Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teachers Say the Best Gifts to Receive Cost Nothing; Some Prefer a Handmade Present over Store-Brought Mugs or Candy

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teachers Say the Best Gifts to Receive Cost Nothing; Some Prefer a Handmade Present over Store-Brought Mugs or Candy

Article excerpt

Byline: ANNE MARIE APOLLO

Carrying offerings as simple as a coffee mug, thoughtful as a gift certificate or as stunning as a digital camera, Renee Wignall's second-grade students line up each December to deposit holiday packages on her desk.

Each present lives in her memory but, like most teachers, Wignall has a few favorites that warm her soul.

A little girl's gift of a handmade picture frame holds a particular place there.

"She made it herself, you know," said Wignall, who teaches at Macclenny Elementary School in Baker County. "The homemade ones from children who can't afford to buy something, those are those ones that really come from the heart."

Families might pass over the baby-sitter's bonus and the paperboy's tip, but during the holidays no teacher is forgotten; kids make sure of that.

Piles of cookies and fudge in red and green cellophane, earrings and pins in the shape of apples and rulers, ornaments, mugs, scarves and restaurant gift certificates -- all are shuttled home to be enjoyed over the winter holiday.

When the candy is gone and the gift certificates have been spent, a precious few items stick around, long after the small hands that made them have grown.

According to the National Parent Teacher Association, the gift teachers treasure most is thank you cards, followed by pictures and notes from students.

Many of them realize parents think the same way, preferring homemade sentiment to holiday swag.

Before class let out for winter break this year, Carolyn Komperda had students in her pre-kindergarten class at Clay County's Doctors Inlet Elementary School make books as a present for their parents.

The 4-year-olds read aloud to their mothers and fathers during the class holiday party. Then they handed out hugs.

While that's often more than enough for the adults in the room, try to find a child who doesn't love to be part of presents being opened. For teachers that eagerness often results in stories that are by turns funny and touching.

Beth Upchurch counts among her most memorable gifts a delicate cup and saucer that came nestled in old tissue paper.

A fourth grade teacher at R. …

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