Posted on December 9, 2014 at 6:00 am
It’s that time of year again, when parents everywhere are trying to figure out what to give to their kids’ teachers. How do you truly express thanks to a teacher for putting up with your kid day in and day out, and for teaching your kid math, so you don’t have to? Teachers are amazing people, and they deserve a little “thanks” for all they do.
Most teachers I know appreciate any gift they receive, and for them just knowing they are valued is a gift in itself. However, I have a lot of friends who are teachers, and I know there are some gifts they like better than others. I decided to do us all a favor and get the inside scoop on what gifts to give, and what to avoid.
I’ll start with the gifts that most teachers gave a big “no thanks” to. Mugs. Mugs. Mugs. Not that mugs aren’t great, but most teachers have received enough mugs to stock a large department store. You can only use so many mugs.
Another “no” was lotions and candles, partly because they get too many of these as well, and partly because fragrance is so personal. A scent one person loves may be the next person’s migraine.
Christmas ornaments were a little hit and miss. Some liked them if they were personalized, but most said they had too many and, let’s be honest, would you want a Christmas tree covered with reminders of work?
Finally, most teachers would rather not get baked goods and sweets. This time of year tends to be sugar laden enough, and more and more people have dietary restrictions.
So what does that leave us with? Far and away, the item teachers enjoy most are gift cards. Yes, they can seem impersonal, but at the same time they allow a teacher to choose something they really prefer. If you want to make a gift card seem more special, you can always wrap it in a creative way and add a cutesy saying. After browsing Pinterest for a few minutes (hours) here are some ideas:
Starbucks is always a favorite. You can make a unique card holder out of a coffee sleeve or, for those into paper crafting, make a card holder that looks like a coffee cup. Some common coffee-themed sayings include, “Thanks a latte for all you do!” and “Just wanted to espresso my thanks!”
Amazon gift cards can be used in so many ways—books, school supplies, and just about anything else a teacher might desire. Decorate it with a tag that says, “You’re Amaz’on! Thanks for all you do.”
If you want to do the “apple for my teacher” route, try a tag saying “An ‘App’le for My Teacher” paired with an iTunes or Google Play gift card. Many classrooms are using tablets now and some extra cash to use for new apps is a great gift. Another “apple” themed option would be an Applebee’s restaurant gift card.
My next suggestion requires you to know your kid’s teacher well, and may not be the right pick for just anybody. This idea was inspired by a friend, who shall not be named, who had a student’s dad come to school on the last day of the year to give her a gift. He asked her if she had a moment to come out to the parking lot. He proceeded to give her a case of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and thank her for being a great teacher. This remains one of her most memorable and appreciated teacher gifts. Now, I’m not about to bring alcohol onto a school campus, and I don’t suggest you do either. However, a gift card to Total Wine and More may be just the ticket for the teacher in your life.
Some people just don’t believe in gift cards. I get it. It feels less personal and the receiver knows exactly how much you spent, which can be awkward. So what else do teachers appreciate? The next most common answer was school supplies. I was surprised by this answer at first but, as I thought about it, I realized many teachers end up using their own money on school supplies. Being able to keep that money in their pocket and still have the supplies they need? Now that’s a great gift. Some of the most popular supplies mentioned were white board markers, highlighters, Sharpies and Post-it notes. Other ideas include personalized note cards or book labels (to help them label all those items in their classroom that are actually their personal items).
Speaking of note cards, my teacher friends said a hand-written, personal note of thanks is one of their favorite gifts, especially if the kid writes it themselves. The more specific, the more meaningful. My daughters’ future math teachers are going to receive cards from them and sonnets from me. And then they will wonder what crazy woman writes sonnets for somebody who is a math teacher not an English teacher.
Another way to show you care is to know their interests and gift accordingly. They love their dogs? Give them some dog toys for their pooch. They love the movies? Give them tickets. They’re into knitting? Get them some really nice yarn. You get the idea.
For those who love Pinterest because they actually make things (not because they just look and “ooh” and “aah” like I do) I haven’t forgotten you. Crafted items my friends mentioned enjoying included a personalized clip board or chalk board and a sign with their name for their classroom door.
Teacher “Emergency Kits” are also a creative and practical gift. Find an attractive container and fill it with items a teacher might need. Some suggestions include headache medicine, a protein/meal replacement bar, mini lint roller, hand sanitizer, breath mints, vitamin C drops or Emergen-C packets, lip balm, nail file, and a Tide To Go pen.
If your budget is on the smaller side this year, there are still some little gifts you can pair with a heartfelt card. Try a bottle of nail polish with a decorative tag that says, “For Your Mistle Toes”. Teachers can always use more hand sanitizer, especially those preschool and Kindergarten teachers. Dress up a container and label it as “Santa-tizer” and you’ve got a cute and practical gift. Finally, some lip balm with a tag saying, “Merry ‘Kissmas’ and ‘Chappy’ New Year!” is bound to be used, especially in chilly Spokane.
Hopefully one of these ideas fits your style and budget. I hope this peek into what teachers really enjoy (versus what they will appreciate, but might not actually want) takes some of the stress out of your holiday shopping. I look forward to thanking my daughters’ teachers and giving them a thoughtful gift. Now I just have to decide which of these items I’m going to give…
If you want details and pictures of some of these ideas (and more), please check out our Create board on SCLD’s Pinterest account.