Council Bluffs, Iowa
31 years as elementary and middle school teacher in Iowa, currently president of Iowa State Education Association, Des Moines
"I worked in a high-poverty school so I didn't get $25 gift certificates or the cashmere sweaters. My building had 86 percent free- and reduced-lunch students. Many of the gifts had belonged to their mothers and sisters and other members of the family. You weren't sure if they had permission to give them. But they wanted to give them. The gifts weren't of high value but it was important that the students could give something. The kids noticed and were proud I was wearing them."
Best holiday tip: "I've received earrings from my students that made my ears break into sores. I've received rings that turned my fingers green. But I always wore the jewelry to honor the child. I would put it on before the children walked in the classroom and as soon as they left, I'd take it off. But I would wear it several times so the child could see that I appreciated their gifts."