An Apple for Teacher

When did we start giving teachers apples as a way of thanks or appreciation or, perhaps more likely, sucking up? And why apples?

After the Garden of Eden, apples came to be associated with knowledge and information. Early Christian scholars depicted the fateful tree, known as the Tree of Knowledge, as an apple tree early on. Apples grew well in Europe and were a popular fruit so it made sense to them that the tree in question was an apple… even if it didn’t really make sense climactically since apples wouldn’t grow well in the Middle East. But that’s a story for another day.

In the 18th century, poor families in Scandinavia paid for their children’s schooling with a basket of apples. They may not have had money but they had plenty of apples to share. Over time, the amount of apples given decreased to one since apples tended to spoil quickly.

Americans picked up on the tradition during the Great Depression in the 20th century. Farm kids brought apples for their teachers to keep them satiated and in good spirits so they would keep doling out good grades.

The practice stuck and so, too, the association of apples with teachers. It’s hard to walk into any academic supply store (my mom was a teacher – I spent hours of my childhood in Academic Aids in Bellevue, WA) and not see dozens of apple posters, stickers, borders, erasers, and just about anything else you could imagine adorned with apples.

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