Coordinator of Academic Support Services
Carl Sandburg College
Educational Studies Major
Carol Crouch was 50 years old when she started taking classes at
Knox College, and it changed her life.
"Knox means freedom," said Crouch, who graduated in 2004 with a teaching certificate in elementary education and her B.A. in educational studies. "I think it taught me about the person that I really am. Somebody that I felt was inside there but never knew about. I can't think of any way that Knox didn't change me. I became my own person when I went to Knox. Discovery at 50."
Crouch was a special education teacher's aide for 17 years in Galesburg schools when she decided in 1999 it was time for her to get her bachelor's degree. She started by enrolling at Carl Sandburg College.
"At my age, it was a really big deal to quit my job and start classes at Sandburg," said Crouch. "I had divorced my husband before I went to school. That's what made it so hard. Income was a problem for four and a half years."
When she transferred to Knox from CSC two years later, fitting in was also a problem at first.
"The students thought I was faculty. The faculty thought I was faculty. The staff thought I was faculty, and I was just a student," Crouch said.
Knox's TRIO Achievement Program had a hand in helping Crouch. TRIO is a federally funded program that helps low-income and first-generation college students adapt to the academic environment and achieve success.
"If it hadn't been for them I don't know if I'd have survived," Crouch said.
Karen Gourd, a former education studies professor at Knox, served as Crouch's mentor.
"She raised questions, made critical points and listened to others," Gourd recalled. "She was a non-traditional student who did not hold back when it came to doing non-traditional things in courses. Carol worked wonderfully with her peers, who were much younger, willing to jump in to do what needed to be done. ... Bright, kind and always present are the words I think best describe Carol as a student."
Magali Roy-Féquière, chair of Knox's gender and women's studies, echoed Gourd.
"I loved having Carol in my classes, because she always added a different perspective to the discussions. She was so focused and so motivated and so diligent," Roy-Féquière said. "She always brought something thoughtful to the class. It actually made my work easier in a way, because I didn't have to always be thinking of another perspective. She brought that in. It was very helpful. The thing about Carol is that she was extremely interested in developing her critical thinking, critical writing abilities, to deepen that."
Crouch developed and admits that Knox provided her with opportunities that she had never experienced.
"Knox offered me the opportunity to delve as much as I wanted without me feeling so phobic about it. You were there to go as far as you needed to go. It took away the boundaries," she said. "Sometimes when you are learning about something new you feel like the instructors kind of set boundaries. Nobody ever put boundaries around me at Knox. They said go out and find everything out that you need to. I had never felt that way before."
No restrictions were put on Crouch, and she discovered she could be herself.
"I worked with teachers for 17 years and I thought I wanted to be like them and what I found out was I didn't have to be like them. I could be my own teacher, even a better teacher, and have a better understanding of how things work," she said. "I love how people learn and all the different ways that they learn. In learning how other people learn, you make a lot of discoveries, and the more discoveries you make, the more you want that world to be open to more people."
Crouch took what she discovered and began substitute teaching once she graduated. The following school year, she became a reading specialist at Costa Catholic School. A year later, Crouch applied for a job working for Galesburg Community Unit School District 205, but instead landed at CSC, where she is the coordinator of academic support services.
"Carl Sandburg is very lucky to have her, because she likes to help people. She likes to help the students she works with achieve something. She is focused on helping. She clears the way for the students," said Roy-Féquière, who has maintained a friendship with Crouch since she graduated. "She is thoughtful, intelligent, focused and generous, very generous. She has a great sense of humor."
This profile appeared in "Galesburg Is Knox: Breaking the Bubble," a senior captstone project by Knox College student Matthew Wheaton '10 that explored connections between the city of Galesburg and Knox. View more of Wheaton's project.
Photograph of Carol Crouch by Evan Temchin '10.