Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gift Ideas for Teachers

When I first started this blog, I talked about how there’s more to true hospitality than just having people over for a nice meal. In its broadest sense, hospitality is a matter of giving yourself to others, showing a genuine interest in them, and making them feel special. You can do that even if you live in a tiny apartment or don’t like to cook. Truly, there are ways to show hospitality, even if you don’t have people over to your home for a meal.

A wonderful way to show hospitality is by gift giving. When you give tokens of appreciation and kindness, you are showing others that you care about them. This is especially true if you are giving gifts for “no reason”—you’re not going to a birthday party or shower, and you don’t feel like you’re expected to buy someone a present. I think those are the best kinds of gifts.

This time of year, I like to give gifts to my sons’ teachers—to show our appreciation for everything they’ve done during the school year. Now if your kids are in elementary school, this may be a little easier done, since you probably just have one teacher per child. If your kids are in middle or high school, gift giving can be more of a challenge (more expensive!) since each child may have quite a number of teachers. In that case, you may only be able to give gifts to the teachers you think went above and beyond. For instance, if your daughter’s geometry teacher tutored her once a week after school, you may want to be sure to give that person a gift.

Each of my sons both have eight teachers. I also substitute teach fairly regularly at their high school, so I know a lot of the teachers and school administrators. What I did last week to show my thanks was drop a large tray with about six different kinds of bite-sized desserts (mousse cups, tarts, cannoli, petit fours, etc.) over to their teacher’s lounge at the start of the lunch period. I bought a large round plastic tray from a party store and a plastic lid, which made the platter look more professional than if I just used plastic wrap on a tray. It seemed to go over really well. The following day when I went to the school to sub, several teachers and administrators came up to me, letting me know what desserts they most liked. (Note: you do have to make sure your child’s school allows teachers to accept home-baked gifts; these days it’s not okay in every school district.)

There are many other ways to show appreciation (or “hospitality”) to your children’s teachers. I got the “inside scoop” from some teacher-friends re: what they especially like in the way of gifts from parents. Here are some ideas based on what they told me:

1.) A gift card for Border’s, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, or Teachers generally like to read, and they’re sure to want to spend more time doing that during summer vacation. Put the gift card inside a thank-you card made by your child.

2.) A metal popcorn bucket filled with a bottle of popcorn oil, popcorn seasoning and a jar of gourmet popcorn (or alternatively, filled with boxes of microwave popcorn), bottles of soda and a gift card from the movie rental store.

3.) A gift bag filled with bubble bath, bath salts, fancy bath soap and bath gels.

4.) A personalized mug with a teacher’s design and the teacher’s name on it. There are many online companies that sell personalized mugs and other gifts at very affordable prices. My favorite website for these kinds of items is Even if you don’t want to personalize the mug, they still have a lot of unique teacher mugs available (that you may not see in local stores).

5.) Something a male teacher in particular might really like: a grilling cookbook or barbecue tools. I know a lot of men who enjoy grilling, and during summer vacation, there’s a lot more time to do this.

6.) A gift card for Starbucks, Panera Bread, Saxby’s, Gloria Jeans, or other coffee shop in town. A lot of teachers tell me they enjoy the fru-fru drinks, but don’t always have the money in their budget to indulge in them.

7.) A themed gift basket. Buy a wicker basket from a store like World Market and fill it with items relating to one of the teacher’s favorite hobbies. If the teacher likes to garden, fill the basket with gardening gloves and hand tools like a trowel, transplanter and cultivator. If baking if her favorite past-time, fill the basket with items like a cookbook, whisk, wooden spoons, cookie cutters, tartlet molds, etc. If the teacher is going to be going to the beach a lot this summer or has a pool, you could fill a basket with items like tanning lotion, a bottle of after-sun spray, sun glasses and an inflatable air mattress.

8.) A potted plant. Buy a houseplant (one about the size for sitting on a desk, so that it’s easily transported) from your local nursery or plant store and tie it with a big, colorful ribbon and bow.

9.) A magazine subscription. Order this in advance, so that the magazine publisher can mail you a gift card (stating that the subscription has been purchased) before the end of the school year. Put the magazine subscription card inside a thank-you card addressed to the teacher. If you know the teacher’s interests (i.e., travel, interior design, electronics, music, pets, cooking, etc.), you’ll be able to choose a magazine related to one of these hobbies. You also can’t go wrong purchasing a general interest magazine like National Geographic or Good Housekeeping.

10.) A box of assorted chocolates from your local candy store.

11.) Personalized stationery, cards or note pads. Teachers write a lot of notes to parents, and most seem to like having stationery with their name at the top. There’s no end to the number of online sources of personalized stationery. Most printers are quite affordable these days.

12.) A weekly planner for the upcoming school year. Do a search on 2012 planners and you will be amazed at what all is available for next year already—and it’s just April.

Of course, it helps to know your child’s teacher when chooseing a gift. See if your children can pick up on some clues regarding what might be a well-received gift. For instance, if the teacher always walks into class with a Starbucks coffee in hand, that tells you that a Starbucks gift card would be appreciated.

When my oldest son was in the 6th grade, I got the nickname for being the “Pie and Cookie Lady” at the elementary school. The PTA used to organize monthly teacher luncheons, and I often made desserts for those—usually pies. My son’s 6th grade teacher used to send notes with him, asking for the recipe for the pies I just dropped off at the school. When I went to parent-teacher conferences, the teacher told me she loved to bake pies. So for her, an obvious end-of-the-year gift was a copy of my favorite pie cookbook—with many of the recipes I used during the school year.

Keep in mind though, that even if you don’t have any idea what a teacher might like, anything you give is sure to be appreciated. Even if your child’s teacher already has three coffee mugs that say “World’s Best Teacher” on them, if you give her a fourth mug with that phrase on it, it’ll surely go over well. The point is to let your children’s teachers know that you appreciate them. Everyone likes to know they are valued by others.


  1. Thanks for sharing this blog, personalized stationery is truly unique and alluring.

  2. Thanks for the ideas, Whatever you decide to give to your kid's teacher, know that she will appreciate it. Just the thought of having someone appreciate her job will be treasured for as long as she can remember.