Teacher Appreciation Week, which is the first week of May, is kind of like National Ice Cream Month in July. We should show our gratitude for teachers — and love of ice cream — all year round, not just at a designated time on the calendar.
In the year of virtual classrooms and so many other challenges it’s definitely time for teacher appreciation gifts this week or on the last day of school.
Teacher gifts are usually just small tokens to represent big thanks. Giving a thoughtful gift, however, enhances their value. The Penny Hoarder asked several educators to help create a list of teacher-approved gift ideas.
“The best are the notes from the kids. Honestly, those are the things that you save in your desk drawer,” said Kate Brown who teaches middle school English in Charlotte, N.C.
If you really want to thrill a teacher, suggest your child and several other students write a thank you speech or toast. This was one of the favorite gifts ever for Kathleen Tobin, who teaches high school journalism and multimedia in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“All the seniors got together and wrote a speech thanking me and saying what they had learned for me,” she said. “The seniors each took a part and came up to the microphone and they gave me flowers.”
A thoughtful note or words were the most common response when teachers were asked to name their favorite teacher gift. What they universally don’t love getting: a coffee mug.
Consider these gift ideas for a favorite teacher to go along with a nice note.
20 Teacher Gifts To Buy or Make for Under $10
1. Gift Card for Coffee or Cheap Eats.
A $10 gift card goes a long way at Starbucks, Chic-fil-A or McDonald’s. (A gift card for $10 to a pricey shop or restaurant isn’t a great gift if teachers have to spend more of their own money to use it.)
2. Gift Card for Rare Indulgences.
A $10 gift card won’t buy a week’s worth of groceries at Whole Foods or a local gourmet market (not even close). But it will buy a decadent dessert, pricey body wash or other splurge your teacher might not otherwise treat herself to. A gift certificate to a local bakery is a great option, as well.
“That’s all I ever want and the kids know it,” Tobin said. At the end of that speech in fact, her students threw four bags of Hershey Kisses and miniature Dove bars to her.
4. Baking Kit.
Buy a new set of measuring spoons and a measuring cup from a dollar store. Add a bottle of vanilla extract and pack them together in a pretty gift bag. Include a copy of your favorite cookie recipe if you like. (Get bags and tissue paper for any teacher gift from a dollar store.)
5. Nailed it.
A fun teacher gift is a cute bag with two bottles of nail polish and an emery board. What a nice treat for summer feet.
6. Christmas Ornaments.
“I have so many ornaments on my tree that students have given me over the years. I really do think of each one when I decorate my tree,” said Penny Manning, who teaches fourth grade in Kinston, N.C. “Some are homemade and some maybe they got on a trip or something.” No worries that it’s May. Christmas is always just around the corner.
7. Custom Tote Bag.
The youngest students can make handprints with fabric paint, then Mom or Dad can write “Best Teacher Hands Down,” with a Sharpie. If the handprints are horizontal, they can be turned into fish by adding eyes, bubbles and waves of water. Older children can decorate the bag with a pattern or picture painted or drawn with Sharpies.
8. Custom Note Cards.
A custom set of stationery designed by a student makes for a unique gift. Fold eight pieces of plain, white printer paper in half and the young artist can draw a picture on the front of each. Add eight standard envelopes (the cards can be folded again to fit) and eight stamps.
9. Dog Treats.
These make great teacher gifts. Buy a box of treats or make your own, then put them in a plastic bag and tie a ribbon around it.
10. Human Treats.
Homemade cookies, cakes and pies are always yummy. You can think beyond sweets and make a quiche, soup, spaghetti sauce, pineapple salsa or whatever is your specialty.
11. Emergency Kit.
“One time a student made me the cutest emergency kit,” said Robin Clemmons, who was a preschool teacher in St. Petersburg, Fla. “It was a gift bag with Advil, a Tide to Go stick, chocolate, soda and chips. That was one of the most unique teacher gifts.”
12. A plant.
A little bit of green brightens any at-school or virtual classroom. You can buy a succulent, spider plant, one-pint Santiago Palm or flowering bulbs for $5 to $10.
13. Reusable Cutlery.
“One student gave me reusable travel silverware in this little container. It was a thoughtful gift,” said Clemmons. “Teachers bring their lunch too.” Keep scrolling past the pricey sets on Amazon.com and there are several kits for under $10.
14. School Supplies.
Many teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies such as art materials and teaching aids. Several educators we interviewed said a gift certificate to a school supply store is a perfect gift.
15. Combine Forces.
If two or three families plan something together they can go in on a group gift, such as a gift certificate for a nice dinner out.
16. Tea time.
A box of tea bags, from the grocery store or a local shop is nice. Add a little pot of honey and a pack of colorful cocktail napkins from a discount store.
Many cities have a local soap store selling homemade soaps in a wide range of colors, scents and ingredients. Your kid’s teacher will love a colorful bar with the image of a sunshine, heart, fish or you-name-it embedded in the middle.
18. Memory plate.
Have your student (or you if their handwriting is still emerging) use colorful Sharpies to write experiences the class shared on a plastic dinner plate. Draw a little heart, flower, or circle between each word or phrase. Memories can include titles of books the teacher read aloud, the class pet’s name, a field trip destination, a play conducted, a rainy day game played indoors, a math exercise, or a song the class often sang.
19. Fortune Cookies.
Ask for a few extra fortune cookies when you pick up Chinese food as well as one of the iconic takeout boxes. Place the cookies in the box with a note about how “fortunate” you are to have such a great teacher. Students can decorate the box with a drawing, glitter or a magazine photo collage.
20. Trader Joe’s Candle.
“One year a student gave me a candle from Trader Joe’s. It was in this cute tin and smelled fabulous,” said Robin Tuverson, who teaches sixth grade in Los Angeles. “I had no idea they sell candles and now that’s the only place I buy them. They are just $4. I always think of that student when I get one.” The soy wax candles burn for 20 hours and come in flavors like watermelon mint, strawberry basil, and pineapple cilantro.
21. Class Memory Book
If your child’s school has a Facebook page or you have taken pictures at events throughout the year of the class (not just your little darling), you can get actual photos printed and compile them into an album with funny comments from young students. Ask other parents to solicit answers from their child to questions such as: What you think Mrs. Teacher dreams about at night? What is Mr. Teacher’s favorite food? What’s the most interesting thing you learned this year? Why do you think it’s important to go to school? And for a big laugh: How old is your teacher?
Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.