by Jessica Pigza
It’s that time of year again where I make my list and check it twice. I really do enjoy planning and shopping for thoughtful gifts for those I love and who are important to me. Some people are extremely easy to shop for while others leave me scratching my head. One group of amazing individuals that make me ponder the perfect gift are teachers. Every day they actively engage, encourage and teach my children, showing amazing amounts of patience, patience that I wished I possessed. So what do you get for someone who spends 6-7 hours a day, five days a week with your child(ren), yet you do not know them in a truly personal way? To help me answer this question I surveyed a bunch of teachers and some of their responses surprised me. After reading their responses and my own experiences, I put together some ideas along with some do’s and don’t that are sure to help make picking that perfect teacher’s gift a little easier.
1. Steer Clear of Scented Gifts
Scents are such a personal thing and many people may have allergies or aversions to scented products. Unless you know for sure that your teacher loves vanilla scented candles and they can’t get enough of them, it’s better to stay away from giving scented gifts. But, if you do know your teacher adores candles, then try a cool twist on the classic candle. Woodwick Candles crackle as they burn. They really do sound like the gentle crackling of a wood burning fireplace, which is nice to hear, especially if you do not have a fireplace. I love the sound and smell of these candles!
2. Gifts for the Classroom
Every year teachers spend hundreds of their own dollars on their classrooms and their students. They buy things to brighten up and organize their rooms, to engage and reward their students and to provide for those who may not be able to provide for themselves. No matter the reason, your child’s classroom looks the way it does because of all the additional money the teachers spend to make it that way. That is why teachers are always appreciative of receiving school supplies for the holidays. Anything from stickers and pencils to Sharpies and storage containers. Teachers love anything that is practical and useful, especially in their classroom. Why not give a storage container full of school supplies?
Tip: At the beginning of the year some teachers will put together and post a classroom wish list. Why not check back with them to see if there are items that weren’t purchased or that they’ve already run out of.
Elementary teachers especially go through thousands of stickers a year. This is always a good gift idea.
With all the writing, labeling and marking, teachers are always running out of markers.
Kids are rough on pencil sharpeners and with so many pencils to sharpen each year, teachers may go through 4-6 sharpeners a year. Plus it’s more efficient to have more than one sharpener available for students to use.
3. Food Treats Can Be Tricky
When asked whether or not teachers like food items as gifts it was a toss-up. Same with the scented gifts, some people have food allergies or aversions and unless you know for certain they can eat it, I wouldn’t give it. However, if you know your teacher eats gluten-free, you could put together a little basket of gluten-free goodies. If dark chocolate is their thing, splurge on a bar of good dark chocolate.
4. Gift Cards are Very Much Appreciated
Originally, I thought to give a teacher a gift card was taking the easy way out and would come across as impersonal. I’m not sure why I thought that way because personally, I love getting gift cards! That being said, Teachers LOVE gift cards too! If you know where they like to eat or shop go ahead and get that specific place. However, if you’re not sure, get one for somewhere that has a little bit of everything like Target, Walmart or Amazon, which seemed to be the survey favorite.
Amazon has so many cute gift cards and some came with cute little gift bags or tins like this one.
5. Handmade Student Gifts
After reading all the answers to my survey questions, one thing that surprised me the most was just how much teachers value the simple gifts made by the students with an emphasis on notes of appreciation. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be from the heart. Personalized ornaments, a picture frame with a picture of the student and the teacher or something they can hang in the classroom. It’s something they can look at year after year and remind them of just how many little lives they have touched and why they do what they do.
Pick up an unfinished wood frame and have your child decorate it using, paint, feathers, glitter or whatever you have on hand.
Cover up the table, give the kids some paint or even markers and let them go to town decorating some wooden ornaments. They are great for teacher gifts or even family members.
Some snowflake ornaments the kids painted to give to teachers, family and friends this year.
Bonus: It’s Okay to Ask
Still not sure what to get? I learned that it’s okay to ask, but asking the right questions will make the whole scenario less awkward. Just asking a teacher what they would like for a gift puts them in a weird position that they’re not really sure how to respond to. Instead, be more specific with your questions. Are you a coffee drinker? What is your favorite restaurant? One mom even suggested that if she loves something they are wearing she always asks where they got it. That way it gives her an idea where they shop, plus she knows where she can snag one for herself. By asking more specific questions, it takes the pressure off the teacher, but still gives you some insight as to what they like.
Tip: If you are really on the ball, some teachers said they have received Teacher Favorites questionnaires from their students at the beginning of the year. This quick little questionnaire can make gift giving a whole lot easier throughout the year. You can make your own or find one already done online.
Bottom line is that it truly is the thought that counts. Teachers love to and deserve to feel appreciated, especially this time of year. I know how crazy my three kids are at home during the holidays, I couldn’t even imagine trying to keep a whole classroom of kids focused, engaged and in their seats. I also know I don’t have what it takes to be a teacher so a very big THANK YOU to all those who do!
It’s Your Turn: Share your favorite teacher gift ideas with us in the comments!
Jessica is a military wife, married to her husband Nate of 14 years, and stay at home mother to three energetic and fearless children, Sophia, Brandon and Rachel. Originally from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, the military life has given her a chance to live all over the United States and meet many amazing people along the way.