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Crystal Apple Award Winner: Diane Noble

Recipient teaches inmates at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility in Boscobel
Published: May. 6, 2021 at 5:52 PM CDT|Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 7:19 PM CDT
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BOSCOBEL, Wis. (WMTV) - NBC15′s fourth award recipient is Diane Noble, who teaches inmates at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility, formerly known as the Supermax, in Boscobel.

She received a nomination from 45-year-old inmate Jerry Schnabl, who wrote, “If it wasn’t for Ms. Noble I would not have made [it] as far as I have... I have never had a teacher that cared if I made it or not.”

Nomination letter written by Jerry Schnabl on behalf of Mrs. Diane Noble.
Nomination letter written by Jerry Schnabl on behalf of Mrs. Diane Noble.(Leigh Mills)

“It means a lot. They don’t compliment super easy around here because…,” says Noble as she pauses for a moment, “Even though they’ve made mistakes to end up here, they’ve had a lot of mistakes made against them throughout their lives.”

Noble works with three inmates at a time, in a room without glass barriers or guards.

“Most of them need to get the GED of HSED,” explains Noble, “And we always have a waiting list.”

The prison houses 482 inmates. Noble says 67 of them are in the education program, and another 80 inmates are currently on the program’s waiting list.

“There are those that have one [a high school diploma] that cannot read beyond a first grade level. [They] can’t add and subtract. But we can’t take them into class, because they already have that diploma that’s recognized by the state,” explains Noble, “It breaks my heart. It breaks my heart to think that somebody can go all the way through high school and not read beyond first grade level.”

Schnabl entered the program at a 6th grade level two years ago, and he has been working with Noble twice a week.

Mrs. Diane Noble talks with the inmate who nominated her for a Crystal Apple Award on zoom, as...
Mrs. Diane Noble talks with the inmate who nominated her for a Crystal Apple Award on zoom, as she sits in front of the prison where she teaches.(Leigh Mills)

“You would not let me quit,” says Schnabl as he and Noble chat through zoom. Diane responds with a smile, “No, I would not let you quit.”

Schnabl is one math test away from receiving his high school equivalency diploma, also known as an HSED.

“It’s just something that I can have that will show I actually accomplished something,” explains Schnabl.

I ask him whether that is important to him, and he replies with tears in his eyes, “It is, yes, because I would be the first one in my family to receive it.”

Todd Redalen, Education Director at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility, says Noble is making a big impact on the prisoners. “What I’ve noticed is that people are inspired by her,” says Redalen, “They’re inspired to achieve. They’re inspired by her to be better individuals, and she really encourages them to think about the future.”

“They’re going to get out and live next to somebody’s friends, somebody’s grandchildren,” adds Noble, “If they have an education and can get a job, they’re going to be less likely to re-offend and end up back here.”

She says helping them prepare for a successful life after prison is the ultimate reward, and it’s what keeps her coming back day after day.

“These guys have had too many people walk out on their lives.. a lot of them from very, very young ages,” says Noble, “I just could not turn around and walk back out again.”

Noble wants to encourage other teachers to consider the option of working in a prison. Governor Evers’ 2021-23 budget proposal recommended creating an additional 14 teaching positions at state prisons to help reduce the waitlist for inmates wanting to get into the adult education program.

Monday marked the start of Teacher Appreciation Week. Throughout this week, NBC15 will honor five teachers with a Crystal Apple Award and 10 honorable mentions.

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