Teacher Gifts That Teachers Actually Want
Whether it’s for the holidays, Teacher Appreciation Day, or the last day of the school year, a thoughtful present for an educator who’s gone above and beyond will put a smile on their face. There are the common teacher gifts: anything with an apple motif, sweets, and caffeine. But this year, why not think outside the box with your choices? It’s fun to get creative with gift giving by presenting her with something that’s a little bit more personalized to her tastes—that way, she’ll know how much you appreciate her hard work, patience, and commitment to the job. If you know she’s very specific about the cup of joe she brings into the classroom everyday, instead of the regular mug-and-beans set, look for a unique brew or a techy mug that keeps coffee extra warm. Or maybe her favorite work bag is worn, it might be time to gift her with something practical for the job, like a personalized tote bag or laptop case so she can transport her lesson plans, books, and gadgets easily. If you’re choosing a gift for your child’s teacher, let them get involved when you’re shopping—they’ll have some good ideas about what their teacher likes. For a smaller token, you can help your kid choose some personalized stationery for their teacher’s desk or a pretty office accent. Or for a more sentimental gift for your child’s favorite teacher, have him create a drawing or thank-you note and put it in a pretty frame. Whether it’s a small or big token of appreciation, she will be touched by the thoughtful gesture.
Weathered Wood Frame
Treat the teacher to a thoughtful keepsake from your student—it 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.” For a similar idea, have your child create some artwork for his teacher and place it in a frame along with a small thank you card signed by him. She can keep it on her desk or hang it in the classroom.
To buy: $39 for 13.5-inch square frame, westelm.com.
Chances are your child’s teacher goes through a lot of paper goods throughout the year, so even more stationery would be 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 her a notebook emblazoned with her name or initials on it, so she’ll always know which one is hers. 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: $16, minted.com.
Contigo Autoseal Transit Stainless Steel 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.” Gift her something that does double-duty: In the morning she can fill this insulated travel mug with her favorite coffee brew and when she’s done, it can be washed and used for water throughout the day. She can get her caffeine fix and stay hydrated, without having to carry both a mug and water bottle around.
To buy: $25, amazon.com.
“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 in Mount Prospect, Illinois. What she wants from her students this holiday season? “Anything coffee!” she says. Sure, you could opt for a single gourmet bag of roasted beans, but why not go all in for your child’s favorite educator? Mouth’s Java Junkie collection includes not only a can of Brooklyn Roasting’s Sumatra Permata Gayo beans, so she can brew her much needed 2 p.m. cup o’ joe, but also assorted snacks from Tcho, Roni-Sue Chocolates, The Yes Bar, Fat Toad, and Jacques Torres, so she can keep her caffeine buzz going while she’s grading papers.
To buy: $63, mouth.com.
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 be a welcome present for any educator. “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. The canvas tote bag can be personalized with a monogram and symbol (like a bicycle, the Eiffel Tower, a sailboat, or an anchor). She can use this for work and during weekend errands.
To buy: $69, 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 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 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: $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. As school districts cut classroom budgets, many teachers are finding themselves making up the difference… and out of their own pocket. Help out by picking up the items that are just a tad more expensive. “I love getting new sets of markers,” says Kate McNally, a high school foreign language teacher in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. These juicy 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: $13 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 putting up any preserves of your own this season? Order the “Black and Blue Jam” from Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Bonnie's Jams—it tastes great on everything from toast to peanut butter and jelly.
To buy: $11, mouth.com.
He may be stuck in the classroom from Monday through Friday, but you can still encourage wanderlust with an interactive travel journal that’s filled with domestic and international travel tips, scratch-off maps, and blank pages for jotting down memories—or long-range plans. “One of my favorite 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!” Now that’s the kind of attention to detail that will send your kid straight to the head of the class.
To buy: $25, uncommongoods.com.
Silent Night Musical Ornament
“My favorite gift to get 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 festive holiday spirit with this sleek and sophisticated ornament. Unlike most tree décor, this version plays the famous Christmas Carol “Silent Night” when you twist the base. Forget the words? The lyrics are engraved around the perimeter of the shiny silver bauble. It’s sure to delight her 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: $35, markandgraham.com.
Race to the Treasure! Board Game
Sometimes the least personal gift is actually the most welcome (and, bonus, you won’t have to think too hard about what her 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. This award-winning board game, for ages five and up, teaches strategy and cooperation as up to four kids work together to beat an ogre to a treasure—all in about 20 minutes.
To buy: $16, amazon.com.
Handmade Greeting Card
“I would always take a sincerely written card over a gift card,” says Lauren, a guidance counselor, “because it shows the student had to think about what you mean to them.” And while a handwritten note from your little angel would be special even if it were scrawled on a cereal box panel or a sheet of loose-leaf paper torn from his or her notebook, why not upgrade this heartfelt gift to a frame-worthy handmade greeting card? This artful version would look beautiful in a plain white wooden frame on her desk after she’s read the note.
To buy: $3.50, artbytheresakenny.etsy.com.
Compost Cookie Mix
“Compost Cookies” may sound suspect, but there’s no doubt that Momofuku Milk Bar’s recipe is nothing but quality—and utterly delicious (and we mean can’t-stop-eating delicious). “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 version of chocolate chip cookies also packs butterscotch, oats, coffee, potato chips, and pretzels. Take our word for it and buy a package for yourself—these not-too-sweet cookies are as addictive as they are unusual.
To buy: $5, target.com.
Sports Team Tumbler
“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 Teach something small and fun that s/he can leave in the classroom. If her home is, say, die-hard Patriots territory, anything with the competing team logo might not make it past the front door!
To buy: $13, fanatics.com.
Dean & Deluca Brownie and Blondie Assortment
It’s a cliche for a reason, people: 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 brownies and blondies (six chocolate brownies and six butter-toffee blondies) offers up something for all taste buds, plus it comes in a beautiful red tin that can be reused once the bars are gone (and, trust us, that won’t take very long at all!).
To buy: $45 for 12, deandeluca.com.
Candy Is Magic Box
“Candy is always good,” says Cheryl, a former high-school history teacher. “If I can’t use it, it’s easy to regift at the holidays!” Your favorite educator will want to regift someone else’s peppermint bark and hold tight to this box of Quin’s best-selling candies. Inside, she’ll find melt-in-your-mouth Salty Sweet Caramels; chewy, fruity Dream Come Chews in flavors like strawberry lemonade; and rich, salty chocolate and coffee Twizzlie Chews. What could be sweeter? The treats are made from pure fruit instead of refined sugar. The artful box means no wrapping required.
To buy: $17.50 for a seven-ounce box, mouth.com.
Here is 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: Middleton’s Megastars, Simpson’s Star Squad…you get the idea. The pencils can be personalized with one line of up to 30 characters.
To buy: $19, orientaltrading.com.
Spinning Hat Retro Vinyl Coasters
It may feel like taking the easy way out to get something artsy for the art teacher, or 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 her beverage of choice that much more fun.
To buy: $7 for six, amazon.com.