Student Gifts Come From the Heart

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!


Comments (7)

  1. One of my most treasured gifts was from a boy who came from an economically struggling family. He washed and polished two rocks that he found in his wanderings. He wrapped them in a handkerchief and tied the package together with twine. When I opened it, there was an overwhelming smell of Pledge furniture polish. His eyes were sparkling in anticipation. He was so proud of himself! I taught for seven years at that school, and the rocks sat on my desk as paperweights. In my many moves the rocks have been lost, but every time I smell Pledge furniture polish, memories of that little boy and his heartfelt gift come flooding back!

  2. When I taught in Kansas City, KS I received a large blue
    Satiny card with couple of grease spots Ann an erased signature
    Inside. It was written over ans signed with love and
    the student’s name. It was obvious that it had been her
    Treasured possession. Over 30 years later, I still have it. It is now
    My treasure.

  3. This year I had a student do the 12 days of Christmas. He bought in a little something each day. I have never felt sooooo appreciated. Today as I wear, my Christmas blub braclet, light up Santa necklace and my Christmas socks, I am happy because he thought enough to see that I smile for 12 days.

  4. About 8 years ago I recieved a Christmas cactus in a clay pot that a student made and painted herself.
    It is blooming right now in my home. It is beauiful and makes me smile every time I look at it.

  5. One of my student gave me a wrapped candy bar, home made card, and a letter written on multiple 3*5 cards. In this heartfelt note, he thanked me for believing him, inspiring him & being a reason for him not being a part of gang. According to him, my talks with him and belief in him brought him back on good side.

    I am not an gang expert and do not know much about when and how far one need to be embedded before there is point of no return. I believe that the student was thanking me truly. I will always cherish the note and sentiment behind it.

  6. So many treasured items…
    one is a ceramic dog that a child painted for me with my dog’s name, Cade, on it, because he loved it when I told them stories about the dog. It’s on my desk.
    Another was a flower pot from my room mother. She had each child sign it, then glazed and fired it. It’s on my bedroom dresser – and I haven’t killed the plant yet!
    An absolutely hideous used necklace that a child with extremely limited funds got me from a garage sale.
    A huge card made of a poster size cardboard with well wishes from my students when I had surgery.
    The hand made card from a student telling me that how much I had influenced him and how much he appreciated it.
    The drawings my little girls make for me.
    They all just melt your heart!!!

  7. A charished gift came from a first-grade Mexican student who was struggling to learn English. She gave me a little plastic tray with a picture of some adorable burros gathered around a picnic table under a ramada in a lovely outdoor desert setting. In the corner was a 10 cent yard sale sticker. Across the bottom were the words, ‘Board of Directors.’ It sits on my desk holding post-it notes and reminds me of how difficult it is to learn to live in a foreign culture. After twenty-five years it still brings tears to my eyes.

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