Originally published by JOURNEY magazine Peterborough (https://journeymagazineptbo.com/2018/04/14/colleen-crawley-in-the-classroom-magical/)
Ms. Colleen Crawley is one of my and everyone’s favourite teachers at St. Peter
Secondary School in Peterborough, Ontario. I was lucky enough to have her as my
Grade 11 English teacher, where she shared her love and passion of English literature with our class. She left a strong impression on me, and her obvious passion inspired me to pursue my love of writing. Her kindness showed strength that I, along with countless other students, admire and respect.
She grew up in the small town of Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland, and attended
Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. She had begun as a music major (flute) but fell in love with her first Canadian literature course and completed a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Education. She always knew she wanted to be a teacher. As a teenager, she tutored younger kids and found it very fulfilling to see them succeed.
“I always loved working with children and one of my favourite summer jobs was as a playground supervisor. I actually got paid to play with children,” she explains.
Later, while completing placements at Mount Allison, she found that she would like to teach at the high school level so she could teach literature.
She has been teaching at St. Peter’s since 1990, after she found an advertisement in the Globe and Mail for teaching positions at our school board. She came to Ontario for an interview during her reading week and was hired. After her first three years teaching, she took a year off to do a Master of Arts degree in English Literature at the University of Ottawa.
She also taught in Costa Rica at an American international school for two years
alongside her husband, Mr. Steve Brown, who now also teaches at St. Peter. Their two children also attend the school.
I am yet to have been taught by a more compassionate teacher.
“It’s really nice to be at school with my husband and children,” she says. “I like knowing that my children can find me if they need me, and I also love seeing them in this environment with their friends and their various extra-curricular activities. I also enjoy seeing my husband in action, seeing his enthusiasm for his subject, History, and for his coaching.”
Ms. Crawley has taught English at every high school grade and pathway: Essential,
Applied, Academic, and Advanced Placement. She explains how she has fit into the Saints’ community, saying, “I feel really lucky because I love Peterborough and St. Peter has been a fantastic place to work. I love getting to know my students and I have a lot of respect for my colleagues. I’ve made a lot of friends here.”
She still gets homesick regularly and returns home to Newfoundland every summer to spend time with her parents, sisters, and old friends. Ms. Crawley was off on medical leave from September until the end of February this year while in treatment for breast cancer.
“The amount of support I received from staff and students here at St. Pete’s was
incredible. It meant a great deal to me and helped me get through that period. I’m so happy to be back in the classroom now!”
Being in Ms. Crawley’s classroom is magical.
Ms. Crawley works with our school’s social justice group, Saints Action.
“I’m inspired by their commitment to various service projects and to promoting peace and justice,” she says.
Each year, she works with another St. Peter English teacher, Mr. Joe Webster, to
organize a Spring Poetry Festival. They bring two published poets to work with
interested students for the day. Students apply and are taken off site to do poetry writing workshops for the day.
“It’s one of my favourite days of the year. I am always amazed by the quality of our
students’ writing and by their willingness to share their work,” says Ms. Crawley.
Another thing she loves about teaching at St. Peter is the school spirit that is most
evident around the school musicals and the Terry Fox campaign.
“The energy and commitment of both staff and students makes these activities a huge success. In fact, the commitment of staff to offering a wide variety of school clubs, teams and activities makes St Peter a really great place to be. The teachers and other staff at St Peter give so much of their time to provide students with a wealth of opportunities in the arts, athletics, and a wide variety of clubs.”
The best part of teaching for Ms. Crawley is getting to know her students, she says.
“The relationships make the job meaningful, and I gain so much from my students’
energy and creativity. Of course, I love discussing novels and plays with my students, and especially love reading and writing poetry with them.”
Being in Ms. Crawley’s classroom is magical. She brings the curriculum to life in fun and engaging ways. I remember once during our Macbeth unit, we spent the class insulting each other using Shakespearean language. It was so much fun! She was always able to captivate my class, and her eagerness to explore poetry was contagious. I am still in awe of her choice to always show kindness while being assertive. I am yet to have been taught by a more compassionate teacher. She is deserving of the respect students show her at school.