Creative ways to thank teachers


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By KATIE WORKMAN

A great teacher is a gift that can last a lifetime. So how to show our thanks?

Many teachers say their favorite gifts are homemade. Presents that speak to a child's genuine feelings for the teacher, or reflect the teacher's interests, are the most authentic. Time and thought trump money.

Gifts can be from your individual child, or something a whole class can participate in.

Oh, and don't forget to also show gratitude to your school's security folks, kitchen staff, administration, maintenance crew ... all the people who make the school tick.

At my kids' school in New York City, a small group of parents created a Cookie of the Month initiative. Every month, a couple of grades are asked to bake a specific type of cookie, which changes month to month. Parents and kids can volunteer to bake a batch, and then the cookies are collected in the cafeteria on a certain day and distributed in cookie jars and cute containers with signage saying thanks. The baking responsibility is distributed among all grades throughout the year, and many parents and kids take the opportunity to bake together.

Some other ideas:

Crafty projects Older kids can make tote bags with appreciative messages written in permanent markers, or decorate the classroom door with notes and artwork as a surprise. Little kids can create a tote bag with, say, handprints in non-washable paint; word clouds with words and phrases that the kids associate with their teacher; thumbprints collected on a sturdy poster board that can be turned into a bouquet of balloons or leaves on a tree.

"I loved when my students put together a 'Thank You' teacher booklet where all the children completed a page and the book was bound with a spiral type of binding," says Kathleen Casey, who teaches second grade in Fairlawn, New Jersey. "My favorite all-time gift was an original superhero comic book starring me as the superhero who saves the world by teaching important lessons!"

Pam London, a preschool art teacher in Springfield, Virginia, said, "One year a family gave me an envelope with a bunch of Polaroids of their child with her favorite creations from class. I just loved that."

It's simple to have each kid in the class make a card, and bind them together with a pretty ribbon.

Anna Moshura, an assistant principal at the Brooklyn School of Inquiry in New York and a former science and kindergarten teacher, fondly remembers receiving a personalized calendar adorned with student artwork and class pictures.

A good old-fashioned handwritten note, drawing or other type of artwork would also make a teacher happy, she says.

Individually inspired itemsIf you know your teacher loves a particular smoothie or coffee drink, get a gift card from his or her favorite place. Keep the amount small if it's from a single child, but if the whole class is chipping in, then you can think about larger purchases, like a certificate for a pottery class or new running shoes.

Antonia Fusco, an elementary school reading teacher in New York City, appreciated receiving "a charm bracelet with different trinkets, symbolizing my different likes and interests."

Or consider a ball jar of a teacher's favorite color pencil (with a cute label), a baseball cap from her favorite team or a mug with a funny on-point saying.

Add a personal note to any store-bought item.

Gifts that lastName a star for a teacher, adopt a penguin in their name from the World Wildlife Fund, or give a personalized leather book cover to the teacher who likes to journal.

"Perennial plants are lovely gifts and help me to remember my students,'' Casey added. "I've been gifted tiny rose bushes over the years that are now enormous!"

And there's no statute of limitations on saying thanks. Jennifer Preuss, a first-grade teacher in Encino, California, recently received an email from a mom whose son she had taught five years earlier. The boy was asked during an interview for middle school which four people he would most like to have dinner with, and he included his first-grade teacher. She was delighted to know her teaching had made such a lasting impact.

Homemade food

A prettily wrapped quick bread, a small basket of cookies, jams and other preserves, herbed vinegars, homemade granola — there are many delicious ways to express appreciation for a teacher.

Moshura loves getting baked goods from students, sometimes with the recipe attached.

Finally, you can always go with the classic shiny red apple (a hand-picked one is a good call).



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