Mother, Teacher, Coach


Elisabeth Fox, Contributor

San Rafael High School students know of Catherine “C.J.” Healy as the mom of two most well-known athletes at school. If not that, you’ve heard of her from your peers or had her as your PE teacher. If not, you have definitely seen her around campus. 

But if you think about it, who is C.J. Healy?  

“She is definitely a teacher for the students,” said Emily Spence, a senior and the ASB President at SRHS. Healy is the senior class teacher representative and does her best to be as involved in the school community, both inside and out. 

She moved with her husband to his hometown of Marin and heard of an opening at the city’s local high school. They were looking for someone who had a history in Adventure and Rock Climbing, could teach sailing to students, and could coach a basketball team at a high school level. 

She started her career at SRHS in 2002 and has taught Physical Education, Health and the Sailing class ever since. The 2021-2022 school year will mark her 20th year teaching at SRHS. The past 4 years have been more personal for her since two of her three children are now attending SRHS. Her oldest son, Jack, is a senior on the varsity football, basketball, and baseball teams, and her daughter, Mary, is a junior on the varsity volleyball, girls basketball and lacrosse teams. 

Healy was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. She attended St. Francis Xavier University and graduated in the Class of 1998 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education, Health and a minor in English and Theology. She was a part of an undergraduate program with about 50 students and each of those undergraduates ended up having profession as PE teachers at different schools. In 2000, she received a Master’s Degree from the University of Ottawa in Human Kinetics. She played 6 sports throughout her school years, including sailing, and is currently teaching those sports to her students. She has been immersed in sports ever since elementary school and has passed that passion on to her children. 

SRHS is unique with its offering of an amazing physical education opportunity: the Night PE Sailing Class. The sailing program began in 1975 and has remained one of the most popular classes here at SRHS as students receive PE credits and are able to do PE outside of school hours. Every Wednesday night, Healy and the other Night PE class, Night PE Hiking, share the gym, pool, and football field to host class. Every Sunday, Healy takes her students to the San Rafael Yacht Club and teaches them how to sail in the canal behind the Montecito Shopping Center. 

When Healy came to SRHS, the teaching position for this class was vacant for a couple years. It took Healy a year after she joined SRHS to revive the sailing class. Now the class is as popular as ever and this year has 7 teacher assistants. This is a tremendous help for Healy as she has a lot more hands on deck.  

One of the TAs Healy has on site is Nate Bender. Bender is a senior at SRHS and one of the two ASB Athletics Commissioners. He has known Healy since second grade as he was, and still is, close friends with her oldest son, Jack. Bender took Healy´s sailing class his sophomore year and returned his senior year to be a TA. 

Bender is the creator of the Simple Impact Club, where students go out and pick up trash in their community and educate their club members about the effects of litter in their environment. Healy became the club advisor for them and as her sailing TA, Bender and the other TAs (as some members are a part of the club) pick up the trash, floating in the water and on the coast, during their Sunday morning sailing classes. Bender said that Healy is one of the teachers that he is “most connected with, personally and professionally,” and that she is someone that, “I can go to if I need help with school and we have developed a friendship since I have been at SRHS.”

In addition to her sons, Healy has a daughter who takes after her mother in more ways than one. An athlete herself, junior Mary Healy, has taken after her mother on and off the court and has given back to the SRHS community in countless ways. Healy inspired her daughter to get involved with Girl Scouts, volleyball, basketball, and to take on leadership roles within the school. She has the same drive and spirit which is evident with all the Healys.  

When asked about what her school life is like with her mother on campus, Mary said “It’s kind of tough when I just want a break from home life, but it’s nice having her here.” 

Healy has given back to her community in countless ways. Healy is the Girl Scout Troop Leader for Troop 32826. She began the troop in 2010 when her daughter was in kindergarten and this is the troop’s 12th year together. When she was younger, she was a Girl Guide and her mother was the leader of her Girl Guide troop. She wanted her daughter to have a similar experience, so she started Troop 32826. There are currently 6 girls in her troop, 4 of which have stayed since the beginning. 

Liliana Peixotto, a senior at SRHS, has known Healy since she was born since her family and the Healys are neighbors. She officially joined Healy’s troop in 8th grade after many years of going to meetings to hang out with her friends. Peixotto said that Healy is “always there to help if I have any questions, regardless.” It was weird, however, when Peixotto entered high school. She had Healy as her Health teacher her freshman year and as her Night PE Sailing teacher her sophomore year. As most students called her Ms. Healy, Peixotto could never bring herself to call her by that title. It didn’t feel right given their history.

Her first year at SRHS would become one of the most memorable times of her teaching, and coaching career, when she became the varsity girls basketball coach for the winter season. One of her players in particular, Benita Manning, was a junior when she first met Healy. She was the team’s captain her junior and senior year and played forward. 

“It was a nice change from what I ever had as a coach,” said Manning. 

She felt that she could relate more to Healy since she was a young, fresh out-of-college athlete. When asked about the impact and lessons that she had on these young athletes, Manning said that she was “teaching us to be on the ball, disciplined with our emotions, and leaving it all on the court.” 

The Athletic Director at SRHS, Jose De La Rosa, is a 2012 graduate of SRHS. During his student years, he never had Healy as a teacher, but knew of her through conversations with classmates. When he returned to SRHS and became the AD, his relationship with Healy grew due to their love of sports. His second year at SRHS, Healy was the freshman girls basketball coach. That year, there was talk of creating a freshman girls volleyball team and Healy immediately volunteered to coach. De La Rosa remembers that she was very passionate about being the freshman volleyball coach and was ready to take on this role. Healy, given her athletic background, is very driven by sports and wants students to be able to experience the excitement of playing a sport and that yearning to win. 

Other than athletics, Healy is very involved in her own community. De La Rosa said that one of the lessons that he learned from her would be this: ẗhe importance of community. 

In the 20 years she has been teaching at SRHS, Healy has seen two decades worth of children graduating and moving on with their lives. She has stayed in touch with many of her former students and has seen their accomplishments past high school.