Shaina Holdener and Terence Kitada
In 2012, English teacher Shaina Holdener was completing her Masters in Education in the Stanford Teacher Education Program, when she was told to choose a group for a project. “I was just like, ‘Okay, this is a make-or-break situation, when who you pick is going to determine everything,’” she said. So, she decided to work with English teacher Terence Kitada, a fellow student in the STEP program who would get his part of the work done. She was already acquainted with him from working together at Sequoia High School. Little did they know that their working together in the program would flourish into a strong friendship, lasting into the working world for more than a decade.
As adults, friends from high school or college can find it harder to catch up. Even though Kitada still regularly contacts his friends from high school, it takes a lot of organizing to see each other. “When we see each other—maybe twice a year, because we’re all married and have kids—it takes a lot of organizing,” he said.
However, it’s different when it comes to Holdener. Their classrooms are nearly right across from each other’s, so after a long day of teaching, seeing each other just takes a few steps across the hallway. “There pretty much (isn’t) a day when we wouldn’t see each other,” Kitada said. Holdener agrees, crediting the strength of their friendship to seeing each other daily. “It only helps that you see each other every single day,” she said. “When you’re an adult, you have to put that effort in. You have to contact each other and make plans.”
When they’re not talking face-to-face, like most friends, the two text each other often. “It’ll be midnight, late into the night when we’re trying to grade, and we’ll be like, ‘Time for a meme break,’” Holdener said.
Seeing each other regularly helps, but it is far from the only thing that has formed the foundation of their friendship. Holdener and Kitada share several similar interests. For one, they share similar professions and tastes in entertainment, which they often talk about. “We tend to talk a lot about work just because that’s what we share in common,” Kitada said. “But in addition, (we) have shared interests in general. I think that’s part of the reason why we’re friends: We both have the same sense of humor or things that we both like, like manga, books or the same type of movies and TV shows.”
Additionally, they both enjoy video games, which they bond over outside of school. “When Final Fantasy 15 came out, we played it at the same time in our own houses, but we’d text each other about it, like, ‘How far did you get?’”Holdener said. After being friends for so long, Holdener and Kitada often think similarly. “Even if we don’t say anything in the moment, afterwards, if we talk, we go, ‘Are you thinking what I was thinking’? and then we end up thinking the same exact thing,’” Holdener said. “Even though there are differences, the way we are as humans, the way we are as teachers, there’s a lot of overlap there.” Their similar personalities have even coined them the nickname, “the Steptwins,” given to them by office secretary Martha Elderon. The “step” part comes from where they met and how close they are despite not being biologically related, like stepsiblings.
Because they have been friends for so long, the duo have built a lot of trust. Holdener feels as though she can confide in Kitada whenever she needs someone to listen. “I can trust Mr. Kitada and go to him and say anything,” she said. “I know he’s not going to judge me for it or think I’m weird. And then he’ll hear me out. In reverse too, he can say whatever to me, and I’ll hear it out and give him thoughts if he wants it, or just sit and be someone to say something to.”