During the holiday season, some students stress over finding the perfect presents for their teachers—but most teachers agree that the best gifts don’t come with a price tag. Educators shared on Twitter that used Sharpies, rubber gloves, and old ornaments can be just as valuable as gift cards and expensive items.
#BestTeacherGift was when a student was removed from his home, and my friends & I bought him clothes for school. To thank me, he brought me a rock from home bc he didn’t have anything else to give me. After 9 yrs, it still sits on my desk. :) #grateful
— Jess Timmons (@Jess_Tims) December 20, 2017
These responses from teachers show that when it comes to gifts from students, it’s truly the thought that counts:
Gifts inspired by lessons. “Two of my English/songwriting students wrote a song for me when they graduated,” teacher Steven McCarty tweeted. “It’s a gift that can never be spent. I’m a tough guy, but I still get teary when I hear it.”
Rebecca McGaughey, a teacher in Minnesota, tweeted, “After reading ‘A Christmas Carol,’ a few girls got together and bought Scrooge socks for me!”
And one science teacher shared a student gift with a memorable back story:
A student in my physics class had gone to the house of Isaac Newton. He had his brother distract a guard while he stole a leaf from the famous apple tree for me. He pressed it and brought it to school. #BestTeacherGift pic.twitter.com/4g84c6tnfE
— Philip Joubert (@absolute_phil) December 19, 2017
Homemade arts and crafts. For 4th grade teacher Jessica Goodenow, her favorite gifts are “the sweet, hand painted, #1 teacher mugs. Hits me right in the feels.” Lee Ann Bussolari, a primary school teacher in Spain, still treasures a personalized book with photos of her students, while special education teacher Michelle Gallagher most appreciated “a handmade quilt embroidered with a message from the students—simply amazing and beautiful.”
Other teachers shared photos of their favorite handmade gifts:
One of my students hand carved stamps for me of things I love.
Another student crafted these rhetorical analysis candy heart magnets for Valentine’s Day. pic.twitter.com/upxjiN3BsR
— Pamela L Smith (@PamelaLSmith7) December 20, 2017
— Kimberly Perrone (@MsKimPerrone) December 19, 2017
Gifts that gave back. For some teachers, the best presents were those given to others. Seventh grade social studies teacher Jonathan Dunne tweeted that his favorite gift was “a donation made in my name to help needy students.” Elementary teacher Ellen Rogers said the same. “I don’t really need gifts and there are others that really do,” she tweeted.
The parent of one of Canadian teacher Helena Broad‘s students showed the spirit of giving with a $1,000 donation to provide presents for other students. And a small act of kindness from the 2012 Utah Teacher of the Year inspired a meaningful donation from one of her students:
Years ago, I taught a college class where one of my students was in a safe house with her children. I gave her money for food. One Christmas, she repaid me with a donation in my name to another safe house. I was deeply moved. She taught me much more than I taught her.
— Leigh VandenAkker (@leighnakker) December 20, 2017
Handwritten notes. Heartfelt letters of gratitude and appreciation were teachers’ most common response to our question. “I absolutely love the handwritten cards/letters from students letting me know how my class has impacted them personally,” 8th grade science teacher Paul Strauss tweeted. “Coffee cards are always great but nothing compares to sharing of the heart.”
Personal letters and memories like these. But then candy, coffee, and other gifts pick me up too! pic.twitter.com/30Z2k30vjg
— JoAnne Owens (@LeadMe2Teach) December 20, 2017
Another middle school teacher agreed, tweeting, “Without doubt, the letters from students themselves [are the best teacher gift]. About what your class meant to them, what you meant to them... those are the keepers. Still have some that are over 20 years old.”
For one high school English teacher, a bittersweet note was the best gift she has received from a student:
Former student wrote me from prison, apologizing, because he said he knew I believed he could do better with his life.
— Renee Moore (@TeachMoore) December 19, 2017
The gratitude they express when they achieve a goal and know it wasn’t alone...it was with their teacher.
— Daniel Walker (@wiseoldarch) December 20, 2017
Also, the most thoughtful gifts for me have come, in some cases, years later where your former students work alongside you on projects, build things in your home and become lifelong friends. I’ve been blessed that way.
— Brian Preece (@coachbpreece) December 19, 2017
Teachers, what’s the best gift you’ve received from a student? Share in the comments or on Twitter with #BestTeacherGift.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.