Celebrating hometown heroes: Teachers
Tuesday, 11 February 2020
Teachers, who actually spend more time with our children than we do during the school week, are often short on money, time, and appreciation.
While we can't always do anything about the first two, there are ways communities can thank teachers, individually and collectively.
“Teachers ultimately want the respect of their community. Understanding the difficulties teachers face is an important first step," says Alexandra Freeze, senior director of Communications and Advocacy for the Association of American Educators. “Fundraising is especially important. Teachers usually provide multiple ways to donate to their classroom or school. They may have a page up on DonorsChoose.org for a project that they're working on, or a list of items they need for their classrooms from the Scholastic book fair.
"Communicate with the teacher or principal of the school and make sure that what you're doing fits a need."
Skip the apple, go for the heart
Everyone means well when they drop off homemade cookies or pies as a "thank you," but they might not be aware of a teacher's food limitations. And everyone regrets an accidental food poisoning. The best gifts, teachers say, are declarations from the heart.
One of the most memorable gestures of appreciation for Leticia Guzman Ingram, Colorado's 2016 Teacher of the Year, was a book of thank-you notes from her students.
"It also contained a CD of pictures of us working together. I will always treasure this gift. It still brings me to tears when I read it," she says.
And there's no statute of limitations for a thank-you. "Recently, I went home and found my 7th grade math teacher—it has been 30 years later—to thank him for believing in me," Ingram says. "He was surprised and very thankful. People need to hear stories of how they changed lives. When I get tired or burned out, all I do is read that book in my desk from my students."
Stevie Collins, a high school ESL teacher in Los Angeles, says that fancy gifts are not necessary. “Honestly, just a heartfelt 'thank you' from a student is enough since we hardly hear it from anyone," she says. “My most memorable experiences with students saying 'thank you' are ones who either wrote a card or a letter to me to say it or ones who simply told me directly that they appreciated all of the hard work I did as a teacher, and did not want me to think it went unnoticed."
If you're the gift-giving type, don't bother with lotions or trinkets. Consider the following things that are far more useful to teachers:
- A plant. Find a cute container or decorate a plain pot.
- Supplies. Pretty much any teacher anywhere can use supplies. Just be sure to ask what's welcome so you get something that can actually be used.
- A gift card to the movies or a restaurant.
- Volunteering to read, organize the classroom, or whatever else that can lighten the load.
And if you're wondering about bringing a bottle of wine—surely there are many teachers who would welcome this—it might be forbidden. “Contact your local school or child's teacher for suggestions. School districts often have policies for what teachers may or may not accept, so it's always best to check," Freeze says.
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