Wednesday, December 1, 2010

'Tis the season to deal with teacher and therapist presents


It started the second week in November, when I got a note from the parent group at Sabrina's school asking if I wanted to give a chunk of change toward communal teacher gifts.

First thought: Wow, they're asking for a lot.

Second thought: Woo hoo, now I won't have to deal.

I gave the chunk of change.

I find it easy to buy gifts for the kids and Dave, but juggling the presents for the kids' teachers and Max's therapists, not so much. I tend to do gift cards.

Last year, I gave out a lot of these $9.99 Conair Hang On Shower Radios from Bed, Bath & Beyond. This year, I've got some fresh ideas thanks to an event at New York City's Fill -R- Up, a shop that specializes in gift baskets (you can order online, and they ship everywhere). The owner, Amanda, showed off stuff in the store and had these suggestions for teacher presents: nice notepads, cute mouse pads or clipboards (personalized, if you can swing it); candles with initials; gift cards in a little cosmetic case (fancier than just a gift card).

I think all teachers work their butts off; I got a taste of what they do when I taught Sunday school in college. You had to be totally O-N and energetic to engage the kids. (Being hung over really didn't help; neither did being in school on a Sunday.) Anyway, I stand in awe of my kids' teachers. But I have special awe for Max's, and for his therapists.

What sort of stuff are you giving to the kids' teachers/therapists?

35 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this; I always wonder about what to do.

    My son's first Christmas it didn't even occur to us that it would be nice to get a present for his therapists. We were too overwhelmed by daily life, I guess!

    Last year we gave each a Target gift card, which was well received. Many of my his therapists buy toys and other materials to use with the kids, some of which they end up lending or giving to us. So we figured they could use it to get something for work or something to treat themselves.

    I think we'll do the same thing again this year.

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  2. I "treat" them throughout the year. They all come in to the restaurant fairly regularly (everyone in town blows through here at some point), so I give 'em some pie or other dessert when I'm on duty (I pay for it but I get a nice discount). I just don't have the time or energy to be picking out/wrapping gifts, and in years past, I never had the cash, either. It gives me a chance to chat with them, too, in a less stressful setting, so it's a win-win that way too.

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  3. I am currently going back and forth with a gift or gift card. I am in so much debt to Ryans new teacher and therapists, I am not sure of the amounts.... Who gets what.. The teacher, therapists, assistant teachers,then what to do about the bus drivers, opps forgot about the maitron on the bus.... did I forget anyone elce....HELP
    Sondra Whalen

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  4. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't even think about it last year. Josh's first birthday is Dec 5th & right after his big party last year, he got a full blown URI that kept us housebound until the holidays. This year, I'm thinking that I'll be going the gift card route.

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  5. I wish that I could do more but I've got 12 people between teachers, aides, therapists, bus driver, etc. I usually do gift cards, but it's the amount that I struggle with. I could go broke before I even get to gifts for the family...

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  6. I have trouble affording it all, also. I buy throughout the year at Bath and Body works, using their sales and coupons and stock up! Then I have a good supply to use at Xmas - soaps, lotions and hand sanitizers are always good for therapists and teachers!

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  7. Does $20-$30 per gift card sound about right to people? Too much?

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  8. Back when my daughter had a veritable army of therapists and school staff on her team, I quickly realized that I wouldn't be able to do gift cards for everyone (esp at a $20-25 level which is what seemed appropriate) or we'd be living in a cardboard box by New Year's. Well, I exaggerate, but only slightly...

    So, starting back when the kid was just a preschooler, I began making treats as gifts for her team. We used to do homemade peppermint bark and chocolate covered pretzels, because those were things that even as a 3 year old, she could help with (oh, the sensory input of SMASHING the candy canes into pieces with the meat tenderizer! Oh, the fine motor skills practice of stirring the melted chocolate and dipping and retrieving the pretzels - well, okay, that part was a bit less precisely managed...) and then we packed up holiday tins (purchased for about a buck apiece) along with a photo label that showed Kiddo hard at work on the creations therein. They have always been a big hit with all the grown-ups.

    Now, Kiddo's team has shrunk in some aspects (we're down to just an OT, PT and aide) but then there are the bus drivers, specials teachers at school, so it still can be quite the list. We've stuck with the homemade treats for gifts and upped the difficulty level a bit - last year we made truffles, which were a HUGE hit. We basically spend an afternoon making everything and it has become a fun (if messy) tradition.

    And please don't think I'm a Martha Stewart type, either, because I'm totally NOT. This is why I choose things that can look less than perfect and still be fantastic, like peppermint bark. (We did have some rather misshapen truffles, but they were gleefully consumed nonetheless.)

    Happy holidays!

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  9. I suck at teacher and therapist gifts. Can't afford actual gifts, so it is usually a treat bag with goodies I've made. I do make good goodies though....

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  10. I usually do local coffee shop gift cards--even $15 goes a long way there and every teacher and therapist I know loves coffee.

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  11. Because my son also has a large team, I make a crock pot lunch with a nice dessert. I let them know ahead of time it's coming. Easy and cheap way to appreciate everyone. This year I have another group of people to appreciate and I'm sending them super yummy fortune cookies. http://fantasticfortunecookies.com/ I've had them and they're amazing and fun and huge! Check them out! P.S I don't work there. I just love sweets.

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  12. When Samuel was younger, I would make tons of cookies and then go to TJ Maxx and spend money a few dollars on a pretty plate or basket to put the cookies on for each of 12 people who work with directly.

    Now I feel like everyone at the entire school helps Samuel and really cares about him. So I go to Costco and buy a couple of their huge gift baskets. I bring them in 2 weeks before break so they can enjoy it leading up to their vacation.

    For his nurse who takes care of afterschool I go and purchase a special gift that I know she would love.

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  13. I wait until the end of the year to do teacher gifts. Too much going on at Christmas. Though this year at parent-teacher conferences I gave each teacher/therapist who attended a $5 Panara gift card so they could have a coffee break over fall break. (Even for my typical daughter's teacher). I will do the same for the teachers/therapists who make it to my son's parent-teacher conference in the next week or so (I like quarterly meetings to go over things).

    At the end of the year I do lots of gift cards -- Barnes & Nobel, Panara, Bath & Body Works, ... I do get smaller ones for the bus driver and bus paras. This year one of the bus paras is also one of my son's school paras -- so I save a little.

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  14. My favorite teacher/therapist gift for anyone working with non-verbal kids is a small rotary cutter/cutting mat set. Those who deal with the MOUNDS of Velcro needed for communication symbols find it to be very useful. There is even a post about this on my blog here:

    http://adaptingcreatively.blogspot.com/2010/11/velcro-64000-tip.html

    We seem to have an ever-revolving door of SLPs in our school district, so I get to re-run this set pretty often. It is always greatly appreciated. If I don't have anything else to use my Joann's 40% off coupon for, I stock up on these for holiday teacher/therapist gifts later.

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  15. Last year I gave them (all women) a picture Christmas card of our kids and a pair of Christmas socks from Kohls! They all wear socks in the house here :)

    This year I was thinking ornament, perhaps of a picture of Lizzy. I have no idea if that will work, but frankly I think that it's the thought of the matter - I am trying to show appreciation for their service with just a little something... We don't have that much cashola to spare esp during Christmas, but I think they all are very deserving of a small token!

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  16. This is the first year that there's no group gift for school (I used to supplement with a small gift) so I need to give bigger this year. I was going to give a little tea set to one and a starbucks coffee set for the other. But then there's the music teacher who comes twice a week. Do I need to give her something too? And they have a yoga teacher starting this week.

    A friend who is an ESL teacher told me that once a student gave her a $100 gift card... to McDonald's. She goes there occasionally like all of us but $100 is A LOT to spend on fast food and wishes they got the card from Starbucks instead. And she recommended that's what I get my daughter's teachers.

    With that in mind, I'll probably give them something small and a gift certificate to a local coffee place (not a chain).

    Now, what to give the cleaning ladies, the mail man, the UPS guy, my hair lady...

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  17. Ellen- $20, even $25 is fine I think. But of course it all depends...
    I hope I don't sound like a jerk but I use an 'A-List' and a 'B-List' guideline. It's not a bad thing, I just can't justify giving the same gift to those that have worked with my guys only a short period of time...and those that work only once a week/month, the same gift as I would our veterans- who've stuck by through thick and thin.

    Last year was Dunkin Donuts GCs. One year was monogrammed ornaments. Another Dr. Oz's book You Being Beautiful from Costco.
    But this year, since it'll likely be our last year with home care nurses I ordered them LLBean Boat Tote monogrammed. The old-timers got the large size and the more recent nurses are getting the small. I wish I could afford equality!

    Milo has a teacher that goes way, way above and beyond the call of teacherhood, I always struggle trying to get her something special. And since I know a lot of teachers in special ed pay for things out-of-pocket I try to give a gift card for Target as well.

    Unfortunately my guys don't share all their helpers. December is quite expensive.

    I'll be checking back here for more ideas from other moms! Thanks for doing this.

    Kerry

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  18. For Sam's main therapists, we are doing those little bootie socks (in purple! her signature color, of course) with pedicure gift cards. They were those socks while they are working with kiddos in the gym.

    For the teaching assitants, etc. at the center-based preschool where she just started, I'm doing book store gift cards.

    My mom is a teacher and has been for 17 years . . . the amount of little trinkets she's collected through the years is kind of ridiculous, and I know gift cards are the things most appreciated (coffee ones, lunch place by her school, etc. . . not expensive things!) AND when she gets a bookstore gift card, she's always thrilled to use it to buy books for the classroom.

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  19. Ellen, just saw your comment. I think $20-30 is too much for everyone (we have about 10 to buy for with teaching assistants, etc.) I will likely do $10 each for most, but larger ones ($25) for her teacher and the three therapists she sees one-on-one.

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  20. I am going to buy Cj's teacher a book. A friend of mine, Sharon Dzialo wrote and published the book Ceramic to Clay. It is a wonderful story about her son who survived a near drowning and their journey towards recovery and healing. I am going to suggest that all the therapists read it as well, then have her donate it to the school library. For Ryan's K teacher I am getting a book about having a special needs sibbling, Lemon the duck or one of the others I got. They are great books about special needs. I am going to have her donate the book to the school.

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  21. I always make a donation to Friendship Circle, an fabulous charity that benefits kids with special needs and their families. Then, I give the teachers/therapists a card showing them that a donation has been made in their honor. They ALL love it. Plus, they get enough junk with apples on them!

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  22. $20-30 per gift (or gift card) is just not happening on my budget and income. You've got to remember we're just a few years out from shopping almost exclusively at thrift stores and relying on a food pantry for a couple of months as well. Abundant poverty has a way of teaching you what you really don't need, and that experience kind of weaned us off material goods. If I have spare cash, it goes into the accounts for the kids or the "get a newer car" account, and the occasional dessert and/or coffee treat at my work will just have to do as an expression of regard! If they happen to have a relative in the nursing home where I work weekends, I'll be sure to look out for them extra-special, too (one hand washes the other, after all)...but I just don't have the income to throw money around like that.

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  23. giftcards - usually to Target or Wawa. the busdrivers too!
    Kristen

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  24. I'm a teacher and gift cards are awesome...I get something for all of Olivia's "people"...but the total is about 18 so it's something small. I organize a large group gift for her main special ed teacher and get her things she'd like for her room and a Target gift card.

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  25. I am a teacher for kids with special needs. I realize I teach an almost inner city area and I do spend a lot of money on my students every year, but I really appreciate a heart felt thank you as much as, if not more than, anything else. Gifts are great, don't get me wrong, but knowing I am truly appreciated and that you are not spending money that could go to your kids and family etc. is more important to me.

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  26. It is something I dead every year. Elizabeth has so many people that help/teach her and at my last count it was over 10 gifts. I don't like to be cheap but when you multiply it by 10 it gets costly. In the past I would buy gifts sets at Costco (Christmas ornaments, candles, Starbucks mugs) but this year the selection is pretty crappy.
    A friend just opened a gourmet bakery so I think I will help support her and buy gift wrapped cookies for each of Elizabeth's peeps as we call them.

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  27. I was thinking about $10 per person if I did gift cards. I don't know if there's still time, but here's what I did: VistaPrint. You can google around for VistaPrint & free Tshirt and you'll find a link. I ordered each therapist a Tshirt that said something like, "I taught a kid to eat with a spoon and all I got was this Tshirt." I also ordered both teachers and therapists each a small cloth tote that says, "This bag belongs to Miss Alice." These were from VistaPrint, too. And I got them each a stack of Post-Its with their name. I also ordered family photo calendars. All of these were "free" except I had to pay shipping of approximately $6 per order. But you can only get 1 of each item free in an order, so I did about 6 separate orders.

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  28. I have to get 15 gifts for Allie's MANY MANY people who work with her at school so I am going with scratch off lottery tickets for everyone....fun for everyone and very little effort on my part....will put them in cards signed by Allie....

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  29. Amazing ideas here. I so love that a couple of teachers (and one daughter of a teacher!) weighed in.
    It's interesting to know that gift cards really are so appreciated, they seem so impersonal to me. But I guess less so if accompanied by a meaningful note, like one of the teachers mentioned.

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  30. I'm a therapist and honestly the best gifts are personal notes or little gifts that the kids help to make. I loved the idea of the pepermint bark with the pictures of the kids making it. For the families that can afford it and truly want to give more gift certificates for manicures or pedicures are always nice and they aren't "too much". Sometimes getting big gifts is embarressing. We're doing our job and for the most part we love what we do and don't want or expect big gifts but we do appreciate being appreciated.

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  31. Being a therapist myself, I have never expected anything at Christmas time. I have received gifts and am grateful but I know that parents are appreciative of what we do and do not need a gift to prove it. I think we all get caught up in the gift giving too much. I am guilty myself for I buy gift cards for the teachers every year but I really don't think it is necessary. I know when I was a kid, the parents of my generation did not give gift cards. When did we all get sucked in from all the advertising?

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  32. as a therapist/teacher, gift cards are great!!!

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  33. i'm a special ed teacher and i've had parents tell me what a struggle it is to find the "perfect" gift for everyone on the team...and i know, often its a HUGE team!

    gift cards are great and always appreciated, especially when they're to somewhere like dunkin donuts, target, the bookstore or the teacher store. things that are fun that can also be used in teh classroom (lotions, antibacterial hand gels, even a tray of cookies/bread for everyone to snack on during the day) are also great.

    better than gifts and gift cards are the handwritten notecards parents send in. while i totally enjoy the coffee and donut, its over in a heartbeat. the note that you wrote will be with me forever! those notes mean the world to me!!!

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  34. Thanks, Ellen! Love this post! In the past I have given Christmas socks to the EI therapists who came into our home and so graciously took their shoes off during visits. I also gave them clipboards with Malayna's picture when she graduated from the program. Since they were forever giving me papers to sign I knew they could make good use of them.

    For teacher/therapist gifts this year I have decided on small baskets filled with homemade cappuccino and chai tea mixes (in jelly jars topped with Christmas fabric and ribbons), homemade biscotti and a few candies as fillers. I got the baskets and some of the ingredients at the dollar store so I'm keeping the costs as low as possible, although 9 baskets will add up. But I'm hoping that something homemade will send a message of appreciation and they won't have a trinket or ornament that they don't need, although I have given ornaments with Malayna's picture to therapists/teacher's aides in the past.

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  35. For my son's teachers (he's 10) I make them each an eggnog pound cake in a holiday themed loaf pan. The eggnog has enough rum into it t require a breathalyzer.

    For my daughter's teachers (she's 4) I usually get them a big gift basket from bath and body works. I also bake something for the teacher lounge.

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Thanks for sharing!