5 Tips For Teacher Gifts

It’s always a challenge to pick that perfect gift to show your appreciation for all that your child’s teacher does day in and day out throughout the school year. As a former room mom, I liked to give the teachers a questionnaire in the beginning of the year that asked all of their favorites: restaurants, coffee shops, snacks, retail spots, hobbies, sports teams, etc. That way I could chose gifts I knew they would use and enjoy.

I’d also ask if they had anything on their classroom supply wish list. Unfortunately, many teachers have to dip into their own wallets to pay for their classroom necessities and decorations, so you’d be surprised what’s on their lists.

In addition to my room mom days, I also substitute taught at my kids’ school for five years, my mom was a teacher’s assistant, and I have several teacher friends…so I’ve learned a thing or two about what to gift these hard-working, wildly underpaid professionals. Based on my experience, here are some tips on what to give (and what NOT to).

Thank-you notes

More than anything, a teacher loves to get a hand-written, heartfelt thank-you note from a student. I’ve heard this from teachers time and time again. And as the recipient of a couple of these myself, I can attest to the fact that they really do make your day.

Survival Kit

Teachers love practical items they are really going to use. Buy a reusable bin and fill it with things like cute sticky notes, Sharpie pens, Tylenol or Advil, hand sanitizer, lotion, mints, gum and chocolates. I had a teacher who drank a certain type of diet soda every day, so I also gave her a case of it to have in her room.

Gift Cards

These may seem boring and impersonal, but teachers really do love them. It’s especially helpful if you pool with other parents to give them a larger amount.

Classroom Supplies

Like I mentioned, teachers spend more personal money on their classrooms than you realize. We pooled money and gave one teacher a heavy-duty pencil sharpener as a class gift one year, and he was thrilled. (He told us it had been on his wish list for years!)

Personalized Gifts

Websites like Etsy have some really neat personalized gifts you can tailor to a teacher’s personality, or you can create one yourself. One teacher loved flowers and gardening, so I bought a large, plastic, terracotta style pot. I volunteered during the kids’ art class and had each of them put their handprint on the pot with paint, and sign their name under the handprint with a Sharpie. (I had emailed the art teacher ahead of time, and she was happy to help.) I filled it with seasonal flowers and presented it at the end of the year from the class. My mom taught for years and also loves to cook. One of her classes did the same to a white apron (handprints with signatures), and she still wears it years later.

On the flip side, I don’t recommend giving teachers random trinket-type or generic items like mugs, soaps, candles and food. You wouldn’t believe the amount of candy, cookies and other baked goods a teacher receives, especially around the holidays. They would much rather receive a restaurant gift card, giving them a respite from family dinner duty.

Trust me, after walking a mile in their shoes, teachers have tired feet at the end of the day. Lightening their load with a thank-you note and thoughtful gift goes a long way to making them feel appreciated!

Debbie Williams is a Northern VA mom of two and managing editor of Washington FAMILY Magazine.

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