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I can’t speak for my colleagues about teacher appreciation, but I always thought teacher appreciation to be a curious holiday. I love teaching and believe that when a parent entrusts their child to your care, it is an honor, if not an act of sacred trust. That’s all the appreciation I need.

I have received hundreds of teacher appreciation gifts in my thirty years of teaching. Coffee mugs, gift cards, t-shirts, books, chocolate (teacher’s best friend!), golf balls, and game tickets, to name a few. Sometimes, students will make a teacher appreciation card. Those are always fun!

Building Confidence: A Teacher’s Story

One of my most memorable gifts was the handiwork of a female fifth grader. Her mom was a single mom with three daughters, she was the oldest. I would eventually teach all the girls in the family and get to know the family well. She stands out because she lacked confidence and avoided doing challenging tasks.

One day, we were sitting on the bleachers watching other kids play. I asked her why she wasn’t out there with them. She said she didn’t think she was good at the game and didn’t want to embarrass herself. I told her that was hard to believe and that by watching her, I saw that she had a precious gift that should be shared with others.

“What are you talking about, Mr. C, she asked?”

“You have the gift of leadership,” I said. “Few have that.” At first, she gave me that kid look – the one where they were unsure if I was saying something to make them feel better or if I meant what I was saying.

“For example,” I continued, “your mom works two jobs. She works hard to ensure you and your sisters can live in the apartments across the street and attend this school. Leaders like your mom do the hard stuff to make others’ lives better. So, tell me, who does she trust to protect your sisters when she’s working? Is it hard?” “I guess it’s me,” she said. Then she darted from the bleachers to walk around the track.

The Unexpected Gift

Nearly a decade later, I was cleaning my room one Friday after school. It was the last day of teacher appreciation week. I looked at my door, and a young female soldier stood there. It was her! We spent about thirty minutes catching up and laughing at funny things that happened in class. When it was time to go, I asked her how she chose the military.

She turned, smiled, and, as she was walking out the door, said, “Someone told me leaders do the hard stuff to make others’ lives better.”

For more blogs written by our favorite teacher, Doug Carroll, click here!