Gifts for Teachers: What to Get and What to Avoid
Many parents show their appreciation for their children's teachers with gifts at the end of the school year, during teacher appreciation week or for Christmas. The problem is that each year they have to think of something new and creative to bring the people who, in a way, are raising their children. This article will give you some ideas as to what to get and what to avoid.
Before You Go Shopping
Before you hit the stores in search of that teacher’s gift, check if your school or Parent Teacher Organization has a teacher “wish lists.” Many do these days and that can save you a lot of time and efforts.
What is the appropriate amount to spend on a teacher’s gift?
Some schools have strict policies about gift giving and dollar limits but others do not, so many parents wonder what the appropriate amount to spend on a teacher’s gift is. If they spend too much, they will look like they are offering a bribe, if they spend too little, it may send the wrong message of disapproval.
Of course, the amount is a personal thing and will depend on your budget, but according to parents on internet forums related to the topic, a gift for the head teacher should be between $10 and $25 and $5 - $10 for the assistant teachers.
Gifts Teachers Like
The gift ideas below are based on teachers’ opinions found on various online forums, Facebook polls, and in blog post comments. I also asked a couple of actual teachers what makes a good gift for them and what will just clutter up their homes.
1. Gift Cards
While gift cards may seem like an impersonal choice for friends and relatives, they are actually highly valued by teachers. It is no secret that teachers are not millionaires, so even a small denomination gift card can be helpful. Your $5 or $10 card combined with cards from twenty-something students will be much appreciated and used.
What Kind of Gift Cards are Best?
- Prepaid gift cards such as MasterCard, Visa, and American Express are obviously the best choice because they can be used at many retail locations. Amazon gift cards are another great option since they can be used to buy just about anything on Amazon.
- The second best choice is a gift certificate for a place that everyone goes to – bookstore, local grocery store (Costco, Walmart, Target), car wash, gas station, or movie theater.
- Personalized gift card – If you know more about the teacher’s personal life, hobbies, and interests, a personalized gift card would be a very sweet gesture. For example, if the teacher likes to drink coffee – get a Starbucks gift card. If he/she has a pet – a PetSmart card would be perfect. If they like arts and crafts – get Michael’s or Hobby Lobby cards. If they are remodeling their home – a gift card to a home improvement store would be great. Also, consider gift certificates for their favorite restaurant or spa.
How to Present a Gift Card
You can always put the gift card in a card made by your child, but if you want to do something more creative, have a look at these ideas.
- The first idea is to take a photo of your child, pretending to hold a big gift box, and glue the gift card (in an envelope) to the photo, so it looks like the kid is holding a present.
- Another interesting idea is to put several gift cards in envelopes, attach them to handmade flowers, and arrange them in a bouquet. Kids can write a short "thank you" note on each flower to add a personal touch. For a tutorial, go to Just Make Stuff.com
2. School Supplies
Many schools are underfunded and teachers often spend money out of their own pockets to meet the needs of their students. This means that they will be happy to receive things like extra pencils, crayons, glue, erasers, and Clorox wipes.
If you are on a low budget, you can consider things like fun notepads and stationery. Teachers take notes every day and also send out many notes to parents, so it will be enjoyable for them to have something pretty to write on. If you are crafty, you can even make a stack of personalized note cards.
How to Present School Supplies
One way to make a bunch of school supplies looks like a fun gift is to put them together in a Back to School Supply Cake. You can find a good tutorial on ByStephanieLynn.com.
Here is an interesting way to present a set or two of dry-erase markers, which are a classroom essential and teachers go through a ton of them during the year. The idea comes from TheHappyScraps.com and consists of putting them in a small container, filled with dried beans or floral foam, cutting basic cardstock flowers and placing them on top of the markers.
3. Sincere Personal Note
Most teachers say they don’t expect gifts. They are grateful for all they receive, but the things that they cherish most are the letters and “thank you” notes from students and parents.
So, if you didn’t budget for a teacher’s gift, have your child write a simple but heartfelt “thank you” note for all that they do for them. And to make it even more special, let the child write it in her or his crazy handwriting and poor spelling. This seemingly small gesture is guaranteed to have a huge impact.
4. Catered Food
After the school year ends, teachers usually spend several days finalizing grades and closing out the year. A nice way to let them know how much you appreciate them is to bring them a catered lunch to the school. It can be as simple as pizza delivery for everyone (teachers, assistants, secretaries), or you can send a specific teacher a menu from their favorite lunch place and tell them you will bring the lunch or get it delivered to the school. You can also consider a delivery of breakfast sandwiches, desserts, or snacks.
5. Volunteer at School
Teachers teach for the love of what they do, not for tangible rewards, so it is OK not to give them gifts if you don’t feel comfortable. But you can still show appreciation by helping them out at school. For example, you can volunteer to be a classroom speaker, lead a workshop, read to the class while he or she grades papers, help organize events, or help with a day of outdoor activities. Anything you can do to help them will be a very welcomed holiday gift.
Gifts for Teachers You May Want to Avoid
Some of the gifts that teachers get during the year often become a problem, simply because they receive tons of the same stuff and have no space in their classrooms or homes to keep them.
If you don’t want your child’s teacher to be featured in the next episode of “Hoarders”, you should probably avoid these:
- Anything “teacher”-themed - This includes anything with a design that incorporates apples, #1 Teacher, schoolhouses, school buses, rulers and chalkboards. Can you imagine every single year getting 30 gifts describing your job – #1 Nurse! What exactly are you supposed to do with all of this?
- Coffee mugs - Mugs are nice, but most teachers, especially those who have been teaching for more than 2 years, have enough mugs to stock a small department store. The thing is: one person can use only so many coffee mugs.
- Candles - Similar to the mug gift, teachers probably have received enough candles to get them through the next fifty years.
- Scented lotions, hand creams and body washes - Odds are that your favorite scented body wash won’t be hers.
- Pinterest-type craft projects - This includes the popular crayon monograms, anything made from pencils, and anything that involves the melting of crayons. While teachers appreciate the time invested in making something, they usually don't have room to keep all the crafts they receive. And then they feel guilty for donating them to the thrift store.
- Homemade treats - While some teachers like them, most teachers (and people in general) are understandably wary of homemade treats from people they don't know. They may have issues with the ingredients, the origin, or the preparation of the food. This means that although homemade treats are thoughtful, those will probably be tossed out.
- Donation to a charity in the teacher’s name - Think about it like this: would you donate to a charity in your hairdresser’s name? No, you will probably give her a tip. Teachers give a lot to your kids and are the people who spend all day, five days a week with them, so they deserve to receive an actual gift too.
- Jewelry - Jewelry is a very personal thing, subject to individual taste, so unless you know very well the teacher’s tastes and personal style outside of the classroom, jewelry is off limits.