I know lots of teachers. Many of my friends and a lot of my family call the classroom their second home, so when I wasn’t sure what gift to bring my daughter’s teachers last year for Teacher Appreciation week, I sent my teacher friends a mass email. “What’s your favorite gift to get,” I asked.
The answer: gift cards.
Of course, they’re grateful to any parent who thinks of them, but gift cards (to anywhere but the “teacher store”) are always appreciated. So, when you see little Billy’s mom carting in a Pinterest-perfect extravaganza, there’s no need to feel guilty for not DIY-ing your Teacher Appreciation gift. Plus, if you’re like me and didn’t even realize that Teacher Appreciation week existed until the last minute (How long has this been a thing, and do I still have to give a gift at the end of the year?), then you will be extra relieved to learn that gift cards are king among the loot teachers take home.
To add a personal touch to the gift card, first, make sure it’s to a place they’ll appreciate. Certificates to the movies, a restaurant, coffee shop, retail store, or website are all great options, and smart teachers drop hints throughout the year about which ones they’d prefer. One of my friends makes sure the math problems she gives her students are related to shoes and handbags, and this pays off come gift time. Quiz your kids about their teacher’s likes and dislikes, look for clues during the year when you meet with the teacher, and, when in doubt, cash always fits.
Take the time to write a personal note, commenting on how the teacher has impacted your child, or write down quotes from your son or daughter about the teacher. Ask questions like, “What’s the funniest thing your teacher does?” “What do you like best about your teacher?” “When has your teacher made you feel special?” Little insights like these remind teachers that they really are making a difference in their student’s lives.
That’s the key to any great gift: showing that you know and value the person receiving it.
If you’re itching to go beyond the gift card, here are a few other teacher-approved ideas.
Personal messages. Have your child create a tiny book of “Things I Love About My Teacher” for a thoughtful, inexpensive gift.
Award nominations. Look for chances to nominate your child’s favorite teacher for an award. Even if he or she doesn’t win, letting them know you did this will mean a lot.
Summer care packages. Fill a beach bag with summer-themed items: an oversized beach towel, water bottle, sunscreen, flip flops, a book, sunglasses, an at-home spa kit, some nail polish or two margarita glasses and margarita mix.
Classroom care packages. Fill a tote bag with classroom supplies: markers, pens, Post-It notes, stickers, colored tape, and a pretty pencil holder.
Edible treats. Food and drink gifts that don’t take up room in the classroom are always great. Gourmet cookies, chocolates, a nice bottle of wine or even a six-pack of craft beer could all be good options (just make sure giving alcohol isn’t against school policy). If the teacher doesn’t want them, they’ll soon disappear in the teacher’s lounge.
Personalized gear. New teachers or teachers who have recently changed their last name always love something personalized, like a tote bag, picture frame (bonus points for a picture of your child and the teacher in it), a throw blanket, bracelet, or a compact mirror with an inscription. But for the love of all things academic, stay away from apple-themes.