Advertisement

HomeHolidaysGift Ideas

Holiday gifts teachers really want

Looking for a special teacher gift for the holidays? Take a tip from teachers themselves.

By GreatSchools Staff

Sure that "World's Best Teacher" coffee mug is cute, but imagine how many of them an experienced teacher already has! Here, teachers share what gifts they'd really like, and it turns out that gifts from the heart are among the most appreciated.

Teachers Tell Us What They Want

There is a perfect gift for every teacher, as comments from these teachers show:

    "I am a teacher so I have plenty of knowledge on this topic. Gift cards are a beautiful thing; restaurants, stores, movies, grocery cards are all really great gifts. Flowers are also a nice gesture."

"I always enjoy getting flowers or a gift card," adds Dr. Ruth Jacoby, an educational consultant in Florida and co-author of the School Talk! Success Series. "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."

The always popular gift card

Teachers told us that gift cards they can use to treat themselves to something special or buy supplies for the class are always appreciated. You can even pick up a wide assortment of gift cards at many grocery stores, making this gift even easier!

Homemade Gifts and Cards

A teacher in Washington, writes:

    "My students always ask me what I want for Christmas. My answer is the same every year. I ask for a homemade Christmas ornament with the child's name and year on it. Each Christmas, as I hang these ornaments made by precious hands, I remember those students. I reflect on the difference that I made in those lives and my new year's resolution is already made, to continue to make a positive difference in the lives of my students! I have over 25 years of ornaments that I now display. Each one is filled with memories."

A Gift for the Whole Class

"My favorite gifts to receive from my students are those that I can use at school," writes a Mississippi teacher and mother of two. "Because of tight supply budgets, practical items like pens, pencils, cap erasers, paper clips, sticky notes, and lined notebook paper make ideal gifts for teachers. A personal note from the student that the teacher can place in his/her 'memory' file will make the gift special."

Other teachers agreed that gifts to teacher supply stores, bookstores or other places they could buy much-needed things for the classroom were greatly appreciated. One teacher suggested that parents can tap their own skills to make a special contribution to the classroom: "One of the best gifts that I ever received as an educator was the donation of a parent's carpentry skills to put a door on an ugly sink cupboard for my classroom."

Donations in the Teacher's Name

Several teachers told us that they love to see students helping others in their honor. Margaret Wallace, a special education teacher in Queensbury, New York, said, "The only gift giving these days which I support is donations to causes which one cares about."

Of course, most teachers care deeply about education, so if your child's school is lucky enough to have most everything it needs, a donation to DonorsChoose may be a great way to honor your teacher. DonorsChoose is a nonprofit that allows teachers to post specific requests for their classrooms and donors to directly fund them. You can fund a project in the name of your child's teacher or give the teacher a gift certificate to use to help the project of her choice. There are classrooms all across the country looking for help paying for field trips, science equipment and more.

Get a wish list from the teacher

One parent shared this practical approach for pooling resources and getting teachers things they need:

    "Most teachers equip their classroom using their own money. I ask the teacher what he/she could use for the classroom and put together a wish list and pass that out to the parents. I found that most teachers wish for a globe, a stack of books, dictionaries, craft material, replacement parts for the computer like a mouse or mouse pad. Often these items are more than what an individual parent wants to spend, but if two or three join together the item can be bought. This helps the teacher by keeping those coffee cups to a minimum and helps your child too, by providing better instructional materials."

You can also:

  • Donate a book to the school library in honor of the teacher.
  • Make a donation in honor of the teacher to the PTA, a school foundation or a children's charity.
  • Give a gift certificate good for "One day of cutting out art projects from Jane's Mom."

If You Really Want to Buy Something...

Mary Beltran, a second-grade teacher in Pacifica, California, says:

    "Most teachers I know always appreciate gift certificates to Starbucks, Target, school supply stores or bookstores. New teachers, who spend a lot of their own money on books and supplies, especially appreciate these gifts." She also emphasized that a personal touch makes a gift special, as she says, "I always get a kick out of gifts that have been chosen or made by a child."

Scrip Gifts

Marcie Wollesen, a third-grade teacher in San Francisco, suggests that parents consider purchasing their gifts through scrip organizations. Scrip brokerages, such as eScrip, are groups that coordinate merchants and schools for mutual benefit, with a percentage of the profits going to the school of your choice. "Scrip gives money back on purchases, so that makes so much sense to me," Wollesen notes.

If your school isn't already raising money with scrip, consider starting a scrip program so that parents can buy from participating retailers and see a portion of their money go back to the school. Parent groups can work with merchants directly or through a scrip broker who does the coordinating in return for a portion of the profits.

Be sure to choose your scrip broker carefully by checking credit references and contacting other parent groups. In California, the Central California Better Business Bureau has suspended the Fresno-based Scrip Advantage after getting complaints that scrip orders weren't being delivered and sales reps were unreachable.

A Donation to the Teacher's Favorite Cause

Peggy Mannion, an eighth-grade social studies teacher in San Francisco, remembers one especially meaningful gift:

    "A student made a donation to the American Cancer Society in my name. I liked that, because, you know, I don't need anything! I mean if somebody said 'I gave ten dollars to a homeless person instead of buying you a gift,' I'd be thrilled!"

Just Say Thanks!

Many teachers told us their favorite gift was as simple as positive or grateful words. As one Oregon teacher noted, don't underestimate the value of praise.

"A supportive, positive letter, with a copy to the teacher's administrator and/or school board would be a wonderful gift," the teacher wrote. "And don't forget those marvelous 'Letters to the Editor' in newspapers."

"Heartfelt letters mean the most," said Washington teacher Sandi George. "I always keep them in my teaching album," she said. "It's important for parents to let us know how much they appreciate all we have done. We work hard at what is often a thankless job."

Florida teacher Cynthia J. Bradford wrote:

    "The best gifts I have gotten are the ones my parents have given me - tears at hearing their child read for the first time in 6th grade, a letter to the superintendent about how their child is reading for the first time in the 8th grade, and a letter to the BOE (Board of Education) and the local paper telling how their child is reading and going back to church because he can read."

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

01/9/2012:
"I really enjoyed reading gift for teachers because I was having a difficult time deciding on a gift I have my answer now. "
12/12/2011:
"I have been teaching for almost twenty years. The gifts I most appreciate were given from the heart. Handmade cards and artwork are so nice and kind words are the best. One parent brought me a note and a diet coke every month for the year. The thoughtfulness of this gift warms my heart still, five years later. "
12/10/2008:
"i agree with gift cards, and great stuff for the classroom. Please no sweets, candies or coffee."
12/10/2008:
"A great resource for pre-school through the elementary years is Luvin` My Numbers by th Crunch Bunch. It's an educational music CD that uses math and numbers to educate & entertain kids (edutainment). These songs are geat with professional music and age approrite lyrics. What's more ... the songs feature child, adolescent, and adult siners! The whole family will love this. More ... you can borrow a copy at any library in the country FREE! Go NOW and take a quick listen. Then you can buy 2 copies: (1) for your child; and (2) for your clasroom. Everyone should be verry happy now. Have a Merry Christmas & Prosperous New Year! "
12/5/2008:
"I once was a teacher and I must say I spent alot of money on items for my class, So for the holidays it's always nice to give something to the teacher that she can enjoy for herself. For example gift cards to a restaurant, bath & body sets, gift baskets,and etc."
12/5/2008:
"Teachers spend a lot of money on their classrooms. Monetary gifts are always appreciated. Gift cards are not as user friendly especially with failing businesses today, whereas money can be spent any way the teacher wants to spend it. Even if each family donated a few dollars, that would add up to a much appreciated gift for the teacher. Of course notes from all of the children and parents should also accompany that cash gift. I can't even tell you how many gifts have been purchased for me over the years that were not able to be used by me due to being the wrong style, color, size, etc. Of course, I appreciated the thought but always felt bad that noone asked me what I would like. A room parent should do just that and ask if money would be the best idea."
12/5/2008:
"These are great ideas! No more '#1 Teacher' mugs!!! Teachers are way under paid and at times, not shown how much they are appreciated for all of what they do for our children. Educating our children is priceless! Here are some wonderful gift ideas that I will give to my sons' teachers from now on: giving your time to help your teacher; donation to your teacher's favorite cause; homemade gifts and personal cards made by the student; school supply store gift cards that can be used to purchase classroom supplies; department store, grocery store, restaurant, salon services, or movie theater gift cards; supportive and positive letters to editors of newspapers and to BOE (Board of Education); heartfelt letters telling them how much you appreciate what they have done for your child; donation in honor of the teacher to the PTA; donate books to the school library in honor of your teacher; gift basket of practical items like pens, pencils, cap erasers, paper clips, sticky notes, mark! ers, chalk, play-dough, scotch tape, highlighters, staples, whiteout, and lined notebook paper; personal gift basket with sweet treats and snacks; order a special meal from the teacher's favorite restaurant to be delivered to the teacher for lunch."
12/5/2008:
"Home-made food items are not every teachers idea of a great gift - peoples tastes in food vary greatly depending on their cultural background, health concerns and personal choices. As a former teacher I think a gift card to Subway or Starbucks, even if it's for only $5 is a better choice than something home-baked. The teacher will just say 'thank you' but this is the real scoop."
12/5/2008:
"We gave my child's teacher a gift basket of items from my wellness company such as hand sanitizer, hand lotion, tea bags, soap, and hydrating drink mix. With a note saying 'Thank you for giving my child the gift of knowledge… I offer you the gift of Health & Wellness'. They absolute loved it and it was onlt about $6. "
12/5/2008:
"This year I found great big, sturdy tote bags on clearance (normally around $40, on sale for $12!) and stuffed them full of things from our teacher's wish lists. They are things like paper towels, baby wipes, band aids, post-it's, ziplock bags, etc.--all things that they need for the kids in their class. This way they don't have to spend their hard earned salary on those items, plus they each have a carry-all tote for years to come. "
12/5/2008:
"If you're going the gift card route, please check out the website www.fromeveryone.com. It was created by moms to alleviate the hassle of organizing the group gift. Yes, I'm one of the creators, and hope you'll check us out. There's a 10% service fee per contribution (ie; $5.00 contribution, $.50 fee) and shipping is FREE! Feel free to contact me with questions. Thanks!"
12/5/2008:
"At our school, many parents pool their gifts, each family usually giving a modest amount of cash (and grateful not to have to shop for a gift which may or may not be appreciates), and either give the teacher all the cash together or buy one large gift card. Teacher's don't earn as much as they should, and I think there is nothing wrong with a monetary gift. Don't forget a token of appreciation for the school secretary and security guard. Also a heartfelt letter to the principal praising your child's teacher will be much appreciate by all. "
12/5/2008:
"I usually give gift cards to Starbucks, Target or a restaurant. "
12/5/2008:
"Great ideas...I really like the idea of the donating in the name of my child's teacher at DonorsChoose.org. I might do like a combo...a little giftcard for her and then a donation to DonorsChoose.org. Thanks for the post! "
12/5/2008:
"This list was extremely helpful. Thank you so much for the ideas."
12/5/2008:
"I know my favorite gifts by far are gift cards. I had one parent give me a movies gift certificate and some office supplies like Post It notes, cute pens, stickers, and markers. It was my favorite gift ever! Please! We have enough teachers coffee mugs and pins. I also love to get a heartfelt note from the parents/students. I have a file of them in my desk drawer for those difficult days!"
12/3/2008:
"These are all fabulous ideas! I wanted to through out there to not forget the principal if you think she is doing an exceptional job as well!!"
12/3/2008:
"i bought some art angels at kmart for my daughters teachers. there was six angels in a pack. my daughter loves to paint so that is her gift. she gets to paint these angels and give one to each teacher."
12/3/2008:
"Two very special gifts that I was given were these: a prepaid trip to the hairdressers, and a specially arranged delivered meal to my classroom. I, too, love the ornaments! I pray for each student as I hang them on my tree each year."
12/14/2007:
"Your information is very helpful. My son is only 10 months but I'm trying to get early knowledge of school topics so that I am aware and prepared. Thanks for publishing good topics and useful information for all types of moms!! I'm a first time mom, so I just entered to this new world."
12/10/2007:
"These sensible suggestions are a great help to parent and teacher."
12/7/2007:
"My daughter is in 2nd grade and this year I decided that she will help me bake a special cake or cookies for her teacher to bring home for her and her family. I also decided that I will make her a nice hot lunch that is homemade. I think teachers appreciate any nice justure. It is nice to show them they are doing a great job with our kids and they are appreciated everyday of the year not only around the holidays! Offering to help out in the class during the year always seems to work too! Happy Holidays to all! Judie Melia"
12/6/2007:
"You know when I entered to this news letter e-mail program I was just trying to learn a little about my daughters school . I really am learning alot more than I exspected . thanks for all your helpful information. I really like what your doing for us. heather udall"
12/4/2007:
"How about donating an hour of your time each week, or each month for the rest of the school year? Teachers are horribly underpaid and new teachers especially have LOTS of homework to stay ahead of the students in their lesson preparations. A teacher could easily leave you a stack of photocopying or laminating to do in the school's teacher workroom with instructions. Preparing small manipulatives (several little things that require cutting needed for each student in the class) can be time consuming, but with help from others they'll get done more quickly and are a fabulous learning tool that a teacher can use over and over again. Consider giving your time. You might be surprised at what simple task a teacher could hand off, that you could do in front of the television at night, and his or her load would be greatly lightened!"
12/4/2007:
"GOOD NEWSLETTERS AND IDEAS."
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT