Most fourth-graders, if they really like a teacher, will spring for a shiny red apple.
That’s a perfectly good present, but this Valentine’s Day, 9-year-old Glen Elementary School student Tom Maggs had something a bit bigger in mind.
“He saw an ad on TV for one of those 6-foot-tall teddy bears from Vermont Teddy Bear Company,” said Tom’s father, Tim Maggs. “His mind was made up.”
Marcia Smith is Tom’s favorite teacher. He likes her demanding approach to teaching science, his best subject.
“She’s sort of strict,” he said, “but she’s nice, too.”
Two days before Valentine’s Day, he told his parents of his plans to purchase the teddy, dubbed the “Giant Hunka Love Bear” by its maker, and present it to her in class.
“I just want her to be happy,” he told his parents, assuring them he was prepared to spend his own money on the bear.
“It was a substantial price,” Tim Maggs said, pointing out it was also a substantial bear. “This is the Cadillac of bears. They come with birth certificates.”
Even so, Tom was resolute. His dad said there are a few harder-to-handle kids in the fourth-grade class who make Smith’s job difficult.
“I don’t want to psychoanalyze this, but I think he wanted to let her know her effort was appreciated,” Maggs said.
Plus, Tom’s grandfather had given him a lottery ticket for Christmas that paid out $300, more than enough for a 6-foot bear. The Maggs family hatched a plan to deliver Giant Hunka Love to Smith during class, infiltrating the building by way of her husband, a school custodian.
It was coming together nicely until the Vermont Teddy Bear Company shipped the box by ground rather than the requested overnight.
“We had to intercept the box at the UPS shop in Latham,” he said, recounting the sense of urgency he felt. To his relief, the human-sized teddy came in a 3-foot box, rather than something coffin-sized.
“In the car, I told my son not to open it,” he said. “I could just imagine it reverting to its original size and plastering us all to the windows.”
In the end, it all went off without a hitch. Smith was as surprised and delighted as Tom hoped she would be. A very large teddy bear is one of the clearest forms of thank you from a 9-year-old.
“She likes stuffed things,” he simply said later.