I remember the last day of school before winter and summer breaks when my mom would load me up with gifts for my teachers. Later, I remember bringing special things for my high school teachers and a few special college professors. These days, I’m on the other end, helping my husband, a high school science teacher, carry in the gifts he receives from students.
Basically, you should think of me as an expert in the world of teacher gift giving. Well, sort of.
With the help of experience and after extensive polling of The Professor and a few of my teacher friends, I have some tips for memorable teacher gifts.
1. Notes and Cards
The Professor is scary smart and could have been whatever he wanted, but he chose teaching, and he loves it. Between teaching, grading, planning and helping students, he works about 70 hours a week. He’s happy when his students do well and frustrated when they do poorly.
When he gets a note from one of the students he invests so much in, it really makes his day. The Professor keeps every one of the cards he’s ever received. He reads each one and has them filed away at the house. Notes are simple and inexpensive and very meaningful.
2. Homemade Treats
Teacher gifts don’t need to be expensive or elaborate. Homemade cookies or peppermint bark are nice ways to thank a teacher for his or her dedication throughout the semester. If your kiddos are younger, homemade craft projects are equally special.
If you’re an over achiever, Pinterest is full of amazing teacher gift craftiness.
3. Gift Cards
This may come as a shock, but teachers, they’re not in it for the money. Gift cards for restaurants, bookstores, Starbucks, movie theatres, Bath and Body Works, and other little luxuries make great gifts. Gift cards say – you work hard for our kid who we know talks too much in class and picks his nose, so go have fun for a change!
I know when giving a gift to your sister or spouse or bestie, gift cards seem impersonal, but they make an excellent teacher gift. Teachers (and their spouses) really do appreciate them. Just try to stay away from gift cards that have a lot of strange conditions.
I especially like it when The Professor gets Starbucks cards because he doesn’t drink coffee. But I do!
4. Personalized Stationery
Teachers write a lot of notes – to parents, to other teachers, to students. Personalized stationery would be a wonderful gift to any teacher, and something they probably wouldn’t buy for themselves.
And let’s face it, sometimes teachers have to lay down the law and be the bad guy. No one likes doing that, but if a teacher has to write bad news to a parent about a kid misbehaving, nothing softens the blow like pretty stationery.
5. Classroom Supplies
Most teachers spend their own money to buy classroom supplies. The Professor has even gotten in trouble once for going through too many dry erase markers. Whether you give stage makeup to a theater teacher or a big box of colorful dry erase markers to a science teacher, you will be buying a thoughtful and useful gift! Big boxes of tissues are also welcome! Every year, The Professor gets a box of red pens and colorful dry erase markers in his Christmas stocking.
Similar to classroom supplies are subject-specific books. The professor had so much fun at Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago buying cool books about physics like this one. There are so many fun reads useful for classrooms! Some teachers like to have them sitting out for students to read during breaks, others give them to high-achieving students who need exciting extra work, and other teachers might incorporate them into their curriculum. If you see a fun book on sale, grab it and keep it for a gift. It will be appreciated!
Things Not to Get
Contrary to popular opinion, all teachers do not decorate with apples, wooden necklaces and potpourri. Sorry to disappoint you.
I’ve seen a lot of teacher gift ideas that consist of a beach towel and sunscreen and a little note about relaxing all summer vacation. Seeing those gift ideas honestly made my heart hurt just a little bit. Many teachers do get to rest and relax during the summer, and if you know your child’s teacher is among them, a pool set is a great gift idea. But here in Oklahoma where teacher salaries are really low, summers are a time to make extra income. The Professor and most other teachers I know go straight from teaching to summer jobs. So, as a teacher’s wife, my request is to not jump to the conclusion that your kid’s teacher is going to be sipping Mai Tais by the pool all summer.
Also, avoid alcohol. I agree that a nice bottle of wine is a great gift, but because most schools are no alcohol zones, you wouldn’t want your child or child’s teacher to get in trouble for having alcohol on school grounds. Same goes for fireworks, throwing knives and fighting stars.
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Any other fun ideas out there? Let’s hear them!