Revered teacher turns her punk rock youth into life lessons for students

By Brett Peruzzi, Contributing writer

Nancy Barile, award-winning teacher at Revere High School.
Photo / Jennifer Cimino

REVERE – Nancy Barile teaches difficult kids English at Revere High School, but she isn’t easily shocked or intimidated. The award-winning educator and resident of Revere lost her roots as a Catholic schoolgirl to become a punk rocker in her late teens.

In her early twenties, she also ran a band called the Sadistic Exploits and organized and promoted concerts by big hardcore punk bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat. With her spiky blonde hair and thick eyeliner, her black leather jacket adorned with the names of her favorite bands, her ripped jeans and ragged sneakers, she had come a long way from her days as a cheerleader and cheerleader. Girl Scout.

Nancy Barile with the Philadelphia punk band she led, Sadistic Exploits Photo / Lisa Haun
Nancy Barile with the Philadelphia punk band she led, Sadistic Exploits
Photo / Lisa Haun

From the affluent suburbs to the bustle of the city center

“I grew up in an affluent, predominantly white neighborhood, and punk rock introduced me to a diverse and multicultural world,” said the 61-year-old, who grew up in a suburb of East Norriton, Pa. of Philadelphia. Now she has shared her experiences from her adventurous youth in a recently published book titled I don’t hold your coat: my memories of bruises and all of the punk rock rebellion. Posted by New York City Editor Bazillion Points, which specializes in books related to punk and heavy metal, sold its first print on pre-orders only before the official release date earlier this year.

Barile moved to downtown Philadelphia in the early 1980s after getting a job as a paralegal there. The city had an aggressive, male-dominated punk music scene, but it held on. “Punk rock taught me the importance of taking a stand and working to make a positive difference in the world,” she explained. “Punk’s DIY work ethic is something that affects every aspect of my life to this day. “

Life lessons for his students

And these are the lessons she believes are helping her better understand and teach her students today. “Punk rock helped me connect and reach the disenfranchised and marginalized teenager – mainly because I was one and my friends too, ”she recalls. “I remember how I felt about not feeling responsible for my education or my school. I remember what it was like not being able to connect to my learning. As a teacher, I try to keep this in mind every day.

Nancy Barile, left, at the infamous New York punk club CBGB in 1981 Photo / courtesy Allison Schnackenberg
Nancy Barile, left, at the infamous New York punk club CBGB in 1981
Photo / Courtesy of Allison Schnackenberg

While she can identify with her students better than some teachers, Barile also recognizes the greatest challenges they have faced. “A lot of the teenagers I work with survived and overcame tremendous hardships,” she noted. “They escaped famine, poverty, violent countries, wars and enormous obstacles. They are incredibly resilient and strong, but in many cases they have suffered trauma. They have a much broader view of the world than I have ever had.

A new start in Boston

Nancy Barile today with an old friend from her punk days Ian MacKaye, Minor Threat and Fugazi Photo / submitted
Nancy Barile today with an old friend from her punk years Ian MacKaye, Minor Threat and Fugazi
Photo / submitted

The punk music scene is also what ultimately brought Barile to the Boston area. It all started when she contacted Al Barile, the guitarist and frontman of SS Decontrol, one of Boston’s hardcore punk bands, to book them a concert in Philadelphia. Thanks to their mutual love for music, they began to talk frequently on the phone and meet at concerts in New York City and other places on the East Coast. In 1982, Barile moved to Boston and seven years later they were married.

Barile continued her college education in Boston which she had started in Pennsylvania, eventually earning a master’s degree in education and beginning her teaching career. In addition to teaching high school students for over 25 years, she was also an assistant professor for over a decade at Emmanuel College in Boston, training the next generation of educators. But the rebellious attitude that has blossomed in the rowdy, chaotic punk clubs of Philadelphia and New York City continues to simmer, despite his professional achievements. “I always question authority – a fact that even at my age gets me in trouble from time to time,“, she joked.”Punk rock taught me not to be manipulated in the name of someone else’s personal agenda. I refuse to blindly follow the directives of leaders who attempt to compromise my integrity or the integrity of my students.

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