The Mirror effect
For some people, twins are an enigma — they just can't tell them apart no matter how hard they try.
For Michelle Emery and Jeannine Hokanson, this is not a new reaction, especially given that both twins work in the Oregon Trail School District.
"All of the twin stories are true," Hokanson says. "But it still surprises us. I think the funniest part is the same in our everyday life. You never know if who you're talking to is really talking to you."
Emery jokes that sometimes she's even had an entire conversation out at a restaurant or event in Sandy "thinking she's herself" only to have the person leave and say "Bye, Jeannine!"
"It's our need to help — that's why we just kind of go with it," she adds. "I knew I'd arrived when someone mistook her for me."
Hokanson has been in the district for two years longer than Emery — and is slightly "older."
"Imagine losing a nine-month race by five minutes," Emery jokes.
Though they are twins, the sisters' jobs are very different. Emery works as a prevention specialist and family resource coordinator for Todos Juntos, an organization that partners with local schools to provide resources for students and families to ensure student success.
Hokanson works as technology specialist for the district. Emery mainly works with Cedar Ridge Middle School, hosting student programs and activities in the Storm Lounge and coordinating events with Principal Nicole Johnston, while Hokanson is a roving resource for the district, going wherever she is needed to troubleshoot tech and help teachers and students.
"We're both solving problems," Emery says, pointing out the one major similarity in their roles.
"My dad always called her the peacemaker," Hokanson says.
"And she's the one who could always make things work," Emery notes. "I've always wanted people to get along. I remember two of our friends were fighting (when we were children) and I reached my hand in the middle and got scratched. When we look back at our childhood, I remember the people, and she remembers the situations — the technical things."
Neither sister started out intending to be in their respective careers, but at 48 years old, both enjoy their positions with the school district and the occasional opportunity to work together.
Emery has worked for Todos Juntos for seven years after working in day care, foster care and even as a freelance journalist for the Estacada News. Her bachelor's degree is in English, and she also has a minor in journalism from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.
"People's stories are fascinating to me," Emery says. "I think that's part of what appealed to me and why I do what I do now."
She adds that "trying to make the best out of situations that aren't always ideal" can be trying, but when students are successful and the resulting smiles on their faces make her work rewarding.
"It's happiness, and who doesn't want to see that?" she says.
For Hokanson, working with technology is much more appealing than Emery's occupation, but the one commonality is that she enjoys her time with children, and providing them with tools to be successful.
Her original path earned her an associates degree from Weber State University before her to move to Oregon 20 years ago. Since then she has worked as a photographer, owned and operated Smoky Hearth, a restaurant in Sandy, and as an insurance agent.
"What got me into doing this job (is) we were selling the restaurant, and one of my friends was leaving the library tech position," Hokanson says.
That was her first position in the district, and soon after the technology job opened, she moved into a more behind-the-scenes position.
"I still miss being a librarian," she adds. "I loved it. You're working with the kids (and) helping them feel important. Most of that job was technology. Technology was super helpful — then at one point, the technology position opened up and I took it."
Emery describes her sister's job as a being more of a "mediator" than just a technology specialist.
"In my job in technology — my focus is picking up the slack and being the liaison between the tech world and the classroom," Hokanson says.
"You're like H.R. for tech," Emery quips.
Tip of the iceberg
Similar to her sister, Hokanson truly enjoys being able to provide resources for students and talks passionately about all the programs and internet services, such as Google classroom or Google Docs, available nowadays, and the endless possibilities they create.
"There are technological solutions to all of the problems our district is facing," she notes. "How great is it that (those are tools) teachers can access? To me it's exciting to see. There are so many different things that are not getting easier, so why not use every possible resource to make it easier?"
In her nine years in the district, the biggest challenge Hokanson has encountered is being able to help everyone who has an issue.
"As a technology department, we're just hitting the tip of the iceberg," she explains. "There aren't enough ways to be proactive. You're still waiting to help someone. Tech changes often, (so) thank God for Google. If anybody ever figures out how to (work all Google programs), I might be out of a job."
When the two sisters aren't working, they enjoy time with their families and also love shopping, a public venture that can generate comical results from passersby.
"People don't expect to see grown-up twins," Hokanson says. "We'll be shopping and people will go 'Look, kids. Twins!'"
Hokanson is also engulfed in remodeling her house, a project she "hates" to enjoy, while Emery says she and her husband never miss a Friday date night.
The sisters aren't together constantly, but they still thrive on each other's presence.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm looking in a mirror," Hokanson says. "We're like each other's reset."