Teacher Gift Ideas for the End of the Year

Teaching can feel like a thankless job a lot of the time. As the school year comes to a close, it’s an opportunity for students and parents to show teachers how much they appreciate them with a small gift.

“Teachers just love to be appreciated, and they love getting gifts,” says Jamie Sears, a former elementary school teacher who now runs the teacher blog and training company Not So Wimpy Teacher. “Some of the best gifts a teacher has gotten were probably the craziest, like kids who bring in a broken toy to give to their teacher. I was given a dead scorpion once. Anything that means something to the child that’s given to the teacher is so incredibly appreciated.” Most teachers will be grateful for any gift, but there are some that might be more practical than others. If you plan to spend your money on a gift for your child’s teachers, here are some tips to make sure you’re not wasting it on something they don’t need or can’t use.

Gifts That Teachers Love

Teachers love practical and heartfelt gifts, says Caroline Depot, a third grade teacher at Powdersville Elementary School in South Carolina.

She says parents shouldn’t feel obligated to spend more than $25 on any gift, but there are plenty of options within that budget.

1. Gift Cards

Gift cards may seem impersonal, but they are a favorite among teachers.

“We don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on ourselves, so we love to get gift cards,” Sears says. “I don’t know a single teacher who wouldn’t use a gift card to Amazon or Target.”

A gift card to a food delivery service like DoorDash or Uber Eats, if they’re available in your community, can be a way to let your child’s teacher relax and not worry about cooking dinner after a long day at school. Or consider a gift card to the teacher’s favorite coffee shop or restaurant.

English teacher Sam Bernhard, of C. E. Jordan High School in North Carolina, says he’s appreciated getting gift cards to places where his students work. “Not only did that save me some money if I wanted to get a cup of coffee or get dinner, there is that added part of it of there being the connection to the student,” he says. “You get to see the kid in this other environment where they’re being professional.”

2. Flowers

For the most part, teachers just want to know that you noticed them, Sears says. One way to show that is by giving them flowers.

“Their job is so incredibly hard, especially this year,” she says. “They really are seeking to be appreciated by their parents and their students, so simple gestures and just being thought of make a huge difference.”

3. A Personalized Letter or Picture

Most teachers say their favorite gifts are simple letters of gratitude from students and parents. This can be especially meaningful after a long year, particularly if it comes from parents.

“Most teachers work all year long and don’t hear from parents very often,” Sears says. “In your note, if you can be specific about something that the teacher has done that you’re appreciative of or some way they helped your student get excited about something, that means more than any gift card, any book, any coffee mug will ever mean. But attach a gift card to it and I think you’ve really got a great gift for teacher appreciation.”

Any gift that has a personal touch will be well received. If writing a note is uncomfortable, another option is a framed picture of your child with their teacher, says Michael Klimchak, a fifth grade teacher at Warren G. Harding Elementary School in New Jersey. A piece of personal artwork or a colored picture will put a smile on a teacher’s face. These are the kinds of gifts Klimchak says he keeps for many years.

“The more personalized, the better,” Klimchak wrote in an email.

What Not to Get Teachers

While teachers will appreciate the gesture of any gift, there are some that they either receive too often or simply can’t use. Here are some gifts to avoid.

1. Teacher-Themed Gifts

Teachers don’t need anything with an apple or a reference to “World’s No. 1 Teacher” on it.

“Although we love that you think we’re the No. 1 teacher, we have so much of this cutesy teacher decor that we don’t know where to put it,” Sears says. “Our entire house is already decorated in teacher decor, so we probably don’t need another one.”

2. Homemade Treats

Some teachers may have dietary restrictions or allergies, while others may just avoid certain foods for a variety of reasons. Don’t spend time and money making treats that might just go in the trash.

3. Coffee Mugs

No matter how much coffee teachers drink, they likely don’t need another mug. Instead, get them a gift card to their favorite coffee shop or ask them their favorite drink and bring that to them at school.

Creative Gift Ideas

Talk to your children, teachers say, as that can give you a clue into some gift ideas. This can also be a good way to creatively pick up on any classroom needs. For example, if your child mentions that the pencil sharpener breaks frequently, a new one could make a good gift.

If you’re unsure of what to get, email your child’s teacher and ask if there’s a classroom wish list — many teachers use an Amazon Wish List to ask for items they need. Often, expenses for classroom materials come out of a teacher’s own pocket on what is already a tight paycheck.

“Generally speaking, school supplies will get put to good use,” Sears says. “If they don’t need them right this moment, they will need them.”

But not all gifts require money. One of the best ways parents and students can show their appreciation for teachers at the end of the school year is by giving their time to take something off a teacher’s plate.

For example, Bernhard was being considered for an award toward the end of the school year and says some of his students volunteered to clean up his classroom before district administrators observed his class.

A group of parents who were volunteer-trained offered to cover Depot’s lunch duty for a whole week, which gave her an opportunity to have lunch by herself. That alone time helped her recharge.

“That was just the gift of time, but it was so wonderful and so peaceful,” she says. “It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a monetary gift. If you can give your time in some way, that’s wonderful.”

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Teacher Gift Ideas for the End of the Year originally appeared on usnews.com

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