Thursday, June 9, 2011

On Teacher Gifts.

Mr. V. officially wrapped up school this week. And as with any year, there were days in that final waning week of school, where he would come home with a gift or two from a student/their family. And since, in the weeks leading up to the last day, everyone seems to be at a constant loss for teacher’s gifts, I thought a couple of those he received are worth sharing.
First, though,
take a look at my family:
Husband: High School Business Teacher
Sister: 4th Grade Teacher
Brother-in-law: 3rd Grade Teacher
Mother: Former Teacher’s Aide
Cousin: High School English Teacher
Aunt: Retired Teacher
Another Aunt: Former Student Teacher Advisor
Niece: High School Math Teacher
My Father and I: Black Sheep Sales & Marketing  :)

And that’s not even including the host of friends and neighbors I have who nobly answer the call to educate our kids. Suffice it to say, I’m down with teachers.

Each year, people scramble and wrack their brains for the perfect teacher gift, to thank these people for their commitment year after year. I see ideas all over, and they’re usually school-related, and for sure cute. But one thing I have learned over time, is that there are some items that will always end up on the teacher-gift-merry-go-round…

Most of the teachers I know need another bottle of lotion or a coffee mug or Christmas ornament like they need a hole in the head. It’s not that they don’t appreciate every ounce of thought that went into that gift… it’s just that they’ve been getting those same gifts for as long as they’ve been teaching.

So with school out for the year, I challenge you (because you’ve got nearly a year to think about it!), when the kiddos head back to school… give with your heart.

You want examples? You got ‘em.

Last year, Mr. V. brought home a small, foil-covered bundle with an envelope. I asked him what it was, and he said “A gift”.

I peeked under the foil and saw an herbed meat of some sort, ready to be cooked. I put it in the fridge and opened the envelope. Inside was a handwritten note from a parent of one of his students.
The letter thanked him for being a positive role model in her son’s life. She said this past year had been tough on their family, with the loss of a job and unfortunately, an impending divorce. She went on to say that contributing to her son’s education was one of the greatest gifts they would receive, and she wanted to say thank-you by providing us with a night free of the work or stress of putting together a meal. She had made, using her family’s recipe, a Sicilian meat roll (their version of meatloaf), seasoned with herbs from her garden and included baking instructions.

I kept that letter. While a gift like that may seem strange to some, and off the “conventional” list, we saw it as a physical manifestation of gratitude. A mother made something personal with her own hands as a token of thanks. It didn’t have to be “cute” or “creative” or “super”. It was honest. And for the record, delicious.

This year, a student brought him a loaf of fresh bread from her family’s bakery.

Attached was quick a note from the student herself, thanking him for pushing her and encouraging her. It was also signed by her parents, an indication of shared appreciation.

I realize both these examples involve food, but if you think I’m suggesting that food is the best teacher’s gift, than you’re missing my point. All too often we become caught up in giving the “best” gift, or the “cutest” or “most creative” – I do this, too.
But at the end of the day, think about the intangible, invaluable gifts these educators have provided our children. Ask a teacher yourself and you’ll find that most of them could do without the tokens or trinkets, but a simple note of heartfelt thanks will stay with them for longer than a bottle of hand lotion ever will.



  1. Here's a great one for teachers: address labels (available for free almost.all.the.time on vistaprint) that can be customized to say, for example, "This book belongs to Mr. V. Please keep it in his classroom. Thank you!"

  2. Ah, such a good reminder. My family is full of teachers (my grandma, mother and 3 aunts and 2 uncles) and I should do better at telling teachers how much we appreciate them. My oldest is entering kindergarten this year, so I have some time to make each year count. Thank you for the great reminder!

  3. Thanks I need that! I'm always the one trying to think of the cutest gift..oops! :) I'll have to do better next year. :) I'm following you from Design it Chic. Would love to have you visit my blog at