I tell my students not to buy me presents or give me treats. Some of them still do anyway, and I appreciate it, but I tell them that if they truly want to thank me, celebrate a holiday, or make my day, then they don't need to spend money. The gift that means more than anything to me is the gift of words.
I give my students words all the time, and I try to help them find their own words every day. So if they really want to give me something special, they know to write me letters or emails. I save these in both digital and concrete "Happy Thoughts" folders. Even just reading through some that I've received over the years to post for today brought tears, laughs, and memories. These words, given over the years, are with me forever. That's why they are the best gift.
These are the best gifts any teacher could ask for. They remind me of why I do what I do, and they show me that it's working. They reveal the parts of my personality that students respond to most. I said the other day that the part I love most about teaching is creating relationships, so the best gifts for me are these letters: the tangible proof of those relationships. Some of these kids probably forgot they ever wrote and sent these to me, but I'll keep them forever.
And yes, I write a personalized thank you note back to every student who has ever taken the time to give me the gift of words.
*Side note to any parents who might stumble upon this: Don't spend a bunch of time and money on some elaborate Pinterest teacher gift nonsense. If your kid likes a teacher, have them write a quick thank you. If you, as a parent, appreciate a teacher, send a quick positive email. Spreading the love does a lot of good in this world.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.