DEAR ABBY: Get out the wet noodle for your answer to "A Parent in Oregon." As a public school teacher, I'd be insulted if I received a package of construction paper or pencils as an end-of-the-year gift.
The No. 1 thing teachers would like is respect. This can be demonstrated with a kind note (and a copy to the principal). A gift certificate to a bookstore or restaurant is also a wonderful way to show that a teacher is appreciated. The appropriateness of the gift, of course, will depend on the situation of the family, the school and the teacher -- but a gift from the heart of a child is always special. -- MARILYN FUNDERBURK, ARLINGTON, TEXAS
DEAR MARILYN: I was unprepared for the flood of mail I received from teachers, informing me that my suggestions were off base. A male teacher recently wrote to say he would welcome stock certificates and T-bills. In years past I have received letters from teachers who requested the items I mentioned. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Having spent 32 years in the classroom, 30 of them in inner-city schools, what would be wonderful would be gift certificates to a moderately priced take-out restaurant for the times I'm too swamped to prepare meals (or to celebrate making it to the end of another year!). Also, movie tickets to use during the summer -- or even a gift certificate to a "dollar store" for those incidentals that a teacher can never afford for his or her classroom or home. But please, no school supplies at the end of the year. That's like giving a nurse a thermometer or tongue depressors. -- RETIRED IN SOUTH CAROLINA
DEAR ABBY: Give the lasting gift of books. For teachers who don't have their own classroom (i.e. P.E. teachers), a book can be donated to the entire school and placed in the school library. Our budgets never allow us to buy all the books our students need. -- THIRD-GRADE TEACHER IN DENVER
DEAR ABBY: Teachers have enough cups, mugs, candles and candies. Our class is contributing to a group gift to send our wonderful teachers for a spa treatment. When everyone chips in, it's affordable. We know it's something they would never do for themselves. We can't wait to present it. -- LOTS OF IDEAS IN SEATTLE
DEAR ABBY: I recommend giving the teacher cash. I know of no good teacher who is overpaid. Cash for the underpaid is much better than spa visits, gift certificates, supplies or the usual gifts that teachers receive. None of my son's teachers has ever refused the cash or returned my gifts. -- PARENT IN SAN FRANCISCO
DEAR ABBY: We live in a small community. In its wisdom, our school board ruled: "In fairness to all families, NO child shall give gifts to any of his or her teachers." This was a blessed relief to those of us who couldn't keep up with the Joneses. -- AVID READER, WINTER HAVEN, FLA.
DEAR ABBY: I retired last year after 35 years of teaching. The one thing my students gave me that meant more than anything else: a note expressing appreciation for whatever I had done to help them during that year. Those cards and letters are more precious to me as time goes by. Rereading them, I recall sweet faces, special things about those kids, and the wonderful times we had together. They are priceless. -- KAY FRIEDRICH, ATHENS, GA.
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600