by Moira Cullings
LEAWOOD — It’s not uncommon to find a set of twins in any given elementary school grade. It’s not even uncommon to find two or three sets of twins per grade. But to find any more than that is a bit unusual.
Unusual, but not impossible — as kindergarten teachers in Leawood learned when six sets of twins reported to class the first day of school at Nativity Parish.
Five sets are fraternal and one set is identical, making for one unique grade.
Shirley Collier and Ali O’Grady, the school’s kindergarten teachers, have never seen anything like it.
“I’d say three is the highest amount I’ve ever had,” O’Grady said. “Six is unreal.”
Maureen Huppe, the school’s principal of nine years, gives parents the choice to separate their twins or keep them together.
“They know them best, especially coming into kindergarten. Some of them are just so sensitive,” she said. “If they’re not ready for [separation], I wouldn’t do it.”
“For some, you have one little shy one that needs their twin to kind of navigate,” she said. “And then other twins are completely happy separated on their own.”
Families who separate them aim to “break that branch to kind of give them a little more independence.”
This decision will likely change over the next few years.
For now, having a twin at school appears to be a consolation to most of the 12.
“I think it comforts them [having a twin] either within their class or just next door,” said O’Grady. “I think twins just naturally have a very close bond.”
When asked what their favorite part about being a twin is, fraternal twins George and Maureen Nessinger still had an identical answer: “Being in the same class!” they exclaimed.
The Nessinger twins, meanwhile, don’t think they look anything alike.
“He’s a boy and I’m a girl,” Maureen stated matter-of-factly.
They like to play together “sometimes,” said Maureen.
“As soon as I find her [at recess], I play with her,” said George.
Both teachers have noticed most of the twins tend to flock together, especially during recess. Makayla and Marissa Morris, the lone set of identical twins, are no exception.
“We’ll get them separated and playing and they just go hug one another,” said Collier.
George and Maureen have also shown their close connection.
“Did you see those two laying on the ground?” said Huppe, as she laughed about the twin photography shoot.
“They were like rolling all over each other like they were little babies in a crib,” she continued. “It was very cute.”
Both teachers agree the influx of twins has made them work even more closely together.
“Knowing there’s twins in both classes, we make sure we’re on the same page as far as expectations and curriculum go,” said O’Grady. “I think we naturally work pretty closely together, but then having twins only reinforces that.”
It appears most of the tiny students don’t quite understand how extraordinary their class is yet.
“I think at this age, a lot of the kids [that are not a twin] don’t necessarily know that there’s a twin or a sibling in the next room,” said O’Grady.
“Or know what a twin is,” joked Huppe.
“As they get older, it’ll be more interesting to figure out what they think about all these twins here,” Huppe added. “But right now, they don’t think anything of it.”
For Stella Brooks, one of the students who is not a twin, the pair that is hardest to tell apart is the Morris girls.
She only knows who is who because “they wear different shoes,” said Stella. “One has straps, and one ties her shoes.”
Stella is friends with several of the 12, and her favorite part about having so many twins in her grade is “they like to play with me.”
When it comes to having similar or different interests and personalities, it depends on each set. Take Ethan and Logan Kinsinger
“What’s interesting about them, even though they play together, is Ethan will tell you, ‘I’m a K-State guy, but he’s a Chiefs guy. I don’t like the pros; I only like college,’” recounted Collier.
“So, they’ve differentiated themselves in some way through their loyalties. That’s funny,” said Huppe.
Because the students are so young, it is difficult to tell how the twins will shape the grade as they move forward. Both teachers look forward to watching the twins grow with their class.
“I would say as they grow older, I think they’ll help bring the grade together,” said O’Grady. “I think they’ll be a closer-knit group, even though it’s a large group.”