Being a Buckwalter means loving coffee, being passionate about teaching and driving a car from Buckwalter Motors. Or so it would seem after getting to know Renee and Anne Buckwalter, twin seniors from Wellman, Iowa. Recently, another similarity has appeared: Renee and Anne are both being honored by the Indiana Association of Colleges of Teacher Education with the Outstanding Future Educator Award.
Renee, the younger twin by 31 minutes, is an elementary education major who student taught kindergarten at West Goshen Elementary School. This semester she is spending around 18 hours a week there in a special education classroom.
Anne, a music education major, traveled to Concord Junior High where she student taught middle school music classes.
Both of them graduated from Iowa Mennonite School in 2015 where they were affectionately called “Buck” and “Walter” by their peers. They both played soccer, participated in band and choir, and took piano lessons. Renee “Walter” ran on the cross country team in the fall. Anne “Buck” participated in musicals and plays throughout the year.
At their home in Wellman, Anne’s bedroom walls are decorated with old records and photos from past shows; her floor has various musical instruments and clothes strewn about. Renee’s room is simple and everything is put away. On her walls are pictures from the state cross country meet and team photos from high school soccer days and Hesston College.
When the Buckwalter family moved into their house in second grade, the girls decided they would share a room so they could have a designated playroom. That lasted about a week.
As they grew up, Renee was always more easy going; Anne was more stubborn and opinionated. Even so, their mother, Paula Buckwalter, thinks they were good for each other.
“Anne helped Renee come out of her shell a little bit,” Paula said. “Renee kept Anne from being too wild.”
They both visited Hesston and Goshen during high school. Anne was attracted to Goshen’s high-quality music program. Renee thought that the atmosphere at Hesston “just felt right.”
Renee and Anne agree that, initially, it was strange to not see each other every day, but also think it did them well.
“Growing up, I always had Renee,” Anne said. “But at Goshen, I had to try harder to make friends because she wasn’t there by default.”
Renee, on the other hand, liked the separation.
“It felt good to have a space and friends that were mine,” she said. “After sharing literally everything for our whole lives, I think we needed to experience life without each other.”
But after two years apart, coming to Goshen wasn’t a difficult decision for Renee to make.
“I was looking for a good education program,” Renee said. “It just ended up being convenient that I already had a connection to [Goshen’s] program through Anne.”
Anne said, “I was really excited that I would have someone who knew me nearby again.” She was hopeful that Renee would have a smooth transition. “I was a little nervous about having to be her resource and connection to campus.”
Even though they are fraternal twins, Goshen people often call Renee, Anne; the sisters guess this happens because GC people have known Anne longer. Renee says it doesn’t bother her when this happens.
“But it bothers me when people call me Anne’s sister,” she said.
“When we were younger it was always just ‘Anne and Renee,” she continued. “[But at Goshen] it’s sometimes just easier to introduce myself as Anne’s sister.”
This kind and accommodating nature that Renee and Anne both possess shows up in the academic and professional careers.
“Both are so kind, genuine and passionate about their subject areas,” said Brooke Lemmon, assistant professor of education. “They are both incredible students, and I could always count on their work submissions being stellar.”
As for differences between the two in the classroom, Lemmon noted Anne’s natural leadership abilities and how Renee never leaves anything for the last minute.
Both look forward to graduating this April and getting teaching jobs. They both think there is a good possibility they will continue on to graduate school in the future.
Staying in Goshen after graduation is a possibility for them both. Renee has interest in heading back to Iowa, something Anne does not see herself doing.
Anne has “big goals and dreams to make change.” Renee is more content doing her part on the small-scale.
As two different people with similar backgrounds but two different life paths, they do not intend to stick by each other’s side forever.
“We’ve been apart before,” said Renee. “It just makes being together even more special.”