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Jeanie Groh column: Making a list, checking it twice

I was scrolling through my Pinterest feed the other day, and there’s no denying it – Christmas time is upon us.

Amongst all the DIY wreathes, gifts, décor and desserts, I found another common trend: teacher gifts.

Some of them were really cute, others were thoughtful and still others were downright corny (but hey, I’m a sucker for corny).

All these gifts got me thinking, if I were to talk to teachers about what they really want and need, what would they say?

So, I decided to find out. I asked a dozen teachers who work at a variety of schools and teach different subjects and grades what would be on their teacher wish list.

The No. 1 response I received wasn’t markers, notebooks or beanbags – it was time.

“In middle school specifically, we could use adults who would partner with us and our students to serve as advocates and cheerleaders with ‘no strings attached.’  Many of our children would benefit from an adult to encourage and believe in them,” said Maria Freeman, an Academically or Intellectually Gifted teacher at Erwin Middle School.

Justin Snyder, the choral teacher at West Rowan High School, said he wishes more community members would come to his students’ performances.

“Our creations, our students’ work, is meant to be seen and heard – without an ability to truly showcase this, I feel that we fall short of honoring all of the work our students put into the arts,” he said.

Several teachers mentioned how they would love to have a professional come talk to their class about how they use specific subjects at work.

Kim Etters, a teacher at Salisbury High School, said she’d like to have volunteers come eat lunch just once a week with some of her students.

“All the kids at Salisbury High School are good kids, some just need redirecting at times,” she said. “If these kids could connect to successful community members then this will help raise their self-esteem.”

She went on to say that the students wouldn’t be the only ones to benefit from these relationships.

“What you learn from them is truly amazing,” she said. “It would be a win-win for all.”

Etters added that high school seniors need mentors for their senior projects.

“It is very discouraging to the students when they make contact with community members and they reject being mentors,” she said.

Other teachers mentioned that having someone simply donate some time to help file papers or grade assignments would be helpful. For those who want to be more hands-on, they asked for volunteers to help read with students or tutor them.

Of course, these intangible needs aren’t the only items on these teachers’ wish lists.

While many of the needs differed by age group and subject, hands down, the most requested physical item was tissues. Parents send in a bunch of tissues at the beginning of the year, but teachers always need more.

As teachers begin incorporating more and more technology in their classrooms, some of their basic needs have changed. For instance, several teachers mentioned that they would love to have earbuds or thumb drives for each of their students. Others said nontraditional furniture, such as couches, yoga balls, floor cushions or carpet squares would lend themselves well to an interactive and collaborative learning environment.

Traditional school supplies, such as books, copier paper, construction paper, file folders, markers and crayons came up a lot, especially from elementary school teachers.

DaKisha Payne Williams was one of several teachers who mentioned that she would love funding to take her students on interactive field trips.

“A fully or even partially funded field trip for my fifth-graders to either Discovery Place in Charlotte, the Natural Science Center in Greensboro or the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro would be great,” she said.

Several teachers said they would like items that would meet the needs of their poorest students.

Sally Schultz, a fifth-grade teacher at Hanford-Dole, said she would love donations of winter clothing.

“As it gets colder, a lot of students are coming in without winter coats, hats and gloves, which is a necessity for our students,” she said.

“I need cans or spaghetti, mac and cheese, crackers, fruit cups, juice boxes, etc.,” Etters wrote. “As educators, it is hard to teach when the students are hungry.”

She added that around prom, she could also use gently used prom dresses, vests and bow ties, as well as donors who would pay for the tickets of those who can’t afford to go.

Looking for a special gift for a special elective teacher, such as choir, band, art or food science? Ask the individual teacher. Their wish lists looked different from the rest, including audio and video items for school auditoriums, paints, feathers and hot glue guns.

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