Teacher gift ideas? Talk amongst yourselves.

It's the last week of school here in Portland. Is everyone as crazy there as they are here? According to my kids' teachers, everyone goes a tiny bit nuts during the last few weeks of school…all the expectations, activities, and anticipation of summer add up to lots of manic energy.

One thing I tend to get a bit squidgy about at the end of the school year: teacher gifts. My kids' teachers and school staff deserve the most heartfelt appreciation, and yet the last day of school sneaks up on me every year. Fortunately, I'm the heartfelt note type, and I'm encouraging my kids to go the same route. (I also made contributions to the collective class gifts.)

All the same, it's nice to hear what kinds of gifts other folks get, and it's especially nice to hear what teachers actually want. Read the comments on a past holiday teacher gift hack — you'll find lots of great ideas there.

Parents: what has been your most popular teacher gift? Teachers: what has been your favorite gift?


  1. says

    My aunt is a teacher and she doesn’t like to receive STUFF. She prefers the heartfelt notes and gift cards to places like Starbucks, restaurants, Target, and the teacher supply store.

  2. Beanie says

    I work for a gourmet candy store and last week had tons of families come in wanting to buy teacher gifts. I sold most of them gift certificates which a few of the teachers have already redeemed. This place is expensive, and two of the teachers said they’d never tried our candy and were thrilled to get the certificates.

  3. says

    As a teacher, the best gifts I’ve ever gotten are personal notes and gift cards. Target, B&N, and Borders were the best.

  4. Jen C. says

    For my daughters 1st grade teacher I made a bouquet by tracing the students hands on card stock and turning them in to lilies. I also had each student take 3 pre-cut hearts home and write three things they will remember about their teacher. These were also added to the bouquet. To top it off, each family sent in a $10 gift card to one of three places (all her favorite places to eat/shop) and those were also added to the bouquet. She now has sweet little remembrances from her students as well as a decent amount of $$ to treat herself with! From her reaction, I really think she enjoyed it.

  5. says

    I am a teacher as well, and yes, PLEASE no “stuff.” It’s all very cute, but please realize that we often get a lot of the same kinds of “stuff.” There are only so many mugs and apple shaped things one person can have, and it makes me feel horribly guilty to declutter it. Save your money! Baked goods and gift cards and heartfelt notes are all that I could ever want.

  6. Ripplebliss says

    After a harrowing June, a bouquet of flowers from students (last year 5 kids pitched in to buy me some yellow roses) is wonderful to bring home on the last day of school. Makes the beginning of summer feel like a celebration in my home. That and a nice bottle of red wine… but that’s another story ;)

  7. says

    Another teacher here – and I agree with the above as to “please no “stuff”. I wanted to add about the personal notes – they can be a thoughtful, and useful, gift. I recently had to put a portfolio together (heading back to work after years of childcare leave) and including some parent and student notes was AWESOME.

    If you can write a note that specifically mentions one good thing the teacher did, even better (“Thanks for working with Janey on understanding division, all your effort really paid off!”)

    Student notes are great to save. Thinking back at all the little faces that have sat in our rooms…well, that’s kind of why we teach. So, if your child is old enough to write or draw something, that means a lot.

    Oh, and chocolates or cookies can be great too. ;)

  8. says

    What about stuff for the class?

    For Christmas, to go with the cookies I baked for my niece’s teachers, I gave them the books Cookies and Christmas Cookies. For the end of year, to go with the gift cards, I got the book First Day Jitters which I thought was pretty funny since it’s (the end of) her main teacher’s first year. (The main character is scared to start school, and the big reveal at the end is that she’s the new teacher, not a new student.) That’s stuff, but it’s not junk, it’s useful… right?

  9. says

    For my daughter’s tireless preK teachers, I do gift certificates for a spa. I think it’s nice if they want to treat themselves to a massage or pedi, but there’s also a product line in case the services aren’t there thing.

  10. Lisa says

    Teacher here. The WORST for me was bath stuff. There’s only so much bath stuff you can use, I must say. I had one student for a couple of years, and her mom always gave $10 Walmart gift cards. That was great. The best was when I was pregnant (due in the summer)and my class chipped in and got me my travel system as my end of the year gift. The main thing is to know the teacher well enough to get something personal.

  11. Megan says

    I’m also a teacher, and the suggestion of books for the classroom is great!! I agree with gift cards, especially if you know a place the teacher absolutely loves. I always hate for parents to spend money on bath stuff or something like that because I feel like it’s completely wasted. I can’t use most of it because hubby is allergic to aloe and most berries!!

  12. says

    Another teacher here. Heartfelt notes rock. I kill plants, so cut flowers are good. Gift certificates are also good. I also appreciate homemade cookies or chocolates. Some of the best gifts I have gotten, though, are books for my classroom. But please NO MORE STUFF!

    For Christmas though, I like ornaments. I hang them on my classroom tree.

  13. Thankful Teacher says

    Every gift I have gotten from students and parents has been wonderful. A gift that I remember as outstanding was actually for a coteacher, but I thought it was so lovely, I’d share: This teacher was fond of penguins, and each year for her kindergarten class, she would do a whole unit on penguins. Her class chipped in and got her a “penguin experience” at the local aquarium. Her daughter came and videotaped her feeding and interacting with the penguins. She uses the tape each year and her class loves it!

  14. Debi says

    I like to give Bath & Body Works gift cards – their semi-annual sales fall at the end of school and after Christmas, so with all the sale prices, the money goes even further. I think Yankee Candle has similar sale timing as well. Victoria’s Secret does too, but doesn’t really seem appropriate for a teacher ;)

  15. Jean says

    As a teacher I vote for gift cards –
    you wouldn’t believe the number of times I visit Dunkin Donuts each week.

  16. says

    Another teacher spouse here reiterating the “no stuff” rule! Gift cards are great, especially for Starbucks or even family restaurants (like many teachers, DH doesn’t get paid over the summer, so it’s nice to get some family dinners out while he’s off).

    At my daughter’s preschool this year, we had the kids stay a bit after school for a few days and go to the park across the street. We directed them in spelling out the name of the preschool with their bodies (3-5 kids per letter) and took pictures. Then a couple of the moms compiled everything and had it framed. So the director of the preschool has her school’s name spelled out in “kids”, ready to be hung on the wall! I thought it was a great idea and would also work for a teacher’s name…something original to put on their desk or hang behind it.

  17. says

    Gift cards, gift cards, gift cards. NO bath stuff, NO ornaments. I feel terrible tossing it all in a dumpster on my way out of the school, but that’s what happens so why waste your time and money. Even a $5 gift card is better than that stuff. Starbucks, restaurants, spas, hair salons, Costco, local grocery (for science experiment ingredients), Walmart etc…all great.

  18. says

    One thing our PTA did this year which has been helpful is survey the teachers about their gift preferences (among other interesting tidbits), and we posted the answers on the PTA website.

    That way, teachers can specify things they *would* like to receive, sort of like a wish list. Parents have been grateful to have some (any!) idea of what to get for the teachers we value so much.

  19. Kate's Mom says

    I’m not adding anything new, but reiterating….

    I like consumables: food, chocolate, flowers, gift cards, certificates for a day spa. (wouldn’t that last one be awesome?!)

    Honestly – the heartfelt note from the kid is more than enough. I teach high schoolers, so they are mature enough to thank a teacher in a meaningful way. But, if someone really feels the need to get me something, it should be something I can use up and get rid of.

  20. says

    Here in Australia the end of our school year is in December. So the teachers get an end of year and Christmas gift all wrapped in one.

    I usually go with vouchers to our local bookstore. Teaching our children to read is such a huge an important job that I want to give back something that reflects that.

    Also try to get my children to make a card to go with it.

  21. annasmom says

    I have given baked goods a lot of times for our child’s preschool staff (thanksgiving, teacher’s appreciation, etc..) and at times gift cards. gift cards are great to give, but even at a minimal $10, i’d have to spend at least $60 to cover everyone. gift cards are fantastic, but unfortunately, some families can’t hack it. so glad that teachers appreciate the heartfelt notes too! :)

  22. Kat says

    The room parents for my twins’ preschool class organized a remembrance book gift for the teachers (there are 2 teachers). Each family was given an envelope with 2 blank note cards with instructions to write a note to each teacher. Then they enclosed that note, plus 2 pictures of their child and $3, and return to one of the room parents. The room parents used the money to buy cute photo albums and some fresh flowers, then inserted the pics and notes next to them. Some of the parents also enclosed gift cards and those were inserted with the notes. The teachers loved their memory books!

  23. Brooke says

    I couldn’t agree more with all of the other teachers who have answered. No “stuff” such as mugs, bath supplies, toiletries, etc.

    The presents I loved the most were either heartfelt notes or letters from my students that I could save in a memory box for years to come, or gift cards.

    In my school, the most prized gift card to get was one from Dunkin Donuts, since we all ended up there every morning before work, or during our lunch hour. However, other great cards to receive were gift cards to teacher supply stores, book stores, Staples, or any other place where we could spend money to put back into our classroom.

    Especially with the amount of budget cuts that are so common today, teachers are spending more and more money out of pocket for their students each year.

  24. Colleen Lalonde says

    I used to work in a teacher store so I saw first hand how much money teachers spend every year, out of their own pockets, to get their classrooms ready and to make their classrooms an enjoyable place for children every year. I would suggest a gift card to your local teacher supply store to give them a little relief when their new school year begins. My daughter is not school age yet but that’s what she will be giving when she is.

  25. says

    Former teacher, and I concur. Notes are great, treats are nice (though when you’re watching your weight or have food issues, not as much, but the sentiment is nice), and gift cards are the bomb. My personal faves were Kohl’s, Target, and Starbucks (nice to be able to treat yourself and a friend to coffee at the end of the month.)

    BUT THE BEST ONES: One parent heard about our “off campus faculty meetings” and got us all gift cards to the local brewpub where we went for happy hour. :) Yeah, Catholic school. We drink.

  26. Courtney says

    For this year I am working on making classroom games for my girls prek & nursery school classrooms(mancala for prek & pickup sticks for the nursery school) i thought this was a cool idea, any thoughts from teachers out there? I thought this way they could leave the games for the kids in class to play but it wasn’t “stuff”

  27. Jenn says

    Another teacher here. I don’t know if it can be said enough times: no “stuff” please! As an elementary school teacher I have donated heaps of mugs, small toys and various other random items, and given away or thrown out countless very smelly bath products and candles.

    The one exception to this: stuff for the classroom. Dry-erase markers, shelf organizers, bulletin board letters, & appropriate books for the class library are all a better use for your money, although most teachers would probably still prefer a gift card for a school supply or book shop.

    And as always, we all treasure heartfelt notes whether they come with a gift or not. Really. We’re not just saying that. THOSE are what we keep and cherish.

  28. courtney says

    I did a collection for a Lakeshore gift card for our son’s preschool classroom/teachers. They could get stuff for the classroom or themselves or even a present for another teacher. Although against the “no stuff” idea, my son decorated reusable cloth bags with fabric markers and paint. So far all the teachers have used it for lunches and school supplies. We made homemade cards as well. Starbucks gift cards also well received.

  29. Kenton Mama says

    Thank you! Just in time! Tomorrow is the last day of school and I was wondering what to do. Writing notes tonight and getting gift cards tomorrow to give at pick up.

  30. jenny says

    I saw the cutest gift idea for teachers… Last year for Christmas, one of the parents collected money from all the kids in the class, tied them to a tree and presented them to the teacher as a money tree. There were one- twenty dollar bills tied with bows all over the tree as “ornaments”. The teacher ended up getting over $150! The idea was too cute. Money is great and plants are always nice to get. :)

  31. Cindy M says

    For my son’s preachool teachers, I sent a list of 10 questions to each parent to “interview” each child about the teacher. What do you call your teacher, what is her favorite snack food, where does she live, What does she like to do for fun, What is her favorite thing to say, favorite color, etc. They emailed them back to me and I formatted them and printed them out, and made a little 6×6 book to give to each teacher. The teachers read something from each child out loud. The teachers absolutely loved them.

  32. says

    Anything from eBay’s taxidermy category :)
    Actually, I’ve only tested that on coworkers… but I expect it would be equally entertaining when gifted to teachers.

  33. says

    Another former teacher here.
    Loved student-made cards and gifts. Gift cards always appreciated. Borders, Amazon, Teacher Supply, Target – all always made me happy. The best, I have to confess, was when several families would go in for a spa certificate. That kind of a treat is often out of reach on a teacher’s budget, so it would always make me feel super appreciated! :)

    One year, I got my son’s teachers some cute personalized stationary from vistaprint and they seemed really pleased. Conversely, this year with a new baby I have to confess I went and blew a ton of $ at Bath and Bodyworks…sorry, those of you who said you don’t like perfumed lotion!!! At least this is the “nicer” stuff :)

  34. says

    I was the class parent for my 3rd-graders class this year and here’s what worked for gifts: for birthdays and end-of-year: the school uses a scrip (gift cards) fund-raising campaign. Using the same campaign, I was able to buy scrip gift certificates for the teacher. The $100 (or whatever) certificate allowed her to purchase a card for the store of her choice from the scrip ‘catalog’. It worked out really well all around.
    Latest post: http://wanderlustandlipstick.com/blogs/wandermom/2009/06/07/family-travelgear-review-gogobabyz-infant-cruizer/

  35. Laura says

    I don’t know if this counts as a gift, but I offered to meet my kindergartener’s teacher on ‘work day’ the day after school ended and help her take down her room. She is moving to 5th grade next year, and her room had to be completely dismantled. Her thank you note seems to indicate that it was appreciated, and I don’t have to worry about it ending up in her garage sale. :)

  36. says

    Another teacher here – notes are nice for sure, and it’s especially nice if you send a copy to the principal :)

  37. says

    I think the best gift for a teacher from a parent would be support in the classroom. Especially for special days, I know that teachers appriciate a chance to have a well prepared parent keep the students engaged. Thoughts… http://HSSSblog.com

  38. says

    For my daughters 4th grade teacher (3 years ago), we had a caricature of him done at http://www.giveacaricature.com. He loved it! We just saw him yesterday at another teacher’s birthday party, and he (and his wife) mentioned to us how much they still loved that caricature. I guess it was a good gift idea. We also did one for my daughters school bus driver who was retiring a few years ago (she had drive all 3 of my daughters all during elementary school). She made a point of stopping by our home over the summer to let us know how much the personalized caricature meant to her. They can be a little expensive, so it’s a great group/classroom gift idea.

  39. Liz says

    My son took preschool from the most amazing teacher who used djinkers clipart on everything. So for the end of year gift I gave her a gift certificate to the website so she can update or add to her collection. http://www.djinkers.com/

    My mom was a 3rd grade teacher for 35 years, mugs, candy, soaps, lotion and almost everything else besides the heart felt note were regifted or donated to the thrift and homeless shelters.

    The best gifts she has received were: a cross stitch of her last name, an engraved bell (she collected them) and wedding invitations. When we go out and someone call’s her Mrs. “…” and stops to talk to us, she glows for the rest of the day.

  40. Amy says

    I have been guilty of giving some terrible teacher gifts in the past, but for the last couple of years, I’ve tried to make up for it. This year, my kids got their teachers each a gift card from Target and put it in a reusable gift bag with some chocolate truffles. I had each of them make a card of construction paper and we glued their school pictures inside along with the Target gift card. I tried not to micromanage the homemade cards and my son’s looked very authentically made by a kindergartener, which I’m sure the teacher liked. :)

  41. says

    I just blogged about a cool “green” gift that would be great for teachers — a reusable grocery bag that you can personalize with a name and design. And it’s only $10.55 a bag, which is cheap (great for multiple teachers), but yet it still shows that you took the time to give something personal. (here’s the link: http://www.randomneuralfirings.net/?p=341)

  42. says

    We always give the teachers small, flowering plants in pretty pots and the kids make thoughtful cards. Thanks for reminding me! I better get on that!

  43. Cheri Heupel says

    My son has High Functioning Autism and will be leaving developmental preschool after 3 years. For him, writing his name has been a struggle and is now a big accomplishment. I got mugs from Starbucks that you can pull out the paper inside, decorate it, and put it back in. I glued a picture of my son onto it, and then he carefully wrote his name. I am going to include a thank you note inside telling them how much they meant to our family.

  44. Jen says

    for xmas I had post it notes and stickers made with “from the desk of Mrs. XYZ, and From the Library of Mrs XYZ made at vistaprint.com. They seemed to be a hit and actually classroom useful, at least in my opinion.

    My mom is a teacher (and borderline hoarder) so I completely Echo the no “stuff” rule. “Stuff”= knicknacks, stuff that collects dust, etc.

    for the end of the year, I did a gift card to a spa for the main teacher and smaller amount coffee cards for the art specialist, gym teacher, music teacher, etc.

  45. says

    Yes, yes, yes to no more teacher gifts of random stuff! Way to go Parent Hacks on raising the profile of this idea. I’ve enjoyed reading responses from actual teachers since I work at small nonprofit company that is hoping to reduce the number of gifts of “stuff” and instead increase gifts to charities. We’ve received really positive feedback for customized gift cards that go to charity – or as we call them TisBest Charity Gift Cards. You can upload a picture of your kids of the whole class and include a personal message.

    There are several quotes on our teacher gift page, the most powerful one in my mind is from a 5th Grade Teacher from Omaha, NE who said, “I can truly say I’ve never received a more meaningful gift.” The basic idea is that you make the donation and your teacher gets to choose which nationally recognized charity receives the funds! Check it out!

  46. Colleen says

    One year I gave a loaf of Amish bread and mini jars of Amish jam. The teachers (and a spouse) said they loved it. A friend shared that she used to buy the teachers summer themed paper plates & napkins.