McKinney, Texas – Amy Holderman wasn’t going to just stand by and watch one of her students sit alone at recess. That just wouldn’t do at all.

But, Holderman understood that, for Micaela—who was new to Holderman’s first-grade class and to Valley Creek Elementary—the thought of meeting new kids was simply a terrifying prospect.

So, Holderman sat with her.

They shared a bench at recess every day, watching Micaela’s classmates dash around the playground. Micaela felt safe and comfortable with her teacher, and during those times they would talk. Holderman would gently suggest, “Maybe you’d like to go play with…” But, no…

It would take time.

Micaela’s world was full of books, and in the classroom, Holderman cultivated Micaela’s love of reading. “Reading will take you to amazing places,” Holderman would tell her.

Micaela was a prodigious reader, so it was no surprise when she won the class reading challenge. Her prize was a pen that lit up. She treasured it.

At recess, weeks stretched into months, and still Holderman remained patient, sitting with Micaela on the playground bench. One day, Holderman called over one of the other kids and asked her to introduce Micaela to her friends…and, that time, at last, Micaela was ready. And, eventually, the bench faded into the background.

That was 20 years ago.

Since then Holderman has served in MISD as a third grade teacher, an assistant principal, and for the past 12 years, as the principal of Bennett Elementary.

Micaela went on to graduate from McKinney High School and then Brown University. She completed a master’s degree from the University of West Alabama.

Last fall, Micaela once again found herself in a new school—first, as a student teacher and then, in January, as a full-time teacher at E.R. Dickson Elementary in Mobile, Alabama.

She teaches first grade.

And, she still has the pen.

“I still remember Ms. Holderman and the kindness that she showed me. I hope to emulate her kindness and make my students feel as comfortable around me as I did around Ms. Holderman. [She] was right: reading did take me to amazing places! I hope to encourage my students to read and introduce them to many amazing books that hopefully they fall in love with as well.”

When Holderman learned that Micaela was starting out on her own journey as a teacher, she sent Micaela stacks of books for her classroom. In one, Micaela found a note from her first grade teacher:

Your students are going to love to read because of YOU. — Amy Holderman

It’s taped to Micaela’s desk.