Romance at School: Jill & Settle Dawkins
For Jill and Settle Dawkins, school has always been a part of their story.
These high school sweethearts are both third-grade teachers at Lincoln Elementary and they celebrate their wedding anniversary today, February 14th. For many, it is hard to believe that this husband and wife team not only shares two kids, a home, and a career but that they rarely argue.
“We talk about things. We don’t blame each other,” Settle describes.
“We really do, we just get along, I don’t know how else to explain it,” Jill says.
Jill and Settle grew up in Richmond County, North Carolina. At the age of 16 they met through friends and, while everyone told them that you never marry your high school sweetheart, these two shared a vision for their lives that kept them together.
Jill had always known she would be a teacher. In first grade, she missed about a third of the academic year due to asthma attacks. Yet so many teachers came to her assistance, taking a special interest in her and keeping her on track, that it made an impression. They displayed how much of a difference a teacher can make and inspired her to do what she does.
Settle’s first love, the couple jokes, had always been the fire department. He volunteered back in their hometown and Jill admits she always thought he would choose that for a career.
But Settle took what he loved about his life – working with children at the childcare center, rescuing people, helping the community – (and Jill) – and realized that teaching brought all of his interests together.
The fact that Jill wanted to be a teacher didn’t make him want to be a teacher, per se. But, as Settle says, Jill’s influence made him “more comfortable in taking a step towards teaching. I took a leap of faith because of her and had confirmation that I was making the right decision.”
After they both graduated from UNCW, they started to interview for jobs. They both ended up working at Virginia Williamson Elementary and eventually followed with jobs at Union Elementary. They have been teaching for 15 years, and half of that time they have taught side-by-side. Occasionally, they interviewed against each other for the same job.
In 2009, when Town Creek Elementary was preparing to open, they both put in for transfers to move to the northern end of the County. While they had been living in Sunset Beach, they were starting their own family and wanted to build a house in Leland.
It turns out that when two positions opened up at Lincoln Elementary, they got a call. They started in separate grades and two years later the principal asked if they would work together again. This wasn’t a surprise to them. It was the pattern of their past: principals loved seeing this husband and wife teaching duo work side-by-side. Instead of trying to separate them, administrators wanted them together.
This works fine for the Dawkins. They enjoy their shared careers and, at this point, can’t even imagine doing it differently.
Their oldest son, Bauer, is a student at Lincoln Elementary and next school year their youngest, Griffin, will be joining them. Lincoln Elementary will become a family affair.
“It will be one big Dawkins family!” Settle laughs. “We still call it ‘going to school,’ not ‘going to work.’ We’ll be going to school for the rest of our lives.”
The Dawkins feel that the students they work with enjoy seeing the husband and wife team. Their classrooms adjoin with a shared hallway, and Jill and Settle demonstrate daily that a happily married couple can connect and work together. It can be stabilizing for children.
When it comes to adults, though, they see that many scratch their heads. They hear, ‘I could NEVER work with my spouse’ a lot.
“It’s just normal for us,” Settle admits.
“He is so considerate, he always thinks of others,” Jill says while she looks at Settle. “We couldn’t do it without each other; I couldn’t do it without him. He is amazing. He is an amazing father and husband.”
In the end, the Dawkins appreciate being able to work together as a gift. They are in the unique position where their partner truly understands the challenges and daily stresses that come with their jobs.
“Being able to understand each other on the same level makes life easier for us,” Settle admits.
While other couples try to understand what their spouse goes through at the office, the Dawkins are able to offer each other unparalleled support. The teachers, it turns out, have been taught how to be perfect together.