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By leaps and bounds, Cockeysville Middle student and teacher share a special day

Every four years, Cockeysville Middle School science teacher Glenn Segal scans the list of incoming sixth graders to see if any share a birthday with him.

For years, he was left wanting. Four years ago, one fit the bill, but wasn't in his class.

This year, however, Segal hit paydirt in the form of Tiffany Williams, who not only attends Cockeysville Middle School, but is in Segal's homeroom.

She, like Segal, was born on the 29th day in February — a leap year birthday.

On Wednesday, Feb. 29, Tiffany was scheduled to celebrate her third "real" birthday, and marking the 12th year since her actual birth.

Segal said that when he noticed that the two of them shared a birthday, he sought out Tiffany on Back-to-School Day at the beginning of the school year to inform her of the coincidence.

In his 48 years — or 12 years marked by a birthday — Segal has known a few other leap year babies, including his niece's father.

But Tiffany was the only one in her world who was born on the extra day in February.

"Thank goodness I'm not the only one," she said.

While he shares a birthday with Tiffany, Segal's leap year status actually gives him something in common with nearly all of his other sixth-grade students:

"We all turn 12 during the year," he said.

And that a relief of sorts. Segal said that for years, the fact that he had celebrated fewer birthdays than his students had been a source of ribbing for the sixth graders he has taught.

"Past students told me they're older than me, and of course I have to correct them," he said. "I say, 'No, you've had more birthday's than me.' "

Tiffany, too, often finds herself defending her actual age from teasing peers, who latch onto the fact that she has only had two actual birthdays before Wednesday.

"Some people say, 'You're 3, not 12,' and then I have to actually tell them I've been on the earth for 12 years," she said.

"We all get the same questions," Segal said.

Tiffany said she typically celebrates her birthday on March 1, but since her actual birthday exists this year, she planned to celebrate with a weekend laser-tag trip.

Segal wasn't expecting much of a celebration at Cockeysville Middle this week, though during his lunch break on Monday, one student asked what flavor of cake was his favorite.

"Too many people know," he lamented.

As a child, he even picked his favorite athletes based on his birthday. Segal collected baseball cards and noticed on the back of one that Steve Mingori, a reliever with Cleveland and Kansas City in the 1970s, shared a birthday with him.

"He became my favorite pitcher," he said.

Only about one in every 1,461 babies born in the world are born on Leap Day — an event that occurs every four years because of accumulated time the Earth takes to revolve around the sun.

As a science teacher, Segal said he tries to work in a lesson on why leap years exist into his astronomy plan each year. On Wednesday, such a lesson was planned for his science class.

While they ate lunch Monday, he quizzed Tiffany on how old she'd be on different planets. Tiffany would be around 40 if she lived on Mercury, but still wouldn't have celebrated her first birthday on Pluto.

"It's all a matter of perspective," Segal said.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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