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“According to Plato, ‘The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life,’” observed my pal Bernice. “So, you need to reward these heroic teachers who put up with your little rascals for the better part of the day,” she added.

This I knew, but I was getting tripped up on what to do for the teacher holiday gift. Do they really need another “#1 Teacher” mug or a pencil holder? I’m guessing not. So, I turned to my idea friends for some tips.

“I’m a gardener, so it’s usually a plant,” explained Meg. “Christmastime, a small poinsettia, and in spring, a small clay pot the kids decorated, with some herbs or annuals. Even if the teacher kills the plant, at least it has brought beauty to the world for a few days,” she joked.

“A pound box of See’s candies [$15.60 for a pound of assorted chocolates] is what we give,” said Sarah. “It’s a bit decadent, something you never buy for yourself, so it makes it a little special. And it always comes with pretty seasonal wrapping, which makes it festive.” See’s also offers sugar-free chocolates (sugar-free dark walnuts, $13.50 for 10.5 ounces).

“When I was a teacher,” Sarah continued, “I received a potholder that a student crocheted for me; and another year, a rose jewelry box. I still use that box for my earrings.”

The handmade-gift idea resonated with Nancy. “When it’s handmade, it’s truly a gift from the student — not just a gift from the parent. And the handmade piece of art helps the child perfect that art. It’s very personal, keeps them industrious…what’s not to love?”

“One year, the class gave me a book,” remembered Erica. “Each student had a page with their picture, and they wrote a little note to me. I still have that book. The nice thing about a gift like that is it doesn’t cost anything.

“I also always appreciated gift cards,” she added.

“These days, our gift is a certificate to a bookstore or to the restaurant the teachers meet at on Friday night,” offered Cathy. “But in past years, when I was broke, I would bring gifts of food. I knew how busy it was to be a teacher, so I’d give banana bread for a quick breakfast on the run or lasagna for a dinner.”

But Katie, whose husband is a teacher, said, “Homemade food items are somewhat questionable for teachers to receive. The all-time, universal, can’t-go-wrong gift is a gift certificate to a coffeehouse.”

Mike, a friend of mine who teaches auto shop at a local high school, seconded Katie’s thought. “Of course, any gift is appreciated, but you are assuming the teacher will eat your homemade cookies. This day and age, you don’t know if [the student’s] home is clean, and with all the flu-scare talk… Teachers want supplies, a Sharpie or a dry-erase-board pen. The funds for supplies for the classroom have disappeared. It used to be that teachers got $500 to buy supplies for their classrooms. Now, teachers are shelling out that much of their own money for their classroom. So, gift cards to Office Depot, Staples, or anywhere you can buy supplies would be the best.”

Julie, a high school teacher, agreed with Mike. “Teachers spend an extraordinary amount of money on their classrooms,” she said. “Clorox wipes for wiping down the desks, hand sanitizers that I’m required to have in my classroom, Post-it notes, Wite-Out — all this stuff adds up.”

But the handmade gifts also touch her heart. “Last year some of my students made me presents that represented stories that I had told them during the year.”

Birk, a middle school teacher, gives tools to coworkers. “I give a hand-tool to each of the teachers on my team,” he said. “Soon they will have a small tool kit for class repairs. A tool bag was the first gift, next a changeable-bit screwdriver, then a small hammer, followed by gloves, and then electrical tape. Pliers or Allen keys will be this year’s gift. In a time of budget cuts, maintenance always gets hit early, so teachers love having the tools to do their own quick fixes.”

Other ideal gifts, according to Birk, are books related to their subject matter and gift cards, though he let me in on a secret regarding the latter: “Gift cards are often secretly recycled,” he said, “received from one kind colleague, then handed off to another deserving coworker.”

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marko Nov. 24, 2009 @ 12:23 p.m.

any and all monies spent by a teach on any and all classroom supplies is given back to them on their federal taxes as a tax credit. so just one more indirect way i'm getting taxed.


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