Happy Hispanic teacher and schoolboy giving high five during class at school. (what teachers really want, teacher appreciation week, teacher gifts)I am wrapping up my eighth year as a history teacher, and I’m often asked by friends for gift suggestions to say thank you to the special teachers in their child’s life. While gifts are by no means expected, the gesture means a lot to educators! Here’s a quick guide for gift ideas for teachers:

A heartfelt note

As my husband can attest, I have boxes and boxes filled with letters, cards, poems, and hand-drawn pictures from my students and parents. Students have even created political cartoons for me, and one year, two students who knew I loved theater wrote me a musical!

Teaching can be filled with challenging days, and when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the job, I read through some of those notes — they serve as a huge reminder of why I do what I do! I am so grateful to have these mementos. If you have an older child, encourage them to write something specific they appreciate about their teacher. For younger children, feel free to write your specific thanks and have your child decorate the card. There is no greater gift than knowing we have influenced a child’s life!

A gift card

Most any teacher will agree: When in doubt, give a gift card. There are many teachers who pay for their own classroom supplies, and teachers are constantly using their own funds to keep up with their discipline and pedagogy through books and other online materials. A gift card to Amazon, Target, or a local bookstore goes a long way to support a teacher!

Coffee

It’s safe to say most teachers drink copious amounts of coffee. It’s the running gag of movies, cartoons, students, and teachers themselves. A bag of coffee (or tea, if you know it’s a teacher’s preferred beverage), or a gift card to Starbucks or Dunks will brighten a teacher’s day like a kid in a candy store. Don’t worry about spending your money on the ubiquitous teacher’s mug; we have those and are grateful to receive a delicious beverage to put in it instead.

A CSA/farmers market treat

When I polled my coworkers about their favorite gifts to receive — “Tell me what you REALLY want from parents!” — a few mentioned how much they appreciated a box of local fruits and veggies or goodies from the farmers market. The teachers I know love to support small businesses by buying local, and it’s a thoughtful, creative, and meaningful way to say thank you.

Notecards

Over the years, I’ve received a variety of notecard sets from students. Some have been created by local artists, others have been a mixed collection for “any occasion,” and others have been personalized stationary. Teachers love to put pen to paper, and having these notecards has come in handy on several occasions.

Museum passes

Teachers are lifelong learners, and we love museums. Boston is full of great choices for intellectual learning. From the Museum of Science for science teachers to the JFK Presidential Library for history teachers to the MFA and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for any teacher to enjoy, there are plenty of opportunities to give the teachers the chance to wander through the halls of a beloved museum. I have also incorporated a lot of information I’ve learned at museums into my classroom, so it’s a great way to support teachers in their professional development.

A mini spa treatment

Teaching is a stressful job; a gift card for a manicure at a local nail salon is a nice way to end a busy year with a little bit of pampering.

Movie passes

Along the lines of a gift card, many teachers I know have appreciated the opportunity to have a date night or an evening out to see a movie. Like most teachers, I spend most of my evenings lesson planning or grading papers, so it’s a welcomed chance to take some time to myself with someone I care about. And, I can often find a movie that has a direct application to my curriculum!

Whatever you decide to do for a teacher, know that your thoughtfulness and care as a parent goes a long way. Most important, though, is when I know a parent is my ally — that allows me to make the best decisions I can to help their child, and that might be the best gift I could receive.

This post was originally written in 2015 and has been updated for 2024.

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