The Giving Tree celebration program is featured for this year’s Jefferson Elementary event. (Photo by Erin Quaid)
The Giving Tree celebration program is featured for this year’s Jefferson Elementary event.

Photo by Erin Quaid

Jefferson elementary ends the holiday season with annual giving tree celebration

December 24, 2019

Most of us have read the popular children’s book “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. The basis of the book surrounds the idea of taking and receiving. A young boy ages throughout the story, taking away items from the tree instead of learning to be generous. In the end, when the tree is nothing but a stump and doesn’t have anything else to offer, the boy, now an elderly man, learns that giving can still be as good as receiving.


Jefferson Elementary school encapsulates Silverstein’s message during their annual celebration. On Thursday, Dec. 12 students from Kindergarten through 5th grade gathered along with friends and family in the Jefferson gym to help out the less fortunate in Elmhurst. During this annual celebration called The Giving Tree parents, students, teachers, and friends all unite to bring gifts to give to the less fortunate for the holiday season.

“I think The Giving Tree was made because Jefferson families are so wonderful and giving, they also wanted to help children and other families who are not as fortunate as they are,” former Jefferson teacher Linda Kella said.

The Giving Tree honors Jan Newman who was a first-grade teacher at Jefferson and loved by many. Newman passed away on December 5th, 2006, which was just a few days prior to The Giving Tree celebration. From then on, the ceremony has served to honor Newman’s life and to keep her generous spirit alive in the school that she loved most.

“Jan was one of the most generous people, giving her time, spirit, and heart to all those around her,” mother of Jefferson student Lisa Smith said.

Besides learning to give to the less fortunate, another big component of this celebration is the music. Students from Kindergarten to 5th grade each perform about two to three-holiday songs. The music pays a tribute to Newman who loved music, especially holiday music.

“She told many stories of singing around the piano with her family during the holidays and cherished the laughter and memories those moments produced,” Smith said.

Third graders at Jefferson beginning their set of songs to perform at Giving Tree celebration.

Keeping Newman in mind, music teacher Megan LeResche has a wide variety of songs chosen for The Giving Tree Performance. Some songs are chosen based on popularity, skill level, choreography, and tradition such as the song Shalom. Shalom has been on The Giving Tree set list as long as the celebration has been around. The word Shalom means peace, and the song is sung by all students regardless of grade level to close off the ceremony with a moment of peace.

It incorporates sign language as well, and when all these elements are combined it’s very moving to see. Watching kindergarten perform Shalom for the first time and then watch fifth graders perform it for their last time is very bittersweet,” LeResche said.” We are all proud of what each student has accomplished and excited about what has yet to come. “

The Giving Tree celebration will continue to honor Jan Newman with every holiday season to come. Jefferson will keep the spirit of giving, present, as new students come through the school each year. The lesson will always remain that sometimes giving can feel better than receiving.

“Living in such a fortunate community like Elmhurst we forget what life can be like for those who are less fortunate. The Giving Tree reminds us of how lucky we are and that we can truly make an impact,” former Jefferson student Lauren McComb said.

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