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Teaching is Crowl's new mission

November 04, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

Editor's note: This is the second of a monthly series highlighting excellent educators in Washington County high schools. Next month: Clear Spring High School.




pepperb@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO - After working happily as a nurse to prepare herself for a dream of doing missionary work, April Crowl anxiously approached a mission to offer her aid.

Crowl, a one-time pilot, lobbyist, filmmaker and teacher, told the recruiter that helping people was her mission and the sympathetic interviewer said, "If you really want to save somebody, why don't you get back in the classroom?"

She took the advice. Crowl, a Boonsboro High School English teacher, has been saving students for 10 years from being bored by books and authors like she once was.

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Crowl said she was a calculus addict who despised the thought of entering a classroom that didn't require a calculator until she had a hippie high school English teacher who helped her fall in love with literature.

She now pulls back Cupid's arrow to target students who are much like she was in high school, helping them love Shakespeare, Orwell and Chaucer through hamburgers, karaoke and dress-up, without sacrificing the knowledge they can gain.

For the past 10 years, usually around Halloween, Crowl has been taking students on a pilgrimage through Boonsboro, just after they travel the pages of Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales," in which 30 Middle Age pilgrims begin telling tales while traveling to Canterbury, England.

The high school storytellers tour through Boonsboro, mirroring Chaucer's pilgrims in costume and reading from individually written scripts that mimic the adventure told by Chaucer's characters.

"I can't wait to get here every day and see what they do," she said.

On a busy Wednesday afternoon, Crowl juggles students tape-recording presentations, yearbook staff filing advertisement sales and colleagues posing questions about schedules, while trying to explain how she teaches the difference between epic and romantic heroes.

Crowl calls on the attention of two unsuspecting students, who are working after school on a nearby computer, to chant along with her as she stands and performs rehearsed charades to cue them to an explanation.

The students chant along with ease to a studied charade they learned a couple of years ago from Crowl.

"We take ourselves so seriously," she said. "We have to teach students to critically assess their lives."

Crowl believes English is a great vehicle for students to discover themselves. She said a lot of the stories and characters she teaches - ancient through modern - aren't all that fictitious.

"We still have Grendels and firedragons to slay," she said. "We still need a Beowulf."

Crowl parallels real life and fiction continuously through her classes. She makes students write ballads related to course material to perform a cappella or with musical accompaniment for Karaoke Fridays and serves up fast-food burgers for a classroom-performed mock dinner theater of "Macbeth" - complete with student-designed costumes and sets.

Crowl has still not ceased in her forge to be a true Renaissance woman. On top of teaching, she is the English Department chairwoman, junior class adviser, varsity cheerleading coach, newspaper and yearbook adviser and is on the School Improvement Team.

"They're going to have to carry me out of here," she said.

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