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Saying Thanks to Your Child's Teacher

Parents share a wealth of ideas for teacher gifts, from gift cards to spa days to lunches honoring the whole school staff.

By GreatSchools Staff

It really is the thought that counts in choosing a gift for the teacher, GreatSchools readers say.

We asked readers to share their suggestions for teacher gifts. We got lots, from both parents and the teachers themselves. Know the teacher's interests or needs, and you'll come up with a great gift, said many, like this California mother of three:

"One teacher's interest is gardening and (she) was very involved with the school's ecology learning garden. The end-of-the year gift for this kindergarten teacher was a copper watering can from a well-recognized gardening store/company, on which each child engraved his/her name (with help from a parent using an electric hand engraver). A poem about planting seeds, tending and watching them grow was also engraved on the can, by a more sturdy (parent's) hand."

Thanks to our readers, here are other teacher gifts - some lovingly handmade, some ingeniously well-planned and some creatively last-minute:

Ideas for Crafty Parents

Gift bags: "I love to be crafty, so every year my son and I make his teacher a gift," writes a California mother of two. "One of our favorite gifts was the year we made summer movie bags for his kindergarten teachers. We took two plain canvas tote bags and decorated them with fabric paints. Then we put microwavable popcorn, movie-type candy (i.e., Milk Duds, licorice, etc.) and a gift card to the local video store. Teachers spend so much time working, they need a little break in the summer."

Not your normal apple: "My daughters and I like to drink the apple juice that comes in glass bottles shaped like an apple," a father describes. "Then they paint the bottles to resemble real apples and insert a small cinnamon stick inside each. The cinnamon sticks carry a gift certificate to a local bookstore. It's still an apple idea but not another mug!"

Magnets with memories: "We have been making these marble magnets for teachers and family for years," says one mom. "Last year my then kindergartner was really capable of working on them with just a little help. They are easy to put together and you can customize them to each individual. We like to find photos of the kids to make magnets with their friendly faces!"

Jars of recipes: Another mother writes:  "My son and daughter and I bought a dozen wide-mouth canning jars and made a dozen really nice teacher gifts. We poured our cookie mix and bread mix into the jars, tied colorful ribbons around the lids, and wrote the recipe on index cards edged with shape scissors. The children and I really enjoyed a couple hours having fun together and talking about the nice things (and the funny things) that teachers do."

Class quilt: A mom in Florida suggests:  "Give each student in the class a swatch of cloth (square), have them draw a picture, sign their names or write something about themselves. Once all the squares are collected, simply sew them together to make a quilt. It's simple, unique and something that special teacher will treasure forever!"

A cookbook: A mother explains:  "Each student copies their favorite recipe directly from a cookbook on an index card. Or have them write what they imagine the preparation of ingredients to be, as this is usually more fun. Each page of a photo album or scrapbook is dedicated to one student's recipe and portrait. The teacher can have this forever to cherish and chuckle!"

Memento of a teacher's first year: "Last year, my son had a teacher fresh out of college," writes a Virginia mother of three. "It was her first year of teaching and I wanted to give her something special to remember her very first class by. I bought a plain denim bag and a plain T-shirt from a local craft store and some printer transfer paper for dark fabrics.

"At a special Fun Day that the class had near the end of the school year, I took pictures of the kids as a class and some other shots of some of the groups of friends together. I printed them on transfer paper and applied them to the denim bag in collage form, and took the group picture and put it on the T-shirt with 'My very first class' across the top of the picture. On the bag, I put little captions, like 'Double Trouble' on a photo of two on-again, off-again friends and the 'Three Musketeers' above a threesome that is totally inseparable."

"It turned out really cute. She uses the bag this year and wears the shirt often and told me that she has never gotten as many comments on anything as she does the shirt. Hope this gives someone some inspiration for a great teacher!"

And a memento of a teacher's last year: A California mom recalls that when her son's second-grade teacher was in her last year of teaching when she conceived of this gift:  "Over the period of that entire school year, I took lots of pictures during their field trips, Halloween, Christmas parties and many other activities. I gathered all the pictures.

"As a class project, I asked all the parents in his class to do a two-page dedication with their child's picture and letter handwritten by their child. It was a big scrapbook with all the 40 students! I cut out each of the different pictures I took and pasted them into the scrapbook like puzzle pieces. It turned out better than an actual school yearbook. The end-of-the-year-gift was kept a secret, and the kids did a fantastic job keeping it a secret. My son's teacher was so touched and happy when she saw it!"

Comments from readers

"Being a teacher of 3-5 year olds, I appreciate support from parents that is ongoing troughout the school year. When parents and children want to express a thank you, a kind word in a card or with a drawing from the child is especially nice. As for gifts, something for the classroom that the children can use and be excited about, shares that appreciation with others. This honors the child whose family has shown the appreciation and shows other children that appreciation is a simple gesture. "
"I appreciate the honesty of those who say 'no more mugs please' . I try to apply the following to a gift : 'Will it make a memory and is it disposable?' The last thing a teacher needs is something to store or feel quilty for getting rid of it a year or two down the road. If you want your child to be involved then make cookies, soup, a lasagna dinner or help your child write a thank you note and add your own thank you along with it. For those whose schools allow donations to made toward a larger gift, how about a gift certificate to a local water park(if your teacher has kids), a hotel chain or local bed and breakfast. We even gave tickets to a concert (found out from their teaching partner that this was something they wanted to do but would not spend the money on). Talk about making memories! I guarantee you that teacher will never forget the class who sent her to a Chicago concert and for about as much as a mug and candy would have been from each."
"When my two children were both in daycare it would be rather costly to buy for all teachers as they had many (before/after care). During Teacher Appreciation Week, I would buy a six foot hero with some salads and this would be a lunch for all teachers in the school. They really did appreciate it!"
"Just to know that my parents were pleased with the time that I spent with their child is extremely valuable. Gifts are great and I love to receive them, but notes and other thoughtful expressions from parents seem to inspire a teacher to continue with greater clarity in their professions. Some teacher's don't often know how much of an impact they are really making until someone takes time to go back and say 'Thank You' in a special way. There is nothing like knowing that you have made an impact after everything is said and done!"
"I haven't done this yet, but I plan to. I'm going to create a different poster for each of my daughter's daycare teachers that says 'I'll miss you TEACHER'S NAME.' Then I'm going to take a picture of my daughter holding each one outside the school on a weekend. Then I'm going to order a photo gift for each teacher with their specific good-bye message on it for my daughter's last year at daycare. "
"I never gave a teacher a gift as a child and i don't think I did as a parent. It is a nice idea, especially when a child will miss a teacher and wants to express a thank you. I like the use of 'express a thank you' and don't like the words 'give a gift'. I think many parents do not have money to give anything and feel bad to think they might be expected to do so. If you were to suggest making a card, decorated, and with the child's (and maybe the parent's) appreciation on it, this should be enough. And without the words: 'give a gift'."
"As the wife of a teacher and busy mother of four in a small hourse, I like to give gifts that are ment to be used up by the teacher and not clutter their lives with more stuff. Mugs, apples things and ornaments are certainly cute, but a teacher can only really use so much of those after teaching for many years. There is guilt associated with throwing out those things, but you can't keep them forever. Homemade goodies are always appreciated and show you spend time on someone else. Kids of all ages can help make a large batch of cookies, hot chocolate mix, friendship tea, chocolate spoons, white chocolate popcorn or fudge put in a cute bag or tin. Also items like Things-To-Do magnetic pads for the frig and little note cards from the dollar store, can be all decorated cute with ribbon and wrapped by the kids. Don't forget, items used up in the classroom like red pens, post it notes or office suppy and craft gift cards. Keep it simple, even a well written note of praise ! to the teacher, or better yet their boss, is always good and is worth way more than a mug!!"
"We paint pottery for our teachers. We do vases with flowers, sometimes plates or plaques with poems, and baseballs for the coach. The teachers love them!"
"I am the art docent for my son's fourth grade class. As an end of the year gift, the children grouped up and wrote skits, rap songs, cheers and poems about their teacher. We included props and costumes. The children's messages were heart felt. I video taped it all, transfered it to DVD and we will present it to her during the class party on the last day of school. The kids had a great time making it and I know their teacher will love it."
"For my son's teacher and assistant I bought a large picture frame from the dollar store. He painted the frame himself inside on a piece of construction paper taped a picture of him and one teacher together then he wrote a special message (WRITTEN BY HIMSELF) then for his Teacher we also bought a ribbon saying Worlds Best Teacher taped that next to photo. Turned wrapping papper inside out and he made his own wrapping paper. The teachers LOVED it!!"
"My wife and I want to give a gift to the whole high school teaching staff for their outstanding support of us and our son during a difficult year. One idea we had was for a subscription to a really great magazine geared toward educators that could be placed in the teacher's lounge. Any suggestions for a great magazine???"
"I agree no more mugs! No more bath soaps and lotions! I am a teacher and I have plenty of mugs! I also have many kinds of bath soaps and lotions. I have sensitive skin and fragrence they end up being put in the back of my linen closet until my husband wants me to clean them out and they end up at the church donation baskets! Also, many of us do not get into the 'teachery' style gifts...take a look at your teacher; if they aren't too cutesy...they probably don't get into the gift and paraphanalia that are usually associated with teaching; like signs, bracelets, pins, etc. Save your money; gift cards are the best! We always love some pampering coffee gift cards, manicures, or best yet...ask! One of mine just asked if I would like something and it was something that I had wanted!"
"The comment from the 30-yr veteran high school teacher was really interesting and encouraging as a parent to see it is important to stay in communication with the teachers even as our children our going through high school. I really do appreciate the high school teachers and have not communicated it as much as I used to to the childrens elementary teachers. "
"For the past three years my daughter and I have given her teachers a plain canvas tote bag and a set of fabric markers. The idea is for each child to sign the bag at the end of the last day. We give this, a thank you card and a gift certificate. Always a big hit and it doesn't break the bank! "
"I really enjoy reading all the feedback from other people and thank you for all the suggestions to buy or make the teachers presents. I have three children in school and what we starting doing from pre-k is that we give the teachers their favorite coffee with the coffee mug and I will include a gift card from office max or a book store. My children have not one but two or more teachers and we include the librarian, art teacher, physical education teacher and the after school teachers too. It can get a little costly, but we appreciate all the hard work and dedication to teach and educate are children. Thank you so very much to all the teachers that work very hard to make the difference in children lives."
"This is a great help! I have 6 children and the budget is very tight. My children always want to give to their teachers and I find it hard trying to get something for everyone. Then I feel guilty if I leave someone out. We are going for more 'crafty' items this year. I find that something more personal means much more. Its a great way to save money and spend time with the kids making it!"
"I think that all of these ideas are just wonderful! I just wanted to add one idea, if you have a regular hair stylist or nail tech. that is aware of your gratitude towards a teacher why not ask them to donate a gift cert. for a pro bono service. This gives your wallet a break and gives your stylist a potentially new client and a tax deduction, who could say 'NO'? "
"Our school PTO like many others had all the parents bring a casserole for Teacher Appreciation Day...I realized how much the teachers were looking forward to this day so along with the gift that we had already purchased for my daughters teacher...I cooked up an entire meal that she would only have to warm up when she got home. As a mother of three I know how difficult a little task can become and I always appreciate it when someone gives me a break from my daily to do list. She greatly appreciated it and was totally surprised by the gesture. I ralized that the teachers families also sacrifice their family time when their mothers or fathers are bringing home papers to grade or to prepare for a project and it was a nice way to thank them for that as well.... "
"Do you have any suggestions for high school teachers? & remember, there are 6 of them!"
"This year the head of our pta came up with a great idea...she had all the teachers fill out a small survey on their favorite food,snack,flower,color,animal,music,author,candy,activity and any extra info they would like to add...then she made copies and posted them in the front by the office. It's going to make picking a gift much easier this year."
"When I can attend a school function--such as the Fall or Spring party--I try to take lots of pictures. Not just of my child but of all the children and the teachers. Then I give a copy of the photos to the teacher as a gift! She can hang some in the classroom for the kids to look at, or use them in a personal scrapbook. And, usually, a 'second set' of pics is free or relatively cheap!"
"I think that my daughter, a 3rd grader, teachers have planted a very positive seed in her life. She had a difficult time adjusting to the third grade because of the heavy workload, but through their patience and love for teaching, she has turned out to be a straight A student. I couldn't have done that without the help of her teachers. To have the ability to teach is a special talent. Not just anyone can teach and it takes a lot of patience. You'll have some slow learners that will require someone with patience and then you'll have the fast learners that catches on the first time. In saying this, I think that teachers deserve a very special gift from the heart."
"Would be nice though if teachers could also take the time to say 'Thank You' when they receive a gift. With 3 children and the oldest now in grade 6 only about half of their teachers over the years have bothered to say anything."
" I admire the patience and love of teaching each of the teachers that we have,I think they need to be paid more,be rewarded for and because that usually don't happen, it is just right that as parent we need to think how to give back to our children's teachers.I love volunteering in my children's class throughout the year as a way of thanking the teachers and offer to buy the class needed items along the way. We should remember teachers are not well compensated of their hard labors in educating future leaders of our nation.They deserve something special from their students. "
"A different View posted by a teacher was so touching. She has a good heart to appreciate whatever each child gives & don't see the monetary value of the gift. Thats how a good teacher will be. I really don't like the way the other teacher commented on saying 'No more coffee mugs'. Kids gets excited when they pick gifts for their teachers. A good teacher is one who will appreciate the love each child shows by giving her a gift which the child had picked with such luv and care, even it is the 500th coffee mug that she receives..... Teachers make such an impression in a childs life forever & this is a small way of saying 'Thanks you & we care about you' from each child & his/her family."
"i am thankful for the teachers of my grandchildren at campbell elementary school........i am so glad that these young girls are doing so good in school.....and i know the school and the faculty is a lot of the reason why......i am so thankful for this........sanangel"
"I'm the mother of 2 boys in elementary school and besides a nice gift at Christmas and school year end, I make sure to get the teachers e-mails. Then my boys send their 'old' teachers greetings during holidays and vacations and attach photos. The teachers really appreciate that their former students keep in touch and think it is fun to follow their progress."
"A teacher getting married is a no-brainer. If you collect money, buy something special from wherever she is registered. Also, a very nice bracelet, earings or necklace from a good jewelry store. I think the best thing is to find out something about the teacher--what she likes to do in her free time, or favorite things, etc. and work off of that. "