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The Gifts Teachers Really Want

The Gifts Teachers Really Want

It’s that time of year again, when children pack up their desks, say goodbye to friends and give a final farewell before springing into a summer of endless sunshine and fun…followed by dog days of summer, indoor air conditioning, boredom and whining.

And that’s when we gain a true appreciation for our children’s teachers!

Teachers give selflessly of their time and often their money too. They spend an entire school year guiding, protecting and securing the educational future of our children. Mid-summer, we are more than convinced that those who choose such a profession are something of a super hero.

So, how do we thank these amazing people who are touching the lives of children, parents and families everywhere?

With an appropriate token of appreciation.

A huge THANK YOU for giving us sanity and for loving our little ones.

So I set out to discover the best ways to show teachers how much we care…

The Thought Does Count

We know that gifts are meant to be from the heart, but as the year is coming to a close, children are graduating and schedules are changing, details can sneak up on a busy mom and leave you adding a well-intended gift to the “to do” list…which may end up being picked up along with the bread and milk. *Not my proudest moment.

Most teachers agree that they prefer a thoughtful gift to an expensive gift.

Forethought is key. The fact that you’re reading this article is a great start! Now that the wheels are turning, you’ll have time to not only think up a great gift idea but to shop for supplies and complete the project before school lets out.

Think Outside the Box

While it’s important that you put some thought into what you give, realistically, there is a limit to the number of candles or bars of soap can a teacher practically use – particularly when receiving them year after year from students.

Most teachers admit that the most memorable and cherished gifts are those that are unique and handmade by the student.

*One mom suggested designing a desk organizer by adding flair to a compartmentalized box using stickers, beads and decorative papers. Add pretty paperclips and push pins to the organizer (teachers often buy supplies with their own money) and attach a kind note. The child may even see the box sitting on the teacher’s desk for years to come.

Personalize It

Be creative with the gift you choose – turn ordinary gifts into something more special! A gift card may seem too impersonal, but tucked inside a handmade card with an explanation as to why your child thought it was fitting, and it’s fantastic! It’s also a good way to make a gift of less monetary value more versatile.

funsun*Fortune and fun: Tuck a gift card inside a Chinese take-out box along with several fortune cookies. Have your child write a message of thanks on a scroll of paper to look as if it is from a large fortune cookie. Top the gift with a pair of chopsticks. Even if the gift card is just a few dollars, the thoughtfulness and effort will be appreciated.

Join Forces

I think it’s wonderful when a mom takes charge and gathers funds for one big gift for the teacher…and some teachers are comfortable making a specific request if asked – which can eliminate the guesswork. Just be sure that if the class is giving a combined gift that the children sign a card or do something to show that they were in on it and appreciate their teacher’s hard work.

Combining funds is the perfect way to give an expensive gift without leaving the teacher feeling uncomfortable. The feeling of gifts as payment for services rendered, bribery, favoritism or other mixed messages can happen if an overly expensive gift comes from one student.

Something For Everyone

A classroom gift is helpful for the teacher and gives back to the entire school. Teachers often spend their own money to purchase the things they need in their classrooms. A gift card to a bookstore or teacher supply store may be helpful. You might also organize a donation drive for supplies such as gently used books, art supplies or other useful items.

A Lesson in Giving

Teachers appreciate gifts, but those from the heart are touching for both the giver and receiver. Be sure that you recruit the help of your child in the gift buying and giving process. Talk with them about why they are giving their teacher a token of appreciation.

*Whatever you decide to give, include a sincere note of thanks from your child.

More Creative Ideas…

Chocolate Dipped Goodies
Have your child dip gram crackers (or pretzel sticks) into melted chocolate. Add sprinkles for extra fun! Place the treats in a tissue-lined box and top with a pretty bow, magnet or other embellishment.  

Italian Dinner Basket
Let your child select a fun-shaped pasta (kids get creative with this) and select a marinara sauce. A crispbread, cheese wheel, biscotti or truffles could also be added to the basket. Go all-out and include a small basil plant – for fresh herbs with this meal and several others.

Personalized Tote
Discover what your child’s teacher enjoys doing in their spare time and put together a craft tote with yarns, paints or whatever they might enjoy. Keep it simple and include a gift card or purchase the items needed to complete a project. Let your child decorate the tote to demonstrate the creativity intended with the gift.

Many Thanks
Help your child make beautiful thank you cards out of stickers, papers and embellishments. Tie 3-5 of them together with a pretty ribbon and give them as a thank you for the teacher to give to others. Teachers will be grateful for the time taken to create such a useful gift.

Reading Basket
Help build the classroom library with a lovely reading donation basket. Make a Mr. or Ms. Sign to attach to the basket and set it out to collect gently used donations. Be sure to notify other moms of the basket so they can contribute.

Treasure Chest
Make a classroom treasure chest filled with toys and stickers for the teacher to give as rewards to students. Make it out of an inexpensive chest decorated specifically for that teacher – let your child do painting and help choose the prizes inside.


Author: Jaime

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  1. I love these out-of-the-box ideas. Admittedly, I usually resort to a gift card from Target but you’ve inspired me to dress it up a bit.

  2. We just had Teacher Appreciation week.

    I made simple s’mores kits. A bag of big marshmallows, a few chocolate bars, and a packet of graham crackers. I put the kits together in brown paper bags.

    Another year, I gave soup to the teachers for Christmas. I bought dry soup mixes at Harry and David and gave each teacher two inexpensive bowls from Target. I tried to find bowls that fit their personal style.

    I’ve also given tea wallets. A friend makes them. They are adorable little wallets that hold 6 tea bags perfectly. Teachers can stash those in their desks easily.

    It’s really difficult to come up with gifts that are welcome. I don’t want to be responsible for the 100th coffee mug in their cupboard.

    Jaime, these ideas are great! Thanks!

  3. Thanks for reminding me to do this! And these are some fantastic ideas here. Now, which ones to choose…

  4. Our school has started a genius program this year- we do Scrip (purchase gift cards thru school with a portion going back to the school). The teachers and staff are invited to make a wish list of the gift cards they’d really like. Then parents can contribute whatever amount, if any, that they want to any teacher’s wish list… The teachers get something they want and can use, it combines small gifts from lots into bigger ones, and the school even profits a tiny bit from it! I’ve been through some really nasty situations in previous school settings, and this has been so easy and simple. AND since the gift cards range from grocery stores to high end retailers, I know the teachers will be able to pick what they really want!

  5. I like the gift card wish list idea – might have to look into that for our school. Gretchen, you have really creative ideas and they’re not too difficult – I may have to borrow the s’mores idea this year 🙂

  6. Jaime – These are great ideas. My mom is a teacher, and she is overwhelmed with candles, lotions and soaps. She loves gift cards and uses them throughout the year as a bonus to her salary. I always struggle to come up with a creative, yet thoughtful gift that says thank you but is also very usable for the teacher. I love the Italian and Chinese gift baskets. We may be doing those this year.

  7. I love this article so much as I constantly tell my customers the importance of thought into a product and personal touch. I run a small home based business where everything I do is custom and tailored, as well as…outside of the box. Check out Handmade by Hilani on Facebook.

  8. For teacher appreciation week, I got a to-go coffee cup from Starbucks that let’s you put your own photos or artwork in it. I printed out a sheet with all the school photos of the students on the class with a quote about teachers. But your child could draw something or you could use candid photos as well. I tied on a Starbucks card and a personal note. The teacher adored the cup and has used it everyday since!

  9. Thanks for all the great ideas! This year, we’re giving our teachers a “Sweet on You” gift featuring Tastefully Simple sweets: butterscotch cocoa, an Irish Cream frozen dessert mix, and brownies or macaroon bars (and getting them at a great discount as a TS consultant :)). Of course, the kids will include a handwritten thank you note! I like the idea of giving personalized “treats” instead of “dust collectors”. Gift cards are nice, but somewhat impersonal.

  10. These are fantastic ideas. If I were a teacher I would love receciving any of these gifts. It must feel like Christmas for them this time of year and very much deserved. 🙂 The fortune cookie idea is classic. Jaime thank you for always thinking of fun and thoughtful ideas for those of us that are less crafty, I can’t wait to try some of these.

  11. My daughter’s idea this year was to paint flower pots with chalkboard paint and add flower-topped pens. Then we wrote the teacher’s name and “happy summer” on each one. Useful and cute – I think they’ll be a big hit!

  12. Adorable idea, Jenna, and very useful! You’ll have to let me know what you thought about the chalkboard paint…Martha Stewart had a fun suggestion: mix the white and black chalkboard paint and do calendar squares in various shades on the wall – thinking about giving it a try 😉

  13. Fantastic suggestions here – as a former elementary school teacher I SO appreciate these tips to help parents show their appreciation in a way that is equally appreciated! I have more mugs and Christmas ornaments (I’m Jewish) than I can count, and giving a gift that shows a thoughtful connection to things your child’s teacher truly enjoys, whether it is gardening, music, books, museums, etc. goes a long way!

    That said, the GREATEST gift a parent ever gave me was an amazing letter to my principal singing my praises and tell of the wonderful year her son had experience in my classroom… she gave me a copy of the letter in an envelope with a gift at the end of the year. I can’t even recall what the gift was, but I know exactly where that amazing letter is filed!

  14. Hi! I’m a high school social studies teacher, and to be honest, the very best gift of all is a sincere letter from our students (and/or parents) thanking me for what I’ve done for them. It’s even better if it’s specific, and I love it when they copy my adminstration on it! If you have to buy a gift, gift cards are always appreciated. I personally don’t drink coffee or tea, so I always tell my students to buy me diet coke or purple pens!

  15. I love these ideas, but feel the need to remind everyone that state law prevents teachers from accepting gifts over $25 as they are public employees. A lot of parents (and teachers) aren’t aware of this, so just thought I’d pass it on.
    I usually write individual thank you notes to all the teachers, administrators, secretaries, and support staff who have worked with my children throughout the year. Support staff often go unrecognized and truly appreciate it when families acknowledge their contributions.

  16. These are all such thoughtful ideas. Paired with a nice, heartfelt note, I think these are definitely a win!

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