From the moment parents send their little ones off on the first day of school to the sound of the school bell’s final ring of the year, a relationship between teacher and student blossoms. The end of the school year brings an opportunity to say thank you in a special way – a gift that can be as simple as a handwritten note to a gift from the entire class that collectively expresses the gratitude for the lessons big and small imparted by those special teachers.
Nan Sabella, who teaches sixth grade at Parcells Middle School in Grosse Pointe Woods, says that she loves handwritten cards and letters.
“I have mine filed under ‘H’ for ‘Happiness’ and pull them out to read after a draining day,” she notes. “They bring back smiles after many years. They mean even more with a photo of the child.”
Joan Freedman, director of curriculum and library at Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills, concurs.
“I know it sounds cliche, but one of my very favorite gifts from students is a personal note,” says Freedman. “When a student puts his feelings into words and shares that, it is special.”
Other touching gifts Freedman has received over the years include a photo mug featuring a picture of her and a student, a decorated glass container filled with a sweet treat and a pillow sewed by three of her students.
“That was really cool!” she says.
Other gift ideas
Stephanie Howay, International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme coordinator and reading specialist at De La Salle Collegiate High School in Warren, received a special gift two years ago that is a permanent fixture in her office.
“I received a plaque of sorts from one of the graduating seniors whom I had taught for two of his four years of high school,” she says. “The plaque is one of those trendy ones that are popular right now.”
The plaque features a list of life instructions including to find a passion and pursue it, dream big, tell stories, seize opportunities when they reveal themselves, live for today and make every moment count.
“It means so much to me because it embodies what I strive to teach my students,” Howay says. “Long after they leave my classroom and long after they have forgotten the Spanish or which book they liked the best during freshman year, I hope that they remember and practice all of the items listed on the plaque because, above all, living is what life is all about.”
Plaques of another sort are a unique teacher gift idea created by local mom Nicole Hill. She designs tiles personalized with a teacher’s name and sells them through her Etsy shop TileOnDesign.
“Nicole is a hard working mother of two 8-year-old twins, yet she still finds time to make these heartfelt amazing teacher gifts for both of her son’s teachers every year,” says her friend Tina Marie Wohlfield.
Another local mom, Vanessa Precious of Commerce Township, has put her creativity to use for end-of-year teacher gifts. Two years ago, with the help of another mom, she spearheaded a unique class gift for her son’s third grade teacher.
“The class collectively gave her a big Thirty-One tote with handles on it and embroidered with her initials,” she recalls. “We filled it with gifts from A to Z. Each family took a letter or two and chose gifts the teacher would like corresponding to that letter.”
Among the tote’s contents: Ziploc bags for Z, apples for A, a Starbucks gift card for S, Junior Mints for J (a favorite treat of the teacher’s).
“We packaged it all together with the appropriate letter stuck to each item,” Precious recalls. “It was unique and personal. She loved it!”
Sabella notes that favorite gifts include anything that can be shared with the class.
“That could include a plant, popsicles, classroom balls and games for outdoor and indoor fun, classroom books, a CD of classical background music or something cute for her desk,” she says. “One year it was flower pens in a planter. I give the kids a flower pen now when they need extra ‘flower power’ during tests!”
Mary Tovey, fourth grade teacher at Bemis Elementary in Troy, agrees that gifts that can be put to use in the classroom are particularly useful. She is a fan of Schoolgirl Style, an online business created by Melanie Ralbusky of Grand Blanc, that allows teachers to print out unique and themed classroom decor.
“The site has super cute stuff that is very applicable to a teacher’s life,” Tovey notes. “A gift card for the site would be a great idea for an end-of-the-year gift.”
Gifts that can be kept on your person can also be an extra special expression of gratitude.
Anne Labadie, a first grade teacher in Northville recalls once receiving a bracelet that contained each student’s birthstone color.
“It was so thoughtful,” she says. “One of the moms made it.”
Heather Sofran, a fourth grade teacher at St. Regis School in Bloomfield Hills, recalls the class gift she received after her first year teaching at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Beverly Hills many years ago.
“Each family contributed and gave me a Tiffany bracelet,” she recalls fondly. “The parents told me that they wanted me to have something that would always remind me of that first class.”
This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.