The end of the school year is swiftly approaching. Every day, my two older children come home and gleefully announce how many days of school are left (today’s count: 17), and that means we’re really in the home stretch. So it’s time to get it in gear as far as end-of-the-year teacher gifts are concerned!
Buying teacher gifts usually causes me to go into a stress spiral. Is a gift card too impersonal? How much should I spend? Would Mrs. K rather have a bracelet or a scented candle? Or maybe a bottle of wine?
Well friends, this year I got smart: I asked twenty actual teachers – ranging from preschool to high school – what gifts they’ve loved receiving in previous years. And they were so generous with their responses! Some of their most memorable gifts were surprising, some were touching, and all were deeply appreciated. Best of all, there are suggestions here for any budget.
So I present to you the 2016 WKW Teacher Gift Guide, as suggested by actual teachers:
- General gift cards, in any amount
My concern about gift cards being impersonal? Wrong. Eighteen out of the twenty teachers I spoke with mentioned gift cards to stores like Amazon or Target, stressing that any amount is appreciated. As one said, “What better gift to receive than a card you can use to buy what you want and treat yourself?”
Another reason gift cards are great: one person told me most teachers spend $1,000-2,000 per year out of their own pockets for basic classroom supplies. Ouch. An Amazon or Target or similar gift card can help lighten that burden.
- Specialty gift cards, in any amount
If you know your teacher’s interests fairly well, get a gift card to a store you know he or she will like. Barnes & Noble and Starbucks (caffeine for everyone, yay!) were mentioned more than once. And here’s a bonus tip if your child has a fashion-forward teacher: J. Crew offers a teacher discount in stores and online year-round! So a gift card to J. Crew stretches a little farther.
- Baked goods plus the recipe
I especially love this suggestion. A few teachers mentioned receiving cookies or lemon bread or similar from students, and one mentioned how much she loved receiving the recipes, too. She told me she still bakes banana bread from a recipe she received from a family, and she thinks of the child every single time she smells that bread baking in the oven.
- Contribute to a night out
As we all know, teachers are criminally underpaid and they work really, really hard. So help treat them to a night out by gifting movie tickets, restaurant gift certificates, or even a gift card to a service like TicketMaster or Goldstar so they can buy tickets to a concert or play of their choosing. This would be a great group gift if a few families did it together – you could help bankroll a whole evening on the town for your child’s teacher!
- Something personal
If you know your teacher well, a gift tailored to his or her tastes will make a lasting impression. One high school English teacher who (perhaps unsurprisingly) loves books mentioned a student who gave her customized book plates for her home library, and one who gave her a scarf printed with a quote from Pride and Prejudice, her favorite book. A choir teacher showed me a picture of a beautiful bracelet she received with a music note charm.
- A handwritten thank-you note
Out of the twenty teachers with whom I spoke, seventeen mentioned thank-you notes. Here are a few of the comments I heard:
“Hand-write us a letter. It really helps on those hard days to have genuine notes of how we affect the lives of our students and their families.”
“I have actually used a written letter as a source of motivation to apply for a promotion.”
“I love notes from students! I got a pretty amazing one today! I hang them up in my office.”
“The handwritten notes that come attached to the gifts are actually the best part.”
“It’s just nice to be acknowledged for what we do.”
(Spoiler alert: check back here next week for a free printable thank-you note you can help your young child fill out for his or her teacher!)
- A typed thank-you letter, cc-ing the school principal or head of school
My friend who’s worked as a both a teacher and an administrator offered this advice: “Consider typing a letter to the teacher and cc the principal or head of school–it will go in his/her file.” Brilliant.
- A splurge-y lesson planner
If your teacher uses a formal lesson planner, these from Erin Condren are fantastic and were mentioned to me specifically.
- What to skip
I also received a few suggestions on what not to do, and wanted to share those as well. Skip kitschy items, anything emblazoned with the words “World’s Best Teacher”, and mugs. Apparently all our lovely teacher friends have too many mugs!
Proceed with caution when it comes to alcohol. Some teachers said they love receiving wine, but some said they feel it sends a slightly inappropriate message, so use your good judgement on whether wine or a fancy bottle of booze is something your particular teacher would appreciate.
And that’s a wrap on our gift guide! I want to send a huge thank-you and virtual hug to all of the teachers who so generously spoke to me for this article. You are on the front lines doing the most important work, and we are so grateful to you. #TeachersRock