One McKinney ISD elementary room will soon be overflowing with books, thanks to a $500 donation from Trinity Falls.

Laleh Olateju, third grade teacher at Press Elementary, received $500 for her classroom as the first winner of Trinity Falls’ MISD Staff Spotlight promotion. The quarterly promotion takes nominations from residents of Trinity Falls for deserving teachers or staff members at the three schools serving the McKinney-area community: Press Elementary, Scott Morgan Johnson Middle School and McKinney North High School.

Olateju’s students, Press Elementary Principal Chris Clark and Jillian Meers and Natalie Rosser with Trinity Falls surprised Olateju with the gift Friday.

“I was blown away — very surprised,” she said. “My first thought was to buy lots and lots of books.”

Olateju — who teaches writing, reading and social studies — said the additional classroom books would be very helpful.

“Reading aloud helps not only with reading skills but also models writing styles,” she said.

Kimberly Miller, who nominated Olateju, says she is the best teacher her son has ever had.

“She genuinely loves each one of the students and models kindness so they all learn to be kinder,” Miller said in her nomination. “She has great energy and you can just tell she is so happy to be a teacher.”

Olateju is in her second year at Press Elementary and taught in Dallas four years prior to that. She says she has found her calling, but teaching wasn’t her original choice.

“I was at UT majoring in political science and was just starting to study for my LSAT to go into law school,” she said. “But I wasn’t feeling excited about my plans. Then one day, someone came into class and talked about an alternative certification for teaching — Teach for America. I joined the program.”

She says she particularly enjoys how every day in the classroom is different and seeing the evolution of her students.

“We have what the students call ‘family meetings’ to talk about kindness, our feelings and how to treat each other,” Olateju said. “I try to treat them kindly and use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ so they will, too. And they are talking kinder to each other and thinking about each other’s feelings more.

“You can see the difference you’re making with the students month to month — not just academically, but also socially and with their mental well-being. It’s so cool. It’s nice to have a sense of purpose when you’re setting that early alarm clock.”

Principal Clark said Olateju is an excellent example of the quality of the teachers at Press Elementary.

“Mrs. Olateju is an amazing teacher and very deserving of the award,” he said. “Press Elementary is lucky to have the support of such a wonderful community like Trinity Falls. We can’t thank them enough for all they do for the school.”

Trinity Falls is located just northwest of McKinney, a few minutes from Press Elementary. Ten builders offer homes priced from the $230,000s to the $600,000s. For more information, visit www.trinityfalls.com.

Photo Information Natalie Rosser, marketing director for Trinity Falls, presents Press Elementary third grade teacher Laleh Olateju with a $500 check as part of the community’s MISD Staff Spotlight promotion. Shown with them is Jack Fuller, whose mother nominated Olateju for the prize.