Teacher Appreciation Week Gift Etiquette 101: Every Awkward Question, Answered (2024)

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If parents have learned anything in the past few years, it’s that teaching children is way harder than we thought — and man, do our kids’ teachers deserve recognition this Teacher Appreciation Week. Teachers manage a ton and make it all look easy. So how do we show them our undying appreciation with the right gifts? What do we get them and how much do we spend? This is never an easy answer.

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It’s time to think about these things because Teacher Appreciation Week is May 6-10 this year. Luckily, we spoke with some helpful teachers to get the lowdown on school gifting (real talk: They have enough scented candles). The consensus was that gift cards are your best bet. And we got Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette and modern manners expert, to weigh in with her own handy guide to school gift-giving. (And note: This guide was initially written with winter holiday giving in mind, but it applies just as well to Teacher Appreciation Week and end-of-school-year giving.)

Read on for the truth about teacher gifts — and happy giving!

What to give teachers

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. JoAnna Beernaert is a teacher near Hartford, Connecticut, and she tells SheKnows parents should avoid giving “weird-smelling candles, any kind of chocolate, homemade cookies (sorry moms!), or random weird gifts from home goods. Less stuff!”

Etiquette expert Schweitzer says to remember to check the school’s gift-giving policy before you buy. School gifting culture varies, and sometimes, certain gifts are prohibited. “Public and private schools vary, and some items are considered attempts to influence grades, especially cash and gift cards used as cash,” says Schweitzer. It’s always good to check with the front office staff.

Some schools organize group gifts via room parents, which takes the guesswork out of what to give. And pooling also avoids favoritism, says Schweitzer.

As for how much to contribute, “I think it’s up to what the parents can afford,” says Jeannette Ybarra Childs, whose Redondo Beach, California, elementary school does group gifts. She says the average is $50 to $100 per parent toward a gift card. “Don’t go broke trying to impress,” Ybarra Childs tells SheKnows. “Give from the heart.”

Lisa Santos Jackson teaches kindergarten in Los Angeles and tells SheKnows she receives mostly gift cards to places like Starbucks, Amazon, and Target, and the average amount per card is $25.

“As a teacher, the best gifts are gift cards I can use on supplies for the classroom,” Shari Selman tells SheKnows. “Places like Amazon, Target, Michaels. The truth is we spend a lot of our own money on your children before we even meet them, so to have gift cards to help with supplies would be much appreciated.”

Alternatively, you could also gift them an Audible or Kindle membership. (FYI: Amazon no longer allows the option of gifting someone an Amazon Prime subscription, but your favorite educator can purchase one themselves with an Amazon gift card.)

“I never expect anything. I just want [the kids] to have amazing memories, focus on being kind, and do the best they can in my class,” Heather Morlock, who teaches elementary school in Redondo Beach, California, tells SheKnows. “With that being said, the families spoil teachers at our school. 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. It’s always fun getting gifts from kids as well; things that they notice you eat or things you say you like in the class and make the gift more personalized.”

Jessica McClure taught kindergarten at a Tustin, California, private school, so she received luxury gifts like Tiffany jewelry and Coach purses, she tells SheKnows. “But I also got Target and Starbucks gift cards. For my own children, I did Pinterest projects.”

Price range for teacher gifts

Let’s tackle the subject most parents are interested in: What price range is “average” or appropriate per teacher? Our etiquette expert would like to remind parents, “You don’t have to spend a lot of money, and sometimes, a handwritten note from the heart is the best gesture of appreciation.” That said, Schweitzer says that, depending on the school policy, $50 may be appropriate (and she prefers a pooled gift) if your child has the same teacher throughout the day. “If your child has the teacher for just one period of the day, $10 to $20 is appropriate.”

Melissa Verity Baral teaches kindergarten in Los Angeles and tells SheKnows that most parents give $25 to $50 gift cards. Atari Sno has been an elementary and preschool teacher, and she cautions parents to consider the gift card source when choosing the amount. Don’t give a small amount to an expensive store or establishment because you don’t want the teacher to have to spend money to use the gift card. “I had some gift certificates for years because I didn’t have the money to come out of my pocket to use them, and I didn’t feel right regifting them,” Sno tells SheKnows.

Kimmi Anaya-Rodas taught middle school in Riverside County, California, and tells SheKnows she saw a $10 per gift average. Since kids in middle and high school have more subjects, those teachers get smaller gifts (if any). After-school teacher Erica Willis tells SheKnows she sees parents spending between $10 to $20 on gifts.

“The best gifts are those letters that bring tears,” says Rodas.

Don’t forget the older grades!

Preschool and elementary teachers get gifts aplenty, but don’t forget about middle and high school teachers. Even though your child has more of them, they like to feel appreciated, too. Natalie Arrington taught high school in Los Angeles, and while she never expected gifts, she tells SheKnows a few kids would bring in gifts worth up to $20. But her best gifts were free: good behavior! “All I wanted was for the kids to try their best in my class and be kind to each other. Just one good day where a kid pays attention and tries their best!” She says a thoughtful card or note is always appreciated as well; parents needn’t spend money.

Burbank, California parent Alice Clark’s husband and family are teachers. She says parents should feel free to give whatever they want for high school; her husband gets maybe 5 to 10 things per holiday season. “When you have a lot of teachers, even a $5 Target or Amazon card is appreciated and adds up,” Clark tells SheKnows. “Gift cards are best unless you really know the teacher and what they like. Personalized stuff is cute, but it adds up fast.”

“I remember getting a small craft box filled with holiday candy and I was so happy someone remembered me,” says former middle school teacher Lisa Welch Rhee. “Why do the upper-grade teachers get left out? Part of it is having six or seven teachers to buy for…some maybe couldn’t afford it…and some…well, parents tend to disengage when their kids hit middle school,” she tells SheKnows.

Angela Johnson Malone teaches middle school and tells SheKnows they truly don’t expect anything but “a $5 Starbucks/Sonic/Chick-fil-A gift card is like receiving a gold medal for a middle/high school teacher.”

Glendale middle school teacher Beth Curtis agrees it’s difficult for parents to buy so many gifts once their kids have more teachers. “I really do appreciate it when parents give us a $5 gift card! I generally get between $5 and $50 — the $50 is rare, but so exciting — gift cards.”

Special cases

What about a unique scenario, like the teacher dislikes the child or vice versa? It doesn’t matter, says Schweitzer. “Your gift should not be based on whether or not your child likes the teacher,” she explains. “Teachers are your partners in raising your children. Leave your personal feelings out of it, and show your gratitude for the time and effort this person shows to prepare your kids for the future.” Good advice!

Who else?

Who else should you give to at the school? After all, your child’s teacher isn’t the only person participating in their education.

“Don’t forget about all the people who teach your child — including their classroom teacher, but not exclusively,” Portland, Oregon, elementary literacy coach Karin Harrington tells SheKnows. “Often, those that work more behind the scenes are forgotten.”

“I teach music, string orchestra,” says Beernaert, “Although I don’t spend all day with my students, I am a ‘favorite’ teacher and believe I have a deep impact on kids.” She loves to get written thank-yous from kids “and gift cards — any amount appreciated — with notes from parents.”

Here is Schweitzer’s handy guide to caregiver, school, and teacher gifts:

Principal: Card and baked goods or flowers in a vase.

School teacher: Group gift with pooled funds along with a child’s handwritten note.

Multiple teachers: Group gift with pooled funds.

Assistant/aide: Card, group gift, gift certificate.

School secretary: Café gift card, small gift, or gift certificate.

School nurse:Café gift card, small gift, or gift certificate.

Tutor or private music instructor:Café gift card and handwritten thank-you note.

Daycare staff:A card from your child for each staff member, plus a cash or group gift.

A version of this story was originally published in December 2018.

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Teacher Appreciation Week Gift Etiquette 101: Every Awkward Question, Answered (2024)


What is the etiquette for teacher gifts? ›

Our etiquette expert would like to remind parents, “You don't have to spend a lot of money, and sometimes, a handwritten note from the heart is the best gesture of appreciation.” That said, Schweitzer says that, depending on the school policy, $50 may be appropriate (and she prefers a pooled gift) if your child has the ...

Is $100 too much for a teacher gift? ›

It really depends on each individual family's circ*mstances, too. For some, $100 is right on the mark, while for others it's overly generous. It certainly seems that no one finds it stingy, however.

How much should you give for teacher appreciation Week gift card? ›

As for how much to contribute, “I think it's up to what the parents can afford,” says Jeannette Ybarra Childs, whose Redondo Beach, California, elementary school does group gifts. She says the average is $50 to $100 per parent toward a gift card. “Don't go broke trying to impress,” Ybarra Childs tells SheKnows.

How much is too much for a teacher gift? ›

Don't spend too much

A safe bet would be to keep your gift under $20, and public opinion is right around that same number. "A good rule of thumb is to spend around $20-$30," Lauren Grace, a high school math teacher by day and crafter at night wrote on her company blog, a business that sells accessories for teachers.

What do teachers really want as gifts? ›

Save the apples for your own lunch and surprise your teacher with one of these thoughtful gifts instead.
  • The pencil sharpener that all the teachers are talking about. ...
  • Everyone loves a good book. ...
  • Personalized pencils. ...
  • Gift cards. ...
  • Their go-to grading tool, but better. ...
  • A bottle of nice wine. ...
  • A new lanyard. ...
  • School supplies.

How much should a gift card be for a teacher? ›

There is no set amount you should spend on a teacher gift—it really depends on your budget. A good rule of thumb is to spend around $20-$30, but if you have a larger budget, you could go up to $50.

Is a $10 gift card too cheap for teachers? ›

Choose an Amount Within Your Budget

It's not necessary. A $10 gift card can be just as special as a $50 gift card if you say the right words or pair the gift card with something meaningful.

Is it rude to give cash as a teacher gift? ›

If you suspect that your child's teacher is not making a living wage, by all means feel free to individually give them presents of gift cards, useful items, or even cash — if and only if you can afford it, yourself, and if the gifts fall within the ethics of the particular school.

What gift cards do teachers want? ›

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.

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.

Is a Starbucks gift card good for teachers? ›

Starbucks is the perfect treat (9%)

It's no secret that many teachers run on caffeine. If you have a Starbucks near you, a Starbucks gift card is a good go-to gift for teachers. Or if there's another local coffee shop nearby, that's a great option too.

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.

Is it okay to give teachers alcohol? ›

And when they say 'Thank your teacher', they are referring to your child's teacher. Giving a teacher a bottle of wine or a gift card for alcohol is completely acceptable. As a parent, I certainly appreciate a cold beer if I've had a particularly frustrating day of looking after the kids.

Can teachers accept money from parents? ›

Gift limits

The limit also applies to group gifts, and taking up a collection for a teacher is against the law if the gift will be more than $50.

What is an appropriate monetary gift for a teacher? ›

Based on more than 4000+ Cheddar Up payments, the average contribution for a holiday teacher gift is $25-$30, and end-of-school-year gifts is $35.

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.

Can teachers accept gifts from students? ›

Gifts raise ethical and fairness concerns.

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.

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.

Do teachers want gifts or gift cards? ›

Gift cards and school supplies topped the list, along with handwritten notes and other simple acts of appreciation.

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