3 Gifts Elementary Teachers Actually Want (and 3 They Don’t)

3 Teacher Gifts Elementary Teachers Actually Want (And 3 They Don't)



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After teaching for eight years, I’ve received a lot of gifts from students. My first few years, I was so thrilled to get these gifts. When I was a kid, selecting and presenting my teacher with a gift was very important in my household, so receiving gifts from my students made me feel like I had made it. I was a real teacher now.

I’ve gotten some great gifts over the years (a Tiffany crystal vase was probably the most expensive), but after a while, each gift becomes one more thing taking up space in the cupboard.

So what teacher gift is sure to be a hit? Teachers didn’t go into education for the money, so you may not be surprised to learn that we care more about the sentiment behind the gift than we do its monetary value.


Best Teacher Gift No. 1: A Hand-Written Thank You Note

A hand-written thank you card from a student and their parents is far and away the best gift you can give a teacher. So many teacher gift lists name this last, almost as an afterthought: “Of course, don’t forget a thank you note. Teachers love hearing how they’ve touched students’ lives.” The thing is, we DO love hearing how we’ve touched students’ lives, even more than we love receiving fancy Tiffany crystal vases. If you can’t afford to buy your kids’ teachers anything, you still can give them the greatest gift of all. Your thank you card doesn’t need to be on nice stationary. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen. Fold the paper in half, have your child illustrate the front, and include a message from both of you on the inside. Trust me, this is the gift your child’s teacher will still have twenty years from now.

Thank You Card Teacher Gift


Best Teacher Gift No. 2: School Supplies

It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, teachers always need school supplies. By December, we’re running low on pencils, Kleenex, and markers. By May, we’re out of everything and need to replenish for the upcoming school year. And in August/September, we’re buying items off our own school supply list for the kids who will arrive on the first day without even a backpack. We spend a lot of our money throughout the year buying supplies for our classroom, giving to the students who don’t have anything so that they have a chance to succeed at school. If your teacher gift is a basket of school supplies, I guarantee your child’s teacher will be grateful. Below is a list of items every elementary teacher needs.
















Best Teacher Gift No. 3: Gift Cards

It may be cliche, but it’s cliche for a reason. Gift cards make great teacher gifts, especially when they are for stores teachers shop at regularly. Amazon, Target, and Wal-Mart are great choices, as are craft stores, grocery stores, and coffee shops. If you want to give a gift card for somewhere nicer, make sure that the amount you put on the card is enough to actually buy one item. For example, if you buy a $10 gift card for Nordstrom, it will be difficult for your child’s teacher to find something that is only $10 at that store. Instead, she’ll have to use the gift card towards the purchase of a higher priced item. In essence, your gift card is now requiring your child’s teacher to spend money in order to use it. That being said, gift cards are small, practical, and don’t take up any desk space – the trifecta for a perfect teacher gift.


Now that you know what gifts teachers will actually love to receive, let’s dive into the three teacher gifts you definitely should not buy.


Worst Teacher Gift No. 1: Coffee Mugs

Teachers have enough mugs. In fact, if teachers put all their “#1 Teacher” mugs together, they could outfit the entire country with at least three mugs per person! There’s not enough coffee in the world for all the mugs we own.


Worst Teacher Gift No. 2: Chocolate, Cookies, or Any Food Items

Gasp! No chocolate for the teacher? But everyone loves chocolate! Yes, everyone does love chocolate, but when you receive chocolate from 10 different kids, your waistline does not love chocolate. Or cookies, or candy, or homemade banana bread for that matter. Please take pity on us and spare us the food gifts. Our resolve to stay on our diet is already shot after our sugar-filled class parties.


What are teacher tchotchkes?  This is the tiny ceramic red apple that opens up to hold a teacher figurine, or the “Teaching is a work of heart” paperweight, or anything that could aptly be described as a “sit-around”, as my mother-in-law calls them. While the sentiment is nice, I don’t look at the tchotchkes I’ve received over the years and reflect fondly on the students who gave them to me. Rather, I hem and haw about where I can find a spot to display them on overly crowded desk and bookshelves.


The bottom line is, though, anything you give that is heartfelt and sincere will be treasured by your child’s teacher. There’s nothing anyone loves more than being shown appreciation for the hard work they’ve put into their jobs.

What is your favorite teacher gift to give (or receive)?

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