By EdVoices December 1, 2011 10:16 am
What’s so special about two green candles? If you are Alabama teacher Kristy Terry Black, the answer is simple – everything.
It was more than a decade ago that a student with extremely limited financial means cleaned out two used glasses and scraped together the money to purchase green candles to place inside them – all so he could present Black with a holiday gift.
“It was the thought and effort of the child that made it so special,” Black said. “It has been over 10 years and they are still on display in my classroom.”
As the holiday season begins, many students and their families will offer educators small gifts as tokens of their appreciation. And in a recent discussion on the National Education Association’s Speak Up For Education & Kids Facebook page, educators say there’s plenty of truth in the old adage that it’s the thought that counts.
In fact, educators consistently said that the gifts that moved them the most throughout their careers were low on cost and high on sentiment.
“The things I get from students who I know have so little touch my heart in ways that are difficult to adequately describe,” said Sharon McLaughlin, a special education teacher from Washington. “Those are the kids who tend to give me things.”
Wisconsin educator Sarah Wagner may have received some strange looks hauling a side of beef around the school parking lot, but it was a labor love – and gratitude. For years, a local farming family provided Wagner with a beef roast because they knew she had four children of her own to feed.
“They were farmers and gave me what they could,” Wagner said. “I always appreciated it.”
Of course, homemade crafts and notes are always valued, and many become permanent fixtures in educators’ classrooms or homes. If you visit Alabama educator Amy Vaughan Folmar’s house, you’ll see a framed portrait a student drew of her one year. Rebecca Gilmore taught a student three years in a row, from grades three to five, and the student’s parents presented her with a collage of photos of Gilmore and the student.
“It is in my box of treasured memories,” Gilmore said.
Teacher Lori Mack said she still fondly remembers the year a student gave her a single pink crayon with a note explaining why she selected that color for Mack – and thanking her for the passion she brought to the classroom each day. The student selected a different color and wrote a separate note for all her teachers.
And, very often, those heartfelt notes bring tears to educators’ eyes and become cherished treasures as they look back on their careers. Those notes can also be a great source of inspiration during difficult years.
“What has meant the most to me are the cards and letters,” McLaughlin said. “I save them all and reread them from time to time.”
What are some of the most meaningful gifts you have received from students and their families? Please share your thoughts below!