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.

~You can follow along via: TwitterPinterest or Facebook and our readers preferred way via email.~

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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47 Responses to “The Truth about Teacher Gifts”

  1. December 8, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    It has been a few years since I worked in a school but some of my favorite gifts were restaurant gift cards, plants/flowers (a hanging flower in spring or a poinsettia this time of year), blockbuster gift card with popcorn and a fleece blanket, and yes, plates of goodies. 🙂 If one wanted to avoid sugary treats, a loaf of homemade bread or tray of rolls would be much appreciated I’m sure!

    Oh and the best thing were cards from families filled with affirmation and kind words.

    • December 8, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

      Yes, there’s nothing like some wonderful affirmation from parents and children. My husband is a teacher (I didn’t poll him) and he even keeps those cards for a while.

    • December 6, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

      Glad to hear about the bread…we made homemade bread for the techers last year and I think we’ll do that again this year. 🙂

  2. Sandy
    December 8, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    The two gifts I remember the most from when I taught school are:
    1. A bag of pecans still in their shells. The school playground had a pecan tree and at recess the kids and I would snack on fallen nuts. The girl who gave the the bag of pecans at Christmas knew it was a perfect gift for me. The pecans were from a tree in her yard.
    2. A hand-made apron of gingham which had a cross-stitch design on the pocket. It was made by a boy’s mother and I still have it!

    • December 8, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

      Such heartfelt gifts and memories! I love that you still have the apron!

  3. December 8, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

    Great article! Im going to make salt scrub and homemade caramel for my daughters daycare teachers. 🙂

    • December 9, 2011 at 2:25 am #

      Kelley, thanks for the sweet encouragement! Yes, scrubs would be on my fave list and who can say no to homemade caramel! That stuff is hard to make definitely a labor of love.

  4. December 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    Hi from the RoCa linky. 🙂 Nice post. I made my daughter’s teachers soap & candles this year. I hope they like them!

  5. December 9, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    Theophanie, Such a creative gift. I never made soap or candles but sounds like a fun project. Between my pre-schooler and 1st grader they have 16 teachers. I always have trouble figuring out what to do for them that is not expensive.
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. December 10, 2011 at 4:53 am #

    My favorite gift was when a student gave a donation to a local charity in honor of our class. It was a wonderful and thoughtful gift.

    • December 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

      Kara, that is such a great idea and I rarely here that happening in a classroom setting.

  7. December 10, 2011 at 7:05 am #

    Okay I needed this!! Thanks for the advice and tips!! I would love for you to link this up at our link party…

    • December 10, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

      It makes me so happy when our tips are helpful to others! Thanks for stopping by and I hope to stop by on Wed.

  8. December 10, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    Thanks for a great post. I always give gift cards but sometimes feel like they are a little generic. Glad to know that teachers like them.

  9. December 10, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    Becky, our family loves them b/c we can use them year round to treat ourselves. Plus they are so easy to personalize like adding a handmade card from your child. And voila practical and sentimental!

  10. December 10, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    As a high school teacher, not many students (at my school) give gifts because they have a lot of teachers, so when I received a gift from a student it was always special no matter the gift. Sometimes the gift was a parent’s idea, but the best gifts were ones purposefully chosen (or created) by my students.

    • December 10, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

      Trisha, yes I have had several friend teachers who teach highschool and they have the same thoughts as you shared.

  11. Anonymous
    December 10, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    This reminds me of one of the most memorable gifts I ever received from a student. She clearly didn’t have any money but had wanted to give me something. She had used faded construction paper and Scotch tape to make a tiny gift bag, and she had put two or three pieces of old dollar store candy inside. It still brings me to tears to think that she had wanted to give me something so badly that she literally scraped together what she could find. Needless to say, I didn’t eat the candy, but the thought behind the gift has stuck with me over the years.

    The simplest gifts given in a heartfelt way are always the most valuable.

  12. December 10, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    We have started making donations in honor of the teachers. You can check it out here

    • December 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

      Yes, this is such a great idea. Another reader mentioned that but I had not heard of this in a school context.

  13. December 10, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

    What a lovely story! One year, when I was teaching, I was given a small package of Christmas tea towels and I still have them! :} Visiting from comfy in the kitchen.

    • December 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

      Lisa, thanks for the sweet words. I love pulling out those xmas items gifted to me by sweet students. One mom gave me a xmas wilton cookie pan, love it!

    December 10, 2011 at 11:49 pm #

    A card from the child or the parents is the most precious gift because the sentiments are from the heart. I don’t want bought store bought gifts, just an acknowledgement that the work I am doing matters.
    A book given to the classroom library is another wonderful gift. But, I honestly feel that the thought counts more than any money spent.

    • December 11, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

      Blackcat, yes definitely agree that gifts with sentiment are moving and encouraging. I usually end let my boys make their teacher the gift but I always leave the card for last so I end up writing it. I need to plan ahead and also let them insert their own words.

  15. December 11, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    Kind words of appreciation from the heart written down by the child and his/her parents are the best. It’s amazing how FEW ‘thank you’s’ and words of appreciation us teachers get! After that, chocolate! And gift cards. 🙂

  16. December 12, 2011 at 6:26 am #

    Thanks for sharing such a lovely story. You as well as your readers have shared such great advice! I never know what to give, and you have made such great points! I should have my girls make a gift for their teachers!
    Happy Holidays!

  17. December 12, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Steph, thanks for your encouraging words! Enjoy your Christmas celebrations as well.

  18. December 12, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Such great ideas! As a former middle/high school English teacher, I particularly love the bookstore gift card/children’s book idea! I also completely agree that teachers are overwhelmed with baked goods at the holidays. Gift cards are always a hit, as are things to use in the classroom. Thanks so much for sharing at Shine On Fridays!

  19. December 14, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    Amy, thanks for commenting and sharing. I must say though that my tall, thin, sugar eating machine husband can’t get enough of the sugar treats as a teacher. I on the other hand don’t need to add it to my diet.

  20. December 14, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    Me and B kust made this to our teacher and I think we had just as much fun giving it as the teacher would have eating them. A lovely little story I really enjoyed reading. xx

    • December 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

      Beberouge- I just popped over to your post, I loved the apples! That is so awesome that you have a giving heart! So needed in a world where “it’s all about me” hope all the people in your life appreciate you and also give back to you. Thanks for stopping by!

  21. December 15, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

    I always loved getting gift cards to book stores. I spent so much on my classroom that it was nice to get a gift card to Barnes and Noble and buy books for my class guilt free!

  22. December 16, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    This is such great advice! And what a sweet story at the beginning! 🙂 Thanks for sharing- I will remember this as I purchase gifts for my children’s teachers! Thanks so much for linking up to Strut Your Stuff Saturday! We hope that you will join us tomorrow!
    Camille @

  23. December 18, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    Camille, thanks for the sweet words and for stopping by. Yes, I will stop by your linky party it’s on the list!

  24. December 5, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    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.

  25. nikkir
    December 5, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    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.

  26. SewTara
    December 5, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    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!

  27. December 6, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    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.

  28. Danielle
    December 7, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    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

  29. December 11, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    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!

  30. B
    December 15, 2012 at 6:49 am #

    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.

  31. December 20, 2012 at 6:41 am #

    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.


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