By Alexandra Brocato
You may be surprised to find that there are four married teachers at BHHS: the Smiths, the Horns, the Crokes, and the Lewicks. I had the opportunity to interview three of the four couples. In attempting to interview the Lewicks, Mr. Lewick both jokingly and seriously responded, “Sorry I don’t speak to the press. No comment.” Even though each couple is very different, all share one thing: an appreciation of a spouse who is passionate about the same field. In an interview with Mr. Smith, he encompassed the idea that all the teachers share: “I certainly wouldn’t trade it,” he said when asked if he enjoys having his wife teach in the same district. The love each couple has for each other is also evident, whether it be in a joking way like the Horns or in an affectionate way like the Crokes.
The Smiths began dating in 2007 and were married in 2009. Mrs. Smith is a sixth grade English teacher, and Mr. Smith is the head of the English department as well as a teacher of the 12th grade course Perspectives in Literature. The couple first formally met in “June of 2007, taking a summer class offered to teachers,” explained Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Smith added that “we sat together all week” and “he finally asked me out at the end of the week.” The first time the couple saw each other was actually a few years before enrolling in the course. Mrs. Smith recounted, “he used to do the shot clock when I was the girls basketball coach,” and Mr. Smith “saw her for the first time when she was an assistant coach and then the head coach.” Both teachers agree that working in the same district is great. Mr. Smith eloquently articulated the benefit of having a wife who teaches: “We both value what we do in terms of teaching, writing and reading… There is something nice about having a wife know what my day to day is like. We have a good understanding of the pressures that we face from time to time and the joys that we experience as teachers. It is nice that we have an understanding of what it is like to be a teacher.” He jokingly added, “We don’t spend our time just talking about books at home! Although some people do ask about that, it is not the case.” Mrs. Smith also noted that it is both convenient and nice to share the same breaks; “we can, therefore, can do things outside of school as a family.”
Given that Mr. and Mrs. Smith teach at different schools within the Byram Hills School District, they do not drive or eat lunch together. This is coupled with the fact that they are busy with two young daughters and must “divide and conquer… always needing two cars for the most part,” explained Mr. Smith. Most of the time, they do not compare notes about students. Having said this, Mrs. Smith does “like to see how my former students are doing, as the are almost adults!” Mr. Smith added, “it is fun for my wife to hear about what students are up to, where they are going to college, or what things they are interested in because for her it represents such a huge growth. She remembers the students as sixth graders, and I certainly see them at the other end of their Byram Hills career.”
Their proposal story was very special. Mrs. Smith elaborated that “Duane proposed on a beach in Naples, Florida in February 2009. We were there on a vacation with my family. We were headed to dinner (just the two of us) when we made a stop to see the sunset at one of the beaches. After the sunset, I got up to head to dinner, but then turned to see him and he was down on one knee.” By luck, a kind gentleman from Argentina took a photo of the proposal and sent it to them via email. Mr. Smith gave a bit more insight on how he planned the proposal- and it wasn’t easy! He said, “the most nerve-racking thing to me was how to get the ring down to Naples through airport security. I didn’t want to check it in my checked bag, and then I realized everybody was being searched. This was at a time when the security lines were very tight. I purposely went to a different line at the last second. I told the person who was searching me to kindly avoid taking out the ring.” It was a success because Mrs. Smith was definitely surprised! The Smiths have a great appreciation for each other as they connect with each other on many levels.
Like the Smiths, the Horns met right at BHHS. Mr. Horn is an English teacher while Mrs. Horn teaches art, both at the high school. My interview with the Horns was filled with laughter, jokes, and the couple playfully embarrassing each other! The Horns know how to have fun. This was evident with their response to my first question: What did Mrs. Horn wear on her first date? Mr. Horn’s response was simple, “Jeans with sneakers and a tangerine t-shirt.” This proved to be inaccurate, as Mrs. Horn responded, “No it’s not true, I actually wore capris, sandals, and a turquoise fleece!” We will cut him some slack! The couple first met teaching at Byram Hills in 2003 and got married in 2005. When asked what it is like to have each other in the same school, Mr. Horn replied, “Prolonged um. You know, we don’t communicate here. We really don’t.” Mrs. Horn agreed, “Yeah, we don’t see each other often. And it has its moments- it can be convenient.” The couple does not eat lunch together. Mrs. Horn explained, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder. In all seriousness, we try to avoid each other because you know, we live together, we do everything together, so when you are around someone too often, you tend to bicker.” Mr. Horn added, “We don’t eat together like the Lewicks, who eat together every day.” Sticking to this line of thought, the couple does not drive together to school since Mr. Horn has a different schedule with coaching and also because of their polar opposite tastes in music. Mrs. Horn stated that “I like to listen to Mozart and NPR; he likes to listen to Mike and the Mad Dog or Boomer & Carton and heavy metal, which can give me headaches.”
The Horns’ proposal story is very unique. When asked how Mr. Horn proposed, he was quick to respond in his witty way, “With a ring.” Mrs. Horn proceeded to explain that “He proposed to me while my cat was on her deathbed, but she ended up surviving! Mr. Horn, who was going to propose the next day, ended up proposing the day before to alleviate the issue.” When asked about the best aspect of having the same profession, Mr. Horn responded, “The best part about working with each other is having someone to cover your classes. Obviously, I’m joking, but yeah!” The worst thing Mrs. Horn explained, “is when he wears ugly pants. He used to wear these bright green pants way back when. He dresses more normal now, though! Also, he is really loud, so he embarrasses me sometimes.” The Horns are as unique and funny as it gets, and the couple clearly loved playfully joking around with each other.
The last couple I was able to interview were the Crokes. Mrs. Croke teaches Physical Education, and Mr. Croke is now semi-retired, running the senior internship program. Like the Smiths and the Horns, the Crokes first met at Byram Hills over 20 years ago. They have been married for 19 years and definitely get the award for being the first couple at BHHS! Mrs. Croke explained, “We actually did meet here at school. We didn’t know each other before that. He was on the total other end of my building, so I really didn’t know him the first two years I worked here. I then became the Varsity Girls Basketball coach, and he was the Varsity Boys Basketball coach, so we had to work very closely.” Initially, the couple was very private about their relationship. “People didn’t know we were dating, so when we were engaged, I called Dr. Donahue, the principal at the time, to inform him and he was pretty surprised!” described Mrs. Croke. The couple “used to drive together all the time. In the seasons when we didn’t coach, we would drive together, and then with the girls, we would all drive together. Now that he is semi-retired, I see him less at school,” Mrs. Croke said. She jokingly added that now “he can do a lot for me around the house!” The couple is definitely very close. When Mr. Croke is at the high school, he will eat with Mrs. Croke and the other phys-ed teachers. Mrs. Croke articulated, “He actually does come down to eat with me and the Phys-ed teachers. He’s part of our crew and knows all that is going on.” They offset each other very nicely as well. Mrs. Croke helps Mr. Croke gain insight on students “because as a Phys ed teacher [she] see twice as many students.” Mrs. Croke explained that “it is easy for me to get a pulse on a kid because it is either myself or one of my colleagues who has had a student in class. With the internship, my husband likes to place the students in jobs they would like, so he will ask me about them.”
The most heartwarming part of the interview was hearing Mrs. Croke describe the best aspect of having her spouse work within the same field. She told me that “it is really nice to have someone who understands education and educational philosophy with you. Both of us care deeply about how kids do. It’s great to have the same mindset.” She also added, like the Smiths mentioned, “It is great having the same schedule; our vacation days always fall on the same holidays.” The worst aspect “is if you’re upset with each other you have to come to work upset and be professional about it, but that doesn’t happen very much right now because of the semi-retirement!” stated Mrs. Croke.
Through the interviews, it was really interesting to observe the dynamics of each couple by seeing how each teacher talked about his/her spouse. It made me view each relationship with a less formal and strictly professional relationship perspective. Each teacher couple is like any other relationship- they joke with each other and appreciate each other immensely; they don’t just talk about books or students or school. It was both entertaining, amusing, and delightful speaking with married teachers at BHHS!