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Student Matchmaking Leads to Wedding Bells for Teacher
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Student matchmaking efforts didn't help kids make the honor roll, but they did result in the engagement of Clark, 28, to Kevin Wiles, 32.

Image High school students are typically averse to extra-credit school projects. At North Eugene High School in Eugene, Oregon, however, Clair Clark's study hall students eagerly created their own special project: They set out to find Clark a boyfriend.

The student matchmakers discovered that Clark, a global studies teacher, was experiencing the typical, often overwhelming, workload of most first-year teachers. One evening when some of her freshman students returned from a softball game, they were astounded to find Clark still in her classroom correcting papers at 8 p.m. "You need to get a life, Ms. Clark," Clark recalls her students telling her.

So they set out to find her a life -- a life with a boyfriend, that is. A group of students in Clark's study hall class decided to post a personal ad for Clark on the Internet last March. "It started like a joke," says Stephanie, now a sophomore and one of the students who created the ad. "Ms. Clark was kind of shocked. But she is really a fun teacher. She doesn't keep a wall between herself and her students. She lets us in."

About five or six students queried their teacher about her interests and background -- without letting her in on their matchmaking intentions -- in order to write the ad. They then posted a personal ad on [email protected], a service of America Online. When Clark discovered the students had sent the ad, she didn't give it much thought and didn't believe it would get any responses.


Image The morning after the students sent the ad, Clark had 15 e-mail responses. "Oh, my gosh, what's happened?" she recalls thinking. Then she instructed the students responsible for the ad to "figure this out."

The students did figure it out -- they selected Wiles as someone they thought Clark should meet. Ironically, the students later discovered that Wiles is the neighbor of one of the students who was the matchmaking ringleader. "You went to cyberspace to hook me up with your neighbor?" Clark said to the students.

The students were impressed with Wiles's response because he shared many of Clark's interests. They both had served in the Navy. They also enjoy hiking and reading. The students really liked the picture of Wiles with his dogs. "He seemed like a nice man," Stephanie says.

Clark agreed with the students. "It was a really cute picture, and he was very, very eloquent," she says. One evening, Clark telephoned Wiles, a hydroelectric plant team leader. They spoke for several hours. Several e-mails and telephone conversations later, they agreed to meet for a date. Eight months later, Wiles proposed. Now the two are planning their May 12 wedding.

Student matchmaking and Internet dating are not the types of student activities the school administration wants to promote, however. "In all that we do as principals, I have to admit that I really didn't give it much thought initially, especially because Clair had already met Kevin by the time I heard the story," says Pat Latimer, principal of North Eugene High School. "In retrospect, had I known about it before it happened, I probably would have discouraged it for a couple of reasons.

"Of course, this is all clouded by the fact that Clair has met a very romantic, caring young man who treats her like a princess," Latimer continues. "Because she is such a wonderful teacher, we all believe that she is deserving."

The media attention has been a distraction, though, and some teachers worry that the school will be seen as promoting Internet dating, Latimer says. The NBC Today Show and People magazine recently interviewed Clark and Wiles, along with some of the students responsible for the matchmaking. Regardless of those concerns, Latimer tells Education World, the school staff and students are very excited about the couple's unique wedding.

Clark saw the wedding as an opportunity to create a special project for her students. They are currently writing a musical play chronicling the events of how Clark and Wiles met. Students will perform their play before Clark and Wiles take the stage to exchange their wedding vows in the school auditorium.

"It seemed very natural to have the kids to share our wedding at the school," Clark tells Education World. "I hated the idea of having the wedding without the kids."