I am a graduating Senior and I have one mentor who really I really appreciate all that the mentor has done for me. I am just asking for some ideas for maybe gifts or gestures that would really show how thankful I am for the four years of mentoring they gave me. I am already writing a personal letter for them, but what has a student done for you or you have done for a mentor that maybe I could take inspiration from?
Speaking as a mentor… stay in touch! So many of my students have graduated, left, and were never heard from again. Those that stay in touch, let me know how school’s going or ask for advise every now and then are the ones that have a bigger impact on me. Volunteer at an event or two next year, and at some point down the road mentor a team - pay forward the gift you were given as a student!
I’m a teacher and mentor and have received many gifts over the years. All of them are kind and very nice, but the absolute best gift I ever receive is a letter. I have a folder filled just with the letters I’ve received over the years, and when things get tough I can just pull one out to smile again.
If you want to do more than a letter then handmade things are always nice. Things simple as bags full of candies and foods that the kids know I love are really kind. Also one year the kids made me a snow globe with a Power Hawk logo inside, and glitter/metal shavings as the snow. Its small and simple, but proudly sits on my desk for me to look at every day and always brings a smile to my face.
But in the end, write a letter. It goes so incredibly far.
The letter is a great idea. I also agree with Jon Stratis - staying in touch means more than any gift. I love getting updates from the alumni and seeing them stop by, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
My sophomore year in high school (Aerial Assist), we used wheels that we had to replace tread on twice every competition. We had stacks of this used tread sitting around so a friend and I used it to make a picture frame. We made a collage of pictures from the season and put it in.
We included a poem with it that was about mentors and appreciating them, and we read it at the team picnic and presented the mentors with it.
Get creative! I know that was really special to the mentors because 1) we made it and 2) it was personal to our experience as a team that year.
One of my favorite mentors was leaving our team a few years ago to start his new job at Tesla in California. This mentor has taught me basically everything I know about robotics, and it was hard to say good bye to him, but I was happy that he was moving on and starting a new life at a kick $@#$@#$@# job. One of my favorite moments in FIRST is seeing this mentor become a Woodie flowers finalist.
The day before he left, I organised a party for him with cake, and the team made him a gift. We made him a giant acrylic key to our team with our teams number and a quote that he shared with us: “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand."-Benjamin Franklin.
This became a giant joke between us because Benjamin Franklin did not say this quote, and it was actually Confucius.
I talk to this mentor almost every day, and I am so thankful for what he has taught me, and for being able to have the opportunity to work with him.
Really, we do this because we love building up students. To me it’s not about the robot at all. It’s about teaching students to become better problem solvers, better communicators, and better people.
We invest hundreds, thousands of hours into our students. Sometimes the reward is immediate, like when you see a student’s eyes light up in understanding, or when your robot is successful on the field because your students did a good job.
Sometimes it’s frustrating. It hurts you to see your students struggle, or get upset when things don’t work. It can be mentally draining trying to talk down a student who’s in tears because they’re so invested in something that’s just not going the way they hoped. It can be disappointing to realize that we may be seen as nothing more than the holder of the wallet or the keys to the room where the toys are.
Sometimes we keep trying to model, trying to teach, and don’t quite see the result we want. We know that, theoretically, deep down we’re having an impact. Sometimes we see the change happen. Sometimes it takes years. Sometimes we won’t get to see it at all, but we hope that it’ll be there, that we’ve made some kind of long term impact.
Write a letter and tell me that I did. That you noticed. That you appreciate it. That would mean more to me than any blue banner would.
I’m not very sentimental and I don’t hang on to stuff much, but I have every thank you letter/note any student has ever written to me. It is my affirmation that in the end, what I do counts.
If you still want to give a gift, find some quirk that your mentor has and feed it. Like I have this thing for iced tea with “nugget ice” . My kids often give me gift cards to the convenience store nearby that has this kind of ice.
I agree with most of the other sentiments here, but I’d like to reiterate in the following way:
A letter means you appreciate what I did for you as a mentor and that’s terrific
Keeping in touch after you leave the team means our relationship has gone beyond just a mentor/student relationship.
Seeing you helping others in a similar way (mentoring a team, volunteering at events, or similar work with other organizations) means my impact has gone to the next level. I’m not just influencing kids and making them better, I’m helping people become people who help other people. That’s the best thank you of all.
Our team held a banquet in May of our rookie year last year to reflect on the year and thank the parents and sponsors. The kids, without knowledge of any of the mentors, made thank you cards and certificates for the mentors. We had our wonderful mentors all walk up to the front and stand on the defenses (taboo I know) and our outgoing senior gave a small speech thanking them.
I agree with both Jon and GreyingJay. Keep in touch. Build season can be stressful for both mentors and students. During that period of time, you sometimes see the robotics team more than your own family. The fact is, the mentors, coaches and team in general become part of an extended family. Keeping in touch by stopping by during build season is a great way to catch up on what is happening and you are able to share your experiences with new team members. Paying back by becoming a mentor is also fantastic. I’m very fortunate. My 2 boys, one who was in robotics and 1 that graduated before we had the program, both have become mentors. My wife also is a mentor and helps with various things throughout the year.
In expanding on what Greying Jay said, I have a feeling that if you a need to thank a mentor for doing an “over the top” job, more than likely that mentor isn’t in it for the thank you, but rather is there for the right reason, to help students succeed. The most enjoyment I have comes on a day to day basis. Seeing problems arise and having students come up with creative solutions and seeing the smiles on the students faces after solving them is my reward. The verbal thank you on a day to day basis isn’t expected but rather appreciated. Why wait until the end of the year to say it.
I couldn’t be more proud of how far our team has come in it’s 3 year existence. The amount of learning that goes on is incredible. We just have it so well hidden under the disguise of having fun!
Back in the early days of our team, our team founder/leader was moving away to pursue other job/family related goals. Despite nominating her for WFFA for the previous 3 years, she (like many, many amazing mentors in this program) never was chosen.
The student leadership team, with the help of some mechanical mentors tried to best replicate a scale model of the WFFA trophy (with their own team related spin on it) and presented it to her with a “farewell address” from the leadership team thanking her for everything she has done and siting some of the more influential, funny, memorable, heartfelt, etc moments from her time on the team.
This was definitely more of a thank you from a team. But anything written from the heart is the biggest suggestion I can give.
We made a “Wooden Flowers Award” for one of our mentors who has been helping our team for longer than most teams have existed. We just can’t seem to win him the real thing. But when we gave him the Wooden Flowers Award (flowers shapes cut out of wood) it was one of the greatest things ever.
Last year my students found a process by which they signed their names to a coffee mug, baked it to make the inscriptions permanent and presented it at the end-of-season party. Thoughtful handmade thank you gifts are definitely appreciated, but the best mentors will eventually collect a lot of them.
A letter, perhaps with a signed team photograph would be easiest to keep forever.
I totally agree with the sentiment that a letter written from the heart remembering the experiences you have shared are the best. I have several photo collages that I truly cherish as they help me remember each year that passes.
I have also been lucky to receive a few absolutely memorable and special gifts from students who were particularly creative. One was a copy of all the code they had written for the robot that year (I am the programming mentor) with all the returns removed so it was just a huge block of text and then they overlaid on it with our team logo. It is cool because you can see the variable names, etc. in there that are so personal and recognizable. They made a poster size print and framed it… and the letter they included made me cry because they were remembering all the time we spent creating that code together. The second item was an erector set model of our robot that the student had worked on all season. I had heard the kids talking about it together as he made improvements and shared what he was working on with his friends. I was shocked when he gave it to me at our team picnic because I knew how much time he had spent on it. But the best part was that the process he went through to make it was like writing software… sometimes when it is not working out you have to remove part of it and start over. Memories of lessons learned…
My suggestion is to focus on what you learned together and express that to your mentor. That is a message that they will always appreciate.