Kevin Nolan sat in his math classroom at Glen Cove High School at the end of the school day Thursday. A student had just left.
She had been telling him about the "crazy stuff" she sees some of her peers doing; decisions she thought they would come to regret.
"It's nice to get kids for extra help. You get to see another side to them," said Nolan.
That's what has made teaching special to him for 40 years -- interactions with young people at a stage of life when long-term impacts are being made.
Nolan, 61, is retiring at the end of the year.
"I say my parole hearing's in June," joked the longtimer. He's been teaching and coaching sports at the high school for nearly three decades, having transferred from a position at Holy Cross High School in Flushing, Queens.
He's coached basketball, baseball and soccer, this year making it to the semifinals with the boys soccer team. It was the second time that has happened in the 10 years he's coached varsity. Nolan shared credit with the "special group" that made up the team.
"If you asked me who was the nicest kid on the team, I couldn't answer," he said.
Nolan won Coach of the Year in his conference. His achievements also got him nominated for Glen Cove Patch's 2012 Person of the Year, which he won with 35 percent of votes.
"I'm a little baffled by it," he said, more than once. "I'm not used to this awards thing."
A few readers explained their reasoning in the poll's comment section.
"He has helped so many kids at GC High School, not only in the classroom, but on the field and on the courts," wrote Kristin Danko.
"He tutored me one summer in math and helped me raise my regents score by 31 points. Always a great teacher and a great man," added Jim B.
Those are the kinds of legacies an educator leaves -- students and athletes who remember the small lessons an instructor gave; explanations of how things work and why you do something a certain way.
Nolan became a teacher in 1973, before teaching salaries were considered a draw to the profession.
"You got into it because it was what you wanted to do," he said.
His passion drives him to look for ways to improve his math lessons. Last year, he introduced a financial algebra course, teaching students about the workings of credit cards.
"I showed them where finance charges were. They said, 'You can't do that!' I say, 'Oh yes they can, and they do,'" Nolan said.
An automobile ownership class, a tax class. Practical applications of mathematics that provide him with an answer to a timeless classroom question: "Why do I need to know this?"
Students enjoy learning when the material is presented in an engaging framework, Nolan finds. The financial algebra course exists at Glen Cove High School because he picked it up through some extra-curricular activity of his own, reverting to studenthood to be a better teacher.
With retirement a few months away, Nolan said he plans on playing a lot more golf. He's wary of the effects of too much idle time, remembering when his father retired at the same age as he is now.
"The first year, he didn't do anything. He probably aged eight years. I saw it in him," Nolan said. His father joined a health club and started volunteering, and his youth came back. He demonstrated that there's more to life than working toward a release from work.
Nolan, who lives in Locust Valley, said he'll be spending more time with his three granddaughters, and with his wife, who for decades has patiently waited for his return home through 12-hour days spent teaching and coaching young people.
Nolan hopes his students found that time as rewarding as he did.
"There are different ways you touch their lives," he said, adding that the interaction is at least as valuable as the math lessons. "You always hope you've done a little bit more."