is dedicated to being present, having only missed time from school when it related to traveling with the golf team, which included seven weekends in one season. She says that a sense of humor and patience are essential skills when working with students. As the teacher, she learns from her students every day.
“They help me to understand where they are coming from and to appreciate their personal strengths,” she said. “I have learned to be very thankful for them.”
With a full teaching load of 80 students in higher-level math and her commitment to coaching the championship Lady Sharks, Noll also coaches junior varsity softball and keeps the scorebooks for basketball. The coach of St. James’ girls’ golf team is a champion herself, holding the title of Ladies Club Champion at Wachesaw Plantation in Murrells Inlet for a second consecutive year.
While setting really high expectations for her students, Noll is careful to help build the foundations that define true champions. She talks with her students about doing the right thing the right way; about steering clear of an easy road; about codes of honor and respect; and about the privilege and responsibility of representing their school.
“They learn how to hold themselves accountable and to hold each other accountable,” she said.
Noll is from Oley, a small town of less than 4,000 people in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. She graduated from Kutztown University, PA, with a Bachelor’s degree in secondary education. She sought her first teaching job “along the coast” to get away from cold weather. She taught at Waccamaw High School for four years before joining St. James High in 2013. She earned her Master’s degree in educational technology from Coastal Carolina University.
Noll is the proud pet-parent of three dogs, a Welsh terrier, a Beagle-Basset mix, and a “mutt”. She is a Philadelphia Eagles fan. Sometime in the future, she would like to play at Augusta and travel to Europe. In her few moments of “down-time”, she goes to the gym to work out.