What are teachers' favorite gifts to receive? | Ask Mrs. Brooke

Joy Brooke - Contributed
Joy Brooke
— image credit: Contributed

Dear Mrs. Brooke,

I am always trying to come up with a great idea to give my child’s teacher and I always just end up giving a gift card because I feel like maybe that would be helpful. What are teachers’ favorite things to receive?

Thanks, Parent Wanting to Give to Teacher

Dear Parent Wanting to Give to Teacher,

Reading your question warmed my heart. This is the season of giving and who better to give to than your child’s teacher who works effortlessly each day to help your child learn and grow.

Gift cards are always a great idea and very much appreciated since so much of our own money and extra time is spent on our classrooms and for our students. The amount on them does not have to be that large, but do find out where your child’s teachers favorite place to eat or shop.

I knew a first-year teacher who got up early, stayed until late at night, and struggled financially for sure. Even though she spent that summer scavenging garage sales for books and supplies to fill her classroom, the $50 that the district gave her had no way compensated for all of those resources, not to mention it was now time to repay those college loans and then of course regular bills of living on her own without a roommate for the first time.

Let’s just say it was a memorable moment for sure when she received a very generous gift card for Nordstrom’s. She couldn’t have been more appreciative.

Now, obviously, that is a huge amount that in no way most families can ever afford.

But, I will say this first-year teacher (yes, it was me) was one very happy teacher and enjoyed her shopping spree. Although I would have given my time and all the resources I could have to help my students achieve either way, there was something about being recognized for my hard work in my own time of need that made this gift card and act of gratitude that more memorable.

No matter how long you’ve been teaching though, a gift card that gives you that free cup of joe to start the day or a spa pedicure to end the day is much appreciated.

These moments of recognition, however, do not have to have a monetary basis and are not expected. For most teachers, watching their students in their classroom grow and learn and seeing that twinkle in a child’s eye when they finally grasp a concept or read their first book is reward enough. And for most parents, especially with more than one child, there is no way a parent would be able to afford to give that much to every teacher.

However, it is nice for teachers to be thanked in some way by the families of these students. Everyone loves to be appreciated and I think it is no different for teachers.

Some of my very best gifts from families have not been anything that could have been bought or sold, but they are pure treasures to me and I know many teachers who feel the same.

Below are some ideas for you.

• A card - yes, just a card. Well, a card written with specific thanks and gratitude. It means more than you know to hear that a child loves to learn, loves school, and loves his teacher and so if that is the case in your family, remember to say so. Make sure to have your child sign the card and write something too or make a separate card.

• A Letter - A heartfelt letter is quite touching because you know that this busy parent actually sat down and took the time to write a letter just for you. I still have letters from families that I kept and read through now and then.

The best are the ones that give specific examples of how you helped their child grow or shared quotes from the child or stories the child shared at home about something that went on at school. Have your child write a letter, too! These are always priceless.

• A Special Act of Service - These are the times where parents bring you lattes, lunch, or read a story for the class while you get a break to maybe just sit for a second and breathe.

It also could be where the class reads a poem they wrote or sings a song for the teacher. One of the most memorable moments ever was when my first grade class of students and families threw a surprise wedding shower with a cake and all.

Each first grader gave a toast (with sparkling cider of course), they dressed me in a toilet paper wedding gown, and even did my makeup. The other one was when my students and families held a “book” baby shower for me and each child brought their favorite board book from when they were a baby signed by them and gave it to me.

Just the other day I was reading my son a book that was given to Mrs. Brooke and her new baby, from Britni.

And yet another special moment was when one of my student’s parents who owned a restaurant treated my husband and I to a special dinner and our server just happened to be my second grade student. It was such a special memory that took a lot of thought and planning by both the parents and my second grade student. These are the acts of service that mean so much and become lifelong memories.

• A gift - Know your teacher if this is the route you go. I always LOVE to receive a book for the class library (signed by the child), a journal, a special pen or something that is inspirational like a plaque with a quote, but other teachers may not.

I would not be afraid to ask what your child’s teacher about their hobbies and interests and this might

give you some ideas. If your child really wants to give his/her teacher a gift, honor that as well. It is sweet to know that the child picked it out for you “special.”

• A Handmade Gift - I have a quilt that my first grade class made for me years ago that I treasure. I have artwork, books, stories, jewelry, poetry, and even songs that children made for me that I treasure. It is fun to have the class give little quotes and frame them or put them into some type of book for the teacher. It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal or very time consuming either.

For instance, while I was volunteering in my son’s class one day before Thanksgiving, as each child came to my reading center, I just quickly asked each one why they were thankful for their teacher. I ran home, quickly typed them up, framed it, and brought it back to the school. She was overjoyed and pleasantly surprised with such a fun gift.

For the holidays we are making ornaments of pictures of each child and putting them on a little tree. On the back of the ornaments there will be a quote saying what each child’s holiday wish is for their teacher. Often these class handmade gifts are attached with a gift card from the class fund, but it truly is these gifts of the heart that are deeply treasured.

• A Donation – I’ve had a few families along the way who have also donated money in my name to charities. This is always quite an honor and very touching. There are so many excellent charities out there but if you are not quite sure of what charity your child’s teacher may prefer giving to, one in education or that serves children is a good choice.

As your child’s first and most important teacher, thank you for teaching your child this season is not about just getting but giving, and especially to remember someone in your child’s life who gives so much to them each day. It is also a great reminder to us all that the season of giving doesn’t just have to be done during the holidays. We can give appreciation to our child’s teachers and one another all year long.

Happy Giving!

Mrs. Brooke

Joy Brooke is the first and most important teacher of her 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. She resides in downtown Kirkland with her husband and two children. Brooke is a National Board Certified teacher in Literacy: Reading- Language Arts/Early and Middle Childhood, holds a B.A. in Educational Studies and a M.A. in Educational Policy and Management from the University of Oregon. The opinions provided in this column do not reflect that of the LWSD or any other organization she is affiliated. “Like” Ask Mrs. Brooke’s Facebook page.


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