When Carrie and Kevin McCormack married in 2011, they quickly became known as the “teacher parents” of East Bronx Academy, the New York City school where they both worked.
But they didn’t stay the only couple on staff for long. Soon after, two other teachers paired off. Another relationship bloomed shortly afterward.
“My principal always jokes that we’re the hookup school,” Carrie McCormack says. “So many couples have met here.”
But East Bronx Academy is hardly the only school with love in the air. According to recent U.S. Census data, the most common marriages in America are between two grade-school teachers. And nearly 20 percent of people who work in education have spouses who do, too. Many of those couples met while working together.
There are practical explanations: People who work in schools typically get started when they’re young, work together intensely, and have little time to meet other people.
“I always joke, if I hadn’t met Cornelius, I might be alone,” said Kassandra Minor, who met her husband in the bagel line on her first day teaching at a school in Brooklyn.
The benefits of pairing off with a fellow educator accumulate over time, especially as partnerships yield children. “It doesn’t hurt that we have the same vacation schedule,” says Grace Loew, a New York City teacher who met her husband when they were both first-year teachers in 2005. They’re now raising two sons together.
But educators say it’s about more than logistics. The shared task of trying to reach students who depend on schools to change their lives, they say, forges special bonds.
“Working in education, especially urban education, is an all-in job: emotionally, physically, spiritually and everything in between. The only people who can possibly understand the reward and sorrow of the work are fellow educators,” says Sally Jenkins-Stevens, who met her husband, Alex MacIver, when they taught together at a Bronx high school.
“You understand the stressors, the schedule, the unexpected days, and sometimes long nights that are associated with it,” says Brittany Monda, who met her husband Grant in a graduate program in Memphis, where they were both teachers and now each leads a school. “It’s great to know that someone has had a similar day to you without saying much when you get home.”
Or as McCormack puts it, “If I have to go home and talk to a husband who’s not a teacher, he’d probably think I was crazy.”
The possibility of falling in love has become lore at Teach For America, the nonprofit that draws many young adults to the classroom. Teach For America teachers have mentored their colleagues on the pros and cons of dating within the corps, and the number of relationships born at the organization’s summer training institute has even inspired a new piece of slang — “instiboo.”
The group’s founding CEO, Wendy Kopp, married an educator she met through Teach For America, and so did her successor, current CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard.
“Anyone seeking out a woman partner at Teach For America has a pretty good shot at finding someone, given the incredibly brilliant majority-women environment they find themselves in,” jokes Villanueva Beard.
About her own marriage, and the increasing number facilitated by Teach For America, she said, ’“There’s something powerful about being with a partner who deeply gets the urgency and the possibility, and who’s on a shared mission of being part of the solution, alongside our communities, to ensure educational equity and excellence for all.”
That work can bring together people who might otherwise not connect. Even though schools across the country struggle to attract as many male teachers and teachers of color as many would like to see in classrooms, they remain among the most diverse workplaces in America.
For Geoffrey Schmidt and Ybelka Medina, a shared passion for reaching students who had struggled in their previous schools bridged what seemed like an insurmountable culture gap.
“I am a Dominican immigrant that grew up in a blue-collar family that depended on social welfare to make ends meet in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn,” says Medina. “Geoff is American, comes from a solid white-collar family … and initially came off as a total frat boy more interested in socializing than actually teaching. I really liked hanging out with him … but didn’t take him seriously as a teacher nor as someone to date.”
Then they spent time getting to understand what had drawn each of them to the classroom, and romance bloomed.
“Education by its nature draws people who look at our world and want to make it better,” Schmidt says. “It makes sense that this kind of intense thought partnership would lead to bigger things. I know for us, it gave us an opportunity to see one another in a different way than I think we ever might have otherwise.”
The experience of seeing someone doing work they’re deeply invested in also worked its magic on Cornelius Minor, Kassandra’s husband, who said he considers teaching an art.
“When you’re doing your art, you’re your purest and best self,” he said. “If people are in your company when you’re being that person and they notice you, that’s really powerful.”