Albuquerque District Court Judge Stan Whitaker made the decision after hearing from the victim herself despite an emotional apology from her former teacher, Jacob Lawler.
The judge sentenced Lawler to three years in prison, ordered him to serve up to 20 years probation, and he had Lawler face the victim himself Friday in court.
"I have learned there is a line crossed, and I absolutely will never cross it again," said Lawler, sobbing in court Friday.
Lawler had taught for years at Edward Gonzales Elementary School when he sent explicit messages and pictures of his genitals to his former student.
The victim also addressed the court Friday.
"I don't wish we never got caught," she said. "I'm glad we did because things could have gotten a lot worse.
"I think that if we would have stayed, there could have been actual physical touching."
(KRQE News 13 disquised the girl's voice in broadcast reports to protect her identity.)
Whitaker also heard from several of Lawler's friends and family who pleaded for a lighter sentence.
"He is definitely not a sex offender; he does not belong in prison," said one woman who described herself as a friend of Lawler since 2008.
"During the 15-year span that he's worked with children, this has been the only incident that has come up," said another woman. "Contrary to the way specifics about this case were presented to the media and to others involved, this was an isolated incident."
However, the state pointed out the texts spanned a period of six months starting in November 2010.
"It wasn't just one lapse in judgment. It was hundreds if not thousands of lapses in judgment," said the Prosecuting Attorney.
"Its not just about words on a screen, and its not just about pictures on a screen, it is way more than that that she felt was going on here," he said. "To go on this long and then get to the point where you're exchanging pictures and engaged in the kind of conversation that you engaged in, is disturbing. At the least it's disturbing."
"I failed her and I failed her parents, and for that I am truly remorseful," Lawler said addressing the court.
The judge had Lawler face the victim and her family saying, "Well, there they are. There's no need to say sorry to me."
"I'm sorry," Lawler told them as he choked up. "I didn't mean to cross the line with you, I apologize to you guys. I'm sorry."
His apology wasn't enough to get him out of prison time or from registering as a sex offender.
Lawler asked the judge to not require him to register as a sex offender, saying he isn't one, and his family said it would prevent him from getting a job.
The judge ultimately disagreed with the request. Not only will Lawler have to register as a sex offender upon release, his electronic devices will also be monitored by authorities the entire time he's on probation.
Whitaker acknowledged the statements and letters from Lawler's friends and family and said he's glad Lawler has support. However, he added, he didn't like how there appeared to be some blame shifting onto the child in this case.