Five sets of students at Ellsworth Elementary Middle School have something in common: They’re all twins.
The 10 kindergarteners — Gavin and Sophia Bubier; Charles and Cayden Agaga; Emma and Hannah Frost; Alexantrea and Antzelina Kaminaris; and Jackson and Logan McCray — started school last week. It’s a first for the school of about 800 to have so many pairs of twins in classes at once.
But while the children, ranging in age from 5 to 7-years-old, may share quite a bit with their siblings, parents and teachers plan to celebrate their distinct bonds and their individuality as well.
Not one in the same
When sisters Alexantrea and Antzelina found out there were other twins in their class, they were confused because the other set of twins includes a girl and a boy. The identical twins wondered how it was possible a boy and girl could be twins too, said their mother Stacy Roguski.
Roguski, a second grade teacher at the school, was happy to explain. She said the girls knew they were twins and had their differences, but hadn’t realized that twins, like all children come in different shapes, sizes and some aren’t even the same gender.
Clare Tyrell, Charles and Cayden’s mother, said she’s learned a lot from her two boys and their individual personalities. One is more outgoing and loves the outdoors; the other is reserved and “in his own world.”
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s overwhelming and they make me get mad, but they also make me laugh,” she said.
Recognizing those differences is a common theme among the parents of the twins. Many said they tried not to call their children “the twins” and acknowledge their differences though they do they share a bond different from that of non-twin siblings.
“I’ve got some free spirits and they’re quite independent,” Elizabeth McCray said of her boys Jackson and Logan. “One is slow to warm up to people … Logan is a momma’s boy and Jackson is up for talking with just about anybody.
Several parents said one twin is often the protector of the other twin, always wanting to make sure they know where he or she is, or sticking up for him or her as needed. Others are shy or more reserved, often letting their more boisterous brother or sister take the lead.
Those differences are important to teachers and something they all try to foster within the classroom, principal Amy Peterson-Roper said.
“As long as the classroom teacher acknowledges and respects the differences of the kids, there really aren’t any challenges,” she said. “If we hold them as twins and treat them as twins, that’s when difficulties can arise.”
An individual approach
When twin families register for the five kindergarten classes the school offers, Peterson-Roper said the school takes into consideration the family’s preferences on whether or not to separate the students into different classrooms. This year, two families chose to keep their twins together, while the others chose to be in different classrooms.
Peterson-Roper said that from an educational standpoint, students can benefit a lot from the separation, but some families and twins aren’t ready.
“When you have a set of twins, there’s a lot of communication that needs to happen because not every classroom works the same,” she said explaining that logistical issues can often crop up when parents have to keep track of two students’ schedules.
So if students are together, teachers are hyper-vigilant, making sure both are receiving equal attention and that there aren’t any tensions between the twins or with other students.
“We watch them closely because there’s a sibling dynamic that can carry over into the classroom,” Peterson-Roper said. “But they figure out pretty quickly that school is school and home is home.”
That dynamic was key in McCray’s decision to separating her sons. She said the boys have enough time together at home and she looked forward to helping them both become their own person.
“They’re always doing something together, but they are different,” she said. “And they’re always going to have each others backs, but this will just help them become more individual.”
Roguski however said after talking with her husband and girls about the big transition that kindergarten presents, they weren’t ready to part ways.
“I just felt that kindergarten was already a big challenge and I didn’t want to make it a double challenge,” she said.
We are growing
None of the parents at the school knew exactly how many other twin sets there were this year, but all had heard that there was at least one other. Susan Frost, Emma and Hannah’s mother and Stacy Roguski, both work at the school so their girls met this summer.
“We were there and they were there so our girls all played together for the first time this summer,” Frost said. “I knew there were [my twins] and of course the other girls, but now there are five of them.”
The school hasn’t made a big deal out of the unprecedented student makeup, though kindergarten placement did take a bit more work this year trying to figure out which twins could go where.
Peterson-Roper said those who know think it’s a great sign that the school, district and city are growing. When she first started 10 years ago, it was common to only have one set of twins. Then, as years went by, there would be a year or two where the school would have two sets. Now it’s five.
So, she said, it’s exciting, but not just because there are a lot of doubles, there are a lot more students. The majority of the twin families this year said they moved to the area within the past few years. Some said doubles ran in their family, but for others twins were a total surprise.
“It’s neat … look at Ellsworth, we’re growing and this is one of the ways you can see that we’re growing,” she said. “We’re a growing population and we have more and more students filtering into the area.”
As for the 10 newest “Falcons” at the school?
“They’re just part of the crew,” Peterson-Roper said.