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Gifts for Teachers

Updated on March 11, 2013
Gifts for Teachers with an apple theme can be overdone.
Gifts for Teachers with an apple theme can be overdone. | Source

Teacher Appreciation

Trying to come up with gifts for teachers? Good for you! Educators work hard, and there’s just not enough teacher appreciation. They attend years of college and other training, then they land a job where they receive little pay in comparison to other professionals. Their job is very demanding and extremely restrictive. They can't even go to the restroom when they want to because they can't leave their class unattended! Neither can they stop at will for a short break, a snack, or even a cup of coffee. They have to answer to parents, administrators, their local school board, state and federal mandates, and to their communities. And for all this, they receive little thanks and few pats on the backs. If you'd like to show your teacher appreciation to your child's educator this season with thoughtful Christmas gifts, or just get her a little gift to say "thank you," you're obviously a concerned, thoughtful parent. But what to get for that special educator? As a retired teacher, I'll pass along some gift ideas. These gifts for teachers are ones I’d liked to have received!

This old insulated travel mug has served up gallons of hot coffee over the years.
This old insulated travel mug has served up gallons of hot coffee over the years. | Source

Gift Ideas For Teachers

These gift ideas for teachers aren’t foolproof, as every educator is an individual with his or her own unique tastes. I can tell you, however, that I’d like to have received any of these suggested items back when I was teaching. I ran these ideas across some of my colleagues, and they all agree that these are good teacher gifts. All of us would “feel the love” of some teacher appreciation!

Thermal coffee mug. The teacher can fill the mug with joe in the morning, and a good quality thermos should keep the brew hot for a couple of hours. Yes, most teachers already have one of these, but they’ve also probably lost or misplaced several, too. Many faculty members leave their coffee cups and mugs in a community coffee room, and if the vessels don’t have names on them, they’re often considered fair game.

Scented candles. Classrooms can get pretty smelly. Most teachers like to burn a scented candle in the classroom to make it more pleasant for herself and for the students. Besides, holiday scented candles make great Christmas gifts for practically anyone! Who doesn’t enjoy her house smelling like home baked cookies, gingerbread, or peppermint during the holidays?

Mouse pad. The teacher will appreciate an interesting mouse pad. Find out her favorite team or hobby, and get a pad with the team's logo or one having to do with the hobby.

Stapler and staples. This might sound boring, but these are actually great gifts for teachers. Staplers are notorious for "walking off," so an extra one will always come in handy. Besides, it would be nice to have one stapler to keep at school and another one to use at home. If you choose a “funky” stapler, it’s much less likely to “walk off.” I once received a hot pink one with black polka-dots, and I was able to keep it until I retired.

Books. Get the teacher a nice book that has some relation to the subject she teaches. For example, a literature teacher would like a collection of poems. A history teacher might like a book about the Civil War or World War I. If you can find a first edition, that's even better! Sometimes you can find some interesting old books, including first editions, at thrift stores and garage sales.

Hand cart. Have you seen those canvas "boxes" with the collapsible handles and wheels? This is a great gift for a teacher! They haul all kinds of stuff from their car to their classroom. I bought one several years ago for $20, and it really made my life at school a heck of a lot easier.

Music CDs. Many teachers like to play soft music during tests and writing assignments, so these are good gift ideas for teachers. Choose classical, light classical, or easy listening tunes. I taught British Literature and usually played Celtic music when I chose to play CDs. Personally, I think melodies without words work best in this situation.

Gourmet coffees/teas: Most teachers drink coffee or hot tea for a caffeine jolt. A nice collection of gourmet flavors will hit the spot.

Hard candies. Teachers have to talk a lot, and their mouths can get as dry as the Sahara. Gourmet hard candies in a decorative box or tin will be a much appreciated gift. After the tin is empty, the teacher can use it to store small items.

Gift certificate for supplies. A gift certificate to any office supply store or teacher supply store is always a good gift for an educator. You'd be amazed at how many reams of printer paper, composition books, note pads, notebook paper, pens, and pencils we go through. Most schools provide these for teachers, but the supply is limited, and it's never enough to last the entire year. Buy some of these items and make a gift bag. Throw in a real treat - some colored printer paper.

A hobby-related gift. Find out the teacher's hobbies. My students knew I enjoyed fishing, and one year I got a great gift - a rod and reel. That’s what I call real teacher appreciation! I’ve been making good use of that gift for years.

Restaurant gift certificates. Choose restaurants that are located near the school. On teacher work days, the faculty usually gets to leave campus for lunch, so a gift card would definitely come to good use. Don't overlook gift certificates to fast food joints, either. Many teachers like going through a drive-through on their way to school to grab a cup of coffee and a breakfast biscuit.

Movie tickets. Who doesn’t enjoy going to the movies occasionally? The problem is that most educators have a pretty limited budget for luxuries like movie tickets. I assure you that if you choose movie tickets as teacher gifts, they’ll get used.

Green plants. Most teachers love having green plants in their classrooms, so these would be good gifts for teachers. Unless the room has a lot of natural light, you’ll do best to choose a low-light plant. Smaller plants could go on the desk or on a bookshelf, and larger plants could stand on their own. Even better, place the plant in an attractive holder. If you think getting enough light is going to be a problem, choose a silk or plastic plant that looks real.

Insulated lunch bags. Many teachers take their own lunch to school, so an insulated bag is a good idea. If you include some small plastic food carriers in the bag, it’ll be even more appreciated.

Insulated water bottle. We teachers get thirsty! And, unfortunately, it’s not like we can run to the water fountain or the drink machine whenever we want. We can, however, carry juice, water, or a soft drink with us to school.

Subject specific gifts. Most teachers like to hang things on their classroom walls that reflect the subject they teach. I taught British literature, and some of my favorite teacher gifts had to with that. I received Shakespeare posters, British flags, a King Arthur poster, and a Lord of the Rings poster. They were all proudly displayed.

Relaxation set. Teaching is a stressful job, and educators need some “down time” in order to “recharge their batteries.” You can help by giving teacher gifts with a relaxation theme. Make it a set! Include a good book, an aromatherapy candle, some bubble bath or scented bath oil, and some herbal tea.

Okay, I've offered some gift ideas for things teachers would like. Now I'm going to tell you what most teachers DON'T want: Anything having to do with apples! Unless it's a new teacher you're shopping for, the teacher in question already has enough apple items to last until doomsday! You name it, she probably has it - apple pencil holders, apple jewelry, apple Christmas tree ornaments, apple picture frames, apple coffee mugs, apple tote bags...the list goes on and on. And on!

On the other hand, if the teacher gift is truly unique, it’s okay if it has an apple theme. A neighbor once gave me a wooden serving tray that he’d made in his workshop, and he hand-painted a few apples on the wood. I actually loved the gift, and I use the tray often. Teacher Christmas tree ornaments with an apple design or motif are good, too. In fact, some teachers collect these.

Personalized Gifts like address labels make life a little easier.
Personalized Gifts like address labels make life a little easier. | Source

Personalized Gifts

I think everyone I know appreciates personalized gifts. In my opinion, they show that a lot of thought went into the gifts. It’s not like you can browse the local department stores and find a lot of really personalized gifts. Of course, what you can usually find are items that have been monogrammed with a single letter.

Framed photo. Most teachers genuinely love their students. Take a photo of the class, have it blown up, and place it in a frame. Write the date on the back of the photo, and if the photo is large enough, have each student sign his name. This will be a nice memento for the teacher in the years to come.

Monogrammed totes. Yep, we teachers use lots of totes, of all different sizes. One is never enough! I used totes for organizing as well as for making things more portable. For example, when I was grading research papers at home, I’d use a different tote for papers from each class.

Address labels. If you know the teacher’s address, have some peel-and-stick labels made for her. You can make them more attractive by using a special design or adding a motif. I love my Great Dane, for example, and my address labels include a picture of a dog that looks just like my favorite pooch.

Monogrammed cup or mug. Remember the problem with coffee cups I told you about earlier? If the mug has the teacher’s name printed on it, it’s going to be pretty hard for another faculty member to take it as her own.

Personalized note cards. Educators send a lot of notes – to parents, administrators, and to other teachers.

Personalized board erasers. This a cool, unique gift idea. The erasers I’ve seen have wooden handles, and the handle is engraved with the teacher’s name. before you purchase one of these, you need to find out if the educator has a regular chalk board or a dry erase board in her classroom.

Engraved pen and pencil set. I’m sure you’ve seen these sets. They come in a nice wooden box, and the name of the recipient is carved into the wood.

Homemade goodies are always a hit.
Homemade goodies are always a hit. | Source
One of my favorite homemade gifts.
One of my favorite homemade gifts. | Source

Homemade Christmas Gifts

Homemade Christmas gifts are almost always a big hit. They don’t have to be elaborate or expensive in order to convey teacher appreciation, either. Some of my favorite teacher gifts have been homemade cookies, cakes, and other edible goodies. One of the best homemade Christmas gifts I ever received as a teacher was a smoked pork butt. Like most people, we usually have a lot of visitors over the holidays, and the smoked meat was a great way to feed folks without my having to cook.

One of the most interesting and useful teacher gifts I received over the years was a box of steaks. The student’s family raised their own cattle, and they also owned a meat processing plant, so essentially, the steaks were homemade Christmas gifts! They came from grain-fed prime Black Angus steers and were delicious!

Of course, your homemade gifts don’t have to be in the form of food. What can you make? If you do woodworking, you might consider making a decorative shelf, a pair of bookends, or a plaque for the teacher to hang on her classroom door. Maybe you could make a name plate to go on the teacher’s desk. Wreaths, garlands, and dried holiday arrangements are good gift ideas, too, especially during the holidays. If you make pottery, you could make a pencil holder or mug.

Are you an artist? I dabble in pen and ink, and years ago, I did a caricature of my daughter’s gifted class instructor and had the piece framed. The teacher loved it! She could hardly wait to hang it on her classroom wall. A painting, a framed sketch, or a piece of whimsical 3-D art would all be good gift ideas for teachers.

If the teacher you’re shopping for teaches young children, why not give her a T-shirt that you and your child decorate together? It could say something like “Super Teacher,” and you can get your child to leave his or her handprints on the shirt. To make one of these, wash and dry the tee first. Use acrylic paints for the lettering and handprints.

Christmas Gift Baskets can be a great way to show Teacher Appreciation!
Christmas Gift Baskets can be a great way to show Teacher Appreciation! | Source

Christmas Gift Baskets

Gift baskets can be great gifts for teachers! Christmas gift baskets have several advantages over single Christmas gifts. For one thing, they’re easy to customize for a specific recipient. For another, you don’t have to purchase all the items at one time. If you start early, you’ll find lots of interesting and useful items to put in your Christmas gift baskets. You don’t really even have to have a theme. You can put a little of this and a little of that in the basket. In fact, you might not want to use an actual basket. Instead, you might want to use something more useful as a holder for your gifts. Teachers use totes, waste baskets, book bags, and brief cases, so any of these would make appropriate receptacles. Fill your holder with cookies, fancy pens, candles, Christmas ornaments, gourmet coffee, gift cards, small bottles of hand sanitizer, funky pencils, memo cards, and candy. While you’re shopping, you’re sure to see more great gifts for teachers you can add to the basket!


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