Kennedy: Twins take top academic honors at area school

Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy / Tate Bird, left, and Aidan Bird are twin brothers who attend Skyuka Hall, a small independent school in Brainerd. Tate is the valedictorian of the class of 2023, and Aidan is the salutatorian. The brothers are pictured Wednesday.

Twins brothers Tate and Aidan Bird say they didn't know they were competing for the title of valedictorian of their senior class.

But when their final grades were tallied, only two hundredths of a point separated the brothers' GPAs.

Tate Bird, who wants to study aerospace engineering, is finishing his high school career with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Meanwhile, his brother, Aidan Bird, who will study history in college, hit the high school finish line with a 3.98 GPA — only a pesky B in an online Spanish II class denying him a perfect GPA, too.

The two attend Skyuka Hall (formerly Scenic Land School on Mountain Creek Road), a small independent school in Eastgate Center for students with learning challenges such as ADHD and dyslexia.

Despite the loss of family bragging rights, Aidan said he has no regrets about losing out to his brother. In fact, he is focusing on the sunny side. As salutatorian, he only has to give short introductory remarks at graduation, while Tate must tackle an entire valedictory address.

Explained Aidan, "Mine's short. Like: 'S'up y'all. Welcome.'"

The Bird twins have been diagnosed with dyspraxia.

"It's dyslexia's drunk cousin," Tate injected during an interview at the school.

Dyspraxia affects things like motor skills and memory sequencing, but not intelligence.

The twins' mother, Betsy Bird, said Aidan was first diagnosed in kindergarten after she and his dad noticed he could spell words orally but had trouble manipulating a pencil on written tests. Tate had the same problem a year later in first grade and, ultimately, got the same diagnosis.

Interestingly, while they have they both have dyspraxia, the brothers are polar opposites in many ways.

"Aidan is big in English and history," his mother said in an interview at the school. "Tate is (good at) math and science. Tate is much more reserved. Aidan is much more outgoing."

It's almost like the twins fit together like puzzle pieces, or reciprocal fractions.

"Together, they make one," their mom said.

After all these years living at home together, the two boys said they are ready to have some space to themselves.

Tate will attend Chattanooga State as he learns to drive, his mother said, while Aidan will attend East Tennessee State University.

"I'm very excited to be on my own," Aidan said.

"I'm going to Chatt State for two years and then transfer to MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University)," Tate said.

Betsy Bird said the boys ended up at Skyuka Hall by happenstance. She often drove by the school and wondered about its mission.

"I looked it up one day," she said. "(I found out) this is a school for kids who learn differently. I thought, 'I'll just give them a call and see what they're all about.'"

The boys transfered to Skyuka from a public school in the ninth grade.

"It really was a lifesaver for us," Betsy Bird said.

Having her sons finish one-two in the academic pecking order validated the family's decision, she said.

"Tate and Aidan have always risen to any challenge presented to them and accomplished whatever goals they set for themselves," Betsy Bird said in a text. "Their dad and I are so proud of them, and we can't wait to see what they do in the future."

The Life Stories column publishes on Mondays. To suggest a human interest story contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645.