I was browsing Pinterest the other day and came across several pins claiming to offer the best teacher gift ideas. It’s nearing the end of the school year after all, so ’tis the season! A few caught my eye, especially one claiming to have the inside scoop on gifts “teachers really want,” so I clicked over. My eyes widened as I read over the list of suggested gifts—they were the exact items I would put on a “gifts teachers don’t want” list, and I would know, since I’ve been a high school humanities teacher for over a decade! So that’s what we’re going to talk about today: The Secrets to the Best Teacher Gifts for Any Teacher. And we’ll tackle it “Do”s and “Don’t”s style! (General suggestions in the “Do”s and “Don’t”s section, specific more of this and less of this below that if you want to scroll further down.)
Caveat: Teacher gifts are by no means a requirement. No teacher will think less of you or your student if don’t give them a gift, and hopefully they’d be happy to receive any gift you have a mind to give them. But if you’re thinking of getting a gift for your kid’s teacher and aren’t sure what to do, I hope this helps!
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Teacher Gift “Do”s:
DO remember: teachers are people.
This is the most important thing about being a good gift giver in general, in my opinion. Imagine if you only ever gave your sister gifts that had inspiring quotes about sisters or that had the word “sister” on them. That would be weird, right? Because your sister is more than her relationship to you. Similarly, there’s more to a teacher than his or her job, and even though that may be the primary capacity in which you know your kid’s teacher, your gift doesn’t have to revolve around the concept of teaching. Try to think of something you know about your child’s teacher outside of his or her job in the classroom. Does he love hiking? Does she have a rescue dog she adores? Does her family love Disney movies? A personal gift that shows your knowledge of the other person is something really special.
Example: A student I taught for two years gave me a first edition book by one of my favorite authors when he graduated. That’s something I’m probably going to hold onto and treasure for the rest of my life, and I’ll think of him (and his mom!) whenever I see it on my shelf.
DO write a personal note.
Every year, I treasure the notes that parents and students write to me. There’s so much that we hope for our students, but we don’t always get to see directly the fruit of our labor or the fulfillment of those hopes. But you as parents can see how your students have been affected by the things they’re learning in the classroom or by the help and encouragement their teacher has given. If you’ve seen something special, please say it! Teachers live on these small words of encouragement. We treasure notes from students and parents.
Example: I keep a drawer full of notes from my students and their parents. When I face moments of doubt about myself and the meaningfulness of my work, I can turn to these notes as proof that I’m making a difference.
DO consider organizing a class gift.
Class gifts are a great way to honor and thank a teacher, and if you’re a sentimental gift-giver, this is a great way to give something that will be meaningful and cherished that will remind the teacher of each student in the class and the year they spent together. One awesome sentimental class gift is better than thirty individual ones (easier to keep!).
Example: I’ve had a class of students take a special picture together, frame it, and have everyone sign the frame and write an inside joke from the class. It makes me smile whenever I look at it. They organized it themselves, but a parent could organize something similar for a class of younger students—I’ve seen cute thumbprint art on Pinterest for young kiddos that would make a great keepsake.
DO give special little treats!
I love small, consumable gifts. I enjoy using/eating them, and they don’t end up taking up more room in my cupboards or on my shelves. But do try to keep the recipient in mind! A teacher doesn’t need a whole platter of baked goods or a hot cocoa gift basket, for instance. They’ll be totally thrilled to receive a single serving of something you’ve made or bought. I love getting fancy chocolate bars or a homemade cookie. Maybe your kid’s teacher loves Skittles or dark roast coffee or gardenia scented candles. Make or get them something you’re sure they’ll enjoy!
Example: I taught siblings in one family for four years straight, and they found out the first year that I love love love tamales. So every Christmas, they’d make two extra tamales for me, and let me tell you, that was a perfect gift. <3 <3 <3
DO give a gift you would truly want to receive yourself.
If you wouldn’t know what to do with an angel figurine/framed quotation/mosaic garden stone making kit, don’t assume your kid’s teacher would either. This is another general principle of good gift giving: if you are genuinely excited about the gift and would love to receive it yourself, the gift recipient will likely love it as well.
Example: Two of my students found a bust of Plato at an antiques shop. We’d been studying Plato together all year, and they knew they needed to buy it as soon as they saw it. “We both wanted it ourselves,” they told me when they gave it to me, “but we decided that you should actually have it.” It still holds pride of place on my bookshelves.
DO make it memorable!
I love a gift card as much as the next teacher, but they aren’t usually the most memorable gift. That’s okay—not all gifts have to be memorable. That’s another good gift giving principle: gift giving is about showing honor, love, and gratitude to someone else—it’s not about you being a clever giver. That said, there are some gifts that I’ll remember for a long time because they were funny, particularly thoughtful, or delightful. They showed that my students knew me, cared about me, and appreciated me uniquely.
Examples: Some of my students this year made me a banner for teacher appreciation day that made me laugh. It had our accidental class motto on it—Stay Salty—and they hung it up outside our classroom. A few years ago, another class adopted dogs as our class mascot (it came out of an inside joke, as these things often do), and I got a lot of dog-related gifts that year. This year at Christmas, one student wrote me a detailed card talking about all the specific things he had learned and enjoyed thinking about in our class discussions, and it showed me he had been pressing in and paying attention far more closely than I’d realized. Last year all my students organized secretly to bring me little bouquets of flowers from their gardens at home throughout the week. I’ll never forget the week of joyful, continuous, surprise flowers and the sweet students who gave them. These gifts weren’t extravagant in price or effort, and some of them didn’t even last more than a day or two, but they felt extravagant in love, and I treasure them for that reason.
Teacher Gift “Don’t”s
My caveat here: there are ALWAYS exceptions to these, because people are different and you can’t make generalizations about everyone. When I say “don’t give a teacher lotion,” I mean it generally; there may be a specific teacher for whom a particular lotion would be the perfect gift. I’m just suggesting that you keep in mind the specific person you’re wanting to honor with a gift.
DON’T value cute over practical.
I’m going to be brutally honest here: there are a lot of Pinterest and DIY teacher gift suggestions out there that boil down to “just more stuff.” Most people don’t need “more stuff,” especially teachers, who tend to stockpile things anyway “just in case.” So even if it’s really super cute, try to make sure it’s something the specific teacher you have in mind will use and love. There’s only so much room on a teacher’s desk/shelves/walls.
A great alternative: If you want to do something Pinterest-worthy, choose a cute printable to accompany your gift or make the wrapping special!
DON’T buy “girl” gifts and “guy” gifts.
Just because your kid’s teacher is female, it doesn’t mean she’ll have a use for more jewelry, makeup, nail polish, lotion, or accessories. These things tend to be fairly personal anyway, so unless you know that she loves a particular brand/shade/scent/what-have-you, probably avoid. Same with “guy” gifts—not all guys are into sports, super heroes, or techy-things.
A great alternative: If you don’t know your kid’s teacher well enough to get them something you know they’ll specifically like, opt for gifts anyone would love and be able to use, like popular restaurant gift cards (Chipotle, Starbucks, Chick-fil-a, etc.) or an Amazon or Target giftcard.
DON’T be afraid to ask about preferences!
Maybe you know that your child’s teacher loves tea, but you don’t know what kind. Ask! Let them know that you want to get them something they’ll really love. Do they have a favorite brand and blend of tea? What kinds of snacks do they enjoy with their tea? Maybe you know that they collect Funko Marvel character figurines. Ask them which ones they don’t have yet. Maybe you want to make them a delicious treat, but you don’t know if they have dietary preferences or restrictions. Ask! I promise that no teacher will ever be disappointed that you asked. They’ll be touched by your thoughtfulness!
Gift ideas teachers generally don’t need more of:
- COFFEE MUGS/travel mugs/water bottles/iced coffee cups. I purge my collection every year and I STILL have too many.
- Inspirational gifts.
- Wall art.
- “Teacher” gifts—apple themed gifts, pencil themed gifts, etc.
- Devotional books.
- Pencils/pens/school supplies.
- Accessories (jewelry, scarves, etc.).
- Soaps/lotions/etc. (I’m allergic to a lot and can’t use them! Other teachers I know just have too many or have trouble with scents they can’t tolerate).
- MLM products (unless you know that a specific teacher already uses and enjoys them).
Gift ideas teachers generally love and can use:
- GIFT CARDS! Coffee, food, movies, hobby stores, pet stores, spa, music, whatever! I am never ever sad to see a gift card. I always use them and enjoy them. My personal favorites (in order) are Starbucks, Target, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
- A personal, meaningful gift from you or your kid.
- A gift that’s funny or delightful. (A colleague of mine got this last year, which breaks the rule about mugs above, but he loves it and uses it all the time!)
- A gift that references something fun or memorable from the year.
- Any gift that’s intended to treat the teacher—a movie night, a day of pampering, a quiet evening at home with a cup of tea and a good book, etc.
- High quality chocolates/other treats. (I got a fancy bottle of pink lemonade last year that was awesome!)
- Plants/flowers! I still have succulents from a student from three years ago, and cut flowers are always a wonderful gift.
- Controversial opinion: Candles. I love and use candles, typically regardless of the scent, but I know that’s not true for everyone. I like that I get to enjoy them for a few hours or days and don’t need to store them forever after. They make a great non-food consumable gift. Maybe ask your kid’s teacher about scent preferences if you want to go this route!
I hope this list gives you some helpful teacher gift ideas! I personally love giving gifts and thinking of things that people will love and use, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. Do you have any other teacher gift ideas that have been a hit in the past? Let me know in the comments!
Less than two weeks until school’s out for summer,
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