Jeffers Hill, the school of betrothals

April 11, 2008|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,Special to the Sun

When third-grade teacher Jhonna Adams, 26, got engaged on the Fourth of July, she thought she would be the only teacher returning to Jeffers Hill Elementary School at summer's end with a big ol' sparkler on her finger.

"I thought I would have this unique information to share," she said.

Boy, was she wrong.

During teacher meetings in August, it soon became clear that three other teachers were also engaged to be married.

And that was just the beginning.

By the time students returned from spring break in mid-March, 10 teachers were engaged, including three out of four on the kindergarten team. And that tally doesn't include Amy Wolk, an occupational therapist who got engaged in the fall and moved to New Jersey shortly afterward.

"Eleven is not normal," said Trish Wyatt, who became the latest Jeffers Hill teacher to get engaged when her boyfriend proposed March 4.

With a staff of 65, the school clearly has an unusually high percentage of teachers flipping through bridal magazines and weighing the merits of various wedding bands. Recently, the 10 betrothed teachers gathered in the school's media center, where they giggled about their future spouses, compared proposal stories and wiggled their ring fingers.

Except for Dan Tucci, the only male teacher of the 10, who didn't have an engagement ring.

"It's been so fun sharing information and comparing notes," said Adams.

Third-grade teacher Lauren Eybel, 25, has a particularly good story: Her fiance, Steven Collins, came into her classroom Dec. 19 and proposed in front of her students.

"He popped out the ring and got the kids to ask with him," she said.

Eybel and kindergarten teacher Orinthia Jones, 29, have both set their wedding dates for April 4 of next year.

"Are you four-four?" Jones asked Eybel. "That's the day I want."

But in the midst of a rainy and chilly April, Jones, who got engaged Feb. 29, said she's now wondering if a May wedding might be more enjoyable.

"You know, if it rains on your wedding day, it's good luck," Eybel assured her.

The first to get engaged was Lauren Knecht, 22, who began teaching kindergarten at Jeffers Hill last August. The first-year teacher got engaged in March 2007 and plans to marry Aug. 7 at the Gathering Place in Clarksville.

When she joined the school, she was thrilled to find that Jennefer Daley, a fellow kindergarten teacher, also was engaged.

"We talk about invitations and where we'll get our flowers," said Daley, 26, who got engaged in August and plans to wed in October in Annapolis.

Faith Knowles, a second-grade teacher, said husband-to-be Rodney Lewis popped the question Nov. 25, the one-year anniversary of their first date. With flowers and good friends as props, he apparently did the job right, because she said yes.

When Knowles got engaged, she became the sixth teacher at the school to sport a ring. After that point, it became something of a joke to see the tally rise.

"I think she started the whole thing," Daley said. "She said, `I joined the club.' "

Tucci, a physical education teacher and the only man in this informal nuptial club, has been trying to stay out of the wedding whirl. Like many grooms, he plans to leave most wedding-related details to his bride-to-be, he said.

"I'm excited for the wedding and everything," said Tucci, who proposed March 16. "But my fiancee already said, `You're not picking out flowers or anything.'"

Megan Glowacki, the school's band teacher, will be the first to get married - July 19 at St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Rockville, with a reception at a nearby country club. "I'll be interested to see what her wedding is like," said Wyatt, 25, the strings teacher, who plans to get married Jan. 1, 2010. The two music teachers are close friends and plan to be in each other's weddings.

Reylin Stokley, 32, a special-education teacher, will probably be last. She's not planning to get married until 2010, she said. Stokley, who got engaged Dec. 27, has been with her fiance on and off since 2000, she said. The couple are thinking about eloping or getting married while on a cruise, she said, so she's not focused on wedding details such as invitations or outfits.

The teachers deny that the momentum of one engagement after another prompted them to pressure their boyfriends - or in the case of Tucci, his girlfriend - to pop the question.

But they laughingly say the school could use all the engagements as a hiring incentive - telling prospective teachers that if they come to Jeffers Hill, and they'll be married before they know it.

Though wedding talk seems to swirl through the hallways, the teachers are still dedicated to their jobs, of course.

"We do talk about other things," Adams said.

ksnitkin@comcast.net

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