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Teacher couples in DL

Pam Daly said one of the benefits she's found being married -- not only to a fellow teacher, but one from an elementary school -- is that she hears about the kids coming up through the grades.

"It's fun to hear stories," she said. "There's an instant connection if they liked Mike."

Pam teaches at the Detroit Lakes Middle School. Mike teaches at Rossman Elementary.

Her husband, she said, can also provide a different perspective on teaching since they teach different subjects -- her English, him physical education.

"He has opened up my mind a lot," she said.

The biggest perk many of the teachers mention is the schedules. They have the same holidays off and summers off.

"We've been married for 20 years, and for the first time, all five of us are on the same schedule," Sheila McLeod said of her, Mitch and their three children.

"That's really nice," Mitch agreed.

Before they came to Detroit Lakes, their kids were in the Glyndon school district and they worked in the NDSU system, and with Minnesota and North Dakota having different school systems, "our schedules didn't mesh well at all," Mitch said.

Last year, Sheila said, the family of five was spread between four of the schools in town -- Roosevelt, the middle school, the high school and the Alternative Learning Center. But, as Mitch points out, "it's not like four different schools in Fargo-Moorhead," that are miles apart.

Courtney Henderson agreed that togetherness is a big plus.

"We have the same schedules as our kids, drive together to school every day and plan our lessons together," she said of her husband Marc. "We like getting to see each other and working together. He's pretty laid back and I am pretty organized, so we complement each other.

"His room is two doors down from mine, so we get to talk 'science.' We are lucky to have it like it is."

Another benefit of working together, Sheila said, "we've gotten to know a lot of the same people. The people we work with are the people we play with."

And although the Lakins' children might disagree, Amy Lakin said it's nice that they know all of the teachers at the high school, so they'll know their kids' teachers.

"We keep each other in the loop, what's going on," Paul Lakin said is another plus.

Amy agreed that they may teach different topics --Paul teaches ninth grade physics and Amy teaches biology and earth and space science-- but they bounce ideas off each other and discuss what labs would be good.

"We know about the same things," Amy said, but that could be a downside as well. "It's hard to quit talking about work at home."

And although they both teach science in the high school, they have completely different schedules and don't see each other all day.

"I see him before and after school," Amy said, adding that they have different lunches and different prep times.

Like any job where spouses work with the same people or in the same business, they have a better understanding of what the other is going through.

Rhonda Fode said that gives her and her husband Steve a better understanding of topics that pertain exclusively to teachers.

"We can talk about it and at least have an understanding," she said, even if they aren't in the same building.

They can exchange ideas and customize what might be done at one school for another class or school.

"I just bounce things off of her all the time," Steve agreed.

He said the biggest thing he's learned from his wife was during his first or second year of teaching.

"I wanted to prove I was smarter than the kids. A lot of young teachers are like that," he said.

So he made his course work so hard students struggled. That's when Rhonda helped him see that morale would be much higher if the students were able to succeed in his class.

"I married up," he said. "She's a smart lady."

Every ninth-grader has to take science, so Steve said it's nice to be able to ask his wife about students she's already taught. And as an elementary teacher, he said his wife works much harder since she has a full gamut of lessons to teach, as opposed to his one subject of science.

"They're saints," he said of elementary teachers. "They should get paid more."

Sometimes watching mom and dad in action influences their kids as well. Both the Raboins and the Fodes have children in college with plans to become teachers. But Rhonda said she has always stressed to her children, "money isn't everything. You have to be in a job that makes you happy. Like what you do."

And these teachers seem to like what they do and the people they are working with -- especially their spouses.

"He's one of the reasons my experience has been so great," Pam Daly said of teaching in Detroit Lakes.

"Kent (Mollberg) often says that I come up with the ideas and he does the work and gets the job done. There is probably a lot of truth to that," Patty Mollberg said. "I have enjoyed our life together as teachers. There really has never been a dull moment. We both love working with kids and helping them find ways to succeed."

It can save money for school districts to employ couples, because the district only has to pay for one family healthcare plan instead of potentially two family plans.

On the down side, if the plan doesn't include dental insurance, for instance, the whole family doesn't have dental because it can't be picked up in the spouse's insurance, Rhonda said.

"It makes a lot of financial sense to be hiring couples," Bruce Raboin said.

Steve agreed that it makes sense and is a benefit to the district to have spouses employed. The downside is that being in the public sector, whatever the government hands down for education affects both spouses.

During the summer, Steve works for a private company, and he said school is more for him.

"I've seen the other side of the world. I like this side better," he said.

(This was the second in a two-part series on teachers married to teachers)