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‘DOUBLE-BLESSED’

May 15, 2018

By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools

Administrators at Rockvale Elementary knew they had “a lot” of twins at the school.

Teachers were aware of it too.

Even the twins themselves knew they were not alone.

But until Rockvale Principal Dayna Nichols made a list, no one would have believed they had 24 sets of twins at the school this year.

Twenty-four.

“It’s crazy,” said Jinna Jones, who has taught kindergarten for eight years at Rockvale and has been without a set of twins in her classroom only once. “The first year I got some and then I got another set. I thought, ‘Is it just me?’”

It wasn’t.

“I would say like two or three would be normal,” said Dameeka McClish, a third-grade teacher, who was surprised to hear Nichols mention 24 sets of twins in a staff meeting. “It’s a phenomenon.

“I knew there was a high number because every year I’ve had at least two sets in my class, but I didn’t realize it was 24.”

“Everybody here recognizes it,” Nichols said. “I think they were surprised we had that many. That’s just a huge number. They knew we had a lot but would have probably guesstimated it something like I did, somewhere around a dozen sets.”

Nichols added, “We have right at 1,000 kids, give or take, so that’s quite a bit.”

The current makeup includes a staggering seven sets in fourth grade followed by five sets in kindergarten and second grade. There are four sets of twins in third grade and three sets in fifth grade.

First grade is the only grade with only a single set of twins.

But that is the anomaly at Rockvale.

Districtwide, 46 sets of twins have come from Rockvale along with one set of triplets.

One set is graduating this year as part of the Class of 2018 and three set of fifth-graders are moving from elementary to middle school. They have already registered two sets of twins in kindergarten for the 2018-19 school year, according to Nichols.

Whether or not it’s a phenomenon might be debatable, but the sight of twins has been a regular occurrence for teachers at Rockvale. Beginning with this year’s Class of 2018 through the Class of 2031, only once – the Class of 2029 – was Rockvale Elementary without at least one set of twins.

Those are indeed big numbers for what Nichols described as “a little rural elementary school.”

“I’m astonished,” McClish said, “and in such a rural area like Rockvale.”

Jones joked, “I don’t have kids yet and I’m definitely not going to drink the water.”

Rockvale is an unincorporated community located west of Interstate 24 along Old Salem Road a few miles past Veterans Parkway. Other than being home to a pair of schools and soon-to-be a third — Rockvale High School, set to open in 2019 — the area is best known for Snail Shell Cave and now, perhaps, twins.

Experience, which teachers at Rockvale Elementary have plenty of when it comes to twins, indicates twins are either extremely close and tightly bonded or naturally have noticeably unique personalities.

“I like having them together,” said Jones, who believes having both helps them to balance one another in their first experience with school. “I’ve never had a set that was split.”

“They usually want them kept together ‘till about the end of second grade,” Nichols said. “They recognize the tight bond they have and they also promote that bond.”

Jones added, “It’s like you’ve got your best friend with you all the time.”

“A parent of twins said to me, ‘It’s so much easier when they come home with the same things from the same teacher as opposed to having two different second-grade teachers or two from first grade sending home different things, so we’re always working on the same thing,’” Nichols said. “That made sense to me.”

Next year, the Pflueger twins – Jacob and Eleanor – will be split into two different classrooms for third grade.

“I think it will be good for me,” said Eleanor, who admitted she likes being able to ask her brother for hugs when she feels the need for one.

Jacob quickly said, “I don’t hug her. I actually squeeze her.” I think there is a word missing here.

“He picked me up,” she replied.

Jacob then asked, “Would you like me to twirl you?”

“No,” said Eleanor, rolling her eyes. “Whenever people first meet us sometimes they don’t believe me that I say we’re twins.”

“We both have brown eyes,” Jacob added.

“They’re precious,” Nichols said. “They are a classic example of twins where you’ve got one that’s just bubbling with personality and one is more reserved.”

The Pflueger twins work well in class together and yet have already established some of their own individuality. By third grade, other twins who have not already done so, will be more prepared to establish some independence.

Those with tight bonds are seen as having more confidence entering third and fourth grade as opposed to first and second.

Once twins are separated, they are more apt to be seen as individuals instead of a set, Nichols said.

However, McClish has a set of “interesting” twin sisters — Macy and Emma Heath — who “don’t interact with each other” and “have different friends.” They recently celebrated their birthday separately, so that Macy and Emma were “not seen as just the girls.”

“I got two sets of cupcakes, not just one,” McClish explained. “We sang happy birthday twice.”

McClish also has half of another set — Siennna (and Macy) Strength — who “gravitate towards each other the moment they see each other.”

Next year, Jones is excited to have another set of twins in her kindergarten class for the eighth time in her nine years of teaching.

“They just keep coming,” she laughed. “We’re getting more and more.”

“We’re just blessed,” Nichols concluded. “We’re doubled-blessed.”

PHOTO / KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT