In love with the teacher

Howard High faculty members tend to be married - to each other

January 21, 2007|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,special to the sun

At Howard High School, the students aren't the only ones holding hands by the lockers.

The school boasts three sets of married teachers, plus a pair of instructional assistants who are married to each other. Two of the couples met on the job, and two were married when they started working at the Ellicott City school.

All say they like the perks of working together: carpooling, sharing long summer vacations and knowing that nobody else understands a teacher's frustrations and joys quite like another teacher.

"It's wonderful," said Betty Windsor, who will celebrate 40 years of marriage to Bob in May. "I think the vacations are really the best part. I don't see any downsides - do you, Bob? - to working together." Her husband, assistant football coach at the school, shook his head no as they sat together in the school library after students had gone home for the day.

Colette Lawrence, married to Rick, said she likes that she and her husband can be home with their daughter on snow days. Other advantages, she said, include talking about work with someone who "really understands where I'm coming from" and going to faculty parties together, knowing that neither spouse is being dragged along.

Most students don't know or don't care that some of their teachers are married to each other, these teachers observed.

But in the case of the Lawrences, it was the students who first saw that these were two people destined to be together.

The two teachers barely knew one another because Rick, 51, was a music instructor and Colette, 43, taught English. "The kids were pushing us together," Colette said. "They were telling us we should be a couple. We kind of laughed it off."

But in 1991, a year after she started working at Howard, Colette tried out for the school talent show, which Rick was directing. They sang "Proud Mary" together, and the rest, as they say, is history. Within two years, they were husband and wife.

Confessing their relationship to the students "was almost a relief," said Colette. Students even sang at their wedding, Rick said.

"They sang at our rehearsal dinner," said Brian Boussy, a history and social studies teacher married to Christine, who teaches English.

The school has also provided a steady flow of baby sitters for the families, once their unions proved, um, fruitful. The Boussys have three children, and the Lawrences have one.

Meeting on the job is common in many professions, said Brian, 35, who met Christine at an after-work happy hour. "I think a lot of people meet spouses at work," he said. "You're kind of stuck with who's here," he added with a grin, a comment that earned him a gentle elbow-poke in the ribs from his wife.

But she agreed that teachers "seek each other out." Socializing together certainly increases the odds of sparking a romance. "We used to have a pretty big group that met at happy hour," recalled Brian.

Another couple, Ross and Calley Connelly, met in the Peace Corps in Cameroon and took jobs at Howard High after they were married. Ross, 28, is from Salisbury and Calley, 27, is from Montana.

"I wasn't really planning on teaching," Ross said. "It just sort of happened that way." When Calley applied for a job teaching math at Howard High, Ross' language skills helped him land a job teaching French and Spanish. They both started in August 2005, just a few months after they were married.

Then there are the Windsors, who started in September as instructional assistants, applying to the same place so they could have the same schedule. "We wanted to work together," Betty said.

Among the four couples, nobody works in the same department as his or her spouse, so they go most of the day without arguing about who's going to fold the laundry when they get home. But sometimes they do have lunch together. And because Christine and Colette work together in the English department, the two couples, the Boussys and the Lawrences, socialize outside of school, they said.

Calley said one potential negative of working with Ross is that they might have a less diverse group of friends than if they worked in different places. On the plus side, though, "It's kind of nice to know what each other is talking about when we talk about school," she said.

Ross said some students knew he was married to a teacher, but couldn't figure out which one because he isn't often spotted with Calley during the school day. Students would see him talking to female teachers in the language department, and assume he was married to one of them. "I'm actually married to the person who has the same last name," he pointed out.

Brian said students seem to lose interest in the personal lives of teachers once the teachers fess up that they are together. "It's a novelty - until you admit it," he said.

But at least one student seemed to find all the togetherness among teachers charming. As the couples lined up in a hallway for photos, sophomore Diontae Jones walked by. "Are these the couple teachers?" he asked. "Awww, that's so cute."

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