During a recent open house at W.M. Irvin Elementary School, a couple of dozen third-grade students got a surprise when they spotted their names beneath two teachers’ names on the classroom roster.
Twin sisters Nita Jones and Anne Eury have been job sharing at the elementary school for the past 11 years.
The pair has grown accustomed to double takes from strangers caught off guard in the presence of the identical twins. They respect the surprise, but that doesn’t mean they understand it.
“We don’t see it,” said Jones, staring at her sister. The subtle differences, like one twin’s small birthmark on her cheek, are obvious to them and those closest to them.
Another difference comes from their classroom accessories: They both use therapy dogs daily to listen to their young readers, which helps build students’ confidence. Jones uses a sheepdog named Happy. Eury uses a Labrador retriever called Legion.
Although back in 2003 North Carolina became the first state to pass a law in support of job sharing among teachers, it seems to be a rare find in classrooms these days.
Locally, the twins are one of three job-sharing teams in Cabarrus County Schools, which had about 2,000 classroom teachers total in 2012-2013 school year.
“We’re thankful they let us do it,” said Eury, who, as a mother of young children, found the scenario of part-time teaching appealing.
Eury and Jones split the school week in half. One works Monday, Tuesday and half of Wednesday, while the other takes the rest of the week. Every nine weeks, they switch schedules to ensure they each have opportunities to attend faculty meetings.
Their students, they say, don’t take long to spot the differences between them. It’s the parents who struggle throughout the year with identification.
“The kids get it straight within two weeks,” said Eury. “The parents never get us straight. They’re not here enough.”
At the start of each school year, Eury and Jones field plenty of concerns from parents about the co-teaching arrangement.
“There’s a lot of questions in the beginning, and we understand that,” said Jones. “They’re worried their kids will fall between the cracks.”
But proponents of job sharing among teachers say the opposite is true. Students are exposed to two different styles of teaching, and what they don’t pick up from one teacher’s explanation may be better learned through the second teacher’s approach.
Students in job-sharing classrooms also experience less disruption from substitute teachers, since co-teachers usually fill in for each other during illness.
“The kids really do have twice the energy, twice the creativity and twice the support,” said Eury.
It also means they have twice the set of eyes on them, which makes pulling a fast one on the teachers is a rare occurrence.
“It never works,” said Jones. “Our expectations are consistent. Our discipline is consistent. Everything about us is that way. Not because we try, but because, I think, we are twins.”