By SARA GIBONEY
KEARNEY – Amber Gill and Amanda Hansel aren’t identical twins, but their college experiences were nearly identical.
The sisters will graduate from the University of Nebraska at Kearney Friday with bachelor degrees in elementary education.
The future teachers each earned a 4.0 grade point average every year they studied at UNK.
They were Thompson Scholars, members of the Phi Eta Sigma honor society and the Student Education Association of Nebraska, and they are graduating Summa Cum Laude.
Gill and Hansel, who describe their college experiences speaking in unison at times, even took most of the same classes.
The fraternal twins from Fairbury shared a unique experience as college students, siblings and best friends.
Both Gill and Hansel, 23, were inspired to study teaching by their elementary school physical education teacher, Alan Strong, who teaches in Pawnee City.
“He made learning fun,” Gill said. “He included everyone and he believed in you.”
Strong kept in touch with them throughout middle school and high school, and he continues to check in with them, Hansel added.
The sisters decided to attend UNK because of the quality of the teacher education program.
“After being here and experiencing the education program, it was true what people said and the reputation that UNK had for the teaching program. It fulfilled everything that we expected – the small class size, the ongoing events and great professors,” Hansel said.
“It was a great college experience.”
The relationships they formed with their professors especially helped Gill and Hansel find success at UNK.
Gill found support from the faculty after she became pregnant and gave birth to her daughter, who is now a 1-year-old.
“They were very understanding and they were there for me throughout it all,” Gill said.
“They were a family away from home,” Hansel continued. “We’re two-and-a-half hours away from home, so having the professors be that family was nice.”
Their UNK family helped them cope after experiencing the loss of loved ones and through family struggles earlier this year.
Two grandparents passed away in September, an uncle died just a year earlier and their mom has been battling an illness.
“UNK professors and our cooperating teachers while student teaching understood, and they were open to talk to us. Their office doors were always open and we took advantage of that,” Hansels said.
Having each other also helped the women thrive as students.
As freshman, Gill and Hansel were roommates in Centennial Towers East. The following year they moved in together off campus.
“We took a lot of the same classes. There were only a few that we weren’t in together,” Hansel said. “Automatically knowing somebody going into a new class made it easier. Being twins, you’re born with a best friend.”
They both majored in elementary education with an emphasis in kindergarten through sixth grades and special education.
Both students were part of the Thompson Scholars Learning Community, a shared living, learning and mentorship experience for students who received the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation Scholarship.
“We were the type of students who really focused on grades instead of the social aspects of college,” Hansel said.
Although the sisters were involved in a variety of groups on campus, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average each semester was a priority.
“Paying for a college education and being the sole person responsible for how you do motivated me to do great,” Hansel said.
The twins finished their college careers by completing their student teaching requirements. Both Gill and Hansel completed their student teaching at Diller-Odell Elementary School near Fairbury. They also coached the volleyball team together while student teaching.
Working at the same school would be the next best thing, the sisters added.
“It’s funny because when student teaching we went in as Mrs. Gill and Ms. Hansel, and the kids would still get us confused,” Hansel said.
“Teaching at the same school would be awesome,” Gill said.
Gill is married to Tyler Gill. They have a daughter, Braylee, 1, and are expecting another child in March. Gill will work as a substitute teacher near Beatrice until she finds a full-time teaching position.
Hansel will also work as a substitute teacher until she finds a full-time teaching position.
Source: Jennifer Harvey, 308.865.8364, firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Sara Giboney, 308.865.8529, email@example.com