Oprah’s Early Christmas

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — December 07, 2004 1 min read

DeLores Pressley was prepared to conduct an impassioned discussion of “Teaching in America” as an invited guest on Oprah Winfrey’s popular TV show.

She hauled an armful of data and other information about McGregor Elementary School in Canton, Ohio, where she has taught the past 25 years, to the show’s Chicago studio last month to help make her case about teachers’ contributions.

Her presentation was quickly forgotten after Ms. Winfrey informed Ms. Pressley—and about 300 other teachers from around the country—that they were really there to be showered with appreciation, and merchandise, as part of the talk-show host’s annual holiday giveaway.

“They started bringing out gifts and presents all wrapped,” Ms. Pressley, a 4th grade teacher, said last week. “Everyone was screaming and clapping, laughing, and crying.”

Oprah Winfrey poses with Ohio teacher DeLores Pressley

Citing her admiration for teachers, and the tendency for them to be underpaid and underappreciated, Ms. Winfrey dedicated the Nov. 22 show to teachers. Each attendee brought home more than $15,000 in merchandise, plus about $2,500 to defray the cost of the taxes a recipient will have to pay on the gifts.

“We brought all of the most deserving teachers we could find, but I know there are thousands, and thousands, and hundreds of thousands more who are deserving, but we couldn’t fit you in the audience,” Ms. Winfrey told the group, many of whom had written to Oprah in the past or were featured in media stories. “I was so excited we were doing this for teachers, because we wanted it to be meaningful and not just about the stuff.”

But the stuff was great, too, Ms. Pressley admitted.

Among about 20 gifts were wide-screen television sets, laptop computers, top-of-the-line home appliances, designer bags, clothing, and beauty items. The teachers also received $500 gift certificates to an office-supply store to help them pay for classroom materials.

“I thought we’d get two or three things,” Ms. Pressley said, “but the things just kept coming and coming.”