Beyond the Field: Taking a Closer Look at What Mr. Walker is All About

Ultra Wilson, Staff Writer

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Coach Walker leads the team talk before PB’s overtime win against Kennedy in the team’s 2018 home opener.

Last year, a struggling PB soccer team stood on the verge of success, but needed a leader to make that final step. This year, the team found that leader in what would be a triumphant turn-around season under the guidance of first-year head coach Mr. Noah Walker.

However, while this year’s soccer season and future is bright and should be celebrated, to truly understand the leader who brought them there you must look to the past, a time before his success with PB soccer and way before his teaching career began at Paint Branch High School. You must look at Mr. Walker’s childhood and upbringing to truly know the person who stands on the sideline and in front of the classroom today.

One surprising aspect of his childhood is the fact that, as an infant, he and his mother were homeless for a period of time. It was a time that he can hardly remember, but the fact of it has certainly stuck with him. Growing up, Mr. Walker, along with just his mother at first and then a younger sister, would receive weekly visits from his father, but he admits that his father was not a big influence in his life at the time. What was an influence for him was that he moved around a lot because they had no money.

Mr. Walker primarily grew up in the Rockville/Silver Spring area and attended Veirs Mill Elementary School. The area he lived in, like much of the Washington, DC area at that time, saw an influx of immigrants from many different parts of the world during this time. Thus, he grew up around people who had recently arrived from East Africa, Argentina, El Salvador, and Guatemala, to name a just few. Growing up around this diversity of cultures definitely had an effect on Mr. Walker. “I don’t know what I learned from school itself; but what I do know is what I learned about life and other people and other languages, just being exposed to that at such a young age,” he says.

In the early 2000s, Mr. Walker was a student at Parkland Middle School before it was the magnet school that it is known as today. He mentions that “it was not a magnet school back then, not even close; it was a little bit more rough than elementary school.” Parkland, at the time, was packed with students because of the multiple elementary schools that fed into it. The school was also heavily Hispanic, with many of the students from Salvadoran families.

Middle school is where Mr. Walker saw a change in his academics, and where he would see his first ever C on his report card, which happened in 8th grade. Although he doesn’t remember much from middle school overall, he does recall that around this time his family found a stable home, which his mother still lives in to this day.

Mr. Walker attended Kennedy High School due to the fact that he wanted to join NJROTC, which the school offered. That only lasted a week before he realized that it wasn’t for him, though. Many of his friends ended up going to Wheaton High School because that was their home school. However Kennedy worked out fine for him as he ended up meeting new people in the new environment which, he admits, took a while but happened eventually.

No matter the grade, Mr. Walker recalls always being the shortest kid in his class, which he believes played a role in the personality he developed at times that he describes as “a little bit of Napoleon.” Mr. Walker played varsity baseball all four years at Kennedy and little bit of soccer, which he stopped playing because he was much better at baseball. He was also on the golf team at Kennedy, which he found fun because there were only five on his team; and with the course open to them they could do anything. Mr. Walker graduated from Kennedy with a 3.0 GPA, which he describes as “nothing special,” adding that he “had some close calls with grades, credits – stuff like that.”

Mr. Walker’s summer job throughout 11th and 12th grades was at the Rockville Courthouse which caused him to miss beach week his senior year. As for looking back at high school, Mr. Walker really emphasizes that the people that he thought he would remain closest with are not necessarily those that he is still in touch with.

“The people that I thought I was gonna care about when I got older…and that’s kinda the thing I try to tell people now, is like there’s gonna be some people that you like don’t think that are gonna randomly end up being someone you really end up close with later.” The big idea is that you never know who is going to come in and out of your life.

Mr. Walker attended the University of Maryland, which he entered in the spring semester instead of the fall because he did not have the GPA they wanted for fall admission. He spent his first semester of college at Montgomery College. He admits that at that time of his life he had too much freedom at such a young age. That makes him wonder a bit how he was able to get into Maryland at all, though he does credit his SAT scores and his writing skills as strengths.

Maryland was the only school Mr. Walker applied to with no backup plan; and if it hadn’t worked out he would have stayed at Montgomery College to do the transfer program. While at Maryland, Mr. Walker majored in accounting because of his math skills, but changed his major a couple of times before realizing that he wanted to teach.

As for how he settled on teaching, Mr. Walker says, “I liked the idea of kinda just doing my part, you know, to help move the world along to where I want it to be.” At first he wanted teach math; but after being weeded out by Advanced Calculus, he dropped the class and the math major. Under much stress, Mr.Walker thought about dropping out of college, but all it took was a few simple words from his mom to turn it around. “I remember sitting in the hallway of my dorm,” Mr. Walker recalls, “being on the phone with her and saying ‘I think I’m going to drop out and come home for awhile and figure my life out.” She simply told him to “choose something you like and just do it.”

He took his mother’s advice and switched to kinesiology, which is the study of mechanics of body movement. Mr. Walker credits binge watching Ted Talks and not dropping out for getting him where he is today. Teaching was still on his mind though, and he realized that he wanted to teach biology or at least get his certification for it.

After graduating from Maryland in 2012, he went back to Montgomery College for a year to dabble in various fields of science. He would find his way back to Maryland to get his second bachelors in Biology. In 2014, Mr. Walker would apply to grad school at Maryland, an experience that he describes as “intense.”

While in grad school, Mr. Walker worked through a grueling 18-month process of balancing school and teaching at Montgomery Blair High School. After finishing grad school in 2016, he found his way to Paint Branch High School where he began teaching biology and astrology.

Little did he know there would be more in store for him when he chose to enter the coaching ranks. At first, Mr. Walker wanted to Coach baseball so he started coaching the summer league until he got the call in July from coach Podosek to coach PB soccer.

Despite having only a short time to get to know his team and figure out the players, Mr. Walker was able to rally the team and get rolling. He describes that time as “hectic” because he was starting fresh, and had little time to really get to know the players and establish a plan for the program. Although it took some time, Mr. Walker was able to improve the team’s record and instill some discipline in his players.

That progress showed in their 8-5 regular season record and one playoff win. Mr. Walker faced many obstacles in his life, obstacles that would break others, but helped build him into who he is today.

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