Teacher Appreciation: The Best Gifts for Teachers

Teachers: We trust them with the lives of our children; they are in charge of molding young minds, educating and inspiring future generations. Their job is becoming increasingly more hazardous and dangerous as the years go by. Yet, they are some of the most underpaid and under-appreciated members of our workforce. Many teachers buy their own supplies and sacrifice their personal time to meet the needs of their students. We have all had a teacher or two that had a profound impact on us, and countless others who quietly guided us through our grade school years. If anyone deserves recognition, it is our teachers.

Teacher Appreciation Week is in May, and I saw an instagram post (via @teachermisery) where teachers shared gifts that they had received. You guys, I am not exaggerating, I experienced a full body cringe. It listed everything from stolen items given by children and requested back by parents, to items from the administration that were riddled with misspellings and poor grammar. Given to teachers! Some of the worst? Expired food items, brown bananas, a single tea light candle, and a ‘free lunch’ which included soup out of an old paint bucket. (Just let that sink in for a second.) It is not about the money, but it is about the thought and effort, and I know that we can do better for our teachers.

With the end of the school year approaching, I wanted to offer this guide filled with ideas that will help you show your true appreciation and admiration for the teachers in your life, within any budget.

If you are a parent/student:

Teacher Appreciation Gifts
  • Write a Handwritten Note: This is probably the most meaningful gift that you can give to a teacher. Thank them for their help over school year, and be specific. What did you appreciate about them? What stands out specifically? Did they inspire your child’s interest in a subject? Did you notice a positive change in your child over the year? Did they stick with your child despite challenges? Depending on the child’s age, it might be appropriate for them to write their own note or to draw a picture for the teacher.

  • Volunteer: Volunteer to help your teacher breakdown and clean the classroom at the end of the year, and/or help to set it up for next year. Time is the most precious resource for all of us and giving your teacher a few hours back to enjoy their summer would be much appreciated.

  • Buy Supplies: Ask your teacher what school supplies they need replenished. Provide what you can. If the list is large, consider distributing it amongst the parents and ask everyone to pitch in what they are able to. With this some of this financial burden lifted, teachers will have more of their own disposable income to spend on whatever they wish. What a gift!

  • Small Gifts: If you would like to get your teacher a small gift, make sure it is thoughtful, appropriate, and functional. Try to think about your teacher’s interests, personality and potential needs. Some great gifts could be: their favorite candy or baked good, a high-quality notebook, a plant, a reusable water bottle, a travel mug, or something suited to their particular interests. When in doubt? You can’t go wrong with a gift certificate to Target, Amazon, or a local coffee shop.

  • Larger Gifts: If you are organizing a teacher gift from the class, or if you are looking to do something supremely generous, you may want to give on a larger scale. Again, I would try to tailor this to the particular interests of the teacher. For example, maybe you buy the science teacher with a love of astronomy their own star, which comes with a certificate that they can hang in their classroom. If nothing particular comes to mind, a photo book made by the students or a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant would also be appreciated.

If you are an administrator:

Teacher Gifts, Best Teacher Gifts from Administrators
  • Write a Handwritten Note or Letter: If you are an administrator, heartfelt recognition and praise are the best gifts that you can give to your teachers. Get specific and let them know why they are an asset to the students and school community. Engage the students and staff, and encourage them to show their appreciation.

  • Give them Time: If possible, consider giving teachers the gift of time off. Add a few additional PTO hours to their schedule or dismiss them early from a staff meeting. Time is a precious gift that will allow them to pursue personal interests, relax and recharge.

  • Offer Perks: Unless you have the budget for at least $5 a teacher, you may want to forgo individual teacher gifts and use that money to invest in ‘perks’ that would be available for all teachers to enjoy. For example, you could buy a keurig for the breakroom, add a comfortable chair, or cater a breakfast or lunch.

  • Ask Them: If you are not sure how to use the budget to make your teachers feel appreciated, ask them! Have a few possible options and allow your teachers to vote on how they would like that money spent. You can also survey them to find out where they would want lunch catered from, and other non-financial perks that they would be interested in.