The season of giving has arrived, but expressing heartfelt thanks can sometimes prove to be a challenge. Whether you’re a student, parent, admin, or a teacher yourself, you know that the educators in your life work tirelessly every day. So, what is the best way to show your gratitude? Luckily, teachers themselves from far and wide have offered their silly, serious, and honest inside scoop, brainstorming three ways you can offer a small token of appreciation this month or any month.
Words of Gratitude
“My favorite expressions of gratitude are the sweet notes that kids write to me. Hearing what matters to them helps me to understand the impact that I make. I keep a folder of these notes to look through… sometimes just for fun and sometimes when I need a little cheering up on a tough day! Some of my old students now have children of their own and it is fun to send them a copy of what they wrote to me so long ago!” (Pam, 7th and 8th-Grade Math Teacher, Vermont)
“I SO appreciate a specific note or email from parents, acknowledging the hard work and energy that I have put into their child. And it’s even better when these come DURING the year versus at the end of the school year. It’s amazing how the power of kind words can keep you motivated during even the most stressful times!” (Sara, 1st and 2nd-grade Teacher, La Paz Community School, Costa Rica)
“When I was a teacher, I was always so grateful when my administration or my fellow colleagues wrote me a note to celebrate a favorite memory or express gratitude for something that I was able to bring to the team or the school. It made me feel deeply connected to my peers and to the community in which I worked. (And, let’s be honest, chocolate or a bottle of wine didn’t hurt!)” (Audrey, former Elementary School Teacher, current Turnitin Content Manager, California)
Gift Cards #ftw
“Please, no more coffee mugs or Xmas ornaments. And no little knick-knacks from other countries! Consider gift cards to Trader Joe’s, local ice cream shops, Peet’s coffee shop, or Amazon. One year, I got a very generous gift card to a local day spa, which was lovely. Kids who really know me have brought me gift cards to French bakeries or chocolate shops, which are so special, too.” (9-12 grade English teacher, California)
“Gift cards to places I actually frequent: Trader Joe’s, Costco, Target, Amazon. Also, lavender soap or homemade baked goods, sans nuts (one girl actually emailed all her teachers to ask if we had any food allergies before giving us all this amazingly delicious pear cheesecake!). Not Starbucks! I don’t know why, but Starbucks gift cards are the most common gift I get and the ONLY reason I go to Starbucks.” (9-12 grade English teacher, California)
“Gift cards: anything that helps teachers to take care of themselves. My favorite gift years ago was a gift certificate for a massage. The note made a cute reference to how her child caused those knots.” (C, Middle School Principal, California)
Think Outside of the (Gift) Box
“Any gift that shows me that the parents and students know and care about me, not just as a teacher, but as a person outside of school! It is a memorable act of gratitude when parents and students show the same interest in who we are as people. A few years ago, I connected with a student over our love for the outdoors and camping. Her parents often asked me what I was up to over the weekend when I saw them at pick-up and drop-off. When it came to the end of the year, I received a camping hammock from them to use while I was adventuring across the country! ” (Ashley, 4th Grade Teacher, Connecticut)
“Last year, when I was teaching elementary school, a parent gave me a ‘Hope you enjoy summer break’ basket with a beach bag, sun screen, snacks, and cocktail mixers. Someone gave me a gift card for a facial and manicure once as well. My daughter’s teacher told me all she wanted was a Roomba, so I asked parents to donate money toward one. Now she never has to sweep or vacuum!” (C, Elementary School Teacher, California)
“I love it when my students give me cards that express how I helped them! I also received a personalized water bottle that was a really nice gift. Because I teach game design at our institution, swag from the games they make are wonderful mementos and decorations for my office, including the postcards and flyers. Also, international students give me treats from their home countries, which I love!” (Jane, MA Program Instructor, California)
The best "gift" I receive from students is an expression of their interest in the subject matter we have gone through together. Nothing is more gratifying than to watch a student embark on his or her own journey in biology reading, research, or coursework. It's even wonderful to hear students say they got sucked into a long bout of Wikipedia reading after a topic in class piqued their interest! (Judy, current postdoc at University of Maryland, former teaching assistant at UC Davis)
This holiday season, take a moment to offer gratitude for an educator in your life. Be it written, baked, purchased, or simply verbalized, know that no matter how you show it, a heartfelt thank you for an educator goes a long way.