06/27/2016 02:51 EDT | Updated 06/27/2016 02:59 EDT

Your Child's Teacher Deserves A Year-End Gift With Heart

school children

Children in places like Ethiopia often don't have books to aid with their learning. Through the World Vision Gift Catalogue, you can help supply a classroom with tools like these. (Photo: World Vision)

One wall of our home is plastered with artwork our boys have created in school through the years. Some are more accomplished than others -- Gavin was still learning to use scissors in one, so the cutting is pretty random!

At first glance, the pictures are just colourful memories of our kids' growing up. But look a little closer, and you'll see that most have something in common. It's likely the same with the paintings and sketches on your fridge.

The pictures were inspired by a lesson from a teacher.

Those water-colour autumn leaves are a reminder of how precious nature is. The paper plate with cut-out food was glued in gratitude on World Food Day. The blue and green planet, with hands stretching across the ocean, was made to welcome Syrian refugees to Toronto.

A teacher's gift with heart

Teachers bring so much meaning to our children's lives, and to ours as well. So why do we park those lessons when it's time to choose a teacher's gift?

I get that teachers are human and, by this time of year, exhausted. I can't imagine doing what teachers do every day, with grace, courage and humour. There are few things I'd prefer that first week of summer than a bottle of the best Chardonnay the liquor store had to offer!

But put yourself in the teacher's spot as they carry those last boxes out of the classroom this week. Picture them turning back to the empty room one last time before switching off the lights.

What goes through their minds? How do they feel about the year that was? I'm sure most teachers have no idea how often their lessons were shared with excitement at your dinner table.

The gift you choose this week could make all the difference in how your child's teacher feels about the last 10 months. It could help them understand how they've helped your entire family to grow.

5 ways teachers say they'd liked to be thanked:

You know your child's teacher best, but here are some tips shared with me by my boys' homeroom teachers over the years:

  1. Send me a note or card:

    Describe the ways your child's teacher has made a difference in their lives this year. Even just one story of a day turned around, an interest piqued or a subject made less scary will be cherished. And having it on paper means the teacher can relive the experience again.

  2. Make a donation in my name:

    Our first kindergarten teacher liked to send home a tally of the number of coffee mugs, chocolate boxes and wine bottles she had received over the years! She asked parents to instead make a difference in her name, donating to the local library or women's shelter.

  3. Leave a legacy in my classroom:

    One teacher said nothing beat the 25 paintbrushes she received from one family, so children in her class next year wouldn't have to share. Other teachers have asked for donations of books for their class libraries -- sometimes a special reference book. It's particularly useful in times of tight education budgets.

  4. Change children's lives in my honour:

    One teacher was particularly passionate about the environment and improving the lives of children overseas. We helped bring solar power to a community in Africa in her name. She said it was "the most beautiful gift I've ever received." Visit the World Vision Gift Catalogue to find more gifts like this

  5. A group gift is great with me:

    Educators without homerooms, like music teachers, gym teachers, principals and office staff often don't receive gifts. Many teachers have told me that a slightly larger donation, given in a card with everyone's names, would honour the team spirit that makes so many schools great.

If you're not sure any of these would suit your teacher, take a moment to ask another teacher what they'd like best. Whatever you choose, your child's teacher will be grateful to be remembered and thanked.

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