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david oclander

David Oclander

School: Noble Network of Charter Schools

Neighborhood:  Chicago

A Hero on Many Battlefields

Veteran David Oclander continues to serve our country, though now in a different capacity. After 23 years of leadership and service in the military, Oclander found another cause worth dedicating his life to: improving the education system for American scholars, especially those in Chicago. Oclander is now serving students as a teacher and principal-in-training at the Noble Network of Charter Schools.

After serving more than two decades in the officer corps, Oclander joined the Pentagon Joint Staff to plan future military missions. In 2011, a headline, “Boy, 13, Dead From Gunshot on Basketball Court,” caught Oclander’s attention. It led him to start tracking the numbers of U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan as well as brutal deaths in Chicago as a result of the violence. His findings were alarming—by 2012, Chicago homicides outnumbered U.S. troop killings in Afghanistan. Oclander realized that the biggest danger to America’s future did not lie overseas, but rather in every neighborhood in our nation.

After learning about the harsh realities in Chicago, Oclander knew he needed to ignite change. He realized that his military experience was applicable in the classroom to help students at-risk of failing, those that were more likely to be added numbers to his previously tracked statistics. Oclander decided to pursue a new profession in teaching, but becoming a teacher proved to be more difficult than he thought.

Oclander lacked the certifications required to teach in traditional Chicago public schools but was confident he had the skills and background to be successful in the classroom. Thanks to the innovative charter school model, one that allows these institutions’ leaders to hire talented, passionate, and qualified teachers without initially having all of credentials necessary while still holding them accountable to high standards and student achievement, Oclander is now changing the trajectory of many students’ lives as a teacher and principal-in-training at Noble.

The Noble Network of Charter Schools, whose mission is to prepare low-income students with the scholarship, discipline, and honor necessary to succeed in college and lead exemplary lives and to serve as a catalyst for education reform in Chicago, serves more than 70 communities at sixteen campuses. Despite operating in some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods, Noble’s college enrollment rate is a roaring 90%, 84% of whom are first generation college students. Even more staggering is that Noble is on a trajectory to have over 55% of its alumni graduate from college, a percent that continues to rise.

Noble holds their students to high academic and behavioral standards, thus creating an environment that Oclander guarantees betters the classrooms and America’s future—”It’s the same recipe that the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines use every day. A disciplined environment with great leaders can produce great citizens through that gauntlet of experience.” It is this recipe that also leads Oclander to believe that teaching and school leadership is a tremendous place for other Veterans to consider as they leave the military.

From the battlefields to the classroom, Oclander is the epitome of a true hero—someone who is dedicated, passionate, and will stop at nothing to stimulate change, regardless of the circumstances. He inspires his students every day by believing in them and helping them believe in themselves, too. Oclander is shaping the future of our country, one student at a time.