November 29, 2014

Elyria
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Teacher appreciation can be tricky business

By Heidi Stevns
Chicago Tribune

Back away from that mug display, parents. Put down the porcelain figurine. And whatever you do, avoid anything with the dreaded apple on it.

Your kids’ teachers have a new spokesman, and he’s here to stop the gifting madness that engulfs his fellow educators this time of year.

Phillip Done, a Palo Alto, Calif., elementary teacher and author of the newly released “Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind” (Center Street), has received a foil-wrapped avocado, a used roll of duct tape and countless mugs over the years. He has also received some items he truly treasures.

He let us in on a few secrets of teacher gifting.

Don’t feel obligated to give one. “Of course it’s lovely if you get something,” says Done. “But we’d rather not get something than something we want to throw away or regift.”

Don’t give ties or jewelry. “One of my colleagues had a student give her a pair of earrings he said reminded him of her. They were hoop earrings with huge marijuana leaves in them,” Done says. “And the kids just wait and wait for you to wear their gift.” (Other don’ts: Items with your child’s photo on them, and the aforementioned mugs, figurines and apples.)

Do think gift cards, especially for movie theaters and bookstores.

Do get creative. “One year I had a mom take care of my lunches for a week,” Done says. “She just let me know, ‘Lunch is covered this week,’ and sent in a bagged lunch for me every day. Another mom brought me a Starbucks every morning for a week.”

Don’t forget to say thanks. “The hands-down, No. 1 gift of all time is a note of appreciation from the parents,” Done says.

“We don’t need any more baked goods or candy or anything, but when we get those cards, we save them all.”