LAKELAND — They have taught through a once-in-a-century pandemic — both in person and via Zoom — for more than a year. They have kept children safe while risking (or even losing) their lives, all while trying to be creative and fun.
So, shouldn’t you thank them?
It’s teacher appreciation a week in Polk County Public Schools and elsewhere and Jennifer Sabin, an academic adviser at Southeastern University in Lakeland, an education advocate and a former School Board candidate, asked her teacher friends what they really wanted from parents, Parent-Teacher Organizations, and even students.
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“In true Sabin family style, we turned it into a pun and are giving their teachers the gift of flour. Thankfully, Happy Hour Scones turned the flour into delicious treats,” Sabin wrote on Facebook, showing off boxes beautifully decorated with paper flower stickers. “Both girls also included touching notes, as well, so it would be a bit more personal.”
She added that one of her children “pilfered our yard for actual flower bouquets.”
Hands down, the most asked for items were gift cards to everything from Target to “restaurants with a happy hour.”
“I always liked gift cards for Target and coffee or other treats,” said Megan Prince-Henke, a Polk County exceptional student education teacher. “I know lots of parents like sending lotions and candles, but I’m sensitive to scents, so I gave a lot away.”
“Gift cards, especially to restaurants as I am too tired to cook!!!” wrote Ann Marie Estridge, a paraeducator at Scott Lake Elementary School. Because, as the saying goes, there’s tired and then there’s teacher tired.
“Never once have I said, ‘Wow, I have too many Starbucks gift cards,’” joked Branden Lane, a teacher at Lake Alfred Polytech. Other teachers, who said they don’t drink coffee or don’t like Starbucks, offered to give Lane their gift cards to the coffee emporium.
Surprisingly, wonderful pens came in a close second to gift cards — but not just any pens. Listed among the favorites are: Sharpies and Sharpie Gel Pens, erasable and Frixion pens, along with rainbow Flair pens.
Some teachers appreciate the unique, thoughtful and monogrammed.
“This is gonna sound crazy, but one of the best gifts I got was a gift card to have my car cleaned and detailed inside and out,” said Deborah Natale-Towles, a teacher at Southwest Elementary School. “One year PTO washed all the teachers’ cars. That was awesome.”
Natale-Towles also said that one year, she received a monogrammed beach bag that had a beach towel and sunscreen inside.
Sabin said she once gave homemade kitchen towels.
Some teachers, like EvaLena Strebin, said they were hoping for the gift of time from parents to help grade papers and clean up in their classrooms.
Amber Boyles Oyster, a teacher at Padgett Elementary School, was only half-joking when she said, “An assistant to do all my data tracking, retention paperwork and cleanup.” But then she added, “Really just gift cards for family dinners, (a) beach bag with useful goodies.”
There was one item most of the teachers said they absolutely did NOT want or need any more of: ceramic coffee mugs.
“No more coffee mugs ever,” said Kevin Peoples, a middle school teacher at The Cygnet School, setting off a flurry of reactions. He said that cash would be great.
Amy Brown Woodard added, “Louder for the people in the back!”
Becca Butcher agreed: “The world needs to know that we do not need any more teacher mugs.”
Another teacher said, “As if we could forget that’s what we do.”
One teacher, who asked to remain nameless, put her wish bluntly: “Alcohol.”
“It’s been my joke for a while. I’m just not afraid to just say it now,” she laughed. “I did get a Publix gift card once saying to go use it at the liquor store.”
Sarah Frederick, the mom of a high school student and an adult, said she always gives alcohol as gifts to her daughter’s teachers on the last day of school.
“I make all my kids’ teachers park together and I safely buckle in the bag of their favorite drink,” Frederick said. “First year of middle school I got fancy with a nice basket, but as the years have gone on… they get it in a brown paper bag with a sticky note saying YOU deserve this.”
And then she added, “If you quote me, make sure to put a disclaimer that she can ONLY have 7 teachers at a time. Once other teachers find out alcohol is the parting gift, they will all want her! Totally kidding (with three laughing emojis).”
Amelia Friedman Hart, a teacher at Blake Academy, joked to any unseen fairy godmothers out there that she didn’t want student achievement objectives to have any repercussions this year and she’d like a COVID-free field day for the students.
“In the perfect world, we could let them have fun and tire them out and teachers would take shifts having fun and monitoring,” said Friedman Hart, with one additional wish. “And, of course…. a nacho bar.”
Finally, some teachers said something personal was what they hoped for the most.
“Anything homemade from the heart,” said Natalie Cole, who teaches at Bok North in Lake Wales. During her planning period, she showed off one of her favorite gifts — an Arctic hot and cold insulated mug decorated with a minion, one of her favorite animated characters.
Amanda Anderson Leggate, a teacher at Winston Academy of Engineering, said she loves gift cards, but preferably “If it’s tucked in a card with a sweet note from the parent or student, that’s the icing on the cake!
“I’m also a sucker for anything corny!” Leggate added. “All the little sayings attached with items – ‘You’re all that and a bag of CHIPS.’ ‘We were MINT to be.’ ‘You were the WRITE teacher for my child (with flair pens).’ You’re worth 100 Grand (the candy bar – still hoping for the cash one day). Also anything with my name on it, minus a coffee mug, lol. I don’t drink coffee!”
Anderson Leggate had one final wish: she posted a picture of a large bouquet of $100 bills.
Ledger reporter Kimberly C. Moore can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7514. Follow her on Twitter at @KMooreTheLedger.
What to give a teacher
1. Gift cards for food, restaurants, Target, Wal-Mart, Michaels and Hobby Lobby.
2. Nice pens, like Sharpies and Sharpie Gel Pens, erasable and Frixion pens, along with rainbow Flair pens.
3. Beach bags with towels and sunscreen and any other beach/pool accutremont.
4. Monogrammed items.
5. Car washes.
6. Baked treats.
7. Volunteering in the classroom to grade papers and help clean up.
8. Handmade items and handwritten notes from students and parents.
10. Cold Hard Cash.
But please – no ceramic coffee mugs.