PEORIA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Kindergarten teacher Bernadette Holladay logged onto an online meeting she thought was about her employee evaluation. When her principal brought her into the meeting and saw some unfamiliar faces, she knew something was up. "Hi. I'm very nervous now," chuckled Holladay.
So I immediately addressed the teacher from Alta Loma Elementary School in Peoria.
"My name is Gina Maravilla, and I'm with Arizona's Family. And we definitely have an evaluation. Here at Arizona's Family, we value excellent educators. You were nominated, and we would like to award you with a Silver Apple Award. Congratulations!"
Once she got over the shock of the surprise, Mrs. Holladay could not help but get emotional as she talked about the challenges of this past school year.
"My students have been my world this year. I'm sorry. It makes me a little emotional," said Mrs. Holladay as she wiped tears from her eyes. "I know it's been tough for [my students], and I feel for them. They haven't even been in a classroom yet." Mrs. Holladay shared some of the secrets to her success. "We have built such a great relationship in our classroom, being virtual. We're in each other's houses all day long. I think just building that foundation of trust and a really strong relationship, our class feels like a little family this year."
Additionally, in a group that needs a special kind of affirmation and encouragement, Mrs. Holladay says they "do a lot of air high-fives to our computers with each other. We do a lot of self-hugs. We give ourselves a hug."
Six-year-old Hailey Coash nominated Mrs. Holladay for the Silver Apple Award. In her nomination letter, she and her mother, Cassandra Coash, wrote that "Even though we cannot have face to face time, [Mrs. Holladay] has built a community amongst students, families, and herself."
Hailey's mother personally thanked Mrs. Holladay on the zoom meeting, saying, "She's learned so much in school, math, reading, writing, and she just enjoys logging on with you every day. She's always talking about miss Holladay after school."
Arizona Bank and Trust partners with Arizona's Family, saying thank you to teachers in a big way!
"Hello and virtual high-five to you. I represent Arizona Bank and Trust, and we are so excited to announce to donate $1000 to you, to spend on whatever you like," announced Patrisha Gonzales. "We know how tough it's been this year with virtual learning, and I'm a mother of 2, so I know specifically how tough it is."
Mrs. Holladay has embraced, taken on, and tackled this year's challenges, in a profession she wouldn't trade for the world.
"It's the most amazing and rewarding job you'll ever do. You get to touch so many kids and be the positive influence in their lives."