From a young age, College of Charleston graduate students Haley Sheafor and Tirion Sheafor were excited to play and learn with classmates from other countries.

“I remember very clearly in kindergarten, we had students who were learning English as a second language in our classroom,” recalls Haley. “They were the ones that always seemed most excited to learn. From the beginning, we were interested in working with and learning about students from other cultures.”

Haley and Tirion Sheafor at a meet for Creekside Crocodiles Swim Team. (Photos provided)

As they grew older, the identical twin sisters continued to build on their love for learning about new languages and places. They traveled abroad together as undergraduates and treasured the opportunity to learn alongside international students.

So, when it came time to decide how to grow that passion into a career, Haley and Tirion both chose to pursue a master of education in languages at the College of Charleston. They both earned dual bachelor degrees in early childhood education and Spanish from Ohio Weslyan University in 2016.

On Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, the Sheafor sisters celebrated completing their graduate degrees during the College’s Winter Commencement in TD Arena. Sure, they’ve been through a college graduation before, but this time they’re poised to look ahead to their careers.

“We’re definitely excited to be finished with the school work aspect of things, because we’re ready to implement what we’ve learned in the classroom,” says Haley.

RELATED: Read about Winter Commencement speaker alumna Sabra Horne ’87.

During their first months of graduate school the sisters worked as substitute teachers before both landed jobs at Providence Baptist Church Preschool on Charleston’s Daniel Island.

Practicum work at Mount Pleasant Academy, James B. Edwards and Jennie Moore elementary schools in the Charleston County School District challenged Haley and Tirion as they worked with ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students from a variety of backgrounds. At one school the sisters worked with a newly adopted student from China who spoke no English. At other schools, they worked with groups of students whose native language was Spanish.

“Those experiences challenged us to use different techniques and approaches to help those students,” says Tirion.

Working in a preschool where there are a few children who aren’t native English speakers has enabled the sisters to use lessons from the graduate program in their own classrooms.

“It’s been neat to try it out and experiment with the things we’ve been learning in graduate school and put it into practice with some of our younger students,” says Tirion.

And as the greater Charleston area continues to grow in population and diversity, Haley and Tirion say there will only be more demand for educators who can support ESOL students’ transition to American classrooms.

“I definitely think in this area it’s a field that’s growing,” says Tirion.

As for the future, the sisters, who swam together on the varsity swim team at Ohio Weslyan, say they’re happy teaching preschool and working as club swim coaches.

Whatever comes next, they know they’ll do it together.

“We’ll probably be at least somewhere near each other for the rest of our lives,” says Tirion, adding the sisters never considered going to graduate school at different universities. “We’re better together than apart.”

Featured image: Haley and Tirion Sheafor on a trip to Granada, Spain.