Of all the people in a 4-year-old's life, one of the most important (outside of Mom, Dad, sibs, grands and the cousins) is their preschool teacher. With that in mind, many parents choose to remember these educators with a little treat at the holidays. But have you ever wondered what preschool teachers consider the best gifts they ever received? The answers may surprise you.
Why give a teacher gift at all? It's simply a symbol of appreciation for the hard work that goes into the job. In the case of preschool teachers, the challenges include helping students socialize with each other and follow unfamiliar class rules. Then there are the little daily dramas: fights over toys, spells of homesickness, and soiled pants (because accidents do happen). But preschool teachers also have the privilege of exposing children to everyday wonders: the change in seasons, sensory explorations, observing caterpillars becoming butterflies, and that wonderful "aha!" moment of realizing that the ABCs unlock all the stories in the world. By the time the school year is over, those shy little ones have become self-confident, independent children ready for kindergarten and beyond.
In my own experience on the job, I've been given many wonderful holiday gifts from my students' parents (and if you're one of them, I thank you again). I and other teachers I've spoken to agree that it's definitely the thought that counts, and that even a heartfelt message in a card can mean more than all the coffee mugs in the world. But as far as tangible gifts go, these are just a few examples of the holiday remembrances that stand out, according to real teachers. Some are unexpected, some humorous, and some will leave you misty-eyed.
A (Returnable) Vase
"I once received an enormous Lenox vase from a student. It was beautiful, but I was young and broke at the time, and my car's tires were dangerously worn down. I was able to return the vase to the store for cash to purchase new tires, so I really was grateful for the fabulous gift." -Stephanie
A Meaningful Bracelet
"Right now, I'm looking at and wearing one of the best gifts I've ever gotten. It's an angel bracelet. If I'm having a tough day, I look at it to remind me that what I say and do has meaning to the kids in my class." -Lisa
A Store Gift Card
"Once, a parent gave me a Macy's gift card. As it happened, money was tight for my husband and me that year, and we were afraid we wouldn't be able to buy gifts for our young daughter. That card was like a miracle; it helped give our family a very nice Christmas." -Joanne
A Bottle Of Cheer
"I got a nice bottle of wine from a parent, along with a thank-you note telling me to relax and enjoy. Need I say more?" -Dina
A Class Project
"My students' parents got together and made a class book for me with all the kids' writings and drawings. I love it." -Lisa
A Pretty...Coaster (?)
"The most memorable gift I ever got was a pewter disk-shaped object. It looked like a coaster — except there was only one, and coasters usually come in sets of four. My student was so excited that he insisted that I open it right away, and after I gushed at how thoughtful and lovely (and heavy!) it was, he asked me, "What is it?" I told him that it was a fancy place to put my coffee cup, and I prayed that I was right, just in case my answer went back to his mother!" -Anonymous
A Kitchen Aid
"Last year, a student gave me a ceramic spoon rest. I was a little puzzled at first, since it was so different from any other gift I'd ever gotten as a teacher. But I'd never used one before, and I didn't realize how useful they are. It has a permanent place on my stove now, and I think of that student every time I see it." -Vanessa
A Basket Of Treats
"Several of the moms in my class one year asked me for a basic list of things I liked: favorite food, hobbies, etc. For Christmas, they joined together and created a big basket for me. It contained movie tickets, a cookbook, a puzzle, and a homemade meal of spaghetti and meatballs, Italian bread and a bottle of wine! My family and I enjoyed the dinner that night, and continued to use the other items in the basket well into the spring and beyond. It was the most considerate and memorable gift I've ever gotten." -Elizabeth
A Pampering Gift
"My first year teaching preschool, a parent gave me a holiday gift bag with a little box of chocolates and a body wash and lotion set. It might not seem all that unique, but for a new and overwhelmed teacher, it was a much-needed message that it was okay to take a break and do something nice for myself." -Anonymous
A Religious Item
"A friend of mine had a student in her class whose family had recently moved here from a Middle Eastern country. For Christmas, the family gave her a clock with a picture of Jesus on it. Even though she was a barely-practicing Catholic, she thought it was so sweet that they wanted to honor her faith." -Kimberly
A Cultural Memento
"I once had a student whose family came from the Philippines. For the holidays, they gave me a decorative collapsible Filipino basket carved from a single piece of wood. I loved both the basket and the fact that they were sharing their culture with me." -Rosa
An Inspiring Message
"I began my career as an assistant in a preschool after-care program. For the holidays that year, a parent gave me a Visa gift card. That in itself was unexpected and thoughtful, but what was written on the card brought an unbelievable lump to my throat: 'Keep changing lives.' I told the mom, 'But I'm just an after-school worker.' She said, 'You don't understand. You're doing more than you know.' I still get emotional thinking about it." -Samantha
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