A Guide to Giving Your Teacher the Right Gift

If you are wondering about the right gift for your teacher or your child's teacher this year, try to avoid the most obvious and strive for things in the useful category instead. Especially as schools cut classroom budgets, things directly related to instruction or enrichment or common classroom supplies will be appreciated.

Work with other class members or parents to create a group gift if possible. Or work with several parents you know to find gifts around a common theme. Your combined efforts won't cost you much and will be most appreciated.

Gifts of supplies

Teachers have always used their own money to buy classroom supplies and extra books. In these tough budget times, it is likely that teachers are buying even more items from their own pockets. They would definitely appreciate some help. Depending on grade level and school, think of supplying:

  • Printer paper and printer cartridges
  • Art supplies
  • Reference books such as dictionaries

You can re-stock worn books, a broken-down chair or a faded rug in the reading corner. Hint: if your local public library has a retail bookstore, you can find many great, almost-new books there, and they are reasonably priced. In fact, that's where many teachers shop during the summer months.

Gifts of help

Be the go-to person when a teacher needs help. Another responsible adult could do many of the tasks that take up much of a teacher's time. You can:

  • Volunteer to help with field trips, bake treats, help supervise parties and play days.
  • If allowed, help grade and file papers and put up bulletin boards.
  • Volunteer your special skills, such as photography or web page design for a classroom project.

Personal gifts

While most teachers would never ever let on, they have a lifetime supply of hand lotion, holiday ornaments, coffee mugs and knickknacks. If you want to give a personal gift, consider what your teacher's hobbies and interests are. You can find useful and thoughtful small items to match your teacher's interests.

  • Athletic teachers might appreciate an item related to their sport, such as tennis balls or golf balls. Perhaps they would like tickets to see a favorite team or event.
  • Creative teachers might appreciate scrapbooking supplies. Others might love to have the latest kitchen gadget, garden gloves or even a nice plant to brighten the classroom.
  • Teachers who travel might appreciate travel-related items, such as travel alarm clocks, luggage tags, document pouches, books or travel journals. Consider a gift card from any of the major airlines. This works especially well as a group gift.
  • Most teachers would appreciate movie passes or tickets for a special concert.
  • Never be afraid to give your teacher gift cards to restaurants or retail stores. Make it more personal by choosing their favorites. And don't worry about giving small amounts -- even a gift card for $5 or $10 will be greatly appreciated.

Many teachers also have favorite charities and nonprofits. Make a contribution in your teacher's name.

As with most other gift giving, the amount you spend is not as important as the thought you put into your gift. Even a simple letter of appreciation will warm a teacher's heart for months. And unlike coffee mugs, teachers never get too many of these!

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