Double the Fun! Orion Alternative Teacher Gets Unique Experience Teaching Two Sets of Kindergarten Twins
Inside any given kindergarten classroom is a flurry of motion, color and sound. Five-year-olds clutch waxy stubs of Crayola as they inscribe their ABCs. They stack building blocks in wobbly pyramids, their creations teetering waist high. They sing songs in screaming a cappella, with rhyming chants that center on learning manners, the virtues of teamwork or the rules of mathematics.
And, at the center of attention for these earnest, fun-loving, excitable and curious kids is the person who’s leading the show. In this case, it’s Orion Alternative's Rachel Gordon, and during this past school year, she had double – er, quadruple – the fun shaping young minds, with two sets of twins in her class.
Identical twins Miyah and Milah Magee Moreno and the not-so-identical Violet and Zachary Murphy-Krause called Gordon’s classroom home this school year.
As with all children in her class, Gordon said it’s been fun “watching their personalities develop.”
For Zachary and Violet, those personalities are very different. “They both have the most gigantic, beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen, but they are very much individuals, and I sometimes forget they’re twins. They could almost just be two kids in the same class. They have their own sets of friends, and they’re always doing their own individual thing.”
Meanwhile, Miyah and Milah Magee Moreno looks so much alike Gordon has been prone to get one confused with the other.
“I have a rainbow carpet in my classroom with squares for each student, and one day, Miyah and Milah switched their seats when I wasn’t looking,” Gordon recalled, laughing. “I didn’t even notice until it was time to go home, and I was calling them the wrong name all day long. They thought that was pretty funny.”
Gordon, who has been teaching on the same school campus for several years now, said it’s a privilege having the two sets of twins in her class, “watching the way they take care of each other and care about each other and are willing to help one another out. I think that, for them, just knowing they’re together in the classroom helps them feel more comfortable while they’re in school, and that’s a very good thing.”
Amaliya Murphy, mother of Violet and Zach, said Gordon is a wonderful teacher who has done a great job teaching her twins.
“She just loves kids,” Murphy said. “She loves them each individually and as a group. Some people are just born to teach kindergarten. They have this magic about them. And, that’s Rachel. She knows them so well and knows what makes them tick.”
Murphy said Gordon’s insight into the five-year-old mindset has manifested itself throughout the school year in the ways she aims to help the twins develop. At the beginning of the year, Gordon assigned seats, putting Zachary and Violet together. As the year went on, she moved them to separate tables so they could branch out socially.
“I think Zach needed his sister around him at the beginning, and (Gordon) could tell that he needed her, but it was good for both of them to have Violet move across the room. Rachel pays attention to details like this, and that’s what makes her amazing.”
Principal Katherine Rivera feels that Gordon “was meant to be a teacher. She’s naturally gifted.”
Rivera said that when Gordon works with her students, “she really takes into account the perspective of young kids and their developmental needs. When she’s thinking about her lesson planning … she’s doing it with a five-year-old’s perspective and considering what’s going to get them excited and what’s going to motivate them. What’s going to help them learn.”
Kindergarten is an age of curiosity, she said. “You want to continue to develop that curiosity rather than squelch it. Routine, procedures and expectations are all very important when working with 30 children in a classroom, but at the same time you want them to continue to be curious and give them what they need – including teaching empathy, caring and kindness – to learn how to function in the world.”
Learning these important lessons in a kindergarten setting can take many shapes: cardboard cutouts, artwork taped to the walls, songs, playing dress-up, storytelling and much more.
Rivera said Gordon is a masterful storyteller, and that “you know when she’s in there telling a story, because it suddenly gets very quiet. They are listening and those little eyes are watching her.”
As to the twins, Rivera feels Gordon is successful with them because “she doesn’t treat them as a set or a package deal. She treats them as individuals and holds each academically and behaviorally accountable for who they are – not because they’re twins.”
With the twins and all of her students, Gordon feels her job as a teacher is to instill in their young minds a genuine love for school.
“That’s always my biggest goal,” Gordon said. “I feel like if they love kindergarten, it’s going to make the rest of their educational career – or at least their time in elementary school – a little easier.”
She said it’s a fun age group. “They keep me on my toes with the things they say, and they’re just so sweet and excited to learn, and they see the world in such a different way than the big kids and grown-ups do.”
Every year, she aims to channel that excitement and capture their attention on a wide range of topics – from discovering the names of various plants and animals, learning how things move, beginning to read on their own and, by year’s end, grasping the basics of addition and subtraction.
Surrounded by papier-mache trees and dinosaur decals, immersed in her world of crayons, color markers, K’nex construction toys and cartoon characters, Gordon hopes at the end of the day to have made a difference in the lives of these children she so admires for their unique outlook on the world.
“Kindergarteners have a very innocent excitement and joy for anything and everything we do in the classroom. I really love that, and nothing beats it.”