To kids, Thanksgiving can seem like a second-rate holiday. It doesn’t offer the wild costumes, delayed bedtimes and candy-fueled dreams of Halloween, nor does it come with the present overload, cookies and parties of Christmas or Hanukkah. What Thanksgiving does offer, however, is the antidote to the holidays of excess. It provides us with an opportunity to slow down, to center ourselves during this season of craziness and to remember to count our blessings, of which we often find many when we stop to notice.

After a year and a half of uncertainty, during which parents oversaw remote learning, virtual homework and the back-and-forth of quarantining, all while juggling work and family responsibilities, many parents experienced a renewed sense of gratitude for educators. We were deeply thankful for the work our teachers were doing on a daily basis to help our children learn and thrive, both academically and emotionally.

After months of lessons over Zoom, my own children experienced a renewed sense of appreciation for school and the ability to gather in person. They still don’t love homework, but they no longer grumble about getting up to go to school. My daughter even burst into tears when she had to stay home sick, such is the appreciation for the simple freedom of being at school.

 As a marketing professional turned fourth-grade teacher, I know firsthand how hard educational professionals work. They’re always “on.” Lunch is eaten on the fly (if at all), and when they’re sick, they make detailed plans for their substitutes to follow before they can rest. Once the pandemic hit, they also ran Zoom classes and in-person school, sometimes at the same time. The beautiful thing about teachers is that, for most, they do it because they truly love children. They care about our children and want to help them grow, both as students and as humans.

This Thanksgiving, my family will count our blessings, but we will take it a step further to express gratitude for those blessings, specifically for our teachers and school staff. How can you express just how much your child’s teacher means to your family, without succumbing to the dreaded apple tchotchke? This year, consider one of these gifts instead that will truly make a difference to your child’s teacher.


  1. Thank you note

Most teachers keep a stash of notes from their students and students’ parents. On the hard days, it is a balm to pull out that folder and read through the kind and positive words of those for whom you’ve made a difference. Write your teacher a note telling her what an impact she’s had – the more specific, the better. Have your child write a note from his perspective as well.


  1. Gift card

Everyone loves a treat! If you know your child’s teacher loves coffee, a gift card to a local coffee shop would be a welcome gift. Stores such as Target or Amazon are also always a hit, or a gift card to a local grocery store can help lighten the financial load of your hardworking teacher. If you know your child’s teacher likes pampering, you could even consider a gift card for a massage or pedicure.


  1. Meal

The days leading up to the holidays are a whirlwind of activity at school. Kids are bouncing off the walls with excitement, yet work still needs to be finished and grades entered before the long holiday. This time period is one of the most exhausting for educators. Gift your teacher with a homemade or restaurant-purchased meal to help relieve the burden of meal preparation. Check for preference and dietary requirements first.


  1. Homemade gifts

Teachers truly love gifts that come from the hearts of their students. I still have a macaroni necklace given to me by one of my students on the first day of school … 16 years ago. With a note of gratitude included, a homemade gift is certain to warm any educator’s heart.


  1. Treats (but not the kind you’re thinking of)

Educators love anything given in appreciation, but they love something usable even more. As they head into the holidays, they receive chocolates and cookies galore. Though yummy, consider lower sugar alternatives for a person trying to stay healthy during a stressful time – such as trail mix, an assortment of sparkling waters or a fresh fruit basket.


  1. Brag on them to their boss

Teaching can be an isolating profession. Although teachers are surrounded by many bodies during the school day, they don’t have much opportunity to interact with other adults or with the principal. Send an email to the principal singing your teacher’s praises. Copy the teacher so he knows he’s been complimented. This simple gesture can provide your child’s teacher a huge emotional boost.


By expressing gratitude to teachers this Thanksgiving season, you will not only make them feel appreciated, seen and valued, but you will also teach your child the gift of giving to others. Your child will learn that the beautiful thing about truly giving from the heart is that the gift doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. If your offering is heartfelt, to the recipient, it will mean the world.

Alison Bogle is a writer living in Austin with her husband and three children. A former fourth-grade teacher, she now enjoys writing about children and education.





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