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

Teachers deserve more than this.

Last updated on Mar 28, 2024

teacher in front of classroom Max Fischer / Pexels

Every teacher deserves a "thank you" as a source of encouragement for all of their hard work.

While these gestures can come in the form of gifts from students during the holidays and end of the year, or a celebration in the community, school administrations should really set the bar high. Unfortunately, that's not the reality for a majority of teachers.

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


A 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, Jen Manly, on TikTok, who posted her now-deleted 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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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.'

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 U.S. 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. 

But with inflation, teachers are making less. A 2023 review by the National Education Association found teachers are making an average of $3,644 less than they did 10 years ago.


The review also concluded, "Nearly 40% of all education support professionals working full-time in K-12 schools earn less than $25,000 per year. More than a third of all education support professionals (K-12 and higher education combined) working full-time earn less than $25,000 annually."

So, 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 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's not a gift at all.

“That is insulting,” she said, before doubling down and calling out people who might try to defend the gift. She explained that a more suitable gift for a teacher would be something more custom such as, at the very least, a personalized note for each educator.

“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 also weighed in on the "gifts" their administrators gave them.

“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 would be “cute” when coming from a child; however, it was inappropriate coming from school administrators.

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. "A thoughtful note expressing genuine gratitude is free," Manly added.

It would take more time for administrators to make thoughtful notes, but it’s worth it. Educators deserve more than a bag of nothing.

In the video’s caption, Manly shared other options to gift teachers to show they are appreciated.


Manly suggested that, instead of having to come up with a gift on a budget, administrators could shorten staff meetings or set up a coffee bar as gift options. She also suggested something as simple as restocking items like pencils and other school supplies so they don’t come out of teachers' pockets.

A 2023 survey by AdoptAClassroom.org found that 84% of teachers use their own money to restock classroom supplies, with more than 90% failing to meet their student's education needs with their classroom budget. The survey also determined that teachers spend an average of $860 of their own money on classroom supplies.

Rather than giving teachers subpar "thanks" for their hard work, dedication, and low pay, it's time school administrators step up. Because the burden should not fall on educators alone.

Teacher Appreciation Week runs from May 6 to May 10 this year, so 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 and contributor to YourTango living in Boston. His writing covers entertainment, news, and human interest stories.