The Story of a Spunky Spanish Teacher


Jade Von Doepp, Contributor

2022, San Rafael, California

Abby Crome retired last year after ten years teaching Spanish at SRHS. 

During Crome’s first year of teaching in 2012, she immediately fell in love with San Rafael High School. At this point in time, the school only had around 900 students attending it, making it easy for Ms. Crome to connect with her students. She enjoyed the small classes and intimate community. 

When Crome spoke about San Rafael High School, she reminisced on her years at SR and the impact she had on the school.

It was a rare job to find, so she was hired to transform the school’s Spanish language program. So she got to teach her own way, she got rid of textbooks and the standard curriculum and created something of her very own. 

“When they hired me they wanted me to change the Spanish program. They wanted a more creative and effective way of teaching,” Crome said.

Excited by this opportunity Crome put her everything into the Spanish program at SRHS. She introduced telenovelas and exciting novels.

“She was very engaging with the class and very thorough…she just really cares about her students,” said Emma Wetmore, a senior at SRHS. Crome went out of her way to make herself accessible. She stayed through lunch and would stop and check in with students during class. She was proud of what she had created and wanted to share her love of the Spanish language and culture with her students. 

“She would go out of her way to even when it was uncomfortable to get kids to learn and in turn she made kids thrive,” marveled Ms. Fortune, a math teacher at San Rafael High School.

Besides the obvious community she had with her students, Crome found a place among her colleagues as well. Ms. Fortune started teaching the same year as Crome. The two of them bonded over music and style.

“You know everything I thought about Crome she isn’t, and that’s what I love about her,” Ms. Fortune said as she smiled. “You know she is so put together. You would think she’s a snob, but she is not, she is personable and funny.”


1986, Puebla, Mexico

The smells of old paper and wood crept up her nose as 18-year-old Abby Crome plunked down onto her bench for Sunday Mass. To her dismay, she had to take off her casual sweats and loose top that she wore back in the US, and instead she was stuffed into a long skirt and smothered in makeup. It wasn’t the feminine style that really ticked Crome off, it was the fact that she was expected to always be put together and to always be wearing makeup. All of the values that her Mexican host family held close were so estranged from Yellow Springs, Ohio, where she grew up.


1968, Yellow Springs, Ohio

According to Crome the town is really only known for one thing: Antioch University, a small liberal arts school that makes up half of the town. Yellow Springs itself is very diverse and the college played a huge part in the fight for equality in all aspects. They were the first in the country to hire a female faculty member at a level equal to her male colleagues. Then, it proved its reputation for progressive thinking again when it adopted a “No Applicant Rejected Due to Race Proclamation,” a revolutionary statement for a college in the 1850s.

So, surrounded by liberal ideas and progressive thinking, Crome spent the first 18 years of her life in Yellow Springs, developing her punky style and witty personality. By the end of her 18th year she was a “close-minded, open-minded person”; she grew up around super-liberal leftist ideas but only had the perspective of her small isolated home town. It only took her living in a different part of the world for twelve months to discover it.


1987, Puebla, Mexico

Again Crome sat down at Mass again. She was surrounded by her strict, Catholic host family, made up of a wife, husband and six (now seven) kids. As she sat on the rigid wooden bench, she was no longer boiling over with anger and angst, but rather respect. Throughout the year she spent living with her host family, her resentment towards traditional conservative ways melted, washed away by curiosity and love.

“It changed my brain,” says Crome, as she struggled to put into words what being completely surrounded in a different culture gave her. Besides not being completely fluent in Spanish, there was much more adversity Crome had to face.

“It was like holding up a mirror to myself,” she said. Crome had to confront all of her beliefs and challenge all of the values she was taught to abide by growing up. She was so stunted by her own values, that she couldn’t see the beauty of the culture that she was immersed in. 

However, by the end of the trip, she had learned to love and accept their customs. There was an evident “two truths” of culture and identity in herself that she saw: one was what she valued at heart, aligning with how she grew up, and the other was the beauty of the culture in her host family. 


 1989, Depauw University, Indiana

Several girls came streaming out the door of a polished miniature mansion. All in white and all wearing the same “Alpha Kappa Alpha” logo. Crome quickly walked past them, avoiding all of the clapping and piercing cheering. She narrowly avoids yet another Sorority rush. 

DePauw University is located in Indiana. More specifically in a small town called Green Castle, basically in the middle of nowhere. DePauw offers many majors, history, arts, science and several others, one of which Abby Crome was pursuing: Vocal Performance. Crome was a singer. 

For two years Crome studied Music at Depauw. However, something felt off. She had no community.

Sixty-two percent of the student body at Depauw University is involved in Greek life. Crome was an outsider; she didn’t rush and she didn’t want to. 

She wanted something more. 

She had to retake her junior year of college, due to a lack of credits, but this time it was different. At Kalamazoo College in Michigan she felt at home. 

She graduated in 1993 with a Spanish major and no plan.  Crome explains that she was surrounded by people who “thought the way she did”. In fact, the college reports that almost 90% of students who graduate from Kalamazoo have studied abroad and gone abroad like she had, making this the perfect place for Crome. 

Before Crome even got to San Rafael High School she had a unique teaching experience. 

She taught at an elite private school, Philips Academy. She worked there as a “student teacher,” but in her words, “I[she] was just thrown in with no experience.” She had no teaching credential.

This greatly contributed to her teaching style later in her career. She was able to formulate her own method without being suffocated by standardized textbooks and boring curriculum. 

Her husband was working in architecture in Berkley at the time and planned on coming out to Boston but, by the end of Crome’s contract, she decided to move to California. She begrudgingly packed her things and left towards what she thought would be a plastic LA. She was pleasantly surprised when she arrived in Marin County.

For 12 years, Crome lived with her husband and child in Marin and spent some time off work, taking care of her kid and building a social life and community for herself. 

She enjoyed being with her family, but soon the itch to start teaching came back. It was just a question of how and where. 

So, when she sent her kid off to middle school, she started attending Dominican College with the goal of getting her teaching credential. 


San Rafael, 2022

Crome left San Rafael High School in search of relaxation and independence. 

The future for Ms. Crome consists of a possible tutoring business and she hopes to get back into teaching, in a different area or a different class, but as of now she is happy to relax with her family and four pets.