Students in the Spotlight — Patricia & Gabriela Mateo

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - Twin sisters Patricia, left, and Gabriela, right, like playing soccer and are hard workers in class.

Franklin Elementary fourth-graders Patricia and Gabriela Mateo share a lot in common — looks, birthdays, hobbies — and their teachers say they also share a good work ethic, intelligence and kindness.

The twins have lived in many places prior to coming to Marshalltown last fall. They were born in Florida and have also lived in Guatemala and the state of Georgia. It didn’t take them long to become a bright part of Franklin school.

“Even though they came with us with limited English, they find a way to make sure you know what they mean,” said Title I reading teacher Cheri Bolar, who teaches both girls. “They advocate for themselves, they hold each other accountable and other people as well. They are driven.”

While the sisters started below grade-level in English skills when they came to Marshalltown a few months ago, their instructors said both have exceeded the fourth grade reading level only months later.

“They are extremely dependable, they never miss school,” said Gabriela’s teacher Shelly Kluver.

Patricia’s teacher, Ashley Moeller, said the same about the twin she instructs.

Both sisters take their education seriously. Their instructors said both take it upon themselves to work on online literacy program Lexia and the online math program ST Math outside of class.

While they share much in common, like an enjoyment for games like soccer and four-square, the girls described their unique interests.

“I like to play soccer. I like kicking the ball,” Patricia said.

Her other interests include math class and making art.

“I like to draw anything,” Patricia said.

Other mediums she likes are paint and clay.

Gabriela said she especially likes reading at school.

“I like when we do reading groups,” she said. “I’m reading ‘The One and Only Ivan’ book right now … I haven’t finished it yet.”

Kluver said both girls are well-liked by their classmates and it was not long after they arrived that they became important members of the school culture.

“The nice thing about Franklin is any new kids we get, they fit in well,” she said.