Practicing gratitude has been shown to boost happiness and positivity. While gratitude should be a year-round practice, the holidays are a time many people choose to express their gratitude and appreciation in the form of a gift. These gifts range from heartfelt, handwritten thank-you notes to gift cards, but the essence of gift-giving remains the same—showing that you care.
Giving gifts to teachers is a wonderful tradition that can uplift teachers and remind them that they’re making a difference in the lives of their students. Amy Goldstein, a parent in New Jersey, makes a point to always thank teachers and staff.
“As a parent, I do think acknowledging teachers—especially during COVID—is so important to keeping up teacher morale. A thoughtful gift or note can be very encouraging,” said Goldstein.
When deciding on a gift for your teachers consider inclusivity, practicality and meaningfulness. Here are some tips.
Inclusivity should be considered in two separate contexts: group gifts and including everyone who’s involved in your child’s school day. Group gifts are a popular option in schools to express appreciation. When there is a group gift, all parents should be welcome to contribute with no pressure on specific dollar amounts.
Elaine Swann, an etiquette expert and founder of The Swann School of Protocol, gives some practical advice, “I encourage folks to show gratitude to teachers. Parents who want to give a group gift should set some guidelines. I suggest that everyone contribute the amount they want, and then the group can pick a gift based upon the funds they have received. Do not set the amount or the gift first; this will take the pressure off individuals to give a specific amount.”
The other side of inclusivity is that a show of gratitude for custodial and administrative staff is important too.
Eshed Doni, the founder of GiftCrowd (an online platform that makes buying and receiving gifts easy, yet still personal), said, “One of the things that makes me happiest is that in addition to teachers, custodial staff are being recognized by parents and students for their hard work.”
Practicality is also key to consider because if parents are spending the time, effort and money to show appreciation, they do not need to add to a teacher’s unwieldy collection of mugs or scented candles. A lot of teachers spend money out of their own pockets on school supplies, so think about how you can give your teachers something they can use for their classroom.
Nicole Askenas, a middle school teacher in Maryland, explains, “When I receive gift cards—other than those for coffee—I put the money right back into the classroom; on a teacher’s salary, anything helps.”
The meaningfulness of the gift is most important to teachers. Askenas keeps a “sunshine box.”
“I’ve collected letters, poems and drawings. Genuine letter writing shows how much of an impact you’ve made and how much your students care,” said Askenas. She even has a virtual “sunshine folder” on her computer so she can keep tangible reminders of why she loves teaching.
Doni recognizes the importance of this and recommends using a resource like GiftCrowd, which compiles all of the individual messages and photos left by families, creating a digital file for teachers to save.
Keepsakes for Years to Come
Deborah Zohn, a retired music teacher, who taught for 35 years in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, kept her own version of the “sunshine box,” which she called the “feel good drawer.”
“The drawer turned into a box and then a large carton, and I still have it,” said Zohn. “I never wanted any gifts. When students show up for chorus each day—despite what is going on in their lives—and give me what they can, that is the greatest gift. That is why people teach.”
Nevertheless, each year, Zohn’s students would collect money and give her gifts. Because instilling in students the idea of giving to others is an important lesson, she says if you want to give your teacher a gift, consider donating to a worthwhile organization in the teacher’s name.
Giving, gratitude, appreciation—these enhance the lives of everyone touched by these practices.
Leslie Perlmutter is a freelance writer living in New Jersey who writes about parenting, education and health.
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