Chef Leigh’s Backpack of Blessings

Chef Leigh’s Backpack of Blessings
Meet Our FINAL High 5 Winner, Chef Leigh

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Teacher Peach is thrilled to present the 5th winner of Teacher Peach’s “Granting Teacher Goals!” High 5 Initiative, Chef Leigh!

Chef Leigh is gearing up to help those around her and her school who are less fortunate most specifically, those who find themselves presently homeless. This heartfelt High 5 Initiative reaches out into the community by developing a backpack project for those individuals and families who are currently homeless. Through charitable donations from local companies and organizations, Chef Leigh and her amazing and dedicated students gather materials and fill backpacks with useful items that truly matter—items many of us may take for granted. These thoughtful care kits not only help need some very basic needs, on a deeper level, these dignified gifts help remind people that there are people who care and want to help. This initiative helps increase student, neighborhood, and community awareness and sends a message that everyone can do something to help someone else! Teacher Peach is thrilled to help through our High 5 Initiative award, too.

LeeAndra Khan, who carefully judged all of the entries in Teacher Peach’s High 5 Initiative, explains why this project was chosen as the final winning entry. “Community Service projects not only teach students to collaborate and engage, this kind of project goes even further, teaching students the importance of having—and showing—empathy for others. Students participating in this project will also gain vital leadership skills that they will be able to apply in all of their future endeavors.”

Chef Leigh Says . . .
We had the privilege of interviewing Chef Leigh about her experiences in education and her goals for this particular project. She shared her thinking and views as follows—

TP: How long have you been teaching?
CL: All my life! I have always enjoyed sharing with others. About eight years ago, I was approached by a local technical college and asked to teach in the Culinary Arts Department. I really had a wonderful time there. Then, I was asked to consider teaching at the local high school. Having made it through high school once, I honestly was not all that eager to return, but return I did. I put on my dress uniform, my best smile, and did my best in the interview. It must have been right for all of us because I had a contract offer before I even got home. The rest, as they say, is history!

TP: Why did you become a teacher?
CL: Originally I starting teaching because I was looking for a job in the culinary field and a position opened up at the college level. It wasn’t until I began teaching high school that I realized that teaching was my “surprise destiny!”  Something just “clicked” for me when I started working with students at the high school level. My students really are eager to hear and be heard.  Once I really understood how to communicate with my students, and listen to what they have to say to me, I really began to hit my stride as an effective teacher. It takes both students and teachers to make any learning experience work.

TP: What are the most inspiring aspects of teaching for you?
CL: One of the most thrilling and inspiring aspects of teaching is being able to witness that true “aha” moment—when a student finally “gets it” and the light bulb goes on. That expression is one that can carry me for along time.Helping students engage and become hooked into what I am hoping to teach can be done so many ways and usually the kids will tell you what works best for them if you, as a teacher, are open to spotting it. I am so thankful to be on the faculty of a project-based-learning school. Here, I have the freedom to use many different avenues for instruction. I’m happy to report that it is never quite “status quo” in my classroom. On any given day, we typically have four or five different tasks going on, all of them relevant and filled with real-world connections. I know I do a lot to prepare, as any teacher should, but it’s like a stage: when the students arrive, I love seeing their individual progress and our group progress unfold in front of me.

TP: How do you think this project will impact your students and what outcomes are you hoping to achieve?
CL: Our Backpack Project is a leadership initiative through LEAD2FEED and this is the second semester we have worked through this program. It was written for high school students to allow them the opportunity to create and control a project that impacts our local community. Many of my students didn’t even realize that we had homeless students in our school, much less in the community. They had associated homelessness with downtown Atlanta where they knew there are people living under the bridges, and so forth, but not in our own community.

Through research and discussion, we were able to team up with a local church that serves the homeless population. We sponsored Candy Grams for Valentine’s Day and sold over 300! We used the proceeds to purchase items for the backpacks. Our BIG GOAL is 50 packs- 25 for local high school students and 25 to be passed out to those outside of school who may also need these items. To date, eight different clubs or teams at our school have joined in by donating needed items—and it continues to grow.

My students are now so much more aware that “societal” issues are applicable everywhere—including our own community. They have become much more civic minded, too. Hopefully, this knowledge will stick with them and will become a part of what they carry into adulthood. Having the chance to know that they are able to personally do something to make a difference to others is very powerful to learn at 15 and 16 years old. It means a lot to these kids—and to those they help.  

TP: What advice would you have for other teachers?
CL: Have confidence in your students! Our students are amazing people. Get to know that. Don’t just let them out of the traditional “box” of education—really invite them out. ANYTHING can be turned into an applicable lesson with a little forethought.  REALLY listen to what they have to say (even if it seems silly) and above all, be honest with them. My kids trust me more because I admit when I am wrong and when I admit I don’t know the answer. We all know it takes time to build relationships; take that time because it is worth it.  Sometimes the best thing you can do as a teacher is to just stop and really listen. When your students trust you—and you believe in them—you will be amazed at what can happen!

Sparked by Chef Leigh?
Chef Leigh’s advice is inspiring and motivating! Teacher Peach is proud to help Chef Leigh and her students as they continue to work to help the homeless and grow to be more engaged and involved in their community. In addition to the $100 award, Teacher Peach is also sharing some awesome products with Chef Leigh and her students.

Check out these Teacher Peach products Chef Leigh will use in both the backpacks and in her classroom …

Stick’R Treat Mega Stickers Collection
Little Black Books
What ideas does Chef Leigh’s project spark for you? How could you create or adapt a project like this for your students? What spaces surround your classroom that could be enlivened by the creativity of your kids?

Caroline Campaigns for Kindness!

Meet Our Third High 5 Winner, Caroline S.
Elementary School Principal

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Teacher Peach is pleased to present the third winner of Teacher Peach’s “Granting Teacher Goals!” High 5 Initiative, Caroline S.!

Caroline S. teaches her 2nd-4th grade students the importance of empathy with The Great Kindness Challenge! In an effort to banish bullying and create a positive school culture, Caroline and her terrific teach-mates have initiated a kindness movement. Students become engaged with activities such as creating kindness kits, fliers, posters, and decorating classroom doors. Their kindness kits include thank-you cards, decorated heart shapes, painted posters, etc. all created by students. This project goes beyond the classroom as students deliver their kindness kits to community service groups including the local police and fire department, the Mayor’s office, and more!  

Our revered judge, LeeAndra Khan, explains why The Great Kindness Challenge is such an important addition to the High 5 winning initiatives. “Schools should aim to educate the whole student. Having students exercise their voices to prevent bullying is a great step toward promoting empathy and tolerance. Students gain leadership skills and also learn the importance of collaboration. Adding the community engagement piece to the project helps students to understand their role in the larger community.”

Caroline Says . . .
We had the privilege of interviewing Caroline about her experiences in education and her goals for her project. Here’s what she had to say . . .

TP: How long have you been teaching?
CS: I have been a teacher for 19 years and an administrator for 5 years.  I am truly a teacher at heart! I love teaching students and teachers, and even teach night classes at a local college.  

TP: Why did you become a teacher?
CS: I feel like I was born to teach. I have always been involved with kids—babysitting, religious school, and tutoring.  I knew I could make a difference and would enjoy a career in teaching.  

TP: What are the most inspiring aspects of teaching for you?
CS: The most inspiring aspects of teaching are the “light-bulb moments” I see when a child finally catches on to a certain skill or strategy. Students show their appreciation with hugs and I love you’s.  This keeps me striving to be the best I can be for kids.

TP: How do you think this project will impact your students and what outcomes are you hoping to achieve?
CS: The Great Kindness Challenge has always been a very successful week of creating a culture of kindness [in our school]. I notice a decline in discipline referrals because students focus on being kind to one another.  This positive bullying prevention initiative is powerful as students have an opportunity each day to expand their compassion and learn about about other cultures and needs throughout the world.  There’s a huge impact on our community as local law enforcement officers, fire fighters, mental health providers, the town mayor, and many others come to school on Monday morning to help us kick off the great kindness challenge. Kindness quotes, kindness stations, lunch buddies, and a service project are just a few of the exciting activities that students participate in during the week. We’re excited for next time.

TP: What advice would you have for other teachers?
CS: Teaching is an incredibly complex endeavor. No one has it nailed. There are always ways to get better for students. I would remind teachers that whoever is doing the reading, writing, and talking is doing the thinking. Learning is a consequence of thinking. Teachers should provide time everyday for students to read, write, and discuss their thinking. We are smarter together. We need to collaborate with our colleagues and our students. Focus on relationships. You will get so much more from your students if they know you love them.  

Inspired by Caroline?
Teacher Peach is proud to help Caroline continue to bring The Great Kindness Challenge to her students and community. This educational project not only encourages students to become a ‘buddy not a bully’, it also encourages them to share the good will with others! In addition to the $100 award, Teacher Peach is also sharing some awesome products with Caroline and her students.

Check out just a few of these Teacher Peach products Caroline will use to help her students ‘catch some kindness’!

Quench Cups

Stress Balls

Mega Stickers

Dry Erase Clips

Common Core State Standards Kit for Success

Teacher Peach Writing Tools

Little Black Notebooks

Take a Peek!
Caroline was kind enough to share a recent The Great Kindness Challenge with us in these beautiful photos!

What ideas does Caroline’s project spark for you? How could you create or adapt a project like this for your students? What spaces surround your classroom that could be enlivened by the creativity of your kids?

Cynthia C. Goes Overseas!

Meet a Winner in Writing, Cynthia C.

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Teacher Peach is pleased to introduce the second winner of Teacher Peach’s “Granting Teacher Goals!” High 5 Initiative!  Cynthia C. engages her 6th grade students by “taking them overseas!” Her innovative High 5 Initiative blends authentic writing assignments with patriotism as her students “adopt” deployed US service personnel. Her educational project not only builds and sharpens the writing skills of her students, it also makes a powerful difference to the dedicated and brave individuals who go to incredible lengths to help keep us safe.

Our esteemed judge, LeeAndra Khan, explains why this project was a clear winner.  “This project helps to increase writing skills as well as gets students to become more globally minded. Students also learn about the locations where the service personnel are stationed. This activity helps students to develop empathy as well as understand and express their appreciation for patriotism and service.”

Cynthia Says . . .
We had the privilege of interviewing Cynthia about her experiences in education and goals for her project. Here’s what she had to say . . .

TP: Please, tell us a bit about you, how long you’ve been teaching, what grades, etc.
CC: I have been teaching since 1983, with maternity leaves, for a total of 21 years of actual time in the classroom. I have taught in several grade levels, from elementary through high school.

TP: What made you decide to become a teacher?
CC: I became a teacher because I love working with children and young adults. I achieve a personal “high” when I see them experience an “aha” moment, regardless of the content area.

TP: What have been the most inspiring aspects of teaching for you?
CC: The most inspiring aspects of teaching for me are watching my students mature in their personal, social, and academic skills. When they suddenly understand the power that they have as individuals and as a cohesive team to make change in their own lives, the school environment, and the larger community, it is a wonderful sight to see.

TP: How does (did) this project impact your students and what outcomes are you hoping to achieve?
CC: This pen pal project, sending letters and care packages to service personnel stationed overseas, has impacted my students by awakening in them a sense of patriotism; they begin to understand that the United States has a multi-faceted mission, one that protects US interests abroad, and also the interests of innocent people caught in hopeless and difficult situations caused by war. They realize that we are not only on military missions—we are also on humanitarian missions. I have been doing this project for the last nine years and this experience has impacted not only my current students, but their parents, and especially younger sibling and friends who ask, on their first day of school, “When do WE get to start the pen pal project?” That’s a powerful reach. With this additional financial support, we hope to reach even further.

TP: What advice would you have for other teachers?
CC: My advice to other teachers is to think big! Create projects that will impact your students AND a larger community. Reach out to forge partnerships in the community to enlarge the audience that becomes a part of your lesson. You’d be amazed at how community leaders are usually willing to participate; you just have to take a risk and ASK!

Inspired by Cynthia?

Cynthia’s lesson is certain to influence and inspire the lives of all of those involved—both today and long into the future. As Cynthia’s interview confirms, many of her former students and their families are already “veterans” of this activity and it has become a tradition that everyone is proud to continue. Teacher Peach is proud to help Cynthia to further enrich this project going forward. In addition to the $100 award, Teacher Peach is also sharing some awesome products with Cynthia and her students.

Check out these Teacher Peach products. Cynthia will use them to connect her students to soldiers and to keep her classroom organized all along the way!

“WRITE.” MECHANICAL PENCILS

COOL TEACHER POCKET FOLDERS: UPCOMING EVENTS

 

What ideas does Cynthia’s project spark for you? How could you create or adapt a project like this for your students?

Magnificent Murals Winner!

Meet Our First Winner of the High 5 Initiative, Amanda T.
Art and Exceptional Education Teacher

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The big moment is here! Teacher Peach is pleased to introduce the first of five visionary and talented teachers whose engaging school projects are true winners! These teachers and their projects add incredible value to their school communities. The winners of this initiative are dedicated educators and we believe their work will inspire students and colleagues alike—that’s why they were selected by principal and thought leader, LeeAndrea Khan, to receive a $100 Teacher Peach award to fuel their educational project as part of Teacher Peach’s “Granting Teacher Goals!” High 5 Initiative!

Amanda Transforms Blank Spaces into Celebrations of Art—and Life!

Amanda T. encourages her students to look at blank walls, doors, and bulletin boards and envision the colorful and informative possibilities! This heartwarming High 5 Initiative includes the beautification of her Floridian middle school and improvement of the community image of the school. With this grant, her art class will now have the freedom to continue to paint beautiful, artistic murals around the school, helping to make their school environment even more inviting for the community. Amanda’s educational project goes beyond aesthetics, giving students a unique sense of pride when they see their original works publicly displayed. It also help students to connect visual expression to some very important life lessons that serve us all well to remember.

Our esteemed judge, LeeAndra Khan, explains why this project was a “picture” perfect choice as one of the winning entries. “Getting students to be part of keeping their own community beautiful only enhances their learning experiences. It is important for students to have voice and choice in their school. This increases engagement and ultimately impacts success. When they feel like they belong there, they act like it.”

Amanda Says . . .

We had the privilege of interviewing Amanda about her experiences in education and her goals for her project. Here’s what she had to say . . .

TP: How long have you been teaching?
AT: I have been teaching for 10 years.

TP: Why did you become a teacher?
AT: I became a teacher in the field of Special Education/Art to help students who learn differently become confident in their personal learning styles—and to keep learning in their own special ways. This applies to all students, of course.

TP: What are the most inspiring aspects of teaching for you?
AT: The most inspiring aspect of teaching is to watch students become interested in and eager to participate in the learning process, enough to want to show off what they know.

TP: How do you think this project will impact your students and what outcomes are you hoping to achieve?
AT: The “Beautify the Door” Contest involves my students in my art classes. The students use perspective in the literal way with drawing buildings and then they add a written component with sayings about how we look at life—learning and behaving, for example. They’re able to see the significance in how art can impact people in a variety of ways. (We’ve included a short video illustrating her “Beautify the Door” Contest below!)

TP: What advice would you have for other teachers?
AT: My best advice to other teachers, especially new teachers, is to stay on your toes and be creative! Also, be on the lookout for where your kids are and what they bring to the table. Students drive the lesson forward by what they bring with them from their own life experiences. What they have inside and are willing to share with us can teach us, as teachers, in the process. Then we can connect the lessons to their realities in ways we wouldn’t have imagined would be possible. Just by listening, we learn, too.

Sparked by Amanda?

Amanda’s colorful concept will have a BIG impact on both her students and the community as a whole. By creating an inviting and expressive academic environment, she is inviting her students to express themselves, enhance their environment, AND she’s also reminding her students that there are people who care for them, about them, and are willing to support their successes. Teacher Peach is proud to help Amanda create these vivid, fun, and creative displays that will spark students’ creativity and curiosity—and those of the school’s faculty, too. In addition to the $100 award, Teacher Peach is also sharing some awesome products with Amanda and her students.

 

Check out just a few of these Teacher Peach products Amanda will use to help her students beautify their learning space!

Keep It Together Portfolio Case

The Box! Totefolio

Take a Peek!
Amanda shared a quick video of some of the work her students have done so far. In under a minute, she’ll give you a fast tour of how these amazing students express themselves and make connections that will inspire all of us! Go, Amanda!

 

What ideas does Amanda’s project spark for you? How could you create or adapt a project like this for your students? What spaces surround your classroom that could be enlivened by the creativity of your kids?

 

Meet Kim M. The Winner of the All About Writing! Gift Set

It was a privilege to invite Kim M., the winner of the Teacher Peach All About Writing Gift Set in our recent holiday contest, to answer a few questions about what makes her tick and thrive as a teacher. One of our two contest winners, Kim’s name was chosen at random to receive this gift set. Congratulations, Kim! Here are some of Kim’s thoughts. We hope they spark you to comment and continue a dialog about what you love about teaching.

   KimM_Teacher_Peach_Contest_Winner   All About Writing Gift Set

TP: Kim, tell us a bit about you, how long you’ve been teaching, what grades, etc.
KM: This is my 19th year of teaching. I have taught one year in second grade, six years in kindergarten, and twelve years in first grade. I have also been married for 19 years and we have two sons.

TP: What made you enter the contest?
KM: I follow Teacher Peach on Facebook and I was really interested in the gift sets that Teacher Peach was giving away in the contest. Both gift sets had lots of colorful things in them that I knew I’d use.

TP: Why did you want to win the prize and how do you plan to use it?
KM: I wanted to win the prize because I really liked the bag! 🙂 I also liked the notecards that can be sent home as a way of communication with classroom families; that’s really important to how I work as a teacher. That kind of connection is a big part of how students perform. We’re one team, families and teachers, all working to help the kids. I am also very excited to use the teacher journal and little black book. It’s important for all teachers, new and seasoned, to collect their thoughts, reflect on what is working and what can go better the next time. Even after nineteen years, or especially after nineteen years, I know that even just a few minutes of reflection can inspire a new idea to try the next day, help teachers see a pattern, or remind teachers that “we’ve been here before.” We tell even first graders to journal and express their thoughts. It’s a big part of being a good teacher, too. It’s good to look back because it is easy to forget that kids grow at different times and in different ways. Sometimes, an idea that didn’t work in November is perfect for that same student, come March. Journaling can help teachers see and recall that idea at the right time.

TP: What are the three biggest rewards for you as a teacher?
KM: Seeing the growth that my students make through the year, seeing their faces light up when they accomplish something they were not sure that they could do, and just the joy of being able to teach these students are the biggest rewards. Being a teacher is kind of like being a conductor of an orchestra. Every student plays a different instrument in his or her own way, and in many different keys, often all at once! As teachers, we do not play their instruments for them; we guide, we help them find the beat, and we hope they’ll hit their high notes when they are ready. When I see a face light up with pride, when my students discover they can do something new, that’s what’s music to my ears!

TP: What are the three biggest challenges you face as a teacher?
KM: While assessment is important for so many reasons, it can be tough to manage and prepare the little ones for so much assessment these days. The amount of assessing that is expected for elementary students is significant and it needs to be a part of lesson plans, strategy, and every teacher’s priorities. But if we use the results right and we are good teachers with the kids’ needs at the forefront, we can use this information as another data point in creating the right solutions for the students. It is also very challenging when families are not involved in their child’s education. Many families do the very best they can; others just seem not to be connected and as teachers, we do not always know why. But we always see the difference it makes in the education of that student when a family cannot or is not involved. Whatever the reason, the results are the same—tough for the child. Believe me, they know the difference—we all do. Lastly, as a teacher, you always want to reach every child. Every child is different and as teachers we need to focus on meeting all the needs of many diverse learners—all at once. That can be a challenge for any teacher.

TP: What advice would you have for other teachers?
KM: This advice is going to sound easy, and be much easier to read than to enact each day. That said, these three pieces of advice have helped me a great deal. The first is always be prepared. The second is always listen to your students. Finally, always have a positive attitude. The first, always be prepared, is actually the easiest because it rests squarely on the teacher’s shoulders. By preparing for the week ahead, teachers are ready to contend with the many surprises we encounter all week long. Without that plan, we’d be constantly reacting. With preparation, it’s much easier to respond on a dime to what the kids need. You can’t REgroup without a group of plans to begin with! Second, listening to your students sounds so simple, but it is actually quite difficult to do sometimes. The classroom is a place of great activity and it is easy to get distracted. Also, some kids just don’t want to be heard—or perhaps they aren’t ready. Kids can also speak in a code that teachers need to crack. A mumbled “I don’t know,” the quiet shrug of a shoulder, or a downward glance often means something more. As teachers, we need to listen to what is said—and what isn’t. Lastly, as for having a positive attitude? That comes from loving what you do, even on a day filled with challenges. As teachers of young elementary students, it’s important to remember that kids will definitely sense your moods, your reactions, and will generally take their cues from you. If you’re positive, then I’m positive that you’ll stand the best chance of getting positive responses from your students.

Kim’s thoughts on teaching and her suggestions come from the heart—and from nineteen years in the classroom. Kim’s All About Writing Gift Set is en route to her. When she opens her package, she’s promised to reconnect with Teacher Peach so stay tuned for Kim’s next installment. What would you add to Kim’s thoughts? When do you feel most rewarded as a teacher? What advice would you like to share? We’d all love to hear about a few of your favorite moments as a teacher.

Meet Sharon B. the Winner of the Words to Grow By! Gift Set

It was a privilege to interview Sharon B., the winner of the Words to Grow By Gift Set in our recent holiday contest. Sharon’s name was chosen at random. Congratulations, Sharon. Here are some excerpts from our interview.

SharonB_Teacher_Peach_Contest_Winner  Words to Grow By Gift Set

TP: Sharon, tell us a bit about you, how long you’ve been teaching, what grades, etc.
SB: I’ve been teaching for 24 years. Now I’m teaching fifth grade, ELA and Social Studies. I’ve taught students from second through eighth grade over the years.

TP: What sparked you to enter this Teacher Peach contest?
SB: I like your page on FB. I love the products, especially the tote bag. I also enjoy the different quotes and share them with my kids, too.

TP: What makes you come back to Teacher Peach?
SB: You get teachers. Teaching is my passion; it is not a career. It is my passion to help my students. When I help students with reading and literacy, I’m doing work that’s right for me—and for them. Many times, students are reading two grades below level. My passion helps me put myself in their shoes. I keep in perspective exactly where each child is and I tell my students I know they can succeed. I encourage every different student to brush off the struggles and frustrations and keep moving forward. Teacher Peach shares my passion for teaching, teachers, and kids. I like that.

TP: What are the three biggest rewards for you as a teacher?
SB: When I started teaching, thought I’d change the world. I quickly learned that would take longer than I’d thought. Now, I see I’ve made differences—one student at a time. It’s the greatest feeling to discover what former students have achieved. It reminds both of us of the difference we made together. Middle school may have been a long time ago, but they remember and so do I. It can take years to know you were a part of their success, but it is worth the wait. I’ve even had the chance to teach the children of former students. Finally, when I worked as a special needs teaching assistant, I found different rewards than I ever imagined. To see those children, so eager to learn and discover what they can do, was big. They didn’t judge, they were open to doing their best, and when I would spot their determination, when I could spark that smile on a child’s face, it was wonderful. All kids can do so much if we encourage them. When they can trust you as a teacher, it is very rewarding.

TP: What are your three biggest challenges?
SB: Every teacher knows that there are just some days you don’t feel you’re getting through to your kids. I stop myself and wonder what those children deal with before and after they are in my classroom. I remind myself that we have no idea what they struggle with at home. As an English teacher, I see students who don’t like to write. I need to figure out other ways to reach them. Getting enough support is a challenge, too. Teaching assistants work so much harder than many teachers see. I was a TA and that experience opened my eyes. As teachers, we need to appreciate all the support teams around us.

TP: You have such an incredible attitude and approach to teaching. What advice would you have for other teachers?
SB: First, put yourself out there and be confident in yourself. Failures do help to build confidence; don’t be afraid of that. Second, smile and keep a positive attitude. I always tell my kids, “Your day always turns out the way the corners of your mouth turn.” That’s good advice for anyone to follow. Finally, have teaching passion. If you are passionate, then teachers teach and learn. We learn from our students—every day. I take what I learn from my kids and try my very best to share learning right back.

TP: What would you tell new teachers and college students considering teaching?
SB: Again, you need a passion to teach. “It’s all in or go home!” Realize you’re never done learning; graduating is the beginning of your next learning opportunity. Keep learning. Seek out PD; I do. I think new teachers think success is about big things, but it isn’t. Teaching with passion shows you that the little things are really big things when they help a student grow and learn! Use numbers wisely, too. Test scores measure progress, but remember the number one, too—one child at a time. Every single child is an individual. Help each do well in class and they’ll do well on standardized tests. Testing is a great measuring tool because you can see progress from starting scores to new ones. I’ve helped kids make a two-year leap in one school year, to jump 47 points in one year! That gain means we’re doing the right things. Data doesn’t lie. Don’t worry what level a student is when you begin; that’s a starting point. I tell my students that if they’ll work with me, I’ll do everything I can to work with them. Let your students know you’ll help and that you know they’ll do their best.

TP: Any other advice for other teachers?
SB: Remember to get down to the kids’ level—look at the world through their eyes if you can. Peer pressure is huge these days. You’ve got to have empathy. Jump in, put yourself out there, and you’ll learn and become an even better teacher.

TP: As you know, Teacher Peach strives to support and appreciate teachers. What makes you feel appreciated?
SB: My district is so amazing, and I’ve always felt appreciated here. Other teachers have told me they’re not so fortunate. From what I hear about other places, politics can sometimes overshadow being there for the kids. In my district, I’m supported for doing my best with and for my kids. I love it when families acknowledge the work I do. Cards and letters from my own principal mean a lot, too.

TP: Can you suggest products you’d like Teacher Peach to create to help support teachers?
SB: You’ve got lots of products of all sizes, which is good. I love the sticky notes, cards, stickers, pencils, clips, Sharpies®, and supplies we use all the time. I also love little pins and clips for lanyards. Personally, I love anything with a ladybug on it. I use LADYBUGS as acronym for what I do.

Sharon’s Ladybug: Learning Always Demonstrates that You’re Building an Understanding of Goals and Skills!

Sharon has certainly shared her understanding of the goals, skills—and passion—every teacher needs to thrive. Sharon’s Teacher Peach Words to Grow By Gift Set is en route to her. When she opens her package, she’s promised to reconnect with Teacher Peach, so stay tuned for Sharon’s next installment. We so hope Sharon’s words of wisdom and ideas inspire you the next time you go into your classroom. What would you add to Sharon’s messages? Do you have a teaching ACRONYM to share?

Class Teacher Gifts: Teacher Gift Card Pros and Cons

Teachers value gifts from their students, no matter the form. What truly matters during this gift-giving season is that teachers feel appreciated and families feel that they have acknowledged the great work teachers do all year long. Deep down, though, everyone wants to give and receive a gift that really delights!

The holiday season and Teacher Appreciation Week in May are two times of year when families typically want to express their appreciation of teachers. That said, the holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for everyone. Most gift givers begin with high intentions to choose gifts that are personal and meaningful for everyone on their list. When the sand runs out of the shopping hourglass, though, many busy families revert to quicker, universal gifts.

One teacher gift-giving plan that’s popular today is that of giving teachers generic credit card gift cards at both the holidays and at the end of the school year. Sometimes, individual families choose to give gift cards. Other times, the class will get together and purchase one bigger gift card for the teacher. Lots of people seem to have opinions about these gestures so Teacher Peach took a closer look.

Class Gifts Are in the Cards
Some schools encourage families to contribute to an official class gift. In these cases, the room representative usually collects a suggested amount of money at Go-to-School Night from those families that wish to contribute. The rep typically buys a generic credit card gift card, signs a holiday card from the entire class, puts the gift card in the envelope, and pops it in the teacher’s mailbox before break.

The concept of the universal gift card began with two good intentions. A gift card gives the teacher one bigger amount of money to buy a more significant gift instead of receiving a cacophony of small items. A gift card gift also protects all families in the class through its anonymity model. There are lots of PROs and CONs to this approach.

Pros and Cons of Generic Gift Card Teacher Gifts:

  1. PRO: Teachers receive a dollar amount to spend with great freedom.
  2. CON: Teachers don’t have a direct sense of how families feel about their work and don’t really have the chance to directly connect with those who contributed to the gift.
  3. PRO: When teachers know, based on their school’s protocol, that there is a very high likelihood of receiving a generic gift card, they can anticipate its arrival and plan how they’ll spend it.
  4. CON: Because teachers know they are likely to receive a generic gift card, actually receiving one can feel somewhat perfunctory at times. (Everyone knows what’s in the bag!)
  5. PRO: Some room reps do more than leave the gift in the teacher’s mailbox. They come into the classroom and actually present the gift in front of all of the kids and many even invite family members to join them.
  6. CON: As lovely as this gesture may be, it’s not very practical for working family members to join in this presentation during a school day at this hectic time of year.
  7. PRO: Giving a gift card makes the money collection process a simple one when it is tied to Go-to-School Night. It simplifies the group decision-making process, too.
  8. CON: Families spend hard-earned money contributing to a gift with little input as to the specific gift card their money will help to buy or what the teacher ultimately will purchase.
  9. PRO: The holiday season is one where some extra cash can come in handy. In fact, some teachers appreciate receiving gift cards as ready cash to buy gifts for others on their own shopping lists.
  10. CON: When teachers elect to spend their gift cards as cash, the intent of giving teachers the chance to buy themselves gifts they’ll really enjoy disappears. There is no lasting reminder of the class’s gift.
  11. PRO: Collecting money for gift cards anonymously makes it optional for families to contribute. This is helpful when families simply prefer to give their own gifts separate from the class gift as well as when families cannot afford to contribute. Students don’t know, teachers don’t know, and the class comes together as one cohesive entity.
  12. CON: The protective anonymity of the class gift can sometimes backfire. Class gifts are given from the entire class, regardless of which families actually choose or are able to contribute. Because teachers don’t know which families actually contribute, they personally thank each student/family. This note, instead of delivering the intended heartfelt thanks, can make those unable to contribute feel worse when they receive a thank-you note for a gift they could not be part of giving.
  13. PRO: Because funds are often collected very early in the school year, contributing to a gift card is simple and takes away the need to think about finding a teacher gift at the holidays. It’s already done.
  14. CON: It’s very early in the school year when gift card funds are collected at September’s Go-to-School Night. This event is also the first time many families and teachers meet. They don’t know one another in many cases and are simply giving money, much like they would to a class activity fund.

It’s All Good When Teachers Are Acknowledged!
By the December holidays, most families and students have solid relationships with their teachers. The early contribution to a class gift card, while convenient, often feels detached from the actual relationship the families and teachers have established. As a result, many of these families (and kids!) want to do more and some elect to give their own additional gifts, independent of the class gift. The families know much more about the teacher’s interests and preferences by this point. Often, the kids have very set ideas about what their teacher will like, too. When this happens, the class gift card comes to the rescue. While some families may opt to give more, everyone feels a part of the class gift through the giving of the class gift card, thanks to its anonymity.

All Gifts Count
As these PROs and CONs show, gift cards can be great time savers, equalizers, and offer benefits to everyone involved. At the same time, gift cards can feel impersonal to all concerned. These sentiments aside, all gifts count when they are given with heart!

Teachers Appreciate and Acknowledge Gifts
Teachers greatly appreciate the gifts they receive, regardless of form—from homemade to store bought and from thoughtful cards to generic gift cards. In most cases, every teacher gift is immediately acknowledged. A “Thank You” and “Have a Wonderful Winter Break” note is often in students’ hands or hits the mailbox by the time the just-before-break school bell rings.

Teacher Gift CertificateWhatever gift families may choose to give to teachers this holiday season, by remembering the intent behind the gift, every gift will be special. For families that would like to give a gift certificate with all the convenience of a gift card combined with a specific, teacher-centric twist, choose a gift certificate from Teacher Peach. The certificate is quick and easy to download and print out; roll it and tie it with a ribbon. Giving this certificate, while just like a gift card, can seem much more personal to teachers because it directly connects the appreciation to the teacher’s profession.

What do you think about gift cards as a gift-giving strategy for teachers? Where do you fall on the gift-card giving spectrum? We’d like to hear from you.