You may want to give a gift to a teacher to show your appreciation, but what should you give? A quick Amazon book promo code is certainly a thoughtful gift, but it can be quite cold-spirited. Teachers are truly grateful for your support, but some common gifts actually cause challenges for them. Knickknacks have always been popular, but think about the logistics. If 10 children per year gave a gift, in just four years of teaching there would be 40 knickknacks to display. And “World’s Best Teacher” items can feel rather pretentious to actually use. Scarves and other clothing items make a teacher feel pressure to wear them in order to avoid hurting a child’s feelings, yet the item may not be the teacher’s style. Here are teacher gift ideas to show your appreciation and avoid putting any pressure on the teacher to wear, display, or store.
1. Gift Cards
Learn about the teacher before going this route. What does he or she like? Even though the local coffee shop serves hot chocolate, a gift card to it isn’t your best choice if the teacher is not a coffee drinker. If the teacher has four kids, a $20 restaurant card will actually cost the family money if they want to eat together when they use it. Choose a gift card for a place you know the teacher will like and be able to use.
2. Hand Soap or Lotion
Everyone has hand soap by their sinks. Give a nice smelling soap with a ribbon tied around the bottle. Lotion is another option. It’s easy for you, and the teacher can use it and recycle the bottle.
Does the teacher use a classroom reward system or classroom store? Give small toys, pencils, or gift items to the teacher for use in the classroom economy. Since these items are often purchased by the teacher using personal funds, this is a money-saving gift.
4. Classroom Supplies
Use your child as the source of information for this one. You don’t want to inundate the teacher with things that aren’t needed, but listen to your child’s daily conversation throughout the year. If he or she comes home with comments about running out of tissues or having to share dry erase markers because there aren’t enough, you know what to do. Gift the teacher with the items that are in short supply.
Classroom libraries are a big deal these days. Many teachers want their own supply of books to lend to students or use during lessons. If your teacher participates in a reading club, check online to see if he or she has created a classroom wish list, and purchase books from that. Does your school hold a book fair? Tell the teacher your gift amount and ask him or her to choose the books from the fair.
Food is a consumable, leaving nothing to save or store. Boxes of chocolate are popular and can be shared. A fruit basket and nuts are healthier and more filling for those times when the teacher is working through lunch or has to stay at school late.
Give the teacher your time. Is your job or hobby of interest to children? Would it make a good science or social studies lesson? Offer to give a presentation or answer questions from the students. Maybe the teacher would love an extra pair of hands during reading or math centers. Offer to volunteer in the classroom weekly or monthly. If you can’t volunteer on a regular basis, offer to change the bulletin board when needed or to organize projects or folders before parent-teacher conferences.
Depending on the age of the students and the subject matter taught, some teachers spend hours looking for ideas online. You could create a list of projects along with their Web addresses for the teacher. It could be craft projects for little ones or science ideas for any age. It could be classroom storage ideas or something quirky, like “50 Ways to Use Your Whiteboard.” The better you know the teacher, the more creative and relevant you can be.
9. Student Project and a Flash Drive
Have your child create a work of art or write a personal letter for the teacher. Then take a digital photo of it, and save it to a flash drive. Give the teacher the flash drive and a note explaining that it is for digitally storing student gifts. The teacher can take pictures of art projects, letters, and cards he or she receives and save the pictures to the drive. The gifts can be remembered for years to come through photos, and they don’t have to be kept, freeing precious classroom or home storage space.
10. A Sincere Thank You
More than any gift, a teacher will appreciate knowing exactly how he or she has positively influenced your child and your family. Take the time to write a note telling how much more your daughter likes reading after the teacher helped her find all those books about horses, how your whole family is recycling now because of the way that your son grasped that lesson about waste management, or how your child now has enough confidence to play in the school talent show after this year of piano lessons. Go straight to the point and give the details about how your child has grown.
Teachers work hard to help children learn and grow, and they generally invest a huge amount of themselves in the process. Show your appreciation with gifts that help them do their jobs or treats that pamper them a bit, but don’t give them one more thing that has to be stored or managed. They have enough of those things already!