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Teacher and student show off handshake that took a year to perfect

It's how Mike Ponce de Leon bonds with the kids he teaches.
by Terri Peters / / Source: TODAY

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Sixth-grader teacher Mike Ponce de Leon is known for his fancy handshakes.

It's kind of Mr. Ponce's thing. The California teacher says during his five years on the job, he has shared handshakes of all kinds as a way of bonding with the kids in his care.

One elaborate shake, though, stands out from the crowd: 12-year-old Amaya Peña's has gone viral.

There's a shake, a fist-bump, a hug and a host of other moves, captured in a video that's almost a full minute long. The pair's routine progressively grew longer as the year went on.

"It was kind of both of our ideas," Amaya told NBC News, explaining that Mr. Ponce is known for giving everyone handshakes at the end of the school day. "He gave me a fist pump when it was my turn...one day, he was like, 'We should add on to it every Friday.'"

"About halfway through the year we decided at the end we’d add a hug because we’re saying goodbye because she’s a sixth grader," Ponce de Leon said. "I’ve made handshakes with different students in past years — (students) that have a similar thing where I want to break them out of their box but never to this extent — it was always like four moves."

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After Amaya's sister, Melynna, tweeted the video of the handshake, the duo's moves have gained internet fame. To date, more than 5 million people have viewed the tweet.

The handshakes improve his memory and help him "keep fresh," Ponce de Leon says. But they also build relationships with his students.

“It's something positive in a world that’s more negative," said Ponce de Leon, adding that he likes showing a cheerful, fun side to school when a lot of kids feel poorly about attending. "That’s what excites me the most about people seeing it."

Reese Ravner of NBC News contributed to this story.

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