The Truth about Teacher Gifts


Image by J. Paxon Reyes via Flickr

The little girl didn’t have much. She lived in what you would consider high-end “Projects” if that exists. Her home was built in the smack dab center of a middle class neighborhood.  She came from a family of five trying to survive on the income of a butcher.  The little girl loved learning and she was always blessed with wonderful teachers, well except maybe that one teacher in 3rd grade who made fun of her braided pigtails. For the most part her teachers were a fountain of encouragement.  Not having much money around Christmas time she would start saving early on from odd jobs she would do for her middle class neighbors. One year, she did try to “borrow” something from her mother to give to a teacher. Her mother discovered this and, needless to say, it never happened again. 

Her father worked day and night so he was rarely available to take them anywhere so they made good use of public transportation to get around town. The little girl along with her mother and two other siblings would walk a ways to get to the bus stop, then they would take 2 or 3 buses to get to the store.  With every bus connection she would get excited because that meant she was getting closer to her hard-earned gift that she would soon purchase.

You couldn’t remove the smile off her face as she skipped up and down each aisle looking for the glorious boxed chocolates section. She walked past the fancy expensive chocolates and suddenly she came to a halt, there they were in large black bold letters: CHOCOLATE COVERED CHERRIES.  Alas, she held them in her hands and she inspected them carefully making sure they were the two dollar kind because that was exactly what she had saved up for.   She smiled with glee, ignoring what she knew well, that other students were giving the teacher nicer gifts that she would never be able to afford.  The next day, in the same dress she wore the day before she proudly walked up to her teacher and with a big smile on her face she handed her precious gift: Chocolate Covered Cherries!

Gift card boxes

I preface this article with this short story because I want you to know the truth: that every gift given with love is dear to each teacher’s heart. 

Now onto the poll, I polled teachers from different parts of the world and the consensus on what is a “good teacher gift” varied but they all agreed on: practical and sentimental gifts.

So what does practical and sentimental mean? Obviously this looks different for everyone but most teachers shared that a gift that was made from their student was preferred or a holiday themed gift: ornaments, mug, picture frame or candle.  This way the teacher is able to revisit the gift and sentimental memory each year.  The top practical gift was GIFT CARDS.  The next practical gift, was fun supplies that they can use throughout the year.

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Make Simple Gift Packages:

  • Coffee/Tea Lovers: Purchase a coffee shop gift card and stick it inside a mug filled with homemade goodies.
  • Movie Lovers- Purchase a bag of popcorn or make some flavored popcorn and add a movie theater gift card from your local movie theater.
  • Book Lovers- Purchase a gift card from your local bookstore, Amazon or Audible online and place it in a Children’s classic book for the class book collection.
  • Personalize note pads, pencils, stickynotes and place them in a basket with other supplies for them to use throughout the year.
  • Chocolate Lovers- A basket filled with their favorite chocolate bars.
  • Food Lovers- A gift card to their favorite restaurant and some of your family favorite recipes printed out.
  • Candle Lovers- Buy a mug/candle warmer that you can set a glass candle on in the classroom  without lighting it.  Add to the mix various scented candles. My husband uses his tons, especially after the kids come in from recess.

Something to consider: I know goodies are a big hit during the holidays but this is what happens to a lot of teachers on the last week before Christmas break: Goodies in the teacher’s lounge almost everyday, teacher holiday parties, friends & family holiday parties, teacher class parties and then 14 out of 24 kids give you a goodies plate.  Yea, you guessed it, all sugared out. So if baking is your love language make goodies that can be saved for later like cookies in a jar with the mix or frozen cookie dough. And don’t forget to shower them with some sweet words, lots of it!  Teachers also appreciate that kind of sugar.

So don’t be afraid to ask them what they like if their answer is vague (like I use to respond) then just mix it up: something homemade, something they need or something they can eat or read!

Teachers, what are some of your favorite gifts you have received?

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  1. When I was still teaching, I really enjoyed getting gift cards to any place, and mugs with drink mixes and candies, but I most appreciated getting handwritten notes/cards, because the messages parents and students shared with me were from the heart.

  2. cute ideas! One of my daughter’s teachers was a huge dog mommy. We gave her bones for her dog at christmas along with a gift card for class room supplies and apples, her favorite snack.

  3. I don’t want any gifts. Cards and drawings are so sweet, plus I can keep those forever. I teach a special education class in a very low income area. The 3 educational assistants and I actually divide up the 10 names of our students and we buy them a little something. We don’t say who bought what but we just give them their gifts with some handwritten cards for their families on the last day and they go home with such smiles on their faces. Doing my job each day is a gift enough!
    Plus who needs yet another mug, snow globe or ornament!

  4. I didn’t make it to Christmas – I’m one of the teachers who dropped out the first year. But I will say the best gift I got was a note of encouragement from a parent, saying she knew how difficult my job was and appreciated what I was doing and that she would do whatever she could to help support me. I felt like I was sinking in quicksand loosing more and more control of the class (and getting more and more behind on everything I had to do while simultaneously loosing more and more sleep every night–not a good combo). That note made my day.

  5. Great post! My favorite gift as a teacher was a birthday gift from a little girl. She knew that she and I shared a birthday. She spent her own birthday money to buy me a music box from the dollar store. It was a cheap little carousel, but I treasured it because it was from her own little heart! ~ Danielle

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  7. Gifts for the classroom are wonderful – bookstore gift certificates, magazine subscriptions, even a box of pencils would be greatly appreciated at this point in the school year!

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  9. As a teacher, I have saved heartfelt cards from students over the years. In terms of more tangible gifts, I’ve enjoyed gift cards, boxes of tissues, and pencils for the classroom. (I usually buy these kinds of supplies, along with hand sanitizer, with my own money, so it’s lovely when someone else gives this as a gift!)

    I agree with your warning on the sweets … While I appreciate the sentiment, I share the goodies with later classes or discard them. I’d also add mugs to this list though. I get 2-3 a year, so they and the little knick-knacks get placed in my yard sale box.

  10. all of these ideas apply to nurses too by the way. If there is a nurse that has touched your life in a major way its nice to get a thank you to her. When I was still working as a nurse I would appreciate thank yous and small treats/gift cards. BUT be sure you know the gifting policy before you give a nurse anything. Some places prohibit it.