Lots and lots (and lots) of noise: Allen and Boyce keep math interesting

Teachers Bob Boyce and Ardie Allen have developed some funny lines during their time teaching.
—Bushra Hasan

—by Michael Bamford & Vansh Bansal—

“Sometimes you’re gonna do what you want to do.  Sometimes you’re going to do things you don’t want to do.  But ultimately in this world, you’re going to do what you’re meant to do.”  This maxim, followed by calculus teacher Bob Boyce’s father, rings true for two of the more unconventional teachers at North: Boyce, and fellow math teacher Ardie Allen.  These two classroom comedians have been heralded for their relaxing class environment, quirky teaching styles, and playful humor.  “I probably have the same maturity level as high school students,” Allen said.

Allen and Boyce didn’t start out en route to their current jobs at North.  Allen was studying to become an actuary, someone who analyzes statistics to calculate insurance risks, and was even preparing for an exam to enter the field.  While studying, he began coaching the boys’ basketball team at Shawnee High.  The administration then asked Allen to work as a substitute math teacher at the school, which ultimately led to Allen accepting a permanent job teaching mathematics the following year.  “All my training was just my first year of teaching, so I didn’t take any teaching courses,” Allen said.

Boyce followed a slightly different path to becoming a math teacher.  While studying to become a computer engineer, Boyce worked as an intern at a computer engineering company.  “I was bored senseless,” Boyce acknowledged.  “I think it was the boredom of the internship I did in computer engineering that caused me to leave that field.  That was the moment.”

Now friends with parallel personalities, the two teachers first crossed paths at a high school basketball game.  Allen’s Shawnee Renegades demolished Boyce’s WW-P Pirates in a scrimmage, causing Boyce to throw one of his characteristic yelling fits.  “He was crazy,” Allen said of his first impression of Boyce.  For the first half of the game, the Pirates didn’t score a single point. “[Allen] didn’t have to say a word, because they beat us so bad he had nothing to yell about.  I guarantee you I lost my voice.  It was a scrimmage, too,” Boyce chuckled.  Though somewhat annoyed by Boyce’s insane emotion at the time, Allen said the episode helped Boyce earn his respect: “He put everything into that game.  I realized how good a coach he was,” Allen said.

Although Boyce has been a screamer for most of his life, the style he employs in the classroom is based on that of one of his favorite college professors.  That teacher’s motto was: “You gotta play with them [the students] a little bit, or you’re going to go crazy and they’re going to go crazy,” to which Boyce added, “and he was right.”  If you have ever taken a test in the hallway and heard the faint echo of an ex-marine screaming to keep his students engaged during class, then you’ve heard Mr. Boyce.  “He is loud and keeps everyone’s attention.  It’s impossible to sleep in his class,” junior Andrew Hong said.

Part of the excitement that Boyce brings to the classroom is his tradition of assigning jobs to students, such as erasing the board and handing out papers.  “We hire and fire people on a whim, and we do a lot of kidding around,” Boyce said.  The jobs are in place so that class can progress smoothly, with minimal delay.   “Mr. Boyce’s class is the most unique type of environment that a student might find himself in,” junior Abhishek Kondila said.

Similar to Boyce’s teaching style, Allen likes to maintain a relaxed classroom environment.  “He makes the same sort of jokes that a teenager would make, so he appeals to our sense of humor,” junior Madhavi Challa said.  Allen’s friendly and relatable personality allows students to connect with him better, so as a result, the classroom setting becomes more relaxed and enjoyable.  “He’s a very funny man and a wonderful teacher.  I don’t think I’ve ever actually wanted to go to a class before.  I remember wanting to go to his class more than I did gym or study hall,” junior Vihan Desilva said.

The other way Allen holds his students’ attention is by walking around with a yardstick that he jokingly smacks against the board—you know, “to keep people alert.”  Even as his students are attempting a challenging problem during a lesson, he’ll slam the yardstick,  breaking the students’ concentration for a second to ensure no one feels overwhelmed by his difficult problems.  “Mr. Allen’s yardstick is his trademark item; he wouldn’t be the same without it,” junior Jake Rosenthal said  “It’s like Samuel L. Jackson and cursing; they just go together.”

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