There is a lot of giggling going on in the fifth grade at St. James School in Arlington Heights. What else would you expect when you have six sets of twins in one grade?
Oh, there's plenty of work getting done, teachers say, but with that many twins in its two homerooms, their presence is definitely being felt.
"It's an interesting dynamic," says Brenna O'Hearn, one of the fifth-grade teachers. "They're very competitive; they challenge each other. When one puts their hand up, the other does, too.
"It's a friendly, sibling rivalry," she adds, "that's transferred to the entire class."
The fifth grade is one of the smaller levels in the school, with only 33 students. Consequently, more than one-third of the students in the grade are twins.
"It's pretty amazing that that many twins ended up in one grade," says Principal Judy Pappas. "They certainly keep us on our toes."
O'Hearn teaches with Anna Tufano, and between the two of them, they have taught for eight years at St. James. Having this many multiples in their classes is a first, they say.
"We haven't found this before," O'Hearn says. "They bring so much camaraderie to classes."
The twins are Olivia and Alanna Chavez of Prospect Heights, Lucas and Matthew Lisowsky of Mount Prospect, Cameron and Connor MacMahon of Arlington Heights, Erin and Meghan Martin of Arlington Heights, Adam and Matthew Mysza of Arlington Heights and Isabella and Gabriella Venturini of Mount Prospect.
When interviewed for this story, the twins excitedly shared the benefits of having so many siblings in one grade -- and not surprisingly, they often finished one another's sentences.
"We're all friends," Erin Martin said, as her sister, Meghan, nodded in agreement. "We all get along."
"You've always got a partner for projects," added Adam Mysza.
Their teachers stress that nearly all of the twins are in separate homerooms, but they often come together in social studies and math classes, and typically have the same homework each night.
That's where having a twin in the same grade is particularly useful, the students said.
"We help each other a lot," said Olivia Chavez.
"You can do your homework together," added Lucas Lisowsky.
Two of the six sets of twins are identical -- the Chavez and MacMahon twins -- and the other benefit is the tricks they can play on teachers and classmates.
"They're a fun group," Tufano says. "Having that many siblings helps to foster a family atmosphere, and that has brought the whole grade level closer."