Gifts for Teachers: What they REALLY Want (2024)


We asked local teachers what the best gifts for teachers are—and in the process, also discovered which are worth reconsideration. All contributing teachers expressed nothing but appreciation and gratitude for the thought and time that goes into gift giving. “When someone thinks enough to give me any kind of gift, the only thing I say is thank you — sincerely,” says one local educator.


Gifts for Teachers: What they REALLY Want (1)Some teachers don’t expect a gift during the busy holiday season due to all the love and attention they receive for birthdays and teacher appreciation week. But we want to acknowledge these important people who invest countless hours educating our kids. So, what makes an awesome teacher gift? Here are ideas on what not to give—and what teachers really want.

WHAT NOT TO GIVE:
Candy. Teachers receive a lot of chocolate and other candy this time of year — it’s just too much, they say. And for those who are trying to eat healthier, there’s little hope of success with a constant stream of sweets coming through the door.

Mugs. In honor of teachers everywhere, a word problem: If five students give you one mug each year, how many mugs will you have at the end of six years. Yes, 30. Keep in mind that teachers have 25-90 students, depending on what grade level they teach. That’s a lot of mug potential! Bottom line: No more mugs, please.

Homemade treats. While the gesture is appreciated, it’s risky business. With allergies, germophobes and unknown ingredients, homemade goodies often end up in the trash. Sad, but true.

Clothing, jewelry or other items featuring apples or school themes. “But,” you say, “our teacher loves bees —they’re all over her classroom!” That may be true, but if the theme in a classroom is bees or owls, it's best not to assume the teacher likes to decorate her home (or body) with them. Classroom themes are typically connected to something teachers want students to remember (e.g. Bee Responsible, Bee Respectful, Bee Safe); it’s an educational theme, not a personal preference.

Lotion. Scent preferences vary greatly from person to person. Unless you know exactly what your teacher likes or you shop at a store that allows exchanges, it’s best to steer clear of this type of gift.

Trinkets. One teacher says, “While we appreciate the sentiment and love involved in purchasing trinkets, they pile up, we run out of space, and sadly, they end up in the donation pile.”

Pets. Clearly, a pet requires a lot of responsibility. No one should purchase a pet for someone without permission from the recipient. One teacher shared that she received a surprise tortoise one year. Just say no.

So, what do teachers really want? It’s simple, really—and fits every budget: notes of appreciation, school supplies and gift cards. Read on for specifics.

GIFTS TEACHERS REALLY WANT:
Thoughtful notes. Teachers love sincere messages of thanks and appreciation. One teacher says, “I love notes from students and parents.I keep them in a folder so I can read them when I have a difficult day. They help keep me positive.” Others noted they enjoy gifts that students are involved in.

Versatile gift cards. Teachers really appreciate gift cards (along with handwritten notes). No surprise here. Think Amazon, Costco, Target or Staples. These allow teachers to buy what they want for their classroom or for personal use. Consider pitching in with other parents if you’re on a budget.

School supplies. A recent survey revealed that teachers spend almost $500 of their own money on classroom needs every year. Yikes. Supporting teachers in this department is certainly appreciated. As one teacher put it, “The way to a teacher's heart is through school supplies!” Another says, “I would be totally excited to get a “blinged-out” new stapler, class set of new rulers, or a gift card to help fill the needs in our classroom!” A few more ideas: a Lakeshore gift certificate, dry erase markers, “funky” post-it notes, colored pens or books for the classroom.

Restaurant gift cards. Find out where your teacher likes to eat — and what’s convenient to where she lives or hangs out. No need to get fancy. One teacher suggested a Jamba Juice card. Another says, “A gift card to Souplantaion or Rubio’s means I get the night off from making dinner!” Warning: beware the overrated Starbucks card. While some teachers love their Starbucks, it’s not for everyone. Several teachers said they get way too many. Not sure if your teacher is a fan? Ask. (See “Great Idea!” below)

Gift certificates for family fun. Teachers spend a lot of “off” time grading papers and creating lesson plans. Gift certificates for fun are welcome (movies, miniature golf, bowling, etc.). Be sure to ask what activities your teachers like and how old their kids are.

If you take the time to acknowledge your teachers, why not “hit it out of the park” with something they really want this year! Whatever you decide, know that teachers appreciate any gesture of thanks.

GREAT IDEA!

Ask teachers to fill out a questionnaire about their favorite things (hot/cold drink, lunch, restaurants, color, hobbies; what they do in their spare time, ages of kids, etc.). Then, use the list as a guideline when purchasing gifts for special occasions.


Lisa Gipson is the editor of San Diego Family Magazine and is so appreciative of the teachers who have influenced her daughters over the years.

Gifts for Teachers: What they REALLY Want (2024)

FAQs

Gifts for Teachers: What they REALLY Want? ›

As one teacher put it, “The way to a teacher's heart is through school supplies!” Another says, “I would be totally excited to get a “blinged-out” new stapler, class set of new rulers, or a gift card to help fill the needs in our classroom!” A few more ideas: a Lakeshore gift certificate, dry erase markers, “funky” ...

What do teachers really want as gifts? ›

As one teacher put it, “The way to a teacher's heart is through school supplies!” Another says, “I would be totally excited to get a “blinged-out” new stapler, class set of new rulers, or a gift card to help fill the needs in our classroom!” A few more ideas: a Lakeshore gift certificate, dry erase markers, “funky” ...

Do teachers prefer gifts or gift cards? ›

Most teachers tell SheKnows that gift cards are what they prefer. Especially those that can be used on classroom supplies (sadly). So skip the knickknacks, parents.

Is $50 too much for a teacher gift? ›

Legally, most public school teachers are not allowed to accept gifts worth more than $50, but even if a family gives me a $5 gift, I think about the time and labor that went into it… and frankly, feel uncomfortable.

What is the greatest gift to a teacher? ›

A letter or card. By far, this is the best gift a student can give a teacher. Teachers live to see their students' progress and growth, and the thing they treasure the most is a handwritten letter from a student thanking them and letting them know that they made a difference.

What do teachers buy most? ›

All items have been selected based on the essential items for teachers.
  • Sharpened pencils.
  • Letter tray.
  • Magnetic hooks.
  • White labels.
  • Magnetic clips.
  • Desk organizer.
  • Grade book.
  • Flair pens.

Is $100 gift card too much for teacher? ›

I would say gift cards are probably the most common. Between $25 and $100 from over half the students, and the rest may get gifts. Gift cards allow teachers to treat themselves more than they normally would be able to.

Is a $20 gift card good for a teacher? ›

Most teacher gift cards fall between $10 and $30, but there is no required amount for a gift card — we're sure they would appreciate any and every amount you want to give! There's no pressure for an amount.

Is $5 too cheap for a gift card? ›

A $5 gift card may be all that you can afford. If the value seems low, don't add to it if it means compromising your own budget. Don't send a U.S.-based gift card to an international recipient.

Do teachers like cash gifts? ›

And more than any physical gift, teachers appreciate your support. Whew. OK. That being said, if you're insistent about giving gifts to the teachers you care about this holiday season, there is one gift I can guarantee every teacher is happy to receive and will definitely put to good use: cash.

How much can a teacher accept as a gift? ›

The State Ethics Commission for the government of Massachusetts, for example, states that teachers "may not accept any gift worth $50." Most other states have the same ethics code, but with a limit set even lower. A safe bet would be to keep your gift under $20, and public opinion is right around that same number.

Is a $25 gift card too cheap? ›

For co-workers, casual friends and your children's teachers, stay in the $10 to $20 range. Gift cards for close friends and family members can range from $25 to $100. When you're selecting a gift card for a spouse, parent or someone else who's very special, choose a card worth $75 or more.

Do teachers like getting gift cards? ›

l asked educators about their holiday wishes. Gift cards and school supplies topped the list, along with handwritten notes and other simple acts of appreciation.

What is the average teacher gift? ›

A good rule of thumb is to spend around $20-$30, but if you have a larger budget, you could go up to $50. If you have multiple children in school, you might want to consider pooling your resources with other parents to split the cost of a more expensive gift.

Do teachers like flowers as gifts? ›

A bouquet of mixed flowers or a succulent potted plant can also make a thoughtful gift for a teacher. I always recommend you consider adding a personal touch to the gift by including a handwritten note or card expressing your appreciation for their hard work and dedication.

Is it appropriate to get your teacher a gift? ›

Giving your kid's teacher a holiday gift is a wonderful way to show them appreciation for all that they do, but buying something isn't always necessary. There are many other ways to give, that are just as thoughtful, such as a homemade gift or a card with heartfelt words.

What gives you joy as a teacher? ›

That passion can stem from our work as educators, as well as parts of our lives. When we share parts of ourselves that bring joy—music we love, a hobby we have—students sense how we feel and connect with us as people. By sharing our authentic selves with our students, we create a space where they can do the same.

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