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LRHS teachers tie the knot years after 'dating' in elementary school

Delaney Riggins says fate brought her back together with Andrew Shackleford in 2020 after they dated in elementary school.

Delaney Riggins and Andrew Shackleford say it's crazy how life comes full circle. The couple "dated" in elementary school but grew apart in middle and high school. They reconnected in 2020 and married March 9.
Delaney Riggins and Andrew Shackleford say it's crazy how life comes full circle. The couple "dated" in elementary school but grew apart in middle and high school. They reconnected in 2020 and married March 9.
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When he was in fifth grade, Andrew Shackleford used to say he wanted to marry Delaney Riggins.

Shackleford and Riggins, who now are teachers at Lakewood Ranch High School, were “dating” in fifth grade after being in the same class in third, fourth and fifth grade at Gene Witt Elementary. 

“We were like little boyfriend and girlfriend in elementary school, but I don’t think we even hugged,” Riggins said with a laugh. 

Their young, blossoming love went a different direction for Riggins. 

She sent her friend to tell Shackleford they were breaking up while he was waiting in the lunch line in the cafeteria. Shackleford was heartbroken, and his friends made fun of him for crying.

Fast forward to March 9 when now 28-year-old Shackleford’s fifth grade prediction of his future came true. Shackleford and 27-year-old Riggins tied the knot. 

“It’s cool and crazy how life works,” Shackleford said. “It comes around in circles.”

Their story began as elementary students when they would play on the playground and the basketball court. They raced each other to see who was the fastest, a race Riggins said she won often. 

Shackleford lived down the street from Riggins’ grandmother, Lynn Howard. Riggins recalled looking out into the cul de sac at Howard’s home and seeing Shackleford playing with neighbors and friends. 

They liked each other and admired each other's love of sports. 

Andrew Shackleford and Delaney Riggins went to elementary, middle and high school together.
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Once they finished at Gene Witt Elementary School, the two started to grow apart as they started at Carlos E. Haile Middle School and began making friends in different groups. 

They still signed each others’ yearbooks and spoke occasionally, but it wasn’t like the days on the playground where they seemed inseparable. 

At Lakewood Ranch High, the two remained acquaintances but went their separate ways when it was time to go off to college. 

It wasn’t until 2020 when Riggins was out to dinner with her friend Lindsay Martinez, and the conversation happened to turn to Shackleford after they saw a friend of Shackleford’s at the restaurant. Riggins remembered how she always thought Shackleford was cute and sweet. 

Four days later, Riggins and Martinez were at The Crafty Squirrel in St. Petersburg, and Martinez told Riggins she couldn’t believe who walked through the door. 

It was Shackleford. 

He said he was surprised to see Riggins after about eight years. 

The two talked and parted ways. 

Riggins said she was nervous she wouldn’t hear from Shackleford again. She did call to wish him a happy birthday a few days later, but Riggins didn’t pursue it any further. Fortunately, Shackleford followed up with her later in the week and they scheduled their first date. 

“I do believe that fate brought us back together and that it was always meant to be,” Riggins said. “We just needed to experience life on our own before we could appreciate one another.”

Within a few months, Shackleford and Riggins said they knew they were going to get married.

Delaney Riggins accepts a marriage proposal from Andrew Shackleford, who knew he wanted to marry her in fifth grade.
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“I was the first one to tell him I loved him,” Riggins said. “I knew very early on just because you kind of get a feeling and I was so comfortable with him. I never had to be something that I wasn’t or someone that I wasn’t.”

Riggins started working at Lakewood Ranch High School as an early childhood education teacher in 2018 while Shackleford became a physical education teacher at the high school in 2021. 

They’ve loved being able to support each other personally and professionally at school as well as getting to know the same students because they worked with athletes. Riggins is a former soccer coach at the high school while Shackleford is an assistant football coach and strength coach.

Their relationship grew stronger as well. 

In June 2022, they were engaged. 

Riggins said some students had joked about crashing their wedding, but they didn't follow through. 

Shackleford said he had never had a serious girlfriend until Riggins. 

“I was his first girlfriend, and his last,” Riggins said. 



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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