Looking for an easy way to let a special teacher know that you appreciate them going above and beyond? Here are 7 great gifts that are sure to be cherished, ranging in cost from free to a 20-spot (which is quite generous for a gift to an educator, according to our poll results). First, what is this holiday anyway, and what is expected of you?
Teacher Appreciation Week in the United States always takes place the first full week of May, and Teacher Appreciation Day is on Tuesday of Teacher Appreciation Day. For 2012, Teacher Appreciation Week is from May 7th-11th, and Teacher Appreciation Day is on May 8th, 2012.
Over 20 different countries have a day dedicated to thanking teachers, many inspired by a 1994 UNESCO resolution designating October 5th as World Teachers’ Day in honor of the special contribution teachers make to society.
In many schools, the local Parent Teacher Association (PTA) will organize activities to help students and parents learn more about the work that teachers do. Many schools have established gift-giving traditions where parents or students will bring small gifts or thank you cards to their teachers on Teacher Appreciation Day. If you’re not sure whether or not it’s appropriate to give a gift for Teacher Appreciation Day, check with your local PTA or the school district office. Often there are rules limiting the maximum dollar value of gifts, and prohibiting certain items (such as food) for teacher safety.
Now on to the fun part! Teacher Appreciation Week is a wonderful opportunity to exercise your creativity to make a small token of your appreciation. It needn’t cost a lot of money. In fact, most teachers prefer that you don’t spend a lot of money on a gift (and laws concerning government employees may prohibit them from accepting a valuable gift anyway).
1. Pencil Bouquet
Teachers always need new classroom supplies– but as much as it’s practical, how fun is it to give a box of #2 pencils from Walmart? Fortunately the creative folks at The Happy Scraps have shown us a better way. This delightful Pencil Bouquet is as lovely as it is useful. Instructions here. Supplies here and here.
2. Soda-lighted You’re My Teacher!
Photographer Tammy Mitchell has already done the hard work for you with this cute gift idea. Just go to her site to download the free printable card, attach it to some vintage soda pop, and you’re done!
3. One Smart Cookie Jar
I’ve yet to meet a teacher who doesn’t love fresh baked cookies! Just be aware of any special dietary restrictions such as gluten free or vegan, and check with your district to make sure giving food is acceptable. Then, go to Camie’s site to get the printable “I’m one smart cookie thanks to you!” card and instructions, and of course the perfect cookie jar! Or try this cookie jar set if you have multiple gifts to make.
4. School Supply Cake
A clever variation on the classic Diaper Cake gift for new parents, the School Supply Cake is easy to make and eminently practical. Teachers spend about $500 of their own money on school supplies every year, so what might seem mundane to you is likely to be super appreciated by them! Check out our list of the school supplies most requested by teachers, or put together your own collection on Amazon or CreateForLess.
5. “I Remember My Teacher” Book
What could be more appropriate for Teacher Appreciation Week than David Shribman’s opus to the far-reaching impact that great teachers have throughout our society? As it turns out, pretty much everyone can remember a great, particularly influential teacher they had. Don’t you wish you had let them know just how much they meant to you?
6. Teacher Appreciation Gift Basket
Of course, in an ideal world, we would all make our own gift basket using a cute basket, vase, or even a toy school bus, and stuffing it with a combination of school supplies, snacks, and other teacher essentials like hand sanitizer, craft supplies, or coffee. No time to make your own? Here’s a lovely teacher appreciation gift basket that even Martha Steward would be proud to give.
7. Personalized Gift Card
We saved the easiest gift for last. In our survey of most desired teacher gifts, gift cards came out the undisputed king. No wonder, given the salary most teachers make and the hundreds of dollars they spend out of their own pocket to keep their classrooms well stocked, sometimes even buying basic school supplies for kids who show up without. However, just because you’re giving a gift card doesn’t mean it has to be boring. This site will allow you to personalize a gift card with your own photo and message of appreciation, or choose from hundreds of crafty “Thank you” designs submitted by others.
“The exception to [not giving large gifts] though, is for new teachers. These young pups make crap for money and the PTA (bless their hearts) can’t possibly provide a big enough classroom budget for them to buy all the supplies and ”extras” (that’s sarcasm) they need. So if you want to give your teacher a valuable gift, ask her/him what s/he really needs for the classroom and spring for it. I’m talking heavy duty pencil sharpeners, gift certificate to STAR Teacher’s supply on San Pablo Ave., art supplies from East Bay Depot or gift card to an art store, a local book store (Pegasus and Black Oak being my favorites). Things like this become theirs, not the school’s, and they can bring them from grade to grade, school to school, as they will have to do until they have enough seniority to stay somewhere for a while.” ~Teacher in California
So that’s the upshot — be as generous as you can to the new teachers!!! An Old Teacher Who Once Was New
New teachers might appreciate a different kind of gift than experienced veterans. Of course this varies from teacher to teacher, but at risk of over-generalizing, new teachers tend to be more interested in developing their careers, and may be more likely to keep homemade gifts than more experienced teachers.
Of course new teachers are also generally younger, and that will affect their interests. For example, a younger teacher might prefer a trip to the spa, a unique experience, and anything that will help them in their professional development (books, supplies, etc.). On the other hand, those home-baked brownies might be less welcome for the young teacher on a diet, and that “#1 Teacher” broach — well, she probably won’t even know how to wear it.
Most importantly, keep in mind the advice I gave on choosing a gift for teachers — the best gifts combine something personal and thoughtful, like a handmade card, a heartfelt note, a craft made by your child, etc. with something practical and useful, like gift cards, school supplies, or other consumables. Whether a gift for new teachers or old, following this recipe will ensure your gift is appreciated and cherished.
If you are a new teacher, please take this opportunity to tell us what gifts you would like to receive. You can leave a comment in the box below, and I’ll make sure to add your comments to the site, where it can benefit new teachers everywhere. Thank you!
A majority of teachers are female, so I feel like I would be remiss writing a blog of Christmas gifts for teachers without including a page of gift ideas for female teachers. But the truth is that most of the gifts on this site are appropriate for women — even the ones I included on our page of gifts for male teachers (although the converse is not true, hence the inclusion of a separate page for male teachers).
The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a gift for a teacher is to consider their interests. Even if you’ve never met them personally and have only seen their classroom once on Parent-Teacher Night (you did go to Parent Teacher Night, right?), there’s still a lot you can infer to help you in choosing the right gift.
For example, does the teacher display many handmade decorations around her classroom? Does she have prominent bookshelves, and if so, what kinds of books are on display? Ask your child what kinds of personal information the teacher has shared– for example, if she mentions going to the movies, you might get a gift certificate to the local cinema. If she talks about travel to Europe, a picture book for her favorite destination would probably be appreciated.
Whatever you choose as a gift for a female teacher, make sure you don’t forget the most important part: a genuine and heartfelt note of appreciation thanking the teacher for their work. They will treasure this note for years to come, and that’s the greatest gift you could give a teacher!
Last but not least, make sure you’re aware of school guidelines on gift-giving, and the teacher’s perspective on gifts, as discussed on my Advice page.
If you’re looking for some more concrete suggestions, I recommend starting with my list of Recommended Gifts for Teachers. I also have another list specifically for teacher Christmas gifts, and one with suggested gifts for new teachers.
And here a few specific gifts for female teachers, if you’re really looking for something that is particularly good for women (in general, of course!):
Ladies, I apologize in advance if the gifts on this page seem a bit stereotypically feminine. As I mention above, elsewhere on this site you’ll find ideas which will work for all teachers, including woman. So I decided to make this page about gifts that are most likely appropriate only for women.
Are you a woman and a teacher! Well, you’re in luck! In the brief moment that it takes to make a comment on the bottom of this post, you have the opportunity to help your fellow teachers everywhere by informing well-intentioned but clueless parents what it is that you really would like to receive as a gift. I’ll make sure your comments are added to this post!
Is it OK to give teachers a gift at the end of the year? The answer is that it depends entirely upon the circumstances and your relationship with the teacher. In younger grades (elementary school and below), it’s quite common for students to bring their teachers a little token of teacher appreciation at the end of the year. These gifts are usually smaller than teacher Christmas gifts. Some appropriate gifts for teachers might be a craft made by your child, a picture book of some of the best memories from the year, or a drawing which represents one of the most important lessons the child learned. These are great examples of homemade gifts for teachers that don’t have to cost a lot of money, but can still carry a lot of meaning due the inherent message: “teacher, I appreciated the work you did this school year!”
If you’re looking for more specific suggestions for gifts to bring a teacher at the end of the year, I recommend reading my post on the best teacher gift ideas, as well as the post on Christmas gifts, since most of those suggestions are perfectly applicable to graduation gifts. In general the only situations where you might want to spend a little more on an end of the year gift for a teacher is:
I hope that’s helpful! Remember, there’s no need to go overboard, but teacher’s deserve a little appreciation too!