FAQs for Parents About Teacher Gifts

Creative solutions to common questions about teacher gifts.

By GreatSchools Staff

Giving gifts to teachers can be complicated. Whether you are in charge of organizing a whole class gift or wondering what to do for your child's high school teachers, we can help. We've compiled lots of common sense tips from some real experts - our readers!

How do I know what teachers want?

Dr. Ruth Jacoby, an educational consultant in Florida and co-author of the School Talk! Success Series told us about creative ways parents can find out what type of gifts a teacher would like. "Many of my parents usually ask other staff what my likes are. One school at the beginning of the year sent a survey to all staff members on likes and favorites, so many times I get gift baskets with my favorite coffee, snacks and books," she said.

If you want tips for doing in-person research, read our article on better gifts for teachers, where real teachers told us about the gifts they love most. You might be surprised to learn that the simplest thanks were often the most special.

Help! I'm in charge of organizing a gift from the whole class.

Joining with other parents in your child's class or school allows families to spend whatever they're comfortable giving and results in a memorable gift for the teacher. Our readers had many great suggestions for making it work.

Tips from a veteran organizer: Michigan mom Pam Cunningham is a veteran of organizing parents to pool their resources. She wrote:

    "For two years now, I have sent letters home to the parents to take up a collection for an end-of-the-year gift for our daughters' teachers.... I ask that any amount they would like to contribute be sent back anonymously and include their vote for gift. (I usually give two choices that I gathered after talking to other teachers or the principal to see if they have anything special going on over the summer or their hobbies.)

"One teacher was going on a special vacation over the summer, and we filled a beach tote with a certificate to the book store, salon that she goes to, a photo album/journal, pack of film and travel-size body products. She loved it!
"Another teacher had a baby just before school started so we gave her a gift certificate to a nice restaurant, the movies, the teacher/parent store and a salon. For this I potted a plant and using florist card stakes, I labeled envelopes with 'A Night on the Town,' 'Get Ready for Next Year' and 'Pamper Yourself' and had them sticking out of the pot. She couldn't wait to go out with her husband and spend some time on herself." Turn the gift into a class project: A room parent in Florida wrote:

    "One of our favorite gift ideas was actually a class project. I copied a letter asking parents to help their child make a memory book for their teacher. I sent home in a large manila envelope, one piece of colored card stock paper along with written instructions to include a photo, write a short message (memory) for the teacher and decorate the page. The students then returned their individual page to my child via the manila envelope. It was a very heartfelt project - every student was able to participate. I simply purchased the empty memory book from a local craft store and compiled the students' work.

"The only pitfall was getting some of the students to do the page. I had to send a reminder a couple of times, so we could have a page from each child. The teachers loved this book!"

Know the teacher's interests: A mom of a kindergartner writes that during the last week of school, parents in the class get together and arrange to bring the teacher one of her favorite things for each day of the week: flowers, dessert, lunch, a book. "It will be a sure surprise," she says. Don't forget to involve your child, who by the end of the year probably has a clear idea what kind of cookies the teacher likes best.

Another mom writes, "One teacher had a picture of a puppy as her computer screen saver and photos of some dogs on her desk. It turns out she volunteered as a foster pet parent outside of school, so I got her some dog toys and supplies as a gift. Another teacher was dressed all in pink for teacher conferences, and when I commented on it, she said pink was her favorite color. I gave her a pair of pink earrings as a Christmas gift."

A little pampering goes a long way: An Ohio mother of 10-year-old twin boys shares her ideas for pampering the teachers:

    "In the past years we have presented the teachers with gift cards for lunch at popular nearby restaurants and bouquets of flowers to the school secretaries for all they do. Some of our room mothers have also collected towards a spa package from the entire class for the teacher to use during spring or winter break. They really light up when getting the group gifts."

A California parent suggests, "A great idea would be for all the parents in a classroom to chip in for a spa gift certificate. As wonderful as our children absolutely are, teachers do have stressful moments on a daily basis!"

Comments from readers

"To the previous incredibly sad to have a parent with such a poor attitude toward teachers. Our children spend more time with their teachers each day than they do with their own parents. Teachers have one of the most important jobs out there...shaping America's future. Each week I volunteer in my child's classroom and see all the hard work that my childrens' teachers put into their class and all the love that they give to my child. My children adore their teacher and will never forget them. Don't we all remember all of our teachers for our entire lives??? Teachers make an incredible impact in the life of a child and are entirely deserving of gifts and/or at the very least praise, for all that they do. I personally love to shower my childrens' teachers with both. Thank you to all the wonderful teachers out there! "
" The teachers union has decimated Illinois' budget with huge "final-years" salaries (show me the teacher deserving a $100K+ salary for working nine months. See - click on the teacher's salary button on the top right), unparalleled health care and uber-lucrative pensions. Even after forcing taxpayers to swallow a 66% state income tax increase, Illinois' debt escalates. Your union has destroyed this state - bankruptcy is a matter of time. We need to immediately kill public defined benefit plans going forward. End collective bargaining of public unions. Scrap prevailing wage laws. Tax at an 85% rate all defined benefits above $80,000. Claw back all pension-spiking. Lower corporate tax rates to previous levels to attract businesses. Set long-term pension plan assumptions at 5% or the 30-year Treasury rate, whichever is lower (currently 3%). Default, if necessary on pension benefits above a certain level, whatever it takes to make the state solvent within 10 ! years, using conservative pension plan assumptions. Better yet, enroll teachers in a 401K plan or IRA like the rest of the "real world." Economics should be a teaching degree prerequisite. Gifts for teachers? Seriously? "
"I just read the previous email about an unhappy parent. How sad you let the whole school year go by without speaking to someone on the office staff about changing classes for your child. School should be a happy fulfilling experience that fosters the desire to learn. If trying to listen to the teachers reasoning isn't working, get someone else involved. This can also be a way to show your child how to handle difficult people in their life the professional, civil way."
"There a lot out on what to give a teacher at the end of the school year, but what can a parent do who is really happy the school year is over and hoping the teacher hasn't damaged her child's self esteem? I've had to hold my tongue all year after seeing that it only made things worse for my child. I'm afraid I'll just need to continue this method and hope she doesn't pick on someone else's child next year."