GARDINER — The trajectory of their lives seemingly has always brought Katie and Emily Collins together for big events. They were born together, grew up together and, in 2009, graduated from Gardiner Area High School together.

It was there, inside the high school classrooms, that they each discovered the passion for foreign languages that would help set the course of their lives. The sisters are together again, teaching those languages in the same school where that passion took hold. The twin sisters, 23, are just a few weeks into their first year of teaching at the high school. Viewing the classroom from the front has proven to be at the same time both comfortable and surreal.

“It’s a little weird,” Katie said, smiling.

The sisters now call West Gardiner home, but they moved around while growing up in various district communities, which include Gardiner, Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner. They eventually made their way to Gardiner Area High School, where they had what they both describe as a “good experience.” They were good students and involved. Emily played in the band and Katie sang in the chorus.

“It was easy to be involved if you wanted to be involved,” Katie said.

It was their time in the classroom, however, that changed everything.

“We had good teachers,” Emily said.

French class stood out. She was unsure exactly what she would do with the rest of her life, but Emily determined early on that she would go to college to study French.

“It was always fun,” Emily said.

Katie echoed those sentiments, except her preferred class was Latin. The language dovetailed well with her other passion, ancient history. Like her sister, Katie decided to study the classics in college. Like her sister, she was still unsure where it would lead.

“It was something I was proud about,” Katie said. “I knew Latin, and that set me apart from other people.”

Emily went off to the University of Maine, and Katie attended the University of Southern Maine. Both were a couple of years into their studies before they decided to pursue a career in teaching. Looking back, the decision seems almost obvious. It allowed the sisters, who had volunteered at Gardiner’s chapter of the Boys & Girls Club of America since high school, to merge their two passions.

“I really liked working with kids and I really liked Latin,” Katie said. “I decided this was the best thing to do.”

Both graduated from college in 2013, Emily with bachelor’s degrees in French and secondary education and Katie with a bachelor’s degree in classical languages. Emily landed a job teaching French to elementary-age students at St. John Catholic School in Winslow. Katie decided to pursue a master of science degree in education through USM’s Extended Teacher Education Program, an intensive nine-month teacher certification program. She has nearly completed the degree.

Though both had formed the plan to teach, neither had a notion of working together. The chances of both returning to teach at Gardiner Area High School were so remote that it became a running joke.

“We had joked about coming back.” Emily said. Neither could have imagined the events that transpired to make that joke a reality.

It began with Emily, who had applied for several positions throughout the state, hoping to land a job at a public school.

“I was applying to every French job,” Emily said.

One of the jobs for which Emily applied was in Caribou, in far northern Maine.

“I was going to have to move, and that was going to be rough,” she said. “I’m happy I didn’t have to move to Caribou. I’ve never been to Caribou. I don’t even know what it’s like there.”

It looked as though moving would be the only option, however. Emily knew a French teacher in Gardiner was planning to retire, but when someone else was hired for that position, it eliminated any thought of returning to teach at the school. To Emily’s surprise and delight, however, a new position opened up.

“They just needed someone,” Emily said. “It was just a crazy coincidence. It’s just really nice I didn’t have to move away from my family.”

Katie, too, proved to have good timing. Still deep into her master’s studies at USM, Katie learned last year that Gardiner’s Latin teacher planned to retire.

“I told him I was going to be needing a job,” Katie recalled. “He said, ‘I’m going to be leaving a job.'”

Emily was hired just a day before Katie.

“The fact I was able to get a full-time job at all was amazing,” Emily said. “The fact we were together was crazy convenient.”

Their family shares in the sisters’ joy about their landing spot.

“They’re just really happy we have a job,” Katie said.

“They’re so proud of us because they know we worked so hard,” Emily added.

In the classroom, the sisters have a leg up on most new teachers at the school because of their work at the Boys & Girls Club. They have known many of their students for years.

“I adore them,” Emily said.

The sisters are looking forward to finding ways to create in their students the same passion for language that they discovered at Gardiner. Katie, for instance, is already talking about forming a Latin club.

“I think Latin here is going to see a huge boost because of our new teacher,” Emily said.

The sisters say they have been welcomed back with open arms and have been overwhelmed by the support from their new colleagues, many of whom the sisters once had as teachers.

“They keep saying, ‘Welcome back!'” Emily said. “They’re proud of us.”

“Everyone has been really helpful,” Katie said.

The sisters both work in the foreign language department with some of the same teachers who inspired their choice of careers. The sisters are eager to continue that tradition.

“Everyone is passionate. They care and they want to be here,” Katie said. “I told the kids yesterday, ‘I get to read Latin to you every day. This is my dream job!'”

Emily, too, already has found untold satisfaction in teaching others about the language she loves.

“This is why I get up in the morning.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.