When our child has a favorite teacher, we want to celebrate her with a personalized gift. There's also National Teacher's Day, a perfect time to show your gratitude with a token of appreciation. But how do you find that perfect gift? Does she want another apple? Children's books for her classroom shelves? How about homemade gifts?
As a former teacher myself, I interviewed nearly a dozen teachers to hear about the best gifts they’d received over the years. Here are 11 ideas for gifts for teachers that will show your love, respect, and appreciation for these important figures in your kids' lives.
1. Insulated Water Bottles
The reality of a teacher’s life is that there are precious few bathroom breaks, let alone a moment to go get a cup of hot coffee or refresh with a sip of cold water. That's why a water bottle can be the perfect gift for students to give their favorite teacher. Here’s a list of water bottles that stay hot and/or cold for hours. My favorite is the hydroflask, and while they purport to stay hot for 12 hours and cold for 24 hours.
2. Fresh flowers or a plant
Who doesn't love flowers? Beauty matters, and some studies suggest that light, color, and plants can make a difference in the way that people feel during their work day. Plants have amazing physiological benefits that activate our parasympathetic nervous system which makes us feel calm and safe, so that we can take learning risks necessary to grow.
Teachers are forever writing notes. Consider getting them personalized stationary to dash off those to do list items or to send a note with a student. To make your appreciation gifts and more special, Papyrus has some absolutely beautiful sets that might just brighten someone’s day when they open those envelopes.
4. Gift Cards
Scholastic reported that teachers spend about $500 of their own money per year on school supplies for their classrooms. Inevitably a teacher finds their cart at Target full of new marble notebooks, pencils, or other necessary items. Gift cards to Target, Office Max, CVS, or Walgreens can go a long way toward helping them pay for the classroom supplies (and personal supplies) that they pick up on their way home or the photos that they sent off quick to put up on the bulletin board tomorrow.
One middle school teacher I interviewed shared that cash is the best. He proceeded to whip out eight gift cards he had amassed throughout the years and had never used. It was a reminder that we often gift what we like without asking the person receiving their favorite gifts really are. If you don't want to hand over a wad of bills, you could give her a pre-loaded American Express gift card.
6. Gift certificate to local spa
Teachers might not think anything of tossing more dry erase markers in their tote bag, but they hesitate when it comes to self-care strategies. Try looking up a local spa or massage therapist. Giving your child's teacher a gift certificate to a spa allows her to take some time for herself and relax.
If you're looking for a great idea for a gift teachers love, find out exactly what it is that they enjoy. Send your child's teacher a note or survey to find out the ways that she likes to treat herself themselves, and surprise her with a personalized gift just for her.
8. Class Gifts
If you want to get your child's teacher something a little nicer and pricier, you could go in with the parents of the other students with your child's class to buy a class gift. This can be a great idea for small classes. As with the suprises idea, use a survey to find out some of your teachers' favorite gifts, and chip in on a class gift with the other parents. That way, you can get slightly larger appreciation gifts, such as a nice dinner, play, ski pass, or number of session at SoulCycle.
9. Offer Your Time
Teachers may not need another apple or more mugs, but they do need time. Teachers are managing the mental and emotional load for a children (or teenagers, if they teach high school) every day. Your time and your heart are wildly valuable, especially to a teacher who’s love language may be quality time. Perhaps there’s a big class celebration or a class project that will need manpower to arrange. Offer your time, energy, and enthusiasm to help a teacher pull off a great project. A preschool or elementary school teacher who needs help keeping children busy and excited will especially appreciate this gesture.
10. Free time
One of the best gifts I ever received as a teacher was given to me by my administration. Our principal, vice principal, and instructional coach came in one afternoon 30 minutes before the bell and announced that they would finish the day. We were free to go. Since teachers are bound by school hours and student attendance, they can’t ever sneak off in the middle of the day. Schools are not islands. They are an intricate part of the web of community. Join the PTA, and think about ways to support the administration and the vision of the school leadership. It will help them feel more appreciated.
11. Make time to go back.
A teacher’s work is rarely finished, even when the school day and school year are over. While test scores represent one set of data about how well a student is doing, a great teacher knows that she is planting seeds for their students' futures. Elementary school teachers and high school educators alike can have an enormous impact, but they rarely get to see the fruits of their labor. If you have a favorite teacher who made a difference in your life, make time to go back and visit her. It really does matter. Teachers love hearing from former students; we want to know how your doing!
Jessica Leigh Lyons is a life coach residing in Minneapolis and all around personal development obsessed. When she’s not facilitating groups or working with clients one-on-one, she can be found running around Minneapolis parks, enjoying coffee at Spy House, or planning her next road trip in the great US outdoors.