Best and Worst Holiday Gifts for Teachers


appleLooking for teacher gifts? Here are ten gifts teachers hope you don’t buy… and what to get instead!

Let me start by saying that teachers don’t go into their profession for gifts or even a pat on the back. They’re teachers because they care about kids, they love watching children learn, and they want to help your child accomplish great things. Teachers don’t have expectations around the holidays. And they’re grateful for the opportunity to teach your child… gifts or not.

But everyone could use a little appreciation.

If you’d like to thank your child’s teacher with a gift, you might be interested in choosing something that your child’s teacher would truly appreciate.

As a former teacher myself, I’ve got the inside scoop. And when I asked my teacher Facebook fans about what they love to receive as gifts, they answered.

10 Gifts Teachers Really Don’t Need

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  1. Coffee mugs. Mugs are the #1 gift teachers would prefer not to get. I know there are some really cute coffee mugs out there, but think about it. Even if a teacher receives just three mugs a year, how many will she accumulate in five years? Few of us have that much cupboard space.
  2. Scented lotion. Unless you know for a fact what products your child’s teacher loves, please pass.
  3. Candles. The right candle is so awesome… but how do you know you’ll get it right?
  4. Bath gel. It’s that scents thing again.
  5. Home decor. Unless you’re a regular guest at the teacher’s home and know her style, avoid buying decorative frames, plaques, or other home decor.
  6. Baked goods. As a single teacher who still had a pretty high metabolism, I loved getting baked treats. I also had no diet restrictions or allergies. Unless you know for a fact what your child’s teacher loves, this is just too much of a gamble.
  7. Stuffed animals. ‘Nuff said.
  8. Clutter. Tiny picture frames, figurines, and other trinkets may be thoughtfully chosen, but they clutter up a teacher’s home very quickly. (But please don’t misunderstand me; thoughtful gifts made or chosen by children have a special place in a teacher’s heart.)
  9. Coffee or tea. Don’t assume that every teacher is a coffee or tea drinker.
  10. Teacher knick knacks. My first year of teaching, I thought the “world’s greatest teacher” pencil holder was cute. When I got a few more every year, they lost their appeal as I lost space to put them.

Gifts Teachers Love

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Thoughtful notes and student-made gifts. They take just a few minutes to write, but teachers treasure thoughtful notes from parents and students. Homemade gifts or gifts specially chosen by children are also treasured. I still remember the little boy who brought me a little blue gem shaped like a heart. “This is for you because you’re the best teacher I ever had.” (Even though he was only in first grade, ha!)

  • Your time. Volunteer to help your child’s teacher in any number of ways.
  • Primary teachers would love if you’d come in just to sharpen pencils.
  • Help during art class.
  • Take recess duty. I taught in a small parochial school with three grades in my classroom and not a single break. I have a special place in my heart for that mom who came to supervise afternoon recess.
  • Make some phone calls for a class field trip.
  • Do correcting.
  • Organize the Scholastic book orders.
  • Make copies.
  • Offer to deep clean the classroom about halfway through the year. Then mark your calendar.

Gift cards. An Amazon gift card can be used for practically anything. If your budget is small, how about a $5 card to the local coffee shop? Even non-coffee drinkers can find something to eat or drink at Starbucks. Teachers also love gift cards to bookshops and teacher supply stores. Many people don’t realize how many hundreds of dollars teachers spend each year on their classrooms.

Books for the classroom. Preschool and elementary school teachers love getting new children’s books for their classroom. Buy your child’s favorite, and have him/her sign the inside cover. It’s nice if the book is one the teacher doesn’t already have, but no worries. Multiple copies of favorite books are appreciated.

Games and other activities for indoor recess. Ask your child what he does when the class stays inside due to rain or cold. Your child’s teacher might appreciate a classic games like Connect Four or Uno.

Group gifts. When a bunch of parents get together, they can purchase a generous gift card or a more expensive item from a teacher’s wish list. Have you seen ElementaryBox? Go in together with other parents and give your child’s teacher a subscription. Each month he or she will receive a box of fun and useful learning materials for both the teacher and kids in the classroom.

Candy. Maybe. You should only do this if you know the teacher’s preference. When I was a new teacher, the word got out that I loved chocolate covered cherries. Except I didn’t. (Thankfully they also learned that I love M & M’s!) Of course, there are some very disciplined people who don’t eat candy at all. So be very careful on this one.

Fruit basket. An apple for the teacher is still a great idea! Buy some nice crisp apples, put them in a small affordable basket, and you’re set. Just remember to choose fruit that can sit on the teacher’s desk all day without refrigeration. Because she’s probably not going to have the time or opportunity to get them to a fridge.
Monogrammed gifts. I loved getting notepads with my name on them. Or how about a set of pencils with the teacher’s name? This way the teacher might actually get back the pencils he loans out.

Flowers or potted plants. Maybe. First of all, if you’re going to bring flowers, do be sure they’re in a vase. And make sure the classroom has a place for them. Teachers’ desks get pretty crowded, and you don’t want an accidental spill. Potted plants are great if the teacher likes them. I’m ashamed to say how many plants suffered a slow death in my apartment.
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School supplies. While the school will supply these, teachers never seem to have enough. Teachers appreciate Sharpies, dry erase markers, pens, highlighters, and colorful Post-it notes. Put them in a decorative (but practical!) container, and you’re all set.

A meal. Of course you’ll want the teacher’s input before you prepare and bring food. But if her eyes light up when you suggest bringing a fresh supper or freezer meal for her family, then give some suggestions and let her choose. How about a hearty salad and a loaf of crusty bread? (Her kids would probably love some cookies for dessert.) Bring the meal at the end of the day in a cooler or heated container. Then it will stay the perfect temperature until it’s time for your teacher’s family to enjoy it. Want to make it easy? Get this meal in a box from Amazon.
Looking for more gift ideas?