Sure, he sat in the first row, the best-dressed man in the room, and squeezed his wife's hand. He smiled, surrounding by school employees and community members at a local event. All par for the course with Noel.
But as conversation stirred around him, Noel sat nearly silent. As those in attendance would soon find out, he does not stay that way for long.
The meeting lasted a mere 1 minute, 15 seconds, but Noel stayed for more than an hour after meeting faculty and staff, shaking hands, posing for pictures, handing out his business card (with his personal cell phone number hand-written on the back) and talking hoops with an elementary student from the district.
Noel's passion is educating kids and he relishes any chance he gets to share it with others, even when the timing does not seem right.
"People are going to tell me their opinion whether I'm at the grocery store or the ball game," Noel said. "That's fine, and I want them to. I might wear a shirt or a nametag that says 'Dan Noel, superintendent.' I want them to talk to me, because that's the only way we become better."
Noel, 61, and his wife, Karen, will come to town in June, but hope to stop by as much as possible in the coming months. They will try to make themselves a part of the community before his July 1 start date.
"I'll be back and forth," Noel said. "If there are events or something that you would like Karen and I to come to, we'll do our best to try to come."
The couple, married 22 years, have been known in his past districts for their vigilant attendance at all school events. Parents have come to expect that if students are there, Noel will be too.
"We go to an enormous amount of events. You'll be quite shocked at that," Noel said. "I like to get out and about the people and see everybody."
Karen, a secretary in the Switzerland County district where Noel serves as high school principal, does not expect there will be time for her to work when they come to North Putnam.
"It's hard to keep up with things with just the high school events," Karen said. "Now that he's doing all levels, that will be almost full time for me."
That is just fine with Noel.
"I want her to be with me," he said. "I kind of like her being around."
Time for family
Noel completed his Bachelor of Science degree at Olivet Nazarene University in 1975. Since then he has worked steadily in all levels of education. He has been a coach (basketball, football, track and cross country), a teacher (social studies, physical education, drivers' training), an athletic director and a principal at both the middle school and high school levels.
His career took him from the Midwest to Florida, but after many years in the sun, Noel and Karen decided it was time to come home.
"You kind of turn around and look at your career and go, 'where is my family?'" Noel said.
Noel has two children, two stepsons, four grandchildren (5, 7, 9, 11) and four step-grandchildren.
His son Shaun lives in Kansas, Ill. His daughter Lori Ann Dickerson is a fifth-grade teacher at Shenandoah Elementary school. One of Karen's sons, Jimmy lives near Indianapolis. Shawn lives near Fort Collins, Colo.
Karen's mother, from Rushville, suffers from dementia. She has been with the couple for the past 10 years. Noel's mother lives in Olney, Ill.
Don't call it a twilight
After completing his education specialist degree in December, Noel began searching for a career coronation -- he wanted to be a superintendent.
He searched for a district that fit his goals and passions. Having worked in schools ranging in size from 180-3,000 students, he believes North Putnam is a perfect for him.
While he is finishing up his 35th year in education (he took a two-year break to serve as executive director at a mega church in Florida), Noel said he has plenty left to accomplish.
"I told the board I want to get at least seven more years and then we'll go from there," Noel said. "We are involved in a lot of programs, but the situation is that all those things are about educating kids. Whether it's vocational or whether it's the academic area. Whatever. The whole curriculum: it's all about kids."
At Switzerland County High School, Noel has instituted a variety of programs designed to get students prepared for the next level of education, as well as ready to enter the workplace after graduation. The school partnered with local Vincennes University to train students on new robotic equipment.
"(The North Putnam) school system has a great reputation for the things that they've done," Noel said. "We just looked at those programs and thought that we could enhance them and make them even better."
School board president Debbie Sillery expects there to be a community event prior to next school year where everyone will have a chance to meet Noel, if they have not already. A date has not been set.
Noel looks forward to talking with community members about the future and his passion.
"It's all about the kids," Noel said. "You'll hear me say that a lot."