Three things your kid’s teacher actually wants for Christmas

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I love giving gifts. Deeply. But sometimes, the pressure to buy for everybody and their brother at Christmastime can overwhelm me. I’ve read countless magazine articles citing gifting etiquette for every person who performs any kind of service in your life. While I agree with the sentiment wholeheartedly, and thoroughly appreciate the individuals who perform those jobs, I simply can’t get on board with giving cash gifts to my mail carrier or hairdresser. Not while trying to pay down my mortgage, anyway. Yet, there is one person, or group of people rather, that I am always on board with giving gifts to during the holiday season.


I work in a school as a speech-language pathologist. I know the blood, sweat, and tears that teachers pour into their students’ education. In many cases, they provide much more than their contract requires of them because they have a genuine interest in seeing their students succeed.

As a parent myself, I deeply appreciate the education and care that my child receives while I’m at work. On weekdays, my daughter’s teachers spend more hours with her than either my husband or I do, a fact I think many working parents can relate to. More importantly, they make her time away from us not only educational, but fun. They help her develop the skills she needs to solve problems, express herself, and make and keep friends. Translated: they work hard.

So if, like me, you’re searching for ideas to show your appreciation for your child’s teachers without completely derailing your budget, here are some foolproof ideas.

have a very merry christmas greeting card
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  1. Gift Cards. If I had to guess, I’d say gift cards are probably the gold standard of teacher gifts. While knickknacks and classroom decor are indeed thoughtful, the fact of the matter is that they take up space (a hot commodity in the average classroom) and don’t fulfill any sort of need in return. Gift cards, however, enable teachers to buy things they actually need or want, either for their classroom or for themselves. Plus, they can often be purchased in whatever price range you can afford and are welcomed by male and female teachers alike. I’ve taken the liberty of listing a few types of gift cards that I have either received myself or have witnessed others receive with great appreciation.

Teachers Pay Teachers. So many teachers spend their own money on materials to support instruction in the classroom. Teachers Pay Teachers is popular because it offers downloadable, reproducible academic materials for not a lot of cash. In my experience, even $5 can go a long way. Another bonus: this gift is fitting for teachers at any grade level, from preschool all the way up to 12th grade.

Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, or the like. Because, coffee. Need I say more? A single $5 gift card will usually cover either one specialty drink, two regular drinks, or a drink and a snack. I don’t hate it.

Scholastic, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon. As I mentioned earlier, teachers fund many of their own classroom purchases, and books are no exception. With so much emphasis being placed on reading, you really can’t go wrong with this type of gift card. But don’t worry, there’s no need to go overboard here. Amazon allows you to purchase used books in like-new condition, an option I have never shied away from. In addition, I’ve purchased books from Scholastic for as little as $4.99, so even a $5 gift certificate would be appropriate. I’m sensing a theme here.

Fun and relaxation. Just like you, teachers love to relax at the end of a hard day. A gift card to a local nail salon or restaurant would make many a teacher’s day, if you can afford a slightly more expensive gift. A basic manicure is around $15, so that’s a good place to start. The same amount could also offset the cost of a more expensive manicure if your child’s teacher typically goes the acrylic/gel route. As far as restaurants go (and of course there is so much variation here), $25 will usually buy a couple of happy hour apps and drinks.

  1. Classroom Supplies. Some of the things teachers wish for most of all are quality classroom supplies that do what they’re designed to do. You know, like sticky notes that actually stick. Or tissues that don’t leave your nose as dry and cracked as a desert floor. Or hand sanitizer (many schools don’t provide it!), colorful dry erase markers, Sharpies, or Flair pens. When in doubt, ask! Most teachers would be more than happy to share a list of supplies that they or their students could benefit from.
two cookies beside white metal mug
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  1. Something delicious. Last, but certainly not least, are the many yummy treats that can either be made or bought for mere dollars. A quick search for DIY candy gifts on Pinterest will yield hundreds of creative ideas. There has never been a moment in my life when I’ve eaten a piece, [coughs into fist] pile, of chocolate and not enjoyed it. With that being said, so many people (including teachers!) are either watching their weight or actively trying to lose it. The holiday season is tough enough on the waistline without candy flying at you from every parent on the block. So my suggestion to you, my thoughtful friend, is simply to proceed with caution. And buy something with caramel.

There are countless ways you can show your appreciation for your child’s teacher this holiday season. But guess what? You don’t have to spend money to do it.

My favorite thing to receive from students or parents, besides the aforementioned pile of chocolate, is a thoughtful, handwritten note. This is the type of gift I tend to save for years, smiling at the memory of my student each time I happen to stumble across it. So, if giving gifts to your child’s teacher simply isn’t in the budget this year, take heart. Spending money is not the only way (or even the best way) to show your appreciation for someone. Send an email, give a hug…whatever! Just do something.

I hope these ideas have been helpful. Now, I’d love to hear from you! Please share in the comments if you have any tried and true tips for teacher gifts.


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