DEAR ABBY: I teach aspiring elementary school teachers in a credential program in California. The family of one of my students came up with a great way to celebrate her graduation from the program and help her prepare for her new career as a teacher. They threw her a "teacher shower."

To help her start her classroom library, each guest brought a hardback copy of his/her favorite children's book. She was also given baskets of teacher supplies such as Sharpie pens, Post-Its, stickers and colored paper for the school copier.

Other gift ideas are class sets of small white-boards with markers, board games, membership to teachers' organizations like the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Council of Teachers of English, subscriptions to children's and teachers' magazines, art supplies, a museum membership, P.E. equipment like balls and jump ropes, etc.

I know the shower meant a lot to my student, and in states like California, where teachers often spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of their own money for classroom supplies, throwing a teacher shower can be a terrific way for families and friends to show their support for the new teacher and for education in general. I hope you will print this, Abby, to help spread the idea of teacher showers and show support for the next generation of classroom teachers. -- JULIE, A TEACHER'S TEACHER, BERKELEY, CALIF.

DEAR JULIE: Dedicated teachers are among the unsung heroes in our country. They guide and shape the members of future generations, and rarely receive the credit or the income they deserve for their efforts. I love the concept of a teacher shower to help young, idealistic educators get off to the start they need, and I hope the idea will be popularized not only for new teachers, but also more experienced educators who would find it helpful. I'm sure there are many.

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DEAR ABBY: My husband, Rex, and I have been married 12 years and have two children, ages 11 and 7. Rex was married once before, while in his 20s, for a very short time. His first wife left him for someone else. (Thankfully, there were no children involved.)

Rex does not want our children to learn about his first marriage. He feels it represents a failure on his part, and he sees no reason why the children should be told. However, his ex-wife still lives here in town, and on a couple of occasions we have bumped into her at local restaurants. Rex was very uncomfortable during these encounters, and the children did not understand why.

My thought is to simply get this out in the open, but Rex refuses. I don't like keeping secrets from our kids, and feel that the longer we wait, the more our kids will feel betrayed by the secrecy. But I also want to be sensitive to my husband's feelings. How should we handle this? -- WIFE NO. 2 IN HOUSTON

DEAR WIFE NO. 2: Do not mention the subject. He may feel uncomfortable about it because he was the one who was left. If the kids hear about it elsewhere -- and they may -- be honest and tell them the marriage was long ago and very brief. If they want to know why they weren't told about it, tell them to ask their father. (I'm sure they'll forgive him once they understand.) Then, before your children can get to your husband, warn him that the cat's out of the bag so they don't catch him flat-footed.

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