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From the Class: End of the Year Teacher Gift Ideas

Updated on June 17, 2014

Top 5 teacher gifts to go in on

Ah, the group teacher gift. It's a godsend for parents, who are able to save time and money by pooling resources. It's appreciated by teachers, who get one fabulous gift instead of 25 knick-knacks. And in some cases, it's fun for kids, who can add their creativity to a personalized gift.

I've helped coordinate class gifts a few times as a room rep for various teachers, and while I'm not an expert by any stretch, I've learned a little bit about what works. Here, 5 can't-miss end of the year teacher gift ideas for the class to go in on.

(pictured: ice cream set from Burton & Burton)

1. An ultra-flexible gift card

The most versatile gift cards are the Visa, Mastercard, or AmEx debit cards you get from the bank. I've gone this route as a room rep several times, and it works -- good as cash. But there are 2 drawbacks: banks will sell these cards only to their clients, and even if you are a client, they often charge a fee for this service. It's not a huge amount, but enough to make you feel a bit bamboozled. (2014 update: My bank no longer even sells these debit gift cards; you have to buy them online, and when I tried that, the amount of personal info the online seller requested made it feel like applying for a passport! Um, no thanks.)

Gift cards to bookstores, restaurants and so on are wonderful but require some knowledge of the teacher's needs and tastes. Does (s)he prefer summer reads in paper or e-reader form? Is -- as Lou Reed would say -- classical music their jam, or pop, rock, country, jazz...? Do they hope this summer to do lots of cooking, crafting, gardening, hiking, swimming, videogaming? Is their iPod brand-new, or in need of an upgrade? If you don't know the answers to these questions -- and I sure don't, for my kids' teachers! -- the Amazon gift card is a great choice. For 50 bucks a teacher can pick up a sweet new pair of running shoes or sandals, a set of towels for that bathroom makeover, a topnotch softball mitt, a season's worth (or two) of the awesome cable series they never managed to catch during the school year -- whatever his/her heart desires. Amazon has branched waaaaaay out and sells almost everything nowadays. So this is one flexible gift. I've given it several times, always with a sense of satisfaction that the teacher will get what (h)she really wants. Class gift budget over $50? No prob -- choose whatever denomination you want.

2. A book of notes from the kids

When teachers are asked to name all-time favorite gifts they've received, personal notes often get the nod. There's no substitute for straight-from-the-kids thoughts and feelings. Younger students, though -- and sometimes even older ones -- can find a blank page intimidating. These teacher note templates for end-of-year thank yous provide writing prompts in a fun format featuring kid-created art. Send a sheet home with each student with a deadline for completion, then spiral-bind all the filled-in sheets together at the local copy shop, or do it at home with a hole puncher and a ring for the corner. At less than $16 for 25 colorful sheets, this is proof that when it comes to teacher gifts, "special" doesn't have to mean "expensive."

3. A personalized "beach kit"

Personalized teacher gifts are always extra special, and what's better for summer than a personalized beach bag? If you're on a tight budget, grab just the bag for under $30. (Simply type in "from your class, 2013" to replace the child's name in sample.)

Got $50 to spend? Throw in a plush, colorful beach towel. $75? Go with the bag, towel, high-end sunscreen & a new pair of shades. $100? Add a bookstore gift card for some fun summer reads. Here comes the sun!

Poll: Teachers only!

Are you or have you ever been ;) a teacher? If so, share your feelings about group gifts here. Be honest!

The class is going in on a gift for you. Which would you rather receive?

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teacher gift ideas
teacher gift ideas

4. A season pass / membership to a local attraction

Knowing her daughter's teacher loved gardening & the outdoors, a mom I know coordainted a gift membership, from the class, to the local botanic gardens. Music-loving teachers might like season tix to the symphony. For teachers with kids, the local zoo, kid-friendly museum (children's, science, natural history, planetarium, etc.), pool, or aquarium could be a good bet. You may need to do a little detective work on what the teacher likes and wouldn't already have; try emailing his/her colleagues about this. But it pays off when you make the right match, and sometimes these season passes are more affordable than you'd expect. The excellent aquarium near my home, for instance, charges less for a yearlong family pass than for it does for just a day's visit for a family of five.

(photo: Todd cc ~ cropped for size & shape)

5. A home ice cream parlor

BBQ, grilled burgers, corn on the cob .... they're all heavenly, but nothing sings "summer" to the tastebuds like ice cream. And the only thing better than eating ice cream on a hot day is eating it a super fun set like this. If the teacher has kids, believe me, this will be a huuuuge hit. (I still remember the banana-shaped ice cream set my mom got as a gift -- my brothers & I swore the ice cream tasted 10x better in those bowls!)

If budget permits, add a cool ice cream scoop. (S)he may have one, but probably not this one.

And if you've still got funds left, add a pack of sprinkles and a gift card to the local ice cream shop. YUM!

Bonus idea! A pretty flower-and-herb planter

Flowers are a classic teacher gift, and a planter full of flowers will last much longer than the cut variety. But why not add a culinarily useful touch by mixing in some herbs, as I've done this year with oregano (left), thyme & rosemary (right). If the teacher enjoys cooking with fresh herbs (and who doesn't?), (s)he will find months of pleasure in this gift. If not, (s)he will still like the lovely fragrance the herbs impart. If you don't go too huge with the planter, this should work for any size steps/yard/patio/balcony. And you can do it nicely for as little as $1 per student.

With a larger planter, and if the room parents have the wherewithal ;), littler kids can dip their hands in paint to decorate the planter with handprints. Or any age students can sign their names on it with Sharpies. With or without this personalization, you could stick a notecard in the planter that says "Thanks for helping us grow!" and, perhaps, brief care instructions (full or partial sun, how often to water) on back for the plants.

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Poll: Parents only!

What's an appropriate amount to ask each family to contribute toward a teacher's holiday gift?

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Share your teacher gift ideas here. What works, what doesn't? How did you handle year-end teacher gifts 2014?

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thank you for stopping by my college professor lens. After reading your bio on this page, I understand your lovely comment -- at first, i thought you might also be a teacher. You have also provided some wonderful ways to celebrate educators. I loved the idea of a ticket to an attraction or a personal note from a student. Those displays of appreciation would melt my heart. Take care. Best of luck!