The Most Thoughtful and Useful Teacher Gift Ideas, According to Actual Teachers
A Nice Frame With Your Child's Artwork or Handwritten Note
Treat your favorite teacher to a thoughtful keepsake that will go a long way.
"For my favorite sentimental gift, all of my students got together and made me a beautiful thank-you card when I was transferring to a new school,” says Allison, a first grade teacher. “I framed it and have it hanging in my bedroom."
To replicate this idea, have your child hand-write and sign a sweet note, or create some artwork, for the teacher and place it in a nice wood frame along with a small thank-you card. The teacher can keep it on their desk or hang it in the classroom.
To buy: West Elm thin wood gallery frame, from $29; westelm.com.
Personalized Notebooks or Stationery
Chances are your child’s teacher goes through a lot of paper goods throughout the year, so even more stationery is always a welcome addition. "I love personalized sticky notes, notepads, and stationery," says Sara, a first grade teacher. "I’m always in need of those, and it’s cute when it’s personalized."
Gift them a notebook with their name or initials on it, so they'll always know which one is theirs. This one from Minted can also be ordered as an address book or monthly planner, and customized with spiral or grommet binding, and blank, lined, or graph paper.
To buy: Big Apple notebooks, $16; minted.com.
Two-in-One Travel Mug
"A mug and water bottle are great gift options because I’m always drinking coffee or water to stay hydrated and caffeinated while teaching," says special education teacher Erin. “When I don’t have one on me, I have to go several hours before I can take a break to get something to drink.”
Even better? Gift the teacher something that does double duty: In the morning they can fill this insulated travel mug with their favorite coffee brew. When they're done, they wash it and use it for water throughout the day. They'll get their caffeine fix and stay hydrated, without having to carry both a mug and water bottle around.
To buy: Contigo Autoseal Transit Stainless Steel Travel Mug, $20; amazon.com.
Coffee-Themed Gift Box
"Once the school year starts it's like running a sprint between vacations. I need all the help I can get between work and home," says Katie, a high school physics teacher. The teacher gift she always loves to get from her students? "Anything coffee!" she says.
Sure, you could opt for a single bag of roasted beans, but why not take it up a notch for your child’s favorite teacher? Mouth’s The Coffee Fix collection includes not only a can of Brooklyn Roasting’s Sumatra beans, so they can brew their much-needed 2 p.m. cup of coffee, but also assorted caffeine-laced snacks like chocolate-espresso cookies and snack bars, cold-brew concentrate, mocha caramels, and more to keep their buzz going while they're grading papers.
To buy: The Coffee Fix curated gift box, $70; mouth.com.
Customized Canvas Tote Bag
Teachers don’t travel lightly to the classroom, especially when they have notebooks, folders, lesson plans, and a laptop or tablet to bring to class. A sturdy tote will always be a welcome present.
“One of my students got me a monogrammed tote bag with an apple on it that I use each day," says first grade teacher Allison. “I always think of him when carrying it."
This canvas tote bag from Mark & Graham is personalized with a hand-painted monogram. Teachers can use this for work, running weekend errands, as a summer beach or pool bag, and so much more.
To buy: Mark and Graham hand-painted canvas tote, $89; markandgraham.com.
"Getting organized is the single most important thing I can do to make the school day successful," says Sophia, a fifth grade teacher. Her secret tool? Urbio Collection’s Perch Magnetic Containers. These plastic containers are magnetized, meaning they can stick to the outside of a metal desk. And for those without magnetized surfaces, special magnetic plates can be attached to any surface using Command Strips. Not sure they’ll hold up to a big class size? They can contain up to 10 pounds of materials. "I use one for each day, so I have all student materials at my fingertips—even 30 large packets of student handouts fit easily. Every teacher who sees them wants some of their own."
To buy: Perch Biggy magnetic organizer, $15; containerstore.com.
Dry Erase Markers
Though you might think teachers want gifts that don’t remind them of their school day, they actually do appreciate getting classroom supplies. When school districts cut classroom budgets, many teachers find themselves making up the difference out of their own pocket. Help out by picking up the quality items that are just a tad more expensive.
"I love getting new sets of markers," says Kate McNally, a high school foreign language teacher. These long-lasting dry erase markers come in 12 bold colors that will jazz up even the most dry grammar lesson. What’s more? They come with a roll-resistant cap, so they’ll sit on—not under—her desk.
To buy: Quartet dry erase markers $19 for a pack of 12; amazon.com.
"My favorite gift so far has been jars of homemade jelly," says Danielle, whose 7th-grade student made a batch of sweet spreads with her family to give to her teachers. "I loved it so much that she delivered another jar to me the following year when she was no longer my student. Now I use the empty jars as juice glasses."
Not much of a DIY jam maker? Order and gift the teacher jars of the good stuff—like this organic jam made with heirloom blueberries from Bow Hill in Washington. Because who doesn't love a beautifully packaged, edible gift?
To buy: Bow Hill organic blueberry jam, $15; mouth.com.
Teachers may be in the classroom from Monday through Friday, but you can still encourage wanderlust with an interactive travel journal filled with tips, maps, and blank pages for jotting down memories or long-range plans. "One of my favorite teacher gifts was a book on traveling around the USA," says Megan, an elementary school principal. "My student remembered that I wanted to see all 50 [states] and told his mom." That’s the kind of attention to detail that'll really stand out.
To buy: Fifty States Traveled journal, $30; uncommongoods.com.
"My favorite holiday gift to get as a teacher is an ornament," says Suzanne, a middle-school English teacher. "I love thinking of my students each year as I decorate my tree."
Bring the holiday spirit with this simple frosted white ornament set painted with festive messages in gold foil. This cheerful tree decor will delight the teacher's whole family for years to come. (Free gift wrapping is available, too, so all you’ll have to do is slip it in your child’s backpack before holiday break.)
To buy: Mark and Graham Festive Phrase Ornaments, $29 for set of 4; markandgraham.com.
Gifts for the Classroom
Sometimes what seems like the least personal gift is actually the most welcome (and, bonus, you won’t have to think too hard about what the teacher's interests are).
"I love when parents make donations to the classroom such as books for the class library or board games for rainy-day recess,” says Tara Marie, a second-grade teacher who would gladly forgo bath gel and winter gloves for more practical gifts. These award-winning books, written and illustrated by Mo Willems, will have the kids reading, learning, and laughing all year long.
To buy: It's a Busload of Pigeon Books! $16, amazon.com.
Heartfelt, Hand-Painted Greeting Card
“I would always take a sincerely written card over a gift card,” says Lauren, a guidance counselor. "It shows the student had to think about what you mean to them.”
And while a handwritten note from a student would be special even if it were scrawled on a scrap piece of paper, why not upgrade this heartfelt gift to a frame-worthy handmade greeting card?
To buy: Little Bird in Snow greeting card, $3.50; etsy.com.
DIY Cookie Mix
"Cookie mixes are perfect," says Cheryl, a former high-school history teacher. "That way you can make the cookies at a later date, rather than having to eat them during the deluge of treats at the holidays!"
This classic version of chocolate chip cookies is essentially comfort in a box—the perfect gift for any teacher with a sweet tooth and a penchant for baking.
To buy: Stonewall Kitchen classic chocolate chip cookie mix, $9; amazon.com.
Sports Team Themed Gift
"I love gifts that show a connection to the student," says Crystal, a middle-school math teacher. "I once had a student who was trying to convert me to a Mets fan all year so he bought me a Mets teddy bear for my classroom. I still look at it and smile!"
Here’s a tip for all you sports fans: Take a cue from Crystal’s student and get your teacher something small and fun that they can leave in the classroom. If their home is, say, die-hard Patriots territory, anything with the competing team logo might not make it past the front door.
To buy: baseball park map glasses, $35 for set of 2; uncommongoods.com.
Assorted Brownies and Blondies
Sweet treats are crowd pleasers, especially around the holidays, when the recipient can share the goods with friends and family members. "Baked goods are great because my whole family can enjoy them," says Linda, a fourth-grade teacher.
This box of 12 decadent, baked-from-scratch dessert bars offer a little something for all taste buds, and comes straight from the famous New York Magnolia Bakery—so you know they're good.
To buy: Magnolia Bakery Baker's Choice Bars, $46 for assorted dozen; magnoliabakery.goldbelly.com.
Candy Bento Box
“Candy is always good,” says Cheryl, a former high-school history teacher. “If I can’t use it, it’s easy to re-gift at the holidays!” Your teacher will want to re-gift someone else’s peppermint bark and hold tight to this box of Sugarfina candies. This curated selection of three different specialty candy boxes is more than enough to show your teacher with a sweet tooth some love.
To buy: Sugarfina Sweet & Sparkling Bento Box, $28; shop.nordstrom.com.
Here's something you might not know: Teachers often have to spend their hard-earned money on supplies and décor for their classrooms. "Come December, I'd be thrilled with a big box of pencils and glue sticks," says second-grade teacher Tara Marie. "Silly as it sounds, these items get used up so quickly, so even something as simple as that is very much-appreciated." Upgrade an ultra-practical gift, like neon-colored pencils emblazoned with custom messages, like the name of your school. The pencils can be personalized with one line of up to 30 characters.
To buy: personalized neon solid color pencils, $20 for pack of 72; orientaltrading.com.
It may feel like taking the easy way out to get an artsy gift for the art teacher, or something sporty for the physical education coach. But take music teacher Allie’s word for it when gifting this year: Playing to an educator’s passion is a can’t-miss strategy. “I always love music-related things I can decorate with, especially coasters or unscented candles,” says Allie, who works with elementary-aged kids. These stylish retro-inspired vinyl coasters, which measure four inches in diameter, should make ending the day with a hard-earned glass of their favorite beverage that much more enjoyable.
To buy: Spinning Hat retro vinyl coasters, $12 for six; amazon.com.