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Gifts Elementary Teachers Can Use

Updated on July 4, 2014

Sentimental or Practical?

This adorable little bear was given to me by a seven-year-old student a decade ago. It's a petite critter: five inches or so. It came in a little basket with a handmade wardrobe: cut, not sewn. Yes, it had hand cut items like a scarf and a sleeveless vest.

That little bear did something few teacher gifts did. It traveled with me cross country. Here it is still -- photo taken today!

An absolutely adorable handmade token, be it gift or card -- what could be better? Well... not much.

But I've received some other cool things. I say they were cool even though most are no longer with me. This doesn't mean they weren't appreciated. In many cases, they were used. In fact, often they were eaten.

Two things to keep in mind when looking for something a teacher will use as well as appreciate:

1) All teachers eat (and often in a big hurry). The line of work effects how people eat, and sometimes teaching means skipping a meal.

2) Most elementary teachers spend their own money on things for the classroom. Sometimes it goes to big things: curriculum materials, books, and games from the teaching supply store. But a lot of it goes to little things: stickers, bookmarks, gel pens, prize bucket trinkets. You can find these things all around you. Chances are, a primary grade teacher can make use of them, even if they're discards.

Replenishing the Prize Bucket - A Practical Gift... Really!

If it's fun for kids, it can also be fun for teachers. Some kindergarten and primary teachers like to give out those little incentives.

If the kids like digging into the prize bucket, it might be time to replenish!

Some teachers will relish having their stock replenished as it's one less thing they have to do. For others... well, these little doo dads are fun. Children like getting a new trinket. Teachers like getting a whole new stash!

Those Little Things Teachers Collect - Make Your Own Gift Basket/ Bag Out of Doo Dads!

Image by the author

Practical Prizes

My favorite prize box goodies: school supplies that are colorful, glittery, or look like characters. I especially like domed pencil sharpeners because they make management easier. Those Bic mechanical pencils are extremely popular with middle and upper elementary students.

The items here I picked on the basis of value, taking into account quality and price.

Making Your Own Basket - If You Have Wa-a-ay More Time Than Money

Teachers can use just about anything -- especially if they work with little ones. Take a good long look at the kindergarten art center. Paper rolls and wallpaper samples, seashells and buttons! Doesn't some of it look like... well, your trash? Yes, you may find teaching treasures in your own stuff, and spending some time sifting through it all... that's a gift. But you don't want to haul your trash in on Teacher Appreciation Day or at the holiday party

You can make anything look like a gift if you dress it up. One of the first steps is giving it some height...

Edibles: Taking Stock of the Surroundings

Is there a microwave in the classroom? Chances are good that that teacher is eating lunch at her desk while pouring over Houghton Mifflin curriculum and reading student journals. She could also be working into the evenings.

What's good when the days are gray and short but the work days are long? When there's a microwave but not necessarily a fridge? Cocoa! Tea! Instant soups! With rice cakes or perhaps a sugary little treat.

Take a look around. Is there a coffee pot? Hmmm...

For the Teacher with the Coffee Pot

Yes, some teachers have a coffee maker right there in the classroom. If that's yours, you know you don't have to go the cocoa/ tea route.

Do Teachers Live at School?

When I was writing the tip about looking to see what appliances are in the classroom before purchasing a cocoa/ tea/ coffee basket, I thought of this book, about a child who thinks his teacher actually lives at school. (That is, he holds this belief firmly... until the teacher moves into his own apartment building).

The illustrations are hilarious. In the child's imagined world, there are rows of bunk beds in the teacher's lounge. (It's not like children are allowed in the teacher's lounge. They may suspect teachers eat there. Or...)

I wasn't necessarily thinking of folks giving the book as a gift, at least not at first -- more of letting it serve as a reminder that teachers have lives outside of school.

But if you know a kindergarten or primary grade teacher who likes to do read-alouds... you know, you might think about this gem..

Teachers and Mugs: A Cautionary Tale

Exert caution when giving a mug to teachers. You may envision that mug occupying a prime spot on the teacher's desk. It may instead live a communal lifestyle in the teachers' lounge. In many schools, you will find a cabinet in the teachers' lounge with a couple shelves of mugs. I think of these cabinets as mug dormitories.

The mugs do get used: by teachers, substitutes, student teachers. A mug-less teacher's lounge can be a less homey place -- it's true! More is not always better, however. (And sometimes, believe it or not, teachers leave dirty dishes in the sink.)

Image: ewen and donabel, Flickr Creative Commons

When Neither One of You Has Any Time - The Starbucks Card

Those plastic cards with the coffee mug on the front: They're easy. They're often appreciated -- by tea drinkers and sandwiches eaters as well as coffee aficionados. They can be tucked into a handmade card. What's more, they're flexible, budget-wise. On Amazon, single cards start at $25. You can also get 4-packs of $10 cards. I think you can get single cards in small denominations if you actually go in to Starbucks (or another local establishment).

There was a year I got three Starbucks cards. I didn't feel that any had to be taken back because I already had one.

Thoughts to Share?

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      5 years ago

      Thank you for the advice! I suspected mugs didn't live up to the expectations one has of them, and how many does one need anyway?!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      5 years ago from USA

      Thank you for including the replenishing of the gift/prize box. No one has ever done that and it is something that has to be replaced each year.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I love the idea about food for the microwave - especially if no refrigerator. Well done.


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