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(Katy McDonnell/(c) Katy McDonnell)
(Katy McDonnell/(c) Katy McDonnell)

Teachers tell all: What's the worst gift you've ever received? Add to ...

We asked an anonymous panel of four public and private school teachers from Ottawa, Calgary and Toronto to tell us the best and worst holiday gifts they’ve received from students.

Toronto elementary teacher who has been teaching for five years

The best and the worst: It was a small wooden plaque, decorated with a fancy, stoic-looking, 3-D brass moose. The plaque was embossed with bold letters reading “Welcome to Canada.” I got a chuckle out of this, because I have lived in Canada my entire life. That, however, was not true of this particular student. … I’m not sure if he gave the “Welcome to Canada” present because he had received and enjoyed similar gifts, or if it was a regifted item that he too found hideous and had no use for. Regardless, the incredible thing about this present, this outrageously tacky present, was the spirit in which it was given; a token of appreciation for helping him begin his journey in a Canadian school.

Calgary kindergarten teacher who has been teaching for 13 years

Hands-down the best holiday gift has been when the entire class has contributed to a gift card for Lululemon or a massage! … Coffee cards are also a huge hit! Although I can’t keep them forever, I love when my students make me a card. Kindergarten students make the best portraits! The worst gift: Christmas mugs. The staffroom cupboards are full of them. I feel terrible saying so. I have to say that, knowing how busy the holiday season is for all of us, I always appreciate feeling like I made it on the families’ list of people to remember this time of year.

Ottawa high-school teacher has been teaching more than 20 years

High-school teachers are less likely to receive actual presents than elementary school teachers. But I have received some great gifts over the years: a pashmina I still wear, gift certificates to my favourite stores, mugs etc. But, honestly, the best gifts are the cards and e-mails. … Sometimes it’s just a note scrawled at the end of a student’s exam telling me how they never thought they’d like history, but they ended up loving it, or an e-mail from a student at university thanking me for teaching them how to write a proper essay. Sometimes the notes are more personal and reference something special I had done for them outside the classroom. All these gifts have touched me.

Toronto high-school teacher who has been teaching for 10 years

Consumables are good. ... I had one student who made the most beautiful, intricate holiday cookies – they were almost a shame to eat. Wine is great. There is also a legendary Jamaican rum cake that is still discussed in my staffroom. Maybe not the best, but the weirdest gift I’ve ever received is a beautiful, hand-beaded feather duster (with real ostrich feathers, too)! I chose not to read too much into it. Luckily it was accompanied by a card written by the student talking about his experience in the class and what it meant to him. ... These kinds of things, at risk of sounding cheesy, really are the best gifts. I have a habit of putting cards like these inside random books in the house so that I happen upon them unexpectedly; this particular one fell out of a recipe book I was using the other day. I stood in my kitchen reading it and felt all warm and fuzzy, remembering the student and a feeling my work was actually worthwhile.

- as told to Tralee Pearce

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Follow on Twitter: @traleepearce

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