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The Gift of Thanks

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As the holidays approach, I often struggle to come up with the right gift for everyone on my list. And since there are always so many people I want to thank and appreciate this time of year, I get a bit overwhelmed by the amount of money involved. But remembering the teachers on your list doesn’t have to add to your holiday financial burden.

I have taught kids in third through 12th grades and the gift I have loved receiving the most was a real thank-you card. Some were written by parents and some by kids, but the ones I saved all share one thing: They are specific. If you have a real reason to feel grateful toward the teacher, put it in words. While teachers will appreciate what parents have to say, they will probably treasure a child’s heartfelt words even more. Still, don’t fake it. The whole point is an authentic thank you.

If you want to do something more, here are some affordable ideas:

Purchase or create something related to the class or classroom. My first year of teaching, a parent gave me a mug with our class photo printed on it. Those kids have since graduated from college but the mug still holds pens and pencils on my desk.

Involve your child in gift selection. Choose a dollar amount that you’re comfortable with and let your child choose the gift. I’m not sure what vibes I gave off one year, but a student kept getting me cows. It was a bit odd to be sure, but I loved how excited she was when she gave me each one. It was as though she couldn’t believe I’d survived this long without each cow. Ten years later, I’m still using one stuffed cow as a tool for teaching. The same sentiment goes of course, for a homemade gift from a student.

Get a gift that speaks to a passion. For instance, if the teacher is obsessed with butterflies, cats or Albert Einstein, get him something fitting that theme.

Useful presents are always welcome. Does she give away stickers, write with colored pens or use stationery? Buy an inexpensive and useful gift.

Teachers of any subject and grade can benefit from a magazine subscription. Some magazines offer great deals around the holidays if you buy more than one. You can find magazines for all age groups on just about any subject from photography to archaeology. Periodicals like National Geographic, Muse, Odyssey and Cricket are wonderful choices. (Try to see what your school or class already has, however, before purchasing a subscription.)

Finally, my favorite gift for teachers: a bookstore gift card. This is what I buy my children’s teachers each year. Most teachers spend a lot of their own money on supplies and books. A gift card to a book or office supply store can be a great way to say thank you.

Whatever you get, I hope that the gift isn’t just another “to-do” on your long list of holiday obligations. I’m biased, of course, but I believe that teachers are hard workers who went into teaching to help children learn. Certainly, they didn’t go into it for the paycheck. But that doesn’t mean you should spend a lot of money on a gift. These are tough financial times for all of us. Simply saying thank you can be a very powerful gift indeed.

Emma Kress, a teacher at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, has held a variety of educational posts at levels from pre-K to 12th grade. Send comments about this article to editorial@familytimes.biz.

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