Love is in the air at school.
It’s not just the students sneaking kisses by their lockers or holding hands down the hallway. Some teachers have also found true love where they work.
There’s even a possible workplace romance brewing on “Abbott Elementary,” ABC’s hit sitcom set at a Philadelphia elementary school. A “will-they-or-won’t-they” relationship has been developing between Janine, the cheery 2nd grade teacher, and Gregory, the substitute-turned-full-time 1st grade teacher.
After all, nobody quite understands the joys and challenges of teaching quite like another teacher.
Education Week spoke to four couples who met while teaching and have since gotten married. Here are their love stories.
The students ‘knew before we knew’
The couple: Alice Hwang and Eric Eisner, teachers at University High School in Los Angeles
How they met: They met on the first day of Hwang’s first year of teaching. She was a biology teacher, and Eisner was a veteran English teacher. He invited her to come watch him teach so she could pick up some classroom-management tips.
They struck up a friendship from there, and while Hwang said she thought Eisner was cute, she didn’t expect anything else to happen: “As a first-year teacher, you’re too stressed out to even think about dating,” she said.
The two shared a common interest in hiking and went camping together at Joshua Tree National Park during Hwang’s first winter break . That summer, they went to South Africa together, where they researched leopards and baboons as part of a program called Earthwatch.
“He would come in my classroom at lunch to say hi,” Hwang said. “There’d be students eating in my room and giggling whenever they saw him.”
“They knew before we knew,” Eisner said.
After a year or so of friendship, they started dating. In 2017, Eisner proposed on a hike at Valentine Lake in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
An education-centered romance: Another teacher at University—who started the same year as Eisner and teaches right next door to Hwang—officiated their wedding.
And those same students who ate lunch in Hwang’s classroom and made her blush by giggling when Eisner walked in were the wedding photographers and servers. They had graduated by then and were in college, but Hwang and Eisner thought it was meaningful to have the witnesses to their blossoming romance be there. The students were “ecstatic and honored” to take on those jobs (free of charge).
“There was a moment on the dance floor when they were all holding hands and dancing in a circle around us, and that really stood out in my memory,” Hwang said. “It was a very special intersection of two worlds for me.”
The best part of working together: “Teachers experience a fairly high degree of daily stress,” Eisner said. “To have someone who is not only in the same profession, that you can vent to—we get what each other is going through.”
And it’s fun to have students in common, Hwang said: “Some of them have both of us, and they think of as their school parents, almost.”
She spotted him across the room in PD
The couple: Pamela Lewis, the director of elementary human resources at Shawnee Mission school district in Kansas, and Kevin Lewis, a former teacher
How they met: Kevin was a second-year middle school shop teacher in Linwood, Kansas, and Pamela was a first-year 6th grade teacher at the district’s elementary school. They were in the same in-service professional development session at the beginning of the school year, and they both noticed each other from across the room.
Pamela tried to find out his name to no avail. Her coworkers told her to ask the district clerk, but the clerk thought Pamela was talking about the man sitting next to Kevin—and told Pamela that he was married.
It was a missed connection, but later that semester, a married couple in the district decided to play matchmaker. The wife was teaching at the elementary school with Pamela, and the husband was at the middle school. They were at the middle school’s Christmas party, and they called Pamela to invite her.
She declined, but “when I got to school the next week, she said, ‘Well, there’s this teacher, and his name’s Kevin Lewis, and he really wants to go out with you,’” Pamela said. “She gave me his phone number, and I wrote out everything I was going to say when I called him. And then the answering machine came on.”
She left a message, but Kevin didn’t call her back right away. Pamela called back a couple of days later and left a message, in which she told him, “Call me back, or I won’t be calling again,” Kevin recalled.
He called back, and their first date was on the last day of school before the winter break—"when you’re totally exhausted,” Pamela said. They went to a local bar and played shuffleboard. A few months ago, they returned to the bar for their 30th wedding anniversary.
An education-centered romance: Kevin taught many of Pamela’s students from the year before, so he would catch her up on them over dinner. “It was always fun that I could stay connected about where my kids were and what they were doing,” she said.
And Pamela invited her 6th grade students to their wedding—they had the job of handing guests pink balloons to release as the newlyweds left the church.
The best part of working with their spouse: Pamela said it was special to be with someone who innately understood the joy and rewards of teaching, as well as the challenges.
She now works in district human resources: “When I hire teachers and we have our in-services, I always say, ‘Well, you never know what you’re going to learn, and you never know who you’re going to meet.’”
He was her unexpected substitute
The couple: Julia Sniffen, the principal of Haldane High School in Cold Spring, N.Y., and Jeff Sniffen, a 6th grade social studies teacher at Haldane Middle School
How they met: Julia was teaching a 3rd grade math lesson on fractions at Haldane Elementary School one day when Jeff knocked on her classroom door. He said he was her substitute.
“I was like, ‘Well, I’m here, I don’t need a substitute,” Julia recalled. Jeff added: “I said, ‘Well, yes, you do. That’s what the office said—apparently you have some sort of meeting.’”
Julia went to the principal’s office and was told that she was needed to sit in on a student’s IEP meeting. She agreed—but first she had to run back up to her classroom to tell Jeff that she didn’t want him continuing her fractions lesson, and that he could have the students read a TIME for Kids magazine about Michael Jordan instead. Fractions was too difficult of a concept to trust with an unknown substitute, Julia said, laughing.
When Julia returned to class, one of her students looked at her and said, “You’re gonna be Mrs. Sniffen.”
“I was like, ‘What? What do you even—who is that?’” Julia said. “I mean, I didn’t even know his name.”
A couple of years later, they were married.
An education-centered romance: The Sniffens invited some of their students to their wedding. Since then, they’ve been invited to seven or eight weddings of their former students—Julia even officiated one of those weddings.
The couple has two children who go to Haldane High School and have grown up enmeshed in the education community. Jeff remembers participating in an archeological dig—part of an educational grant the school district had received—with his infant son strapped to his chest.
Several of their former students now work in the district as teachers. “Every once in a while, we try to go for a walk [around the district campus], and because we’ve both been in the district for over 25 years, it’s like, you know everybody,” Julia said.
"[We’re] mini-celebrities, if you will,” Jeff quipped.
The best part of working with their spouse: While the couple said they keep some boundaries between their work and personal lives—which was especially important during the few years when Julia was the middle school principal and Jeff’s boss—they both love the community they’ve built within the district.
“For us, it sounds cheesy, but our family is Haldane,” Julia said. “We’ve been blessed to be able to touch so many students’ lives over the years and to keep in touch with them. And they’ve shaped us. They’ve shaped how we raise our children. The things we’ve gained from them—it’s been a blessing, and it’s been a privilege.”
They took their engagement photos at school
The couple: Crystal Edwards, the assistant principal of Reno High School in Nevada, and Mike Edwards, the school’s athletic director
How they met: Mike was already teaching at the high school when Crystal started as an English teacher in 2006. “The first time I saw her, I was like, ... ‘I’m going to marry that lady right there,’” Mike said.
Nothing happened right away, but eventually, he had an opportunity: Crystal and Mike were part of a group of teachers filming a welcome video for incoming freshmen. Mike pitched the idea of going to a happy hour afterward, but, he added, “I kind of only told one person.”
Crystal showed up to the restaurant expecting to see a large group, but it was just Mike. The two talked for three hours. After that, they started dating, but they kept—or tried to keep—their budding romance secret.
“We would go to places that we really were hoping that nobody would ever see us because we were just so paranoid that the students would be so, like, in our face because high school kids love to gossip,” Crystal said.
There were some close calls. Once, they were getting burritos on a school night. They ordered and were waiting for their food when a student came in. He asked if they were there together, and Mike and Crystal denied it. Then they realized that it would be obvious that they had ordered together when the food was ready—so Crystal left and drove around the block until Mike texted her that they were in the clear.
“We didn’t ever out loud say we were a couple until we got engaged,” she said. “I don’t think there was anybody that was surprised. They were just like, ‘You guys, we know.’”
An education-centered romance: The couple took half of their engagement photos at Reno High School. Mike was a football coach at the time, so they wore the school’s football jerseys and posed on the football field, as well as other spots in and around the school building.
They now have two children who go to the elementary school in the district, but “they live in this high school,” Crystal said. “Everybody knows them.”
The best part of working with their spouse: The couple has had to learn how to leave work at the door when they get home, especially now that Mike is the athletic director, and the two are working more closely together. (Crystal is now technically his boss, but she doesn’t evaluate him.)
But they love being able to drive to work together or sneak away for lunch breaks during the day. They also love having the same work schedule throughout the year: “Value-wise, that’s immeasurable, because so many other families have to schedule around one or both people’s jobs and school breaks, ... and we rarely have to do that,” Crystal said.
Over their nearly 13 years of marriage, there was only one year when Crystal worked at another school—a transition that was “really hard,” she said. “Although I love this school, and I was sad to leave here, it was harder knowing I wasn’t going to be working with him anymore. I felt like we were breaking up. We live together and have our family, but ... we haven’t really ever had that world of not working together. It was a really weird feeling for me.”
Now that they’re back at the same school, “I feel very lucky,” she said.