Maureen Crowley is a special education teacher at El Cerrito High School who works primarily
with learning disabled and at-risk students. She teaches English, Math, History and Science to
students in grades 9-12 who might be institutionalized if they were not in this program. She has
been a teacher for 21 years. But that is her part-time job. Her full-time job is as the substitute
parent or mentor to dozens of kids, including not only her current students, but her former
students and many kids at El Cerrito High who have never even been in her class. There’s a
name for them – they are the “Crowley Kids.”
Maureen’s official responsibilities are for 28 students. But there are 40 or 50 additional,
unofficial, Crowley Kids. They’re not part of the official job description, but Maureen knows
where they are, what they’re doing, where they’re going, what their homework assignments are.
They call her on her cell phone at all hours when they have problems, and sometimes come to her
house. Many of them come from dysfunctional families, or have legal troubles, behavior
problems, drugs, pregnancy, or whatever. She encourages them to go to class, stay in school and
stay out of trouble. If a Crowley Kid misses school, she will go to his house and make sure he
comes back. She provides books, clothes, food and bus fare when necessary. She helps kids get
driver’s licenses, part-time jobs and housing.
Maureen is honest but non-judgmental. She says, “I don’t give up on them no matter how
difficult, angry or stubborn they are.” She is not willing to let them fail. She has high
expectations for the Crowley Kids. She makes sure they get a high school diploma, and she
urges them to enroll in college coursework at the local junior college even while they’re still in
high school, just to show them that they can do it. Needless to say, she helps with the admissions
and financial aid process.
Graduation from high school makes no difference – once a Crowley Kid, always a Crowley Kid.
The relationship lasts as long as the student wants it to last. The academic advisor at Contra
Costa College has Maureen’s phone number. Maureen keeps tabs on all of the several dozen
Crowley kids who are enrolled at any given time. If they aren’t going to class, or they’re falling
behind, they are going to hear from her. And she gives them encouragement and help. She
spends so much time at Contra Costa College checking up on Crowley Kids that she has her own
parking permit there.
Not every Crowley Kid manages to stay out of trouble. Some run afoul of the legal system. If
they thought Maureen would give up on them, they were wrong. She goes to court with them.
If they are sent to Juvenile Hall, Maureen corresponds with them, accepts collect calls from the
jail, and helps them to continue their studies behind bars. If they are in a dangerous situation or
very ill, they call her. Two of her students who became pregnant asked her to be present when
they gave birth.
Aware of the exceptional help and support she provides, Crowley Kids refer their brothers,
sisters, cousins and friends to her. She takes them all in. To be a Crowley Kid at EI Cerrito High
School is considered an honor, and is an incentive to her students to work hard and stay out of
trouble. One of her colleagues wrote that Maureen has the remarkable ability to rescue many
students that have been left behind and give them hope and a future. She said “I am amazed by
her positive vision and persistence to assist so many students in need.”