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This holiday, don’t forget the teachers

Now that we’re done with Thanksgiving, our thoughts turn to the most important decision we’ll make this holiday season. What in the world are we going to give our kids’ teachers? Blow this and your kid is looking at a dramatic drop in his grade-point average after the winter break.

No matter how tough the times, don’t hold out on teachers even if you can only afford a packet of gum or a box of animal crackers. Do it and do so with élan. If your child arrives empty handed the day before Christmas vacation, it will be on your conscience forever.

Teachers say all they want is a heartfelt thank you letter or card. A heartfelt thank you is sweet, but what will bring tears to her eyes is the $25 gift certificate tucked inside.

My Chinese mother would say cash is rather crude. But I say 12 coffee mugs, six Christmas tree ornaments, and three candles each multiplied by 10 years (the duration of my teaching career) is a whole lot of DSAs (damn-sit-arounds) sitting in boxes gathering dust somewhere. My husband complains that I have too much in the attic — too much of too little value and, of course, he’s right. I still have coffee mugs from my first grade class of 1978. Who says I’m not sentimental?

For some reason, cash converted into a gift card or gift certificate is not crude. In fact, it is classy. Don’t slip her a 20-dollar bill, but you could slip her a $20 dollar gift card.

Don’t hesitate to have your little one do your research for you. Prompt your child to find out if Mrs. Teachwell likes going to the movies, to the hot-springs or does she like coffee from the coffee shops. The teacher won’t be suspicious. Your child already asks plenty of personal questions such as, “Do you ever go to the bathroom?” and “How much money do you have?”

My most memorable gift was from a 6-year-old Vietnamese boy who gave me a handmade card with two Vietnamese eggrolls tucked inside. Normally I would counsel against homemade treats unless the teacher has been to your house and seen your kitchen. Otherwise, she’s tossing it.

Try to steer clear of jewelry unless you are well acquainted with your child’s teacher’s tastes in earrings or neck adornment. Your child will expect the teacher to wear them and won’t stop asking about it until he sees it on Mrs. Teachwell. Spare the teacher, please.

And … nothing that says “Best Teacher” unless it is written on a card. Also, no ceramic apples. It may all seem cute and quaint to you, but what is Mrs. Teachwell supposed to do with a collection of “Best Teacher” and ceramic apple knickknacks.

Now, my mother-in-law … she is very special. A veteran kindergarten teacher of 38 years, she is now retired with a collection of teaspoons. She collects them and her kindergarteners over the years have generously added to her collection. She has one entire 40-foot wall of her house divvied up by a contractor into miniscule display shelves. She has more than 5,000 teaspoons from all over the world. I don’t think I have five thousand of anything, except maybe daily calories. Each spoon carries a memory of the child that gave it to her — good, bad or indifferent.

I used to have a coffee mug with the student’s picture on it. Goodness sakes! I look at the child all day long. Why would I want to stare at his “mug” when I have my cup of hot water to relax and decompress. What was his mom thinking?

And be warned: if you regift or give a teacher something you got for free, your child will tell. And did I tell you I also once received a “Happy Valentine’s Day” mug for Christmas from a sweet, little Swedish girl? I chalked that one up as a cultural snafu.

In this day and age, a NetFlix subscription is not a bad idea. Lord knows teachers need an escape from the reality of dealing with kids all day. Or a gift card to the local bookstore. That way Mrs. Teachwell can buy something she actually wants to read.

Gift certificate is king as far as I’m concerned. I know many parents would give each of their kid’s teachers $100 if they could. They work really hard, and they aren’t paid enough. I’m not suggesting that teachers can be bought or their affections swayed with a well-timed gift. Ulterior motive in gift giving? Nah! Parents give because they are grateful for what teachers do for their children every day.

Recent columns by Jodi Starr and Carmen Hubbs mentioned purchasing $25 United Way “Party ’Round Pagosa” dining certificates to local restaurants as a gift for your child’s teacher, friends or family. Brilliant idea! These certificates can be redeemed at full face value at any of 20 participating restaurants in Pagosa Springs. The participating restaurants have agreed to generously donate $5 out of each redeemed certificate to United Way. This fund-raiser is well received by the public and certificates are selling quickly.

The following is a list of local restaurants that are participating in this program: Alley House Grille, Bacci Italian Restaurant, Bear Creek Saloon and Grill, Boss Hogg’s Restaurant and Saloon, Buffalo Inn Restaurant and Bar, Cafe Colorado, Dogwood Cafe, Dorothy’s Restaurant, Elkhorn Cafe, Farrago?Market Café, Higher Grounds Coffee Company, JJ’s Riverwalk Restaurant and Pub, Junction Restaurant, Kip’s Grill and Cantina, Nello’s Espresso Bar and Cafe, Ole Miner’s Steakhouse, Pagosa Baking Company, Rose Restaurant, The Floured Apron and Bakery, and Victoria’s Cafe.

If you are ever going to eat a meal out, buy and use the Party ’Round Pagosa gift certificates. Support and thank the restaurants that have agreed to participate. You have nothing to lose! The community has a lot to gain!

You can purchase Party ‘Round Pagosa gift certificates from any United Way Advisory Council member, from the 15 partner agencies who will receive program funding, from the Pagosa Springs Chamber of Commerce or from the Pagosa Lakes Recreation Center.

Advisory Council members selling tickets are: David Musser, Dick Babillis, Carol Baker, Cindi Galabota, Livia Cloman Lynch, Ming Steen, Tom Steen, Carolyn Warszawski, Codie Wilson, John Weiss and Jo Bridges.

The 15 partner agencies selling tickets are: American Red Cross Southwest Colorado Chapter, Archuleta County Education Center, Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Colorado, Colorado Housing Inc., Girl Scouts of Colorado, Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County, Pagosa Outreach Connection, Pagosa Pregnancy Support Center, San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (Archuleta County Senior Center), San Juan Basin Health (Southwest Smile Makers Dental Program), Seeds of Learning, Southwest Colorado Mental Health Center, Southwest Conservation Corps and Volunteers of America (Southwest Safe House).