As long as there has been Christmas and schools, teachers — especially those in elementary schools — have been receiving gifts from their students.
Students will often huddle around the desks of their teachers when they unwrap the gifts, whether a fresh-baked loaf of banana-nut bread, a knitted scarf from a child’s mother or gift card.
Jimmie Johnson, who taught 28 years in the Fort Worth and Hurst-Euless-Bedford school districts, said she stores many of her holiday memories, including “tons” of ornaments and unique presents that youngsters made for her, in a box.
“The gifts that are made by my students are the most memorable,” she said.
About 20 years ago, a little girl had her grandmother teach her to sew and made Johnson a drawstring jewelry pouch.
“As I️ remember it was wrapped in a piece of notebook paper,” she said. Another year she received a Mexican coin from a student. The coin came with a message: “If you ever go to Mexico here.”
Johnson said the gifts were important to her students — many of whom came from humble backgrounds and wanted to give something back despite few resources.
“These gifts are truly a gift of love,” Johnson said. “They didn’t have much but they had love and that tugged at my heart and will forever.”
Taunja Balkcom, a first grade teacher at Hidden Lakes Elementary, said one of the most unique gifts she’s received in 21 years of teaching was a special charm bracelet and scrapbook.
She said each student in her class contributed a charm that represented something about themselves. The scrapbook included a page from each student with a photo of their charm and why they chose it.
“That’s something I’ll keep forever,” Balkcom said.
While the charm bracelet and scrapbook were unique, some of the gifts teachers receive border on the side of strange, from gently-used candles to expired movie passes — or perhaps a broken pineapple pitcher, as one teacher shared with the Star-Telegram on Facebook.
“When I opened it and saw it was broken I said, ‘Oh no, I must have broken this opening it,’ ... The 5th grader said, ‘Oh it was already broken.’ One of my favorite memories,” the teacher wrote.
Another educator who posted on the Star-Telegram’s Facebook page stated the school was surprised when one co-worker recevied “got a fifth of tequila!”
Other teachers mentioned getting tablecloths and cat statues.
And not surprisingly, online shopping has changed the teacher’s gift-shopping game.
There are personalized Christmas ornaments, little buckets of pens and pencils, holiday-themed hand sanitizer — and the clear and present winner: gift cards.
Deena Cromley, a fourth-grade teacher at Hidden Lakes, said she told her students that she didn’t need anything for Christmas this year, but they didn’t listen.
The students compiled their own Santa’s list, based on what they knew about their teacher.
Among the items: two pairs of sandals because she’d broken sandals at school; and a phone case because the students were worried she was going to break her phone.
“Their ideas showed how well they know me,” Cromley said.
At Hidden Lakes, the teachers are also shown how much they are appreciated by the PTA, who earlier this week loaded up the teacher’s lounge with cookies, a hot chocolate bar and gifts. The lounge was decorated with tiny Christmas trees, candles and cheerful signs.
Chief decorator and PTA President Stephanie Bolger, a former teacher herself, said, “We just want to show them how much we appreciate them because they do so much for our kids all year long.”