An Apple For the Teacher (But Only If She Really Likes Apples)

The remarkable people who teach my children deserve gigantic, generous gifts for Christmas–maybe a new laptop tied with a big, red bow, with a gift card to a spa tucked in for good measure?

That’s what they deserve.  But I have four kids, all with multiple teachers (I am including, of course, the PE teacher, librarian, computer lab helper, and the school nurse.  WE MUSN’T FORGET THE SCHOOL NURSE.  My accident-prone children have spent so much time there–one even set a school record for number of visits in one day–that it feels like she should be getting a cut of my health insurance premiums.) 

Add to that the soccer coaches, bus driver, crossing guard, ballet teachers, etc. etc., and there are a lot of people investing in my children, all richly deserving of some recognition at the holiday season.  But I have no budget for laptops and spa gift cards.  I want to be thoughtful in my gift-giving to these fine people, but I also have to be sensible.

So I did some very scientific research on the subject of how to accomplish this best.  I e-mailed people (and that is scientific, because there was a computer involved)–current teachers, past ones, principals, friends who teach, etc.  Their advice on the subject was excellent, and I’ll highlight a few of the things they had to say.  There were several recurring themes:

1.  Not all teachers collect apple-ish, chalkboard-ish, school-themed items.  In fact, many don’t.  The apple ornament that bears the word: "To teach is to touch a life forever"?  Yes, well, she probably got eight of those last year.  Think outside the box.  Or apple.  Instead, take a little time to find out what she does collect or enjoy.  The cardinal rule of gift-giving is to give others what they’d like, not what you think they should like.

2.  Ditto with the mugs.  There are only so many coffee mugs a human can own.

3.  Personal notes from parents and teachers mean a lot.  Truly personal notes, from your heart.  Not just, "Thanks for your hard work," but "thank you for spending so much of your personal time helping Johnny develop his organizing skills this year.  It’s made a difference, and he we knew he’s in better shape for 4th grade next year because of you."  Teaching is often a thankless job, and teachers hear many complaints from parents.  Be the exception, and write a letter telling your child’s teachers what they’ve done well.  "It’s the kind of thing I save forever," one teacher friend told me.

4.  Spending a lot of money is not necessary.  Of the many teachers I heard from, not a one of them mentioned, "Gee, I wish these kids would pony up and buy me an iPod."  On the contrary, they all expressed acknowledgement that budgets are tight.  Several said it’s very meaningful to them when the entire class pitches in a couple of dollars each and buys a gift certificate to the teacher’s favorite restaurant.

5.  Small gift cards are great, too.  A $5 gift card to Starbucks or Blockbuster may seem small, but if a teacher gets 10 of those dealies, he’ll be set.

6.  Homemade baked goods are generally a hit.  Of course, you need to take into account your teacher’s preferences (and allergies!), but most teachers expressed a fondness for personal gifts like these.  One teacher wrote to me that some of her best recipes have come from the gifts her parents have made.  In fact (shhhh…), this year for my kids’ teachers/coaches/etc. I’m planning to package up this in mason jars.  This stuff is so unbelievably good your eyes will roll back in your head.  I made a test batch last month, just to be sure, and I ate it.  ALL.  My stomach hurt for a week, but it was worth it.  For another idea, consider making hot drink mixes.  I actually did a post about this at Work-It Mom last week; you can see the recipes here.

7.  Office supplies are practical and thoughtful.  Many school district budgets don’t allow money for teachers to stay stocked up on pens and notepads other office supplies, so they have to do this at their own expense.  Consider packaging up a small batch of these things, tied with a bow.  If that sounds like a dull gift to you, then you need to come spend some time in my universe, where office supplies are THE most exciting thing that can happen.  Seriously, buy me a new bag of pens, and I am strangely entertained for a week.

What are you giving your kids’ teachers this year?  Have any creative ideas?  I know many of you schoolteachers yourself–do you have any additional input you’d like to share?

{This post is part of BlogHer’s Holiday Survival Guide ’08 series, and an edited version has been posted there.}

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152 thoughts on “An Apple For the Teacher (But Only If She Really Likes Apples)

  1. Melanie says:

    My daughter’s teacher loves Sonic ice and their tea. She has 3 cups on her desk. One with Sonic ice, one with water, and one with Sonic tea. EVERY day. We are getting her a Sonic gift card for Christmas.

  2. Melanie says:

    Another thought- several years we have pitched in with other moms and bought a VISA gift card. Then the teacher can use it any way she wants. It’s like the bonus they deserve and never get.

  3. Colleen says:

    I save up my airmiles all year long and use them to ‘purchase’ Starbucks gift cards for all the teachers, soccer coaches, Irish dancing teachers, theatre class teachers, etc etc etc. I attach the card to a small cellophane bag with a few home made cookies and little Christmas chocolates. Yay for whipped shortbread!

  4. Jane says:

    Three cheers! This list is right on! But,the year I got a box of chocolates “pre-tasted” was the best! I still laugh thinking if Jason’s mom only knew!

  5. Jen says:

    Great post!
    As a former teacher I know all too well about getting a bunch of gifts you don’t really want or need (yep, lookin’ at you 2 Teach is 2 Touch Lives 4 Ever mug). This year we are honoring my daughter’s teachers by picking out ducks, goats, trees, etc. for the needy from the World Vision catalog.

  6. Stacy says:

    I give a small, handmade calendar to each teacher. She can personalize it with her own pictures or just use it as is because it is cute with ribbon and patterned paper. I have even gotten some requests from teachers past to buy one from me for the upcoming year.

  7. Melanie @ MelADramatic Mommy says:

    Last year I gave the people in the before/after care program (4 women) small bags with a mini bag of popcorn two packest of hot chocolate and $5 Blockbuster card. They loved it.
    This year my son’s room parents decided we’d give a set amount of money that will go towards all the parties, teacher gifts and supplies. I don’t mind shopping but if i can cross one thing off my list I’m all for it.

  8. care-in says:

    I appreciate this post. As a former teacher I appreciate things that are more useful for my family and I.
    I especially like #3…you can never get too many encouraging notes.

  9. Mel says:

    You guys have gotta check out the personalised teacher stickers available at http://www.threedoggraphx.com
    These folks are US based and they even do international shipping. I bought some for my little people’s teachers last year, and have requests for repeat gifts this year.
    One other idea is that a friend and I got together and made personalised pencil/pen cases and then filled them with office supplies.
    Mel

  10. gretchen from lifenut says:

    My daughter’s teachers (middle school) sent a note home before Thanksgiving with a gentle reminder that gifts are nice and thoughtful, but please spare us the mugs/ornaments/apples…
    They asked for school supplies, but if we really felt like giving a gift, gift cards and homemade items are nice. One particular teacher, it was noted, strongly dislikes chocolate.
    I can see some of the other parents I know getting huffy and offended by a letter like this, but I think it is warranted. Anything we can do to cut back on waste is a good thing—whether it is the waste of having 52 coffee mugs or wasting money on buying gifts that aren’t really needed.
    I don’t blame them.

  11. terri says:

    I’m surprised to see baked gifts on your list because I had read that teachers do not like them and most of it gets tossed.
    Any teachers out there…..do you toss the baked goodies?

  12. Linds says:

    Perfect list. I have been a teacher, and one gift which sticks in my mind was the little set of embroidery threads and a home made pincushion given to me by one of my textiles students. Perfect!

  13. Lori L. says:

    Teacher here… there truly is nothing greater than heartfelt thanks. Of all the gifts I’ve received over the years, the parents and kids who took the time to write out how much they appreciated me were the best gifts ever.
    Remember, we teachers are extremely passionate about your children, and we love love love to hear you recognize that.
    (Oh, and the $5 Starbucks or office supply card is a fabulous compliment to your sweet words) πŸ™‚

  14. Sandy toes says:

    Being a teacher, I did like when the entire class went in on a gift card b/c you can only have so many “apple” pins! But, so true about the Letters..that is what makes it all well worth it!
    -sandy toes

  15. Mary says:

    I am a teacher and I totally agree with your list– also thank you for putting in the the special note in the home made goodies section! I am allergic to gluten so most baked goods are out. I let all of my first graders (and their parents know, so I don’t hurt any feelings during holiday parties a birthdays!

  16. natalie says:

    great post! i was in early childhood for nearly 10 years and it never ceased to amaze me some of the gifts i received, both as a teacher and director! to most people a $5 giftcard to starbucks is nothing, but when you’re working 12hour days and taking lesson plans home with you, that latte means more than you know! i still have old cards and letters from my very first students that i hold dear…makes me remember how much i loved teaching!

  17. Lady in a Smalltown says:

    Thanks for this great list. I am not a classroom teacher, but I get a dozen gifts or so a year. Another website posts a list every year and includes things we really don’t want like scented soaps and candles. Sometimes these are great, but 2 out of 3 are not my style. I would totally rather have a handful of chocolates (to share with my husband) and a nice thank you note.

  18. Alli Crumley says:

    My friend, who used to be a teacher, wrote a list of top five gifts for teachers, I found interesting.
    http://tarnishedteapot.blogspot.com/2008/11/top-five-holiday-gifts-for-teachers.html
    When I was a kid, we gave “teacher tea” which was a spiced tea recipe that was nestea, tang, and some spices. Just add hot water. Or we gave hot chocolate mix, which I can’t remember now, but it was soooooo good.
    We only have the Sunday School teacher to give to, and I have no idea what to give her. Probably pumpkin bread.

  19. Tara says:

    As a teacher’s wife AMEN and AMEN to the mugs/cutsy apple/chalkboard stuff. I’ve had to smuggle many a mug out of here so I could have room for MY coffee mugs!
    A gift card is great, but make sure it is one that the teacher could use. DH gets lots of them to Starbucks…he hates coffee and the atmosphere of spending lots of money on a drink. Bad for him, but, good for me! I count it as the bonus *I* get for being a teacher’s wife!
    As for the baked goods, we love them. Takes the pressure off ME to bake during a busy season. πŸ™‚

  20. Leslie says:

    I always write a nice note to the teacher and put in a gift card. The last year or two I have been doing wal-mart gift cards. I do wal-mart for two reasons. The first is that I know teachers spend a lot of their own money on things for the classroom (school supplies, rewards for the kids etc.). Most, if not all of that stuff, can be bought at wal-mart so I hope that my gift card takes some of the burden off the teacher. Second, if they don’t want to use it for school stuff, I am sure they can find something they want/need at wal-mart. And, since a really nice, new super wal-mart (one of 11 prototypes in the country of their new “upscale” store) opened up almost within walking distance of the school I know it will be convenient to use.
    I will say that now that my son is in first grade I am going to make him write at least part of the note this year :-).

  21. Chris Wilson says:

    I’m giving my son’s daycare teachers a big basket of things they can use in the classroom. Books, candy (for them), calender, paper towels, etc.

  22. prasti says:

    great ideas! we usually give our son’s teacher homemade goodies and fruits, but this is his first year in middle school which means he has multiple teachers. i’ll have to be more creative since we’ll be on a budget :). but we always include a thank you note to offer them encouragement. like you said, being a teacher can be a thankless job.

  23. Tidymom says:

    GREAT list!!! We’ve been making my fudge wreaths for the last several years – the girls usually ask the teachers first to make sure they have no allergies and what flavors they like best!

  24. Robyn (3girlsmom) says:

    I’m a former teacher. AMEN to the “not all teachers like apple-themed stuff” part. Unless of course you are referring to the Mac Apple. Then BRING IT.
    I also have a box full of mugs in my garage. Got WAAAYYY too many of them.
    The best gift I ever got from a student wasn’t actually on a holiday. It was on the first day of school. I had a parent come in my classroom that morning when she dropped her son off and ask me what I was cooking for dinner. Of course, Wendy’s was on the menu for that night – first day of school exhaustion doesn’t generally lend itself to a home cooked meal. She said that she’d be back before school got out with dinner for my family. About 2:15, she came back with a big box. It had lasagna, salad, bread, dessert, and tea. It was cooked in disposable containers so I didn’t have to return anything. She also included paper plates, napkins, and plastic utensils and cups….read: no dishes to clean up. All I had to do was pop it in the oven for a minute to re-heat. It was HANDS DOWN the best gift anyone could’ve given me.

  25. Wanda says:

    I love the creative ideas. The gift cards ROCK!
    Don’t be afraid to involve other students/parents in the giving either.
    Especially if it’s a teacher that is nearing her retirement. She really deserves to be showered.
    Go big! But mostly, get to know the person and make it personal.

  26. Lisa Shay says:

    here’s a delicious recipe for teachers:
    1 bag of Ghirardelli semisweet chips
    1 bag of Ghirardelli white chips
    1 bag of Craisins
    1 can of Planters Mixed Nuts
    Mix all ingredients together. That’s it! I like to pour the ingredients into used and cleaned Starbucks bottles. You can easily tie a ribbon around the neck of the bottle and cover the lid with a decorative label of your own choosing. It makes a pretty display with all the colors and it’s super yummy too! You could have your child (if able) a note of gratitude or picture, if they’re unable to write yet and send it along with the gift.
    I’ve included a link to my blog showing pictures of how you could package the treats if you’re so inclined. *wink*
    Please note: the little buckets are usually found in Target’s Dollar section.
    http://the5ncshays.blogspot.com/2007/12/christmas-goodies.html

  27. Bailey's Leaf says:

    My friend makes crocheted kitchen dish clothes, so I have a couple for each and a matching dish towel. I’ll be topping them off with some chocolate covered cinnamon or chocolate pretzels.
    At work, I try to encourage people NOT to buy apple themed items for the teachers. I agree, not all of them want them and they have probably gotten 10 of each every year since they have taught. UGH!

  28. Joanna @ Grace in the Home says:

    One year I got a beautiful assortment of Bath & Body Works lotions, creams, etc. from one of my students. Later, I found out that she had SHOPLIFTED them at the mall. I felt strangely special that she wanted to shoplift something to give me!

  29. Jen says:

    I used to be a teacher and one of my favorite gifts ever was when a student brought me a set of hurricane glasses and one of those straw dispensers. It was so different from the usual box of soaps.

  30. Kerri says:

    So funny to hear about Sonic! That is a favorite teacher gift here too! Hey, does anyone know where Antique Mommy has gotten to? Missin her like crazy! One post back but have to say I LOVE ETSY!!!! Blessings!

  31. Lari says:

    I usually get my boys’ teachers a bookstore giftcard. A lot of times they want a special book for their classroom and if not they can spend it on themselves.

  32. patois says:

    I love your list. My kids pick out a Christmas ornament each year that reminds them of their teacher: her likes, her interests, etc. And we kick in $10 for the class cash card. (Which, for some reason, I always seem to be the one to organize and buy.)

  33. Ginny says:

    Something we used to do at the end of the year, not necessarily for the holidays, was to invite them for lunch. The children had to help prepare the meal. It was always a huge hit with the teachers. We would do something that wasn’t too expensive like a taco bar etc.

  34. Lindsey says:

    Another former teacher here.
    Ditto on the gift cards, no matter how small. Awesome.
    If you feel you must get something more “standard,” at least give something that gets used up–a candle or lotion instead of a picture frame.
    And why not give a casserole instead of baked goods? That is usually more expensive, though. The teacher lounge fridge might hold it for the day until he or she goes home. At Christmastime, teachers are grading a LOT of papers.
    But gift cards still win.

  35. AprilMay says:

    Great list! As a teacher, I agree with everything (and BRING ON those baked goods)! Another inexpensive gift…Poinsettias. You can get them for $5 and they look beautiful on a teacher’s desk!

  36. Damsel says:

    Teacher here, too! Your list is fantastic… My favorite gift is anything that gives me more TIME. Restaurant gift cards are great!
    Our PTF has us fill out “info sheets” at the beginning of each year where we can list various favorites (restaurants, authors, stores, colors, themes in our home, etc, plus any allergies… ). Most parents know to check that before purchasing, so it works really well!

  37. amanda H says:

    When I was teaching, my favorite gift ever was when I received a card saying that a family gave to a charity in my name. I also liked gift cards to book stores.

  38. amanda H says:

    One other great gift I remember was when a mom delivered a hot meal from a restaurant to us at lunchtime! That was a nice treat!

  39. Amy says:

    I always buy my son’s teacher a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant or store. His teacher this year loves to knit so I am getting a gift certificate to a nice yarn store.
    At my boy’s school, the room parents request a small cash donation to go towards the purchase of Christmas, birthday and teacher appreciation gifts. Another Mom and I are going to use some of the money to make chair totes (something similar to this: http://www.ott-pouch.com/) for added storage in the classroom.
    During Teacher Appreciation Week, parents will bring the teacher dinner to take home every night during the week.

  40. Janelle says:

    My son’s school takes donations and splits it up equally between all the classroom and other teachers and staff. They get a card with names who donated (no amounts) and a wad of cash to do with as they please. It’s wonderful.

  41. Rebecca says:

    THANK YOU for this post! I didn’t even have my son’s teachers on my Christmas list, or the helpers in class. I think I’ll do some mason jars with dry ingredients for recipes…or something along those lines with a thank you note.

  42. Martia says:

    Last year, I created breakfast order forms and gave them out to all the various people who help out with my son at his school (PE teacher, office manager, aides, and so forth). It was a simple postcard with a thank you note on one side and the breakfast order form on the other. It was a way I could spend about $5 on each person but also take a little something off them for the day. With a list of three day options and three place options, they each customized breakfast.

  43. Lindsey says:

    Oh! Another idea.
    This would definitely only work in certain circumstances–namely, that you lived near enough to your child’s teacher for it to be helpful and especially that you’re confident that he or she would actually WANT to take you up on this.
    We all know that baby-sitting is at the same time a luxury and a necessity. What about watching the teacher’s own kids for an evening?
    When I taught, I would have only taken a couple of families up on that offer. But I would have been ECSTATIC if they had offered!

  44. Snowbird says:

    When I taught, I always loved to get Christmas ornaments from the kids. Some were store bought and some were homemade. I would decorate my classroom tree every year with all of my ornaments. It was like going down memory lane whenever I put up my tree.
    I love the idea of giftcards to Starbucks, Wendys, etc. too.
    And yes, baked goods were always great to get. Christmas cookies, banana nut bread etc. But, please, no Fruitcake!! LOL.

  45. Megan says:

    Awesome list! I was a teacher in my pre-mommy days. We used to joke that we should prominently display our Starbucks cups during the month of December, or recap our weekend dinner at our favorite restaurant. All kidding aside, one year I received 17 boxes of chocolate. Yikes.

  46. Suzie says:

    Excellent post!! As a former teacher, you hit the nail on the head.
    Also, watch for the drink containers on the teacher’s desk. I noticed last year, that every day, my son’s teacher had a Sonic cup on her desk. So we got her a Sonic gift card and she loved it.
    As far as office supplies go, when I taught I would have wanted: dry erase markers, a box of the nice fancy pens, the black plastic clips that fold down to hold the papers in place, a nice sturdy clipboard, multi=colored packs of paper (I loved to print out on colored paper, but the office rarely had it in stock), multi-colored index cards, or a gift card to the local teacher store.

  47. Mrs. Who says:

    Another teacher here chiming in. Your list is great. We pretty much all LOVE any sort of baked goods. If we don’t care for it, someone in our family or friends group certainly will.
    You can never go wrong with any sort of gift card – Starbucks, restaurants or stores.
    And please do stay away from the Christmas decorations or ornaments. I get a couple of ornaments every year and, after 20 years? That’s a whole lot of ornaments.

  48. Giyen says:

    Now that my daughter is in middle school and she has more teachers we opt for sending in baked goods.
    When she was in elementary school I used to coordinate the gifts and I have to say that gift certificates for the local grocery/dept store was always appreciated.

  49. Hillary says:

    Loving your ideas and all the ones in the comments section!
    Our school does cash- cash only for teachers and that seems to be a HUGE hit. They end up with several hundred $$ in cash before Christmas- who wouldn’t love that? They’ve already started organizing it and try to get it in early- I know they appreciate that. I might go the extra mile this year, though and add some of that yummy looking mix! You can’t do enough for those teachers- bribery included!

  50. sandy says:

    Hi Shannon, you’re brilliant! πŸ™‚ Great post. My sons are in hi school, so no gifts to teachers. (Do hi-schoolers normally take gifts? mmmm …) and my dtr. will be giving her teacher a set of coasters that she made for less than $1.50! I think the homemade gifts are IT! But it’s hard to get a boy to do something …
    Happy late TG!

  51. angie says:

    the best teacher gift i have heard of- each parent contributing $5 towards one gift certificate! How wonderful to get $100 certificate to Amazon, or her favorite place!

  52. Amy A says:

    The teachers at my son’s school fill out a “Teacher Favorites” sheet every year which is then given to the Room Mother. That way we know what gift cards, collectibles, etc. to purchase. His class is collecting money to go in to get her a gift card this year.
    I am also making Red Velvet Cake Balls (go to http://www.allrecipes.com for the recipe) for the extra-curricular teachers. I’m going to put a dozen in a bakery box and tie with a Christmas ribbon. It looks very professional. (For ideas on how to decorate them, go to http://www.cakeballs.com). These are always a hit.

  53. Sarah the secret blower says:

    well, I am a homeschool mom…but I have so many fond memories of many of my teachers…and I think homemade fudge is the best idea….lip smackin’ sweet…

  54. kristin says:

    I’m a high-school teacher and it is NOT COOL to give your high-school teacher gifts, it seems. But I have received several really touching gifts. Two were letters written by my high school students thanking me and telling me what they liked best about my classes. I think those were the best. I also received two edible gifts and a five-dollar gift card to a local coffee shop. I don’t expect anything, but it really is nice to hear from kids I spend hours and hours with each week and their families!
    ~Kristin

  55. Justpassingby says:

    Former teacher here too… and yes, the list is just right.
    I wrote personalised poems for my kids’ teachers, bought cheap IKEA frames for the kids to decorate with puffy paints, and framed the poems.
    They were quite a hit!

  56. Amy says:

    My son’s teacher is getting a gift bag with homemade candy a gift card and school spray.
    The school spray is my hairspray that smells heavenly. Each day the teacher smells my son’s hair and comments on how good it smells.

  57. Andrea says:

    I AM a teacher…and I love things I am constantly buying for my class. Keep in mind I teach kindergarten…I love wiggly eyes, pon poms, pipe cleaner, etc. GIft cards to eat out are also wonderful! Teachers everywhere are thanking you for NO MORE ornaments or apples! Great job!

  58. mimi says:

    We usually package up a bunch of different “exotic” fruits like pineapple, mangos, star fruit, kiwis and the like; things that aren’t the usual ones that end up in the grocery cart. Our teachers have always expressed how much they love it, especially at a time of year that has so many desserts.

  59. nicole says:

    I usually buy some attractive wire baskets (not school or holiday themed if possible) and put some baked goods in, as well as blank note cards and a nice pen. I like to give teachers things that are consumable or reusable. This is a great list.

  60. mombrud says:

    When I was teaching, One of the best gifts I got was staple gun! I had cinder block walls with a strip of veeery hard wood around the top to hang things. My thumb was always sore from trying to push tacks into it. A mother was in class doing something else and saw me struggle with it one day and so bought me a staple gun! My advice is, when you are in the classroom, be aware of things the teacher might need, and listen carefully to the teacher and your kids.

  61. Amy says:

    I’m crafting an accordian folder (think large envelopes glued back to back, with the openings at the top) and in each pocket putting something for the classroom. I found 2 packets of pre-cut bulletin board letters at the Dollar Store, and a giant pack of chart stickers on clearance- those each get a pocket. In the last pocket I thought I’d put a $5 gift card to the local coffee shop for something personal for her. The total spent will be about $10.
    I doubt I’ll do anything this involved or expensive once my kids have multiple teachers, but this year, we only have one special teacher to gift. πŸ™‚

  62. Julie says:

    We have a pecan tree in our back yard and so far we have picked up 90 lbs of pecans. We’re shelling them and putting pecan halves in a clear treat bag and tying the top with ribbon. We are also making Spritz cookies and also placing them in clear bags with ribbon. Each teacher will get one bag of nuts and one bag of cookies. Frugal, pretty and yummy…what could be better?
    PS If you want the Spritz cookie recipe it is posted on my blog today πŸ˜‰

  63. Electra says:

    How about something personalized with their monogram or a single intial. MOST of our procuts are under $20- many under $10. Taking the time to get them something personalized is thoughtful! Use code noshipping at checkout for free shipping too! (must click apply to activate) thanks!!!

  64. Midwest Mom says:

    This year the music, p.e., art, & piano teachers are each receiving a $10 gift card to Starbucks and a thank you note from the student. I figure Starbucks is sure thing- if they don’t like coffee, they can easily re-gift it. The everyday teachers are getting personalized note pads “From the Desk of Mrs. Smith” along with a thank you letter. They were only $15 a IMHO are very cute. Check out pjgreetings.com BTW – I am in no way affiliated with pj’s greetings- just a long time customer.

  65. Judy says:

    Speaking in my teacher-voice: personal notes are THE BEST. I have a whole file folder full of personal notes I have received throughout the years, and each year I read through them and smile. They are definitely a treasure.
    And yeah, little gift cards are awesome, too. Just $5 to Sonic or Chick-fil-a…a little treat when I otherwise wouldn’t get one for myself. Perfect. Handmade and homemade things are good, too.
    One year, my entire class bought a star in my name. That was an awesome gift, too. Donations to favorite charities are great as well.

  66. Superchikk says:

    I needed this post! My son isn’t in school, but I wanted to do something special for his Kids’ Day Out teachers – they work like crazy too!
    I have decided to make notecard sets for them (I have 4 teachers in all to get for) using plain note cards & envelopes and stamps & ink pads that I can borrow for free. Because who can’t use a few note cards?

  67. Shawna says:

    Thanks for this list! I was planning to make fudge, truffles, and cookies for my daughter’s teacher, but now I’m thinking about the office supplies….hmmm……

  68. Brownie says:

    Great post! As a teacher, thank you. I would also consider omitting smelly lotions and bath stuff because they are too personal, but anti-bacterial hand soap like Bath and Body Works are great! Usually you can hit a deal where you get like 4 for $10.

  69. Lyz says:

    ALSO a former teacher…I loved the $5 gift cards, also to Barnes & Noble (English teacher!). I was not a fan of baked goods, and still don’t like the plates of mixed goodies from the neighbors. Here’s why:
    If the parents smoke, the whole plate will smell.
    I don’t like peanut butter cookies, and one of those will also scent the whole batch.
    I like to know what I’m eating. If it’s labeled, that’s much better.
    But really, I heartily agree with the notes. I loved getting emails from parents telling of their child’s progress. I’ve kept them.
    AND, my favorite gift(s)? Anything lizards. My students all knew I collected them (my nickname) so I got several. Yay!
    Thanks to all the parents who remember those folks who put up with their kids all day!

  70. cutiepiescustomcreations says:

    I am a former teacher & my hubby is a teacher as well. I am giving my teachers each a personalized notepad (that I make and sell on my website) along with some BBW hand sanitizer in smell good holiday scents, and a jar I made using vinyl stickers I bought from jkstudio vinyl on etsy (They say teaching is a gift from the heart on them).

  71. Darla says:

    For the past 2 years, my kids and I have gotten their teachers $10 gift certificates to Fandango.com so they could buy movie tickets and/or popcorn and drinks at the theater. They all loved it!

  72. jen says:

    High School English teacher here (read: all I ever do is read stacks and stacks of essays). THANKS for the post! Don’t forget your high schooler’s teachers. We don’t have class “moms” looking out for us.
    I agree with Damsel: TIME is what I really want. I spend hours at work everyday, do the daycare drop-off, make dinner, clean my house, and run errands just like anyone else.
    And then I start marking up essays so a generation of teens can successfully write papers in college. It takes HOURS every week.
    Restaurant gift cards or a packaged, homemade dinner for my family ranks high on my list, with a personalized note telling me that my investment in your child is special to you. All the notes I’ve received over the years decorate my wall near my desk. πŸ™‚

  73. jen says:

    High School English teacher here (read: all I ever do is read stacks and stacks of essays). THANKS for the post! Don’t forget your high schooler’s teachers. We don’t have class “moms” looking out for us.
    I agree with Damsel: TIME is what I really want. I spend hours at work everyday, do the daycare drop-off, make dinner, clean my house, and run errands just like anyone else.
    And then I start marking up essays so a generation of teens can successfully write papers in college. It takes HOURS every week.
    Restaurant gift cards or a packaged, homemade dinner for my family ranks high on my list, with a personalized note telling me that my investment in your child is special to you. All the notes I’ve received over the years decorate my wall near my desk. πŸ™‚

  74. threeundertwo says:

    This is a great post, and gives me some ideas. I’m thinking of crocheting coffee cozies (patterns can be found by googling) and including gift cards to Starbucks.
    You’re making me think I should start writing notes though too. Great idea.

  75. Elizabeth says:

    A former teacher here! I worked for a very small private school (there were usually 6 teachers/aids during the year). We also got tired of the apples/chalkboards/mugs so we asked the parents to buy things for the school — anything from construction paper to picnic talbes.
    My favorite gifts were always things that the children themselves made, like Christmas ornaments or pictures.

  76. AmyW says:

    Another cheap idea is to buy amaryllis or paperwhite bulbs. Plant them in a cheap clay pot (you could paint it red) and you are set. Tie up the pot in clear cellophane with a nice ribbon and growing instructions attached.
    I teach and I love flowers for gifts.

  77. Jenelle says:

    Hi Shannon,
    I was hoping you could give me a quick tutorial in button-making, since I know you made the fabulous Christmas Tour of Homes button for BooMama. Are you able to help?
    Thanks!!!

  78. Rebekah says:

    My Mom always made these spectacular loaves of pumpkin walnut bread for my teachers growing up … wrapped them up in decorated celophane and ribbons, etc. When we returned from Christmas break, I ALWAYS had a number of teachers tell me how much they loved the bread. Having been a teacher myself now, I know it doesn’t take much to say thank you. Heck, after spending a day with a bunch of kids (whom I loved, but lets be real …), who doesn’t feel like eating a loaf of sugary bread, lol?!

  79. MemeGRL says:

    My mom was a teacher and if I were a different person, I’d have apply teacher gifts for both my kids forever. She always kept them because she really did remember each kid.
    Homebaked goods were always well received, but notes were best.
    Here, our preschool teacher requests no presents but if you feel compelled, bookstore cards so she can stock the classroom library.
    And a few years ago, when I needed to make some charitable donations due to a once-in-a-lifetime situation the school was thrilled when I called to ask what they needed donated in honor of the two in my son’s classroom. We still sent cookies or something else little to them but bought two new tricycles for the playground and put each teacher’s name on one.
    Awesome list, Shannon. Thanks so much for kickstarting me on these…I’ve been dreading figuring out what to do with the CCD teachers, the dance class teacher, the babysitters and dog walkers and and and and and … Really good start here!

  80. Andi says:

    I’m giving my son’s preschool teachers $10 giftcards to Borders & a signed copy of “Abe Lincoln Crosses A Creek” (my husband is the illustrator…gotta pimp his book somehow!)
    But, I think books are great for teachers. Most of my teacher friends use a lot of their own books in their classroom libraries.

  81. Andrea says:

    Great ideas! I remember my uncle having a garage sale after he retired from teaching and he must have had over 50 #1 teacher mugs and TONS of little stuffed animals. Totally unnecessary!

  82. Katie (Perfectly Cloudy) says:

    Oh you read my mind! I am a second grade teacher, and when I saw your title, I thought oh no, she’s going to suggest apple-themed gifts! (so glad you set the record straight on this)
    Paper, paper, paper (copy paper)…our school is on a budget freeze and I’ve heard many other schools are too!

  83. jen says:

    High School English teacher here (read: all I ever do is read stacks and stacks of essays). THANKS for the post! Don’t forget your high schooler’s teachers. We don’t have class “moms” looking out for us.
    I agree with Damsel: TIME is what I really want. I spend hours at work everyday, do the daycare drop-off, make dinner, clean my house, and run errands just like anyone else.
    And then I start marking up essays so a generation of teens can successfully write papers in college. It takes HOURS every week.
    Restaurant gift cards or a packaged, homemade dinner for my family ranks high on my list, with a personalized note telling me that my investment in your child is special to you. All the notes I’ve received over the years decorate my wall near my desk. πŸ™‚

  84. Anna says:

    My husband teaches and he’s looking forward to all the Starbucks gift cards he’ll be getting. I think he received more than $100 last time. He does have 210 students, so if each gave him just $5 in Starbucks he might even share with me.
    The most memorable gift he recieved one year was a couple of goldfish…

  85. Sarah says:

    Might I say- great list. And, please don’t forget your child’s speech pathologist, or special ed teacher, or title I math/reading teacher or gifted teacher….
    (coming from a current SLP!)

  86. Daiquiri says:

    I’ll probably wrap up some of my homemade notecards with a nice note (thanks for the tips) and a gift card to Dutch Brothers πŸ™‚
    Your post reminds me…have to remember the speech therapist!
    Thanks πŸ™‚

  87. jONi lAnE says:

    YES!! You hit the nail on the head. Please, as a former teacher, avoid the “shuvunders” (the stuff you shove under your desk at the end of the year). I loved homemade baked goods (and so did my thighs) and like you mentioned, a personal note. I still have all of my cards and letters that students/parents gave me. They carry the most meaning. Here’s an inexpensive yummy to share: WHITE CHOCOLATE POPCORN. Make a batch of airpop popcorn. Melt 1/2-3/4 c. of white chocolate chips in microwave at 1/2 power so as not to burn. Drizzle over the popcorn and stir. Refrigerate to harden. Delish.
    Smiles,
    Joni

  88. Erin says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! This is such an awesome post. As a teacher who has been teaching for 6 years, I loved getting the teacher stuff my first few years but now have enough to supply new teachers for a lifetime. πŸ™‚ Ditto on the coffee mugs – I joked with my husband one year that I didn’t get a coffee mug and it made me sad, so he bought a big one and put one of my Christmas gifts in the bottom. LOL! Love your list and thanks for the snack mix recipe. I also buy holiday type items (like Christmas purses or handbags) after Christmas when everything is marked waaay down for the teacher’s gift for next year.

  89. Sandy says:

    Oh Thank YOU!!!!! I am a teacher and every suggestion you had is perfect! So go ahead folks and listen to Shannon’s great ideas. It means so much to teachers.
    It was also neat to see other teacher’s comments, and find other teacher bloggers.
    Thanks Shannon! You rock!

  90. Rachel says:

    I love the personal note thing. I am a high school teacher, and on the days when I wonder, “WHY do I put up with this job?” I get out my envelope of notes/cards/letters, and I’m reminded why I do this.

  91. Erin says:

    As a teacher, this list is perfect! I really agree with the $5 starbucks gift cards. I got so many last year that my coffee was bought for a month!

  92. missy @ it's almost naptime says:

    As a former teacher, that is truly a great list. I think gift certificates and food are always a hit. Think *disposable*. If she doesn’t like the food, someone in her family will.
    At our preschool, usually one of the moms will round up the other parents to chip in $10 and then buy the teacher a Visa gift certificate. $150 in cazash – it doesn’t get any better than that.

  93. k&c's mom says:

    First grade teacher here. I love the sincere notes from the parents, the handmade cards from the kids, and I love the $5 Starbucks cards.
    I taught with a teacher who retired after 28 years in the same classroom. At her retirement speech she said that she wished she’d saved every little special trinket the children had given her over the years and she would have used them to decorate a tree at Christmas each year. A tree full of love! We love the heartfelt gifts, too!
    (Last year I got a hair clip made of pink faux diamonds in the shape of a large rose. I keep it where I look at it each morning when I put on my makeup. Makes me so happy to think of all the thought that went it to picking it out and buying it.)

  94. Janera says:

    Shannon, thank you for this great post. Hope you don’t mind, but I wrote a little tongue-in-cheek response to your post over at my place, all in fun. Come over and check it out.

  95. Shannon says:

    Amen, Amen, Amen from the red headed teacher in Texas! I could have written this post myself. After teaching for 16 years I have more apple stuff and teacher ornaments than one person should ever have. A sweet note or a $5 gift card to Sonic or a sweet hug from a student is truly the best gift of all!

  96. Carolyn Fodel says:

    I do handmade treat boxes with candy in them for my children’s classmates and teachers. I normally do them for most holidays — halloween, christmas, valentine’s and easter. Inexpensive but normally well received.

  97. Britney says:

    Shannon, thank you so much for sharing the results of your scientific research. Your partners in the project knew exactly what they were talking about, and I couldn’t agree with them more!
    Someone asked about the baked goods. Where I teach, there are a few teachers who won’t eat anything the students bring that’s homemade. But that’s pretty rare. For the most part, teachers appreciate the baked goods.

  98. Jody says:

    I am a knitter, a somewhat snobby knitter at that so I like to make things that are very beutiful for my children’s main teachers, but that will no break the bank, either. Even a skein of nice cashmere for a pretty hat can cost less than $15 if I want to feel spendy :). But by handknitting each one’s gift, I can tailor it to their colors, style, etc. I also know they wait outside in the pick up line for me (who is OCCASIONALY-read:almost alwyas-late) and so I make them something that will keep them warm and look beuatiful while they are doing it!!

  99. Terra says:

    AMEN> Love those teachers! They should ban those apple items from the shelves! I cringe when I see them! Personalized notepads are fun gifts too! or something special to that teacher!!!

  100. Marion says:

    I taught school for 5 years. I can honestly say I have over 30 apple Christmas tree ornaments πŸ™‚
    You entry was right on! Another thing I would say is get to know your child’s teacher. I don’t know how many coffee gift cards I got…and I do not drink coffee at all.
    My favorite gift was the last year I taught I was given a gift card that all the families when in together on to Motherhood for maternity clothing and used maternity clothes. My husband was in school when we found out we were expecting. I would have not been able to afford nice maternity clothes with out their sweet help. Then they did the same thing at the end of the year but used baby clothes and stuff and a Babies R Us gift card. Very thoughtful parents.

  101. kelly says:

    Such a perfect list of thoughts! I’m a teacher and I totally agree with all points you made!
    Another quick tip — grill your kids (or yourself, if you’ve been in the classroom) about what’s on their walls and desk. It tells a bit about what they like and the colors they like. For example — I have Mary Englebreit posters behind my desk. One of my students picked up on that and gave me an ME mug and notepads last Christmas. I loved it!

  102. lynn says:

    I haven’t read the gazillion entries already posted so maybe somebody already mentioned this . . . but a good friend of mine who’s a teacher does NOT want to eat any kind of homemade fudge or cookies or the like because she teaches junior high and says, “Just look at those boys’ hands!” So your more germ/dirt-conscious teachers would probably prefer a store-bought food item, unless it’s something like a mix-in-a-jar that the 12-year-old boys are likely not to have touched. Just something to think about, that never would have occurred to me.

  103. Tami Sickels says:

    As a former teacher, I say gift cards. I loved getting gift cards. My assistant on the other hand hated it. She said it was impersonal. I don’t agree. I love, love, love being able to spend money that I don’t have to earn. So what do my kids’ teachers get. Usually Bath and Body or Starbucks.

  104. cutiepiescustomcreations says:

    Some asked about baked goods…at the school I taught at, we all pitched those unless it was a family we knew well…we hated to do it, but thats what happened. Now, my husband taught at a more affluent school, and he did eat some of his baked good gifts. When my own boys were in preschool, we made choco-covered, sprinke dipped pretzel sticks as part of our gift.

  105. Nancy says:

    as a parent I got a big “thank you” from the second grade teacher the year I gave her new scissors and red pens. (it helped that I volunteered in the classroom and noticed the old sticky scissors and her search for a decent pen!) so get to know your child’s teacher by asking your student or other parents who are in the classroom if you can’t be.

  106. Renee says:

    Your blog is the only one I check every day! It is my very most favorite! So, a quick question, on the corn chip recipe, when it asks for corn chips, are we talking “fritoes”? Or is it another brand. I can definitely see this in my future cooking plans!! As a former teacher, I totally agree with your gift list. I always appreciated the gifts my cute kids gave me, but really, another apple would have put me over the bend. One gift I got, that I have used with other teachers was when a family gave me a poem about lighting the future for a child and then they gave me a lovely small brass candle holder (think the type “wee willy winkie” carries) with a taper candle on it. It continues to be one of my all time favorite teacher gifts. AGain, thanks for your blog! Renee

  107. Megan says:

    As a teacher I am so thankful to you for posting this! I decided a couple of years ago to forego all gifts and instead I posted a “Wish List” in my classroom. Anything we need in our class is on there.. from pencils to books! I have actually formed a pretty impressive classroom library with donated books. I have now expanded that to include DVDs also (all content approved and relating to the units we study.) I don’t think a lot of people really know how much of our own money teachers spend on classroom supplies so I am blown away with gratitude when my parents bring stuff in for us to use! Also, for those parents who have younger kids (pre K, K) I know many of those teachers are begging for parent helpers so a gift of time is always appreciated too!

  108. Becky Ertl says:

    I worked in the classroom as a deaf interpreter for 5 years. One Christmas, I bought a tall stool, padded the seat, and covered it with school-themed fabric so the teacher could sit when teaching and still be high enough to see every student. Another year, I gave a non-electrical push vacuum to keep the classroom carpet clean. One time, I gave a paper cutter so the teacher didn’t have to walk to the resource room on another floor everytime she needed to cut papers. Another Christmas, I made an envelope for each month of the year from scrapbook paper to correspond with seasons or holidays and tucked something in each one. I labeled each envelope with a month and instructed the teacher to open one on the first of each month. I included things like a free car wash for one of the winter months, stickers she could use when grading papers, a Panera gift certificate, and a single serving of hot chocolate. Teachers are so busy that it is hard to keep up with classroom decorations, so one year I decorated a complete bulletin board on a large poster board for each month of the school year. All she had to do was pull one out of the wooden case my husband made to store them and hang a new one up each month! Another inexpensive gift is to buy some nice quality gold or silver plastic spoons, dip in melted chocolate, sprinkle crushed pepperment candy over the chocolate, place 3 in a clear plastic bag and tie with a festive ribbon. These are great stirred into hot chocolate!

  109. Margot says:

    Thanks for this post. My teacher daughter’s favorite gift last year was a cloth lunch bag with some kind of thermal lining to keep things hot or cold. She’s used it everyday this year. Some mom was really thinking.

  110. oh amanda says:

    I didn’t read all 5billion comments, so I might be repeating someone…but my 2 bffs are teachers and here’s what they scream:
    GIFT CARDS.
    (But one of the best teacher gifts I ever heard of was a year subscription to netflix. Every kid donated like $2 and they bought a whole year of movie rentals. Genius!)

  111. edj says:

    I don’t think the French usually give teachers gifts, because I get a great response from the kids’ teachers. In Mauritania, where options were limited, I would buy them a cute (or at least decent) plate at the one store that sold plates, and pile home-made choc chip cookies on it. It was a great hit!

  112. Camille says:

    My mom teaches school, and when she gets a homemade goodie, she says thank you politely, and after school, into the trash it goes. She never knows what the kitchen looks like, how careful they were in the preparing, and just won’t take chances. In fact, every teacher I have talked to has said the same thing.

  113. Renee says:

    I want to know what brand of hairspray Amy is giving to her son’s teacher that smells so good. My girls hate it when I use hairspray on them, because of the “chemical” smell, so I’d love to know a brand that smells good!! Thanks! Renee

  114. Renee says:

    I don’t think this came through, so I am trying again. I would love to know what brand of hairspray that Amy is giving her son’s teacher this year that smells so good. I would love to find a hairspray that smells good and not “chemically”–my girls would be ever so happy with this idea! They hate how hairspray smells. Thanks!

  115. Shari says:

    I have been teaching for 15 years, and one of the most welcome practical gifts I’ve received has been a gift certificate to the local full-service car wash. Everyone likes to have a clean car, but not everyone has the $$$ to spend to pay someone to do it for them. What a treat to sit and read a novel while someone else detailed my car. Our local carwash has different levels of service ranging from $10 up, so it’s possible to do this gift on a budget.

  116. Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates says:

    In the past, I have given homemade vanilla hot chocolate mix with homemade biscotti and other goodies. This year, hubby wants me to get spa certificates (only have 2 teachers to buy those for). And usually, the class collects cash for the teachers to help them with their own Christmas.

  117. LeighAnn says:

    Great list! I’m going to be a teacher and all I know is that the only thing I’m not looking forward to is coffee mugs and apple ornaments. πŸ™‚
    And bless you for realizing how hard teachers works. I’m just now getting a taste of it myself and wow, I need to back and thank all my teachers again.

  118. Hotomom says:

    What a great post. I have four teachers this year. L has two – they are getting angel pins I made from scrapbooking supplies and one is getting an apron and the other is getting a tote bag (both handmade). J has two – one already got a homemade advent calendar and then she will get homemade thank you notes, the other is getting a homemade birthday calendar and homemade thank you cards plus also some angel pins.

  119. Gego says:

    As a former teacher and elementary counselor and Grandmother of four, a note from my students and parents meant more than silver trays, a gold #1 pendant on an equally exquisite gold chain, or anything else I received. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but the notes I received from the children and parents are priceless. I have them and may someday frame them.
    Moms, it isn’t about the cost, it is about appreciation, respect, and love.
    Many, many thanks to my former students and their parents. You provided the affirmation I needed to carry on through different Superintendents, Principals, staff changes.
    I still get notes from former students! They are treasures.
    Parent support means more than the price of gold!!!!!!

  120. distybug says:

    Our school lists the teachers favorites on the school website!! SOOOO handy.
    I give gift cards or, if Personalization Mall has a sale, I give oval glass ornaments with “Merry Christmas 2008, Love, child’s name” on them. It’s clear, so it would go with any special decor and it’s a nice reminder of the child.

  121. lisa says:

    starting in preschool, we have given a homemade treat with a gift certificate promising dinner for the teacher’s family, once a month, for the rest of the school year. such fun to see my child plan menus and help shop and even learn to cook. so many skills enhanced, from sharing appreciation to math & reading.
    we’ve tried to teach that giving is lifelong, not just the food bank @ thanksgiving or christmas gifts for friends, but the appreciation can be expressed all year long.
    it was fun learning of teacher’s families and long hours and my child’s awareness helped her respect & appreciation of her teachers. after word got out of our tradition, teachers would actually “fight” over who got her the next year πŸ™‚

  122. laura says:

    Shannon, I thought maybe you were joking when you said you ate the whole batch of corny snack mix–until I made some yesterday. Oh my word! I just stood there in the kitchen eating it and couldn’t seem to walk away. I’m trying to decide if I should thank you or hate you. πŸ˜‰
    I homeschool, but I wonder if I could convince my hubby that each child needs to give their teacher a gift.

  123. Aunt Murry says:

    If I were a teacher I would love to get office supplies. When I get all antsy at work I go look in the office supply drawer and some how my soul is soothed. That and James Taylor usually do the trick.

  124. Rebecca says:

    My mom, sister, and I are all educators, and we joke about how we should have two trees–one with normal ornaments, and one with all the teacher-y ones, which include, but are not limited to:
    -Apples
    -Mice Holding Apples
    -Mini Chalkboards
    -Mice in Mini Desks
    What is up with the mice? As if I wasn’t traumatized enough by finding a dead mouse in my office!
    Thanks for the tips!

  125. Rebecca says:

    My mom, sister, and I are all educators, and we joke about how we should have two trees–one with normal ornaments, and one with all the teacher-y ones, which include, but are not limited to:
    -Apples
    -Mice Holding Apples
    -Mini Chalkboards
    -Mice in Mini Desks
    What is up with the mice? As if I wasn’t traumatized enough by finding a dead mouse in my office!
    Thanks for the tips!

  126. kj says:

    ok, so I’m late to this party–we’ve been going through pacifier withdrawls at our house. Anyway, as the wife of a teacher, I must say that ornaments, mugs, and sweets arrive by the truckload to my husband’s desk each Christmas. I do not exaggerate when I say that he has come home for break with a laundry basket brimming with giant candy bars, boxed hershey’s or russell stovers, 2-litre bottles of soda pop, mysterious home-baked treats (sadly, a lot of these get tossed because they are highly questionable), bags of mini candy bars, etc. Most of it gets donated to the local fire station or tossed out because the 2 of us just can’t do that much candy. The sincere notes are the most coveted teacher gift, but small-amount gift cards to anywhere are fabulous, along with school/office supplies.

  127. mourninglory says:

    AMEN, AMEN!! Good-bye to the apple.chalkboard things. I treasure words of affirmation from parents and students forever! I am an affirmation junky. Gift cards (even small ones) to coffee shops, etc. are also treasured. I am all about not collecting things that become “junk” in several months.

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