Making The Grade

Each and every year I run into a dilemma in trying to decide what to give the teacher for Christmas.  Or teachers, as the case may be.  It’s a predicament.  Because I honestly don’t know enough about each one personally to be able to give something that is unique to her tastes.  And then, of course, there’s the cost factor.  Between teachers, aides, therapists, etc., at one point we were buying for six educators.  Six educators who played important roles in the lives of our children mind you.  Skimping them felt wrong, but I couldn’t afford six knock-their-socks-off kinda gifts.  You see my dilemma?

I thought I’d be proactive this year though.  So I sent an email to some teacher friends of mine, asking what they do {and don’t} appreciate when it comes to gifts from their students.  I thought I’d be a dear and share the results of my not-so-scientific poll with you.  For what it’s worth…

Five  A+ Teacher Gifts:

1. Gift cards.  I know, I know.  The cost thing right?  But, from what I’m told, even a $5 gift card to Starbucks is a winning gift.  And considering what your child puts his/her teacher through on a daily basis, eh.  I’d say it’s worth it.

2. Books.  Markers.  Classroom supplies.  You get the idea.  So maybe you can’t bring yourself to give a gift card and call it a day.  Fine.  But surely you see the value in buying items for the classroom.  A spin on this would be to have each child in the class contribute a book or two to the teacher’s in-classroom library.

3. Hand-written cards and notes.  More than one of the teachers who responded to my poll mentioned an affinity towards heartfelt thank you’s from students.  And their parents.

4. Themed baskets.  Think along the lines of movie night.  You might include some candy, microwave popcorn, and a gift certificate to Blockbuster.  Of course, trying to keep this gift within the parameters of a tight budget could get tricky.

5. A charitable donation.  If you know the teacher well enough you could give to a cause that is near and dear to her heart, in her name of course.

Five Flunking Teacher Gifts:

1. Anything apple themed.  It’s overdone.  And maybe a touch obnoxious.  Or so I’m told.

2. Ornaments.  You really have no way of knowing whether the teacher even decorates a tree, much less what style it is.  Better skip all-that-glitters just to be on the safe side.

3.  Baked goods.  I have to say that the teachers I heard from had mixed reactions on the baked goods front.  Some loved that someone would go to the trouble of baking for them, while others have an aversion to either the calories, or eating something that comes from an unknown kitchen/cook.  Probably a good idea to stick with something in the A+ category.  Just sayin’.

4.  Things that smell.  This rules out candles, bath products, soaps or anything else that is sold by scent.  Wouldn’t want to give something floral to a fruity type, kwim?

5. Mugs.  For the love of all things good, just. don’t.

These ideas work (or don’t!) for teachers.  For other ideas that work, click on That Family.

22 Replies to “Making The Grade”

  1. Thanks for the tips! I’m a gift card giving kind of gal… And I have a few teacher friends that happily carry around 20 or so $5 Starbucks gift cards in their wallet. They love ’em.

  2. I am most definitely an anomaly in liking baked goods because I know a lot of my colleagues don’t. But then, I like sweets more than others!

  3. I will confess to giving baked goods, but not exclusively. Often I give a little bag of fudge or something, in a basket with a few other inexpensive things. I like giving blank stationery (Michaels and Target have some in the dollar bins), a fancy pen (loving the Sharpie pen lately), and sometimes a gift card too.

    Thanks for taking the time to ask teachers what they like.

  4. As a middle school teacher, I received A LOT of baked goods at Christmas (overload, but my family/friends loved it). You cannot go wrong with a card with a nice note written inside. If you’d really like to give some food, a winner is blue corn chips and homemade salsa. Then there was the year a parent met us off campus and gave us 6-packs, but I digress…

  5. Please give school supplies. Even a pack of construction paper or some markers or rulers. I spend so much money on these things and, frankly, I kind of resent it a little bit!! Argh!!!

  6. I’m a high school teacher, and I love it! I do like smelly things, but only if they know I like smells like apple cinnamon. And I love baked goods, but I know many more health-conscious teachers who don’t. I keep the thank you cards and joyously spend the gift cards (those two are my favorites, especially when combined!) Your list is spot-on, Darcie. Thanks!

  7. I am guilty of giving baked goods, but I like to think I do it right. I select a nice holiday plate, the kind that can be reused during the season and in the future. I make a huge variety of baked goods, so there is generally only three to four of each item. The teachers at my daycare look forward to my gift…”I remember this from when your son was here”…”Your daughter moved up too early and I missed out”…I guess I have been lucky in that regard.

  8. As a former teacher, I totally agree with your list. I generally love baked goods, but I was always hesitant to eat something brought by one of my first graders after watching him sneeze on it and/or stick his fingers under the plastic wrap. So if you do opt to give baked goods, make sure they are well-sealed! You totally can’t go wrong with gift cards. I didn’t have to buy my own Starbucks for a couple years after I left teaching to stay home with my kids… :) I agree that little gift cards are way more useful and appreciated than yet another candle. And I still have all of the heartfelt notes I received as a teacher, from parents and students alike. Great list!

  9. One of the best things a parent did while I was teaching was have my assistant and I fill out a survey at the beginning of the year and then treat us accordingly. It had questions like favorite food, favorite color, favorite restraunt etc. It was nice because she could give things she knew I would like, and I want mustering up a thank you for another apple shaped candle or number 1 teacher mug. (don’t get me wrong those are appreciated, but I’d much rather use my cold stone gift card, yumm!)

  10. Great list…keep in mind though…I know I am in the minority, but for those who are not coffee lovers, Target is a GREAT alternative. Otherwise the list is spot on!

  11. Add to worst list: store-bought sweets, any kind of craft, or any-teacher themed items (Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul, for example — straight to the trash).

    Also, I probably would rather receive nothing than just a card with a “thank you” in it – it’s kind of a letdown. Call me greedy, but so-be-it…

  12. How funny – I just finished ours yesterday! My girls each have 2 main teachers and we’re giving all 4 jars full of kid-written “Reasons Why I love Mr. Mac” – et al. (Always makes ’em cry! AND it’s hysterical to see what the kids come up with!) I’m friends with Annie’s teachers so they are also getting bottles of wine.

    Catie’s teachers – not sure what else to send in.

    Then we have 9 ‘extra’ teachers to buy for – they are getting giant chocolate bars with a bow. (Kinda cheap, I know, but MAN is that a long list of people!)

    And everyone gets a thank-you, and a notepad from my friend who does personalized ones (

    Alas, no Starbucks here. I really wish Redbox did gift cards!

  13. I think you nailed it. My sister is a teacher and she HATES getting gifts with her name on them… How many monogrammed items could one person need?

    Gift cards on the other hand… LOVE ‘EM!

  14. I have received all kinds of things as a teacher and although some are repetitive I thoroughly appreciate anything given to me. It means a lot that someone thinks I am special and important enough to give a gift to. Even cards and notes are truly heartfelt and appreciated.


  15. Luckily I have been in classes thus far where I have been able to contribute money to a group gift, collected by the class mom. You can give however much your budget dictates, but usually the teachers get a pretty nice chunk of money that is either given to them as cash or on a Visa card of something like that. Once my son’s pre-k class gave a group gift of a goat to a rural family (somewhere across the globe…I forget) through Heifer International and the teacher LOVED that.

    So, I have it fairly easy with school teachers, but I am always at a loss when it comes to Brownie troop leaders, Sunday school teachers, coaches, violin teacher.

  16. As a teacher, I feel so honored that students and their parents think of me around Christmas. I know what it’s like to keep things on a budget, especially when you have multiple teachers to buy for. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the thoughtful notes/cards, I prominently display them on the mantle and hope that my family reads them, they are usually the best Christmas cards! I love getting the family Christmas pictures, we love to show our families and friends our special little kiddos. I appreciate the gift cards, school supplies, and I personally love baked goods! Last year, 2 of my students gave me a dozen tomales! I was in heaven! I know they were made with such love and they were delicious!! Thank you, parents, for thinking of us! :)

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