If you have ever worried about your professor not responding to your passing hello, it could be that you’re speaking to their identical twin who works on campus as well.
“We are never offended if somebody mixes us up. Sometimes, people get really apologetic,” Ecology professor Karen Klein said, “I’ve become accustomed to people saying, ‘Hey Kristen!’ and I just turn around anyway, and Kristen will do the same.”
Klein’s twin sister, adjunct History professor and 4-minute older sister, Kristen Haase, began teaching at NCC this semester.
“It’s a small campus community, so everybody knows each other. As many people that I’m more acquainted with, I told them, ‘Look. I have a twin sister. Just know if you think you’re seeing me, I’m not being rude or ignoring you, it just might be my sister who doesn’t know who you are. Just a heads-up,’” Klein said.
“My mother did not know she was pregnant with twins until she had us. We were born 6 weeks premature. This was before ultrasound. Our heart beats were synchronized so the doctor didn’t know there were two. I was 3 pounds and Kristen was 4. We were tiny, little babies and a big surprise to my parents!”
Although identical, the twins are mirror image. After the egg is fertilized and splits in two in the first three days after fertilization, the day that the egg splits will determine if they are mirror image or not.
“We split on the day where she’s a lefty and I’m a righty. People say left-handed people are more creative, right-handed people are not. We do kind of exhibit those same tendencies,” Klein said. “Kristen majored in History and minored in Science and I am the Science person who minored in History. But mirror image means we have opposite hair whirls and some features that are on one side of her versus the other side of me.”
Because they looked so similar, their mother used bracelets with their middle initial on them when they were children to help tell them apart. In high school, they were routinely separated, but would prank teachers, boyfriends, and friends.
“It’s been an interesting semester because Karen’s been a full-time professor for six years and I’m an adjunct. This is my first time on this campus. We still think it’s a lot of fun to play up on that,” Haase said.
“I’ve had a lot of students and upper level deans or professors come up to me and start talking to me like I’m Karen. There have been a few times where I kind of let them go for a bit, look at them quizzically, and say, ‘I’m not sure who you’re talking about.’”
“I did have someone come up and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I love your hair more blond. I think you should keep it that way,’ since Karen keeps her hair a little darker than mine. I had to report that back to Karen. So, it is fun to still play those tricks.”
Hair color may be a slight difference, but their interests are not. On top of both playing guitar, the twins also enjoy the same movies, music, TV shows, tea, and are both involved in athletics. They even share the same office on campus.
“I live 60 minutes away now, so we don’t see each other as often. When I got this adjunct position here, I said, ‘Wow! We can see each other again!’” Haase said.
“We talk every day, text all the time, but we live so far away and each of us have a son. That kind of ties you down as far as getting up and going someplace,” Klein said.
When one of the twins visit the other, their sons even need to take a moment to figure out which one they are. Since the twins have the same DNA, their sons are genetically half-brothers.
Klein’s son even calls Haase “Moogie” which means “mother” in the Star Trek language Ferengi.
“I wish we both had kids named Issac who are 8-years-old, but you know,” Klein joked. “We have very different tastes in guys too.”
“Although… her husband is a musician. He is the lead singer in an original band and in a cover band. My boyfriend is a musician and lead singer of a cover band and has an original band. So, that’s pretty cool!” Haase said.
“There are so few differences. When you think of the similarities, it’s almost like we take it for granted because everything about us is similar.”
Students that enjoyed taking one of the professors can find a nearly indistinguishable experience by taking the other.
“I think with the twin thing, as far as our teaching, is that we have the same style. The subject Karen teaches has to be much more factual because it’s Science. With me, I can take my subject and go in a lot of different directions, but at least from what our students say, we have the same inflections, identical voices, and we use the same expressions,” Haase said.
“We both infuse things with a lot of positive energy. I tell students if they need to take a Science course and if they like my style, my sister teaches Ecology. That would be something to consider.”
Although, Haase attended school in England and Klein stayed in the Lehigh Valley, the distance never diminished the bond between them.
“To have our lives come back together in a physical sense is such a completely amazing joy. Nothing beats actually being able to hang out together,” Haase said. “NCC has created that conduit to bring us together even though we’re 60 miles apart.”