Lisa DeBow (LeBouthillier)
I had moved from New Brunswick to Alberta a few years ago and greatly missed my two daughters, who were still living in NB. I often shared stories of my daughters with my students over the course of the year. My second year teaching in Alberta, one student gave me a custom-made tree ornament with our family name at the bottom and each of my three daughters’ names and mine, painted above four elves cuddling in a big bed. I was beyond touched as it was going to be the first Christmas without my girls. This student knew my heart was with my daughters, and her thoughtfulness really made me tear
up and smile.
For four years I taught music to a student with special needs who was never able to participate in the Christmas concert. He loved music and could sing a bit of the song and knew all the actions, but being on stage with the lights and the crowd was overwhelming. In his last year at the school his classroom teacher and EA and I were all in tears as we watched him finally perform with his class in his very first concert. His mom came up to me in the hallway a few days later and gave me a box of chocolates and told me she always wanted to see her son perform but never thought he could stay on the stage. I can still picture his smiling face and excitement whenever I plan a Christmas concert.
A single nickel wrapped in sparkly paper and given to me by a wide-eyed Grade 1 boy I will never ever forget. We learn the biggest lessons from the smallest people.
My mom. Fifteen years ago in early November my mom had a class five aneurysm and wasn’t expected to survive. On Christmas Day we celebrated together as a family in the Glenrose hospital, where she was getting rehabilitation and physio and relearning many things. That Christmas the gifts we exchanged were meaningless compared to still having her with us.
My first teaching position was on a fly-in reserve in northern B.C. I made a real effort to connect with the families of my students and to become part of the community. Just before I left for the Christmas holidays, one of the mothers brought me a beautifully wrapped gift. Since I wasn’t expecting any gifts, I was touched by her thoughtfulness. I was even more touched when I opened the gift to find a beautiful Bradford Exchange plate, with a wintery scene that was reminiscent of the little community where we lived. There was nowhere to shop in the community, so I have no idea how she got the gift ... she must have either ordered it in or purchased it on a rare trip out. It brought me to tears at the time and now, 23 years later, it is still displayed in a special frame in my home. It was the first gift I received as a teacher!
From two students, one whose last name was Button, the other Penny. They were best friends and super cute together. For Christmas they made me a picture frame of them and me smiling with buttons and pennies and gold bits all around and the words “Best Buds” all written in their goofy Grade 2 writing. Those boys are 23 now.
I’m old, but we still keep in touch.
My engagement ring!
My favourite was a swim pass.
A cozy blanket with quotes from one of my students about things I had done and said throughout the year. It’s a real treasure! Thanks, Graeson.
A student hand-knitted an infinity scarf.
She explained how she chose the colour based on what she saw me wear and what I liked — so perceptive and thoughtful.
My favourite was a reindeer made out of a candy cane. I teach high school and have never before or since gotten a handmade craft for a gift. I was incredibly touched that my student took
the time to make it for me.
It was my least favourite at the time, but the year I was 17 my mom got me a sewing machine. I was so disappointed that morning, but I’ve really come to treasure it now. I’ve made many quilts and given them to people I love, which has made me so happy!
My favourite Christmas present (because it made me laugh so hard) was two and a half Chicken McNuggets. It was based on a McDonald’s advertisement at the time. The boys were so proud to “present” me with this gift. Later on they gave me my real gift — a porcelain Santa figurine — but the McNuggets have always stuck in my memory.
I got a series of letters one year from students, past and present, detailing what I meant to them and how I positively affected them (this was when “What does a teacher make?” was spreading through social media). Still get teary-eyed looking through them.