Teachers and Nannies Share Their Best Gifts

How well do we treat our nannies and teachers this time of year? I asked a few to name the best Christmas gifts they’d ever received from a parent or child, and in a few cases, the worst gift ever. For nannies, cash is king (and perhaps a little something extra thrown in) and for teachers, any thoughtful gift ranks high.

The nannies…

Victoria Brown, former nanny and author of the upcoming book, Minding Ben
“The best gift I always got as a nanny was hard cold cash! I lived so carefully back in those days, measuring every small paycheck against my bills, and having to send money back to my family in Trinidad, that a whole extra week’s pay was a wonderful windfall. Come Christmas, I could buy presents for the family I lived with and the child I babysat, I could send extra money to my family, and I could maybe afford to buy myself something as well!

And once I got a pair of hand-carved, wooden serving spoons. They looked like zebra heads. I didn’t have anyone to serve salad to, the apartment I lived in didn’t have a kitchen sink, so I hung them on the kitchen wall as decoration.”

Lauren Griffin, nanny to an 8-year-old girl
“An extra week’s pay is really great, but also including a card letting you know how much you are appreciated makes you feel more connected to the family, and less like an employee. My fiance worked for a family that made him a photo mug with a picture of him and the boys—that was a thoughtful present he will always have to remember them by. But I really think money and a thoughtful card is the best.”

Tammy Lewis, former nanny and sometime sitter, and craftawl.com blogger
“Money is always a staple, but I would get money with a subscription to a literary journal. Another year I received a beautiful handmade necklace from Spangle Jewelry Co. on Wyckoff & Court. I personally was endeared by the thoughtful art projects I got from the kids. One of my girls painted me pictures on canvas, and last year she sewed me a stuffed animal (that I taught her how to do).”

The teachers…

Jody Falkenstern, middle school teacher at a public school in Harlem
“My best gift ever was an Amazon gift card. I once got one for $50 which was more than I knew what to do with and another for ten dollars, a perfect amount for a book. My worst gift was clothes. It’s just not a good idea. I got a sweater last year and felt bad that I never wore it.”

MaryAnne LoVerme, Spanish teacher at a private school in Manhattan and co-designer of decoupage jewelry line Wabisabi Brooklyn
“I’ve been very lucky and have gotten some great gifts over the years. Top of the list: wine, really nice personalized stationery, and bookstore and café gift certificates. I even once got a gift certificate for a massage! Two others I use all the time: a fancy well-made make-up bag and a super-cool pen. The worst gift? An obviously used blanket. With a stain of indeterminate origin. I still shudder…”

Jessica Vander Salm, 6th grade teacher at City and Country School in Manhattan and baker behind Maid Marian Muffins
“Our school is a bit different in that parents are discouraged from giving us personal gifts (due to worries about competition, equity, promotion of consumption). They are allowed, however, to give us gifts for our classrooms—things that we will use as teachers and that the kids will benefit from. Such gifts have included digital cameras, paper-cutters, gift certificates for books, books, money for a special trip, etc.

That said, children often make cards and/or food, which I really like. There is nothing cuter or more meaningful than a child-made card. One year a parent had all of the children make cards with notes which they inserted into a beautifully bound book.”

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