Monday, November 16th, 2009

Recommended Gift Ideas

The Very Best Gift Ideas for Teachers

If you haven’t yet read my advice on choosing a Christmas gift for teachers, please do so now, as it will give you some background as to why I’ve chosen the items on this list.

This page just features my very best gift ideas for teachers– these are the items that teachers in my gift poll have requested again and again. But every teacher is unique, so you may find it more helpful to go beyond this select list and search for more teacher gift ideas according to recipient, occasion, or type of gift. You can view all of the lists on this site in the navigation menu on the right hand side of the page.

Good luck choosing a great Christmas gift for your teacher, and thank you for supporting educators!

“Everyone wants to get that “perfect” gift for teachers, bus drivers and child care workers…..that PERFECT gift IS A GIFT CARD!!!!! I am a bus driver and have been for 5 yrs, i drive 2 routes with a total of 94 kids, so over the years that is almost 500 kids…you wanna guess how many school buses, mugs, notepads, candy packs and other chachkies i have recieved??
While I have appreciated the thought behind the gifts, the ones I truly remember?…..the neighborhood that got together and gave me a $100 gift card to my favorite salon, or gift cards from the stores I shop at, and the gift cards from PANERA, which I LOVE! (it is too expensive for me to go and spend there). Gift cards REALLY ARE THE BEST!!!! They are not thought of as being lazy, teachers, drivers and the like actually appreciate them more because parents have thought about how many “things” we get and these are of an actual “use” to us.”     ~L.C.

Gift Cards

I know they get a bad rap, but this was the #1 requested item from all of the teachers we spoke with. A Gift Card is never unwelcome, doesn’t take up any space, and can be used to get something the teacher actually needs. If you prefer to make it more personal, my suggestion would be to make a handmade thank you card with your child. Include a sincere note of appreciation and a pouch where you can slip in the gift card. Believe me, this gift will be a hit!

  • - Always The Right Gift®Custom Gift Card
    Here’s a perfect way to turn a practical but boring gift card into something unique and personal! Add your child’s photo for an easy but truly unique personalized gift for teachers.
  • Save up to 40% on Office Supplies - PlasticJungleGift Cards for Less than Face Value!
    If you’re buying a gift card, don’t pay full price! Plastic Jungle is one of those ideas so simple and brilliant you wish you’d thought of it: people sell their unwanted gift cards for less than face value; you can therefore buy a great gift card for a teacher at less than its face value! The recipient doesn’t know that you got a great deal (although I hope they wouldn’t mind anyway!), and you’re able to give more gift for less moolah!
  • - Always The Right Gift®Discounted Gift Cards
    Another source of Gift Cards at discounted prices.
  • CreateForLess Gift CertificatesCraft Store Gift Certificate
    Craft supplies are one of those things that teachers of younger students can never keep in stock, and they’re often spending their own money to do so. Solution: get them a gift certificate to Create for Less, an online supplier of discount craft supplies which many teachers use to stock up on supplies.

“As a teacher I can tell you, we would love classroom supplies! Either ask what we are running low on or buy a little goodie bag of the basics. Tissues, pencils, paper, glue, scissors, erasers, tape, notecards, etc. We will love you for it.”         ~Teacher in Virginia

School Supplies

Simple school supplies and office supplies was another oft-requested gift. Again, it might seem practical, but that’s what teachers want for Christmas! (And you would too, if you were spending your own money to keep the classroom stocked!) Even school supplies can be made personal and unique: consider buying a cute basket (see my suggestions below), and filling it with common supplies arranged like a gourmet gift basket. One parent I know bought a Christmas wreath and decorated it with helpful school supplies.

  • Schoolbus PlanterSchool Bus Planter
    This is sold as a planter, but I think it would be perfect filled with office supplies and given as a gift basket (which can then be used as a planter or other decor item).
  • Apple BasketApple Basket — for your homemade gift basket!
    Use this super-cute apple basket as the starting point of a unique homemade gift basket with your teacher’s favorite foods, a book or two, and a sincere thank you card. Voila! The perfect Christmas gift for teachers!
  • Pencil VasePencil Scholastic Vase
    This fun pencil vase can also be filled with school supplies or other items to make a unique gift basket for teachers.
  • Over 100 Projects KitCraft Kits and Supplies
    Teachers of younger grades who do lots of craft projects are always having to restock their supplies (often out of their own money. Create for Less offers “Craft Kits” with dozens of fun goodies suitable for making all kinds of creative projects.
  • student awardsStudent Awards
    Savvy teachers know the power of positive reinforcement, and they can go through thousands of little stickers and similar “awards” in a year — sadly, most of those will need to be bought with their own money! Any teacher will appreciate you helping to replenish their supply.
  • “A collection of beautiful stickers, if they use them to motivate the children. That way they don’t have to spend a dime on such an item, and it spares them a trip to the store.”       ~Parent in Maryland

  • StickersSchool Stickers
    Also for younger teachers, these sticker sheets are only $0.74 a pop, making them a great (and appreciated) filler for a basket or card.

“I order personalized notecards and stationery for my son’s teacher’s as holiday and end-of-the-year gifts. They are always jotting a note home to me, and it seems to be appreciated. For around $20 you can get a personalized assortment of notepapers, and for a special teacher a nicer gift from Crane’s, William Arthur, etc. runs around $80.”         ~Suzanne

Personalized Teacher Gifts

Personalized gifts are especially appreciated by sentimental teachers — some I know have kept a box of all the handmade “treasures” they’ve been given over the years, and get them out from time to time whenever they need a reminder of the lives that they’ve touched. But remember, you can make any gift personal just by adding a sincere, heartfelt note of appreciation to a handmade card.

  • photoworksCustom Photo Gifts
    Photo books or items personalized with a photo offer a plethora of opportunities for unique and very personal gifts. Consider printing a photo of the class on a coffee cup or a mouse pad. Make a calendar with all your child’s favorite memories from the year. Make a “memories book” where every student in the class contributes a page including a photo, their favorite memory, and one thing they learned that year.
  • “One of the nicest gifts I have received as a teacher was a coffee cup with the class picture on it. Takes a little advanced planning, but was delightful.”     ~Teacher in Arizona

  • SmugMug
    Another great option for custom photography gifts — SmugMug does beautiful box-framed photos and prints which any teacher would be proud to display.
  • Have a tree planted for a Living LegacyTree Gift
    Start a legacy by planting a tree in honor of the teacher– also makes for a great teacher retirement gift. The tree symbolizes the seed of knowledge that the teacher has planted in the minds of so many children… As the tree grows and flourishes, so do the teacher’s students. A very meaningful and personal gift that is sure to touch them.
  • Personalized MY M&M'S® Candies.Personalized M&Ms!
    Sweet gift idea for the creative chocolate-lover: personalized M&Ms! Personalize with school logo, name, teacher’s name — even pictures of the students in your class!
  • Wall HangingDecorative Wall Hanging for Teachers
    This gift looks handmade, and can be further personalized by having your child add their name and/ or photos of the class to create a cute gift.
  • Teacher Christmas OrnamentTeacher’s Christmas Ornament
    Classic Christmas ornament can be made into a personalized Christmas gift for teachers by engraving your child’s name or class year on the heart.

“In all my years teaching, the best gifts I ever received were notes from parents thanking me personally for my work with their children. I also liked lotion, hand sanitizer, small candles, & school supplies. I spent hundreds of dollars a year for supplies.”       ~Teacher in Washington

Consumable Items

If you’re lucky enough to get lots of gifts each year as many popular teachers are, then after a while you start to prefer gifts that are consumable, rather than having yet another coffee mug, “best teacher” plaque, or kitschy apple for the teacher to find a place for. Here are some of the consumable items requested by teachers I spoke to:

“I’m a preschool teacher and the kids all get me gifts for the holidays. The best gift I ever got was a box that the parent/child had filled with 3 bags microwave popcorn, 2 boxes of movie size snacks and a gift card to the local movie rental place. She called it my “date night in” box. It was much better than the normal knickknacks, lotions, cookies, etc. I get and my DH and I got to spend several nights enjoying movies even when the cash flow was low, complete with refreshments. :) ”       ~Teacher in Pennsylvania

Inspiring Books or Movies

Many teachers are avid readers, and if you happen to know what kinds of books they like to read (and haven’t read yet), then you really can’t go wrong getting them a nice book. If you don’t know what kind of books or movies they prefer, a good bet is to go for an inspiring story about teachers — it’s something that they will enjoy and just might make them better at their job.

  • Teach Like Hair on FireBook: Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire
    Many people have heard the inspiring story of teacher Rafe Esquith, and how he managed to engage students in inner city Los Angeles. His story can provide both motivation and practical lessons any teacher can use.
  • Teacher NoteBook: Give Your Teacher This Note
    Humor and inspiration in one delightful gift for all teachers!
  • Chicken Soup Celebrates TeachersBook: Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrates Teachers
    The delightful Chicken Soup series always makes for a great gift, but this special edition is unique, a commemorative dedicated especially to teachers and the gifts that they give our children every day.
  • Pay it ForwardTeacher’s Movie Night
    How about putting a couple of DVDs in a gift basket along with some popcorn and a thank-you card? There are many great movies about teachers: Pay it Forward, Dead Poet’s Society, Stand and Deliver, Mathilda, Freedom Writers, Mr. Holland’s Opus, etc. The choice is yours!
  • Chicken Soup Cartoons TeachersBook: Chicken Soup for the Soul Cartoons for Teachers
    Delightful book of cartoons for teachers.
  • Remember my TeacherBook: I Remember My Teacher
    David Shribman’s quest to explore the role teachers have played in the lives of ordinary people (one for every day of the year) will warm the heart of any teacher.
  • New Yorker Book of Teacher CartoonsBook: New Yorker Book of Teacher Cartoons
    Teachers love the uber-intellectual New Yorker, and the New Yorker loves teachers so much they made this collection of cartoons just for them.

More Sources for Great Christmas Gift Ideas!

  • Reader’s Digest author Lisa MacColl also interviewed teachers to come up with her short but sweet list of gift ideas.
  • A double-dose of both cute stories and helpful dos and dont’s in this article from The Sentinel Online.
  • Felicia Kitzmiller of the Greenwood, SC-based Index Journal is another reporter who knows how to do her job well, and actually spoke with quite a few teachers to come up with an article that is charming as it is helpful.
  • Leave it to the Today Show to give you an entertaining piece on what NOT to buy teachers for Christmas this year. No, seriously. If it wasn’t all true, why would the author insist upon remaining anonymous?
  • Disney’s Family Fun site may seem like an unlikely source, but the gift-giving advice you’ll find there is fairly solid.
  • If you’re ready to do some Christmas gift shopping for someone other than teachers, you may be interested in checking out these sites with helpful gift suggestions and advice for everyone on your list:

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