The tradition of giving a gift to the classroom teacher is more complicated, with some school systems discouraging it, and others advising parents to keep the gifts inexpensive.
State ethics law prevents public school teachers from accepting any gift, Christmas or otherwise, with a value of $50 or more. And they must disclose the gifts they accept that are worth less than that.
The law took effect in 2010 and is the same for this school year.
Full disclosure: I was a middle school teacher in Springfield last year, the first time I had a job in which people gave me gifts. I received a few small items from my students, including the penguins in the photo accompanying this story, as well as some candles and mugs with cocoa.