What to give the teachers
Teacher gifts can be controversial. What is appropriate? What would the teacher actually like to receive? In other parts of the country, where parents have been known to attempt to buy better grades for their children, there are actually detailed ethics guidelines for what can and cannot be given.
More than one state has recently enacted ethics regulations that prohibit parents from giving anything of value to a teacher (cookies are fine, gift cards are not).
In Sonoma, teacher gifting seems to be a lot less structured and more varied. Popular items that parents tend to gravitate toward include gift cards, manicures and pedicures, candles, school and craft supplies (teachers frequently must buy these items on their own), small plants, home-baked goods, movie coupons, student photos of scrapbooks and, unique to our little corner of the world, wine is frequently a popular gift.
Another frequent option is to set up a class collection, asking each parent to donate $5 a child (or whatever they would like to give) to purchase one large gift together, whether it is a gift certificate to a local eatery or a favorite store. Along with the gift, every student signs the card and presents it to the teacher at a holiday party or the last day of class.
But I was curious about what teachers would actually like to receive.
Using Facebook and email, I polled a number of teachers in Sonoma to find out what kinds of gifts they enjoy receiving at Christmas and the responses paint a really beautiful picture of the attitude our teachers have toward their jobs.
Far and away the most commonly cited request from teachers was a note that says something like, “Thank you for doing a demanding yet important job that each day helps my child become a better person.” None of the teachers I spoke with expected gifts, but almost all talked about their love of a simple thank you note. Along those same lines, a letter of appreciation with a copy sent to the school principal is a gift that can have long-term positive implications for that teacher. Other frequent suggestions included school supplies, items for the classroom and anything homemade by students.
Specific suggestions from Sonoma teachers:
“What is most appreciated by me is students and parents who will tell you how much they have benefited from the help that you have given them. It reenergized me to continue doing what I do to help others. Most people show their appreciation and this is always welcome and wanted.”
– Robert Rocha,
Altimira School counselor
“I hope I don’t sound too old-fashioned or corny when I say that the best gift I receive from my students is when they tell me that reading has now become one of their favorite pastimes. I’ve worked in Sonoma Valley for 25-plus years now – as a Special Day Class teacher, a resource specialist and a speech/language -athologist – and literacy has always been a primary focus of mine for my students. I never tire of hearing a student say, ‘Hey Ms. Ruebush! Guess what book I just finished?’ and then spending a bit of time discussing it together. For me, that’s the gift I always love to receive!”
– Lynn Ruebush,
Adele Harrison Middle School
“Speaking personally, the most appreciated teacher gifts I receive are school supplies. I can use: Kleenex, markers, construction paper, Post-its, scratch paper, or anything hand-made by the student (cookies, cards, etc.)”
– Lisa Tremblay,
Altimira Middle School