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Gift guide: What teachers really want for the holidays

Scented bubble bath? Goofy holiday socks? Ornament in the shape of an apple? You shouldn’t have. Really!

These are items your child’s teacher doesn’t need for the holidays. When it comes to finding a gift for your child’s teacher, think simple, practical and from the heart.

Most teachers — particularly those who work in low-income schools — suggest skipping gifts entirely and helping your child create a handmade card.

“I cherish a heartfelt note from the parent the most,” says Caitlin Klem, who teaches kindergarten at Mountain View Elementary School in Prescott Valley. “I spend so much time building relationships with students and families, it is nice when the sentiment is returned.”

Mark Atwood, a long-time middle school social studies teacher at Ward Traditional Academy in Tempe, says he keeps every card and note his students write to him in a large file in his desk. He also cherishes a big collection of hand-made mugs and holiday ornaments and displays many in his home.

I began teaching a little more than two years ago and, during that time, students have surprised me with gifts ranging from a wine store gift certificate to tea from a child’s hometown in China. I have loved these exotic items — along with every other gift children have given me. But I join a large chorus of teachers who suggest to parents that unusual and expensive gifts are not needed.

Instead, take time to help your child write a note about what they like about their class. If you really want to buy something, make it something practical, like school supplies.

“Sharpies may be more useful than a mug,” Klem says.

If you really insist on buy something for a special teacher, here are some suggestions that most any teacher would appreciate:

  • A gift card for Amazon, Target or another store with a wide variety of merchandise
  • A movie theater gift card
  • Tea bags, power bars or other healthful snack items
  • Classroom supplies
  • A donation in the teacher’s name to a cause the teacher supports

Cathryn Creno is a former education news reporter who teaches middle school in the Tempe Elementary School District.

• Noisy toys to avoid this holiday season



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