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Teacher Calls Out 'Insulting' Appreciation Gift — An Empty Ziploc Bag 'Filled With Our Love'

Photo: TikTok / Twitter
Jen Manly, empty ziploc bag

In a show of appreciation from their school administrators, one lucky teacher received the gift of a lifetime — a piece of trash.

Schools are facing immense pressure due to underfunding, threats of violence and lack of staff so, understandably, giving gifts to teachers isn't at the top of their minds. But, one particularly lackluster gift given to a teacher is proving that sometimes it isn't "the thought that counts."

One teacher called out an 'insulting' appreciation gift that's just an empty Ziploc bag 'filled with love.'

The image initially went viral on Twitter before getting noticed by an educator on TikTok, Jen Manly, who posted her reaction on the video-sharing app to one school’s gift to their teachers.

The photo shows an empty Ziploc bag with a printed note stapled onto it that reads, “I know this bag looks empty. But it’s actually filled with our love.”



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The original tweet from the Twitter account, @UnionDrip explains that the plastic bag was "a gift for teacher appreciation day" and accurately explains that there is "no better metaphor for how America treats educators."

It's no secret that teachers are under-appreciated in the United States. For having a job as crucial as educating the next generation of adults, they get paid next to nothing. 

In 2021, the average public school teacher salary in the US during the 2021 school year was $65,090. That's in comparison to the average salary for a person in the U.S. which Fool.com claims is $97,962. 

When it comes to improving teachers' salaries, we'll have to put a little pressure on our governments and legislators. But until then, the least we could do is insist that teachers actually get treated with respect and receive at least some level of appreciation for their work.

Manly had some choice words for the “gift,” noting that it is not a gift at all. “That is insulting,” she says before she doubles down and calls out people who might try to defend the gift.

She explains that a more suitable gift for a teacher would be something more custom such as, at the very least, a personalized note for each teacher.

“Giving teachers a bag of air with a generic note on it is not a gift,” Manly explained. “It is a piece of trash, and it is something that some people are going to feel guilty throwing away.”

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Teachers in the comments shared their experiences of receiving gifts.

“One year we got a 3x5 piece of construction paper with the word ‘thanks’ stamped on it,” one person commented.

“Our admin gives us a Payday candy bar each payday,” another person wrote. “For teacher appreciation week they put Charmin TP in the teachers’ bathrooms.”

Several people responded that the gift is “cute,” coming from a child. However, this “gift” did not come from a child but from school administrators.  

So, Manly made a follow-up video giving more context to the photo and providing affordable alternatives to gift teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.

“If you’re an educator, this is equivalent to your boss giving you a piece of trash and calling it a ‘gift,’” Manly said. “This is an inappropriate gift from a boss to a subordinate.” She reiterated the idea of giving teachers personalized notes that share individual qualities people appreciate.

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'A thoughtful note expressing genuine gratitude is free,' Manly said.

She explained that it would take more time for administrators to make these than generic notes, but it’s worth it. Educators deserve more than a bag of nothing!

In the video’s caption, she shares some other options to gift teachers. Manly suggested that, instead of having to come up with a gift on a budget, administrators shorten staff meetings or set up a coffee bar are great gift options.

She also suggested something as simple as restocking items like pencils and other school supplies so that they don’t come out of the teacher’s pocket.

study published by the National Center For Education Statistics (NCES) found that 94% of all public school teachers in the United States use their money to restock classroom supplies.

Every penny counts when the average starting salary for teachers in some states is as low as $30,000. So, with Teacher Appreciation Week coming up in the next couple of months from May 8th to May 12th, if there’s an educator in your life or your kid’s life, be sure to get them something meaningful!

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Ethan Cotler is a writer living in Boston. He writes on entertainment and news.