A-List Gifts for the Holiday Season
You’d like to give your child’s classroom teacher a special gift before the winter break. But what do teachers really want? Yes, most will graciously accept yet another “World’s Greatest Teacher” mug or a mini school bus ornament. But unless the teacher is collecting such items for a career-long assemblage project, they are best left on the store shelves. The following are some Can’t-Go-Wrong teacher gift ideas. (And be sure to check school policies—many districts limit the value and type of gifts received by their employees.)
Personal notes. A hand-written note, along with a card made by your child is one of the best-loved teacher gifts. Teachers light up as they read “words of wisdom” imparted by students. These are keepsakes, cherished and saved for years to come. If you write a letter to your child’s teacher, be specific about what she’s doing well. Instead of, “You’re a great teacher!” try “I love how you nurture Lucy’s excitement for science with lots of hands-on activities. She always looks forward to writing status notes in the ‘Guinea Pig Log’ when it’s her turn to care for them.” Consider making a copy of your letter for the principal to put in the teacher’s file.
Creative lists. If your child is young or does not enjoy writing, there are many clever ways to list what he loves about being in his teacher’s class. For instance, cut some construction paper into bookmark-ready strips. Attach a word or phrase to each one that describes a favorite classroom experience or teacher trait. Laminated and stuff an envelope with several bookmarks, along with a small (wallet-sized) signed photo of your child.
Donations. Consider funding a specific need or classroom. Many teachers are signed up with funding groups such as Donors Choose (www.donorschoose.org) or Adopt a Classroom (www.adoptaclassroom.org). Gifts are easily made online. Also check with the PTA to see if there’s a wish list for your child’s classroom.
Gift cards. Though parents often think it seems “impersonal” or even “lazy,” the truth is teachers love gift cards. They can choose what they want to buy and when. It’s a sad fact that a teacher may easily spend more than $500 of her own money each year purchasing classroom materials. Gift cards to stores like Target, Staples, and Barnes & Noble are universally appreciated. Unless you know the teacher’s diet and habits well, take care in giving gift cards for food and personal services. Most teachers would welcome a Starbuck’s card, but some might not be as enthused about trying the new hotspot in raw foods cuisine. Similarly, make sure any spa services are flexible—she may look forward to a pedicure with trepidation rather than tranquility.
Food gifts. While teachers often enjoy edible gifts, food items should be non-perishable and healthy. Energy bars, nuts, and dried fruit are at a premium, because they can be stored and used for quick snacks. A teacher often receives so many homemade cookies and coffee cakes that much is given away (or ends up in the garbage). And many don’t want to sabotage a diet with an influx of caramel candy.
Class gifts. Although it takes a bit more planning, there are many benefits to presenting a gift from the whole group. It can show off the class’s personality, reduce the financial expenditure for individual families, and avoid any pretenses of favoritism. If the group decides to go in on a gift card or donation, the teacher can be presented with a larger gift. (At only $5 a head, a class of 25 could make a $125 donation, without violating most district policies.) When coordinating such efforts, it’s important that the gift be presented from all students, whether or not they contributed financially, and all students should have a chance to sign the card.
Still stumped? Check with one of her teacher friends. Another teacher often has great ideas and personal insight as to the perfect gift, whether it be a favorite tea or a small necessity for the classroom.
Article by Ashley Talmadge.