Simple tokens, notes warm teachers' hearts

Published: Monday, Dec. 19 2005 12:09 a.m. MST

Chocolates? Candles? A classroom set of crayons?

Those wondering what to give teacher for Christmas need look no further.

The tokens that tend to warm teachers most are perhaps the simplest of all: handwritten notes.

"Those are the best," said Michelle Evans, sixth-grade teacher at Valley Elementary in Weber County. "I keep those."

So does Reg Weaver, president of the 2.7 million-teacher strong National Education Association and a classroom teacher of 30 years.

So does Jay Blain, president of the Granite Education Association.

Bluffdale Elementary sixth-grade teacher Michelle Daly even has some from her first year of teaching. She's been in the profession 10 years.

"I have a file," which she reads on a bad day, Daly said. "(The notes say) really specific things, specific ways I had helped their student. I was glad to know they recognized that."

Notes are among several gift-giving tips forwarded by the NEA this holiday season. For those who prefer to give something else, here are some ideas:

• Organize a class gift. "One of my favorite (gifts) is when the kids sneak behind your back. They made me an apron," said Evans, a 19-year veteran teacher. "Things like that are really cool."

Daly, who is expecting her first child, has an inkling kids might be cooking up something for baby. "I hear them plotting," she says.

Meanwhile, her students are making a classroom gift — for others. They've created winter hats for homeless students and those displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

• Keep it simple. Extravagant gifts are unnecessary, and can put pressure on other children who can't match the generosity, Jordan Education Association President Scott Berryessa says.

"I did everything I could to discourage that, just because it causes all kinds of problems," said Berryessa, a former elementary schoolteacher and school psychologist.

Berryessa suggests gift-inclined parents offer presents privately.

Daly opens gifts while alone, and offers personal thanks afterward to prevent pressure or hurt feelings.

But that's not to say tokens of appreciation are unwelcome or breed negativity. Quite the contrary, Evans said.

"It's just an expression of the heart," she said. "I think it's great kids can learn to appreciate the work others do for them."

• Check the school's policy. Utah law prohibits government employees, including teachers, from accepting gifts over $50, said Martin Bates, Granite District assistant to the superintendent on legal issues and policy.

Other than that, Granite has no policy governing gifts. Neither does Davis School District.

"Any gift a kid gives is from the heart," Davis spokesman Chris Williams said. "It's a fun time of year for everyone. I don't think the gifts have gotten too extravagant by any means."

• Buy a gift certificate — for movies, a bookstore or scrapbook store — a present that once made Daly's day.

• Create a book of coupons that can be redeemed for parent volunteer hours or other good deeds.

Berryessa suggests a class could compile a coupon book on what each child might give the teacher — maybe a contract for improving schoolwork, turning in homework on time, improving classroom behavior.

Now, what teacher wouldn't treasure that?


E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com

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