I was going to update this list from last year but when I checked around, my fellow teachers had the same holiday wishes, just tweaked for current circumstances:
Holiday gifts for teachers are a challenge. If your child has many teachers, it’s difficult to find a personalized gift for each that is both affordable and valued. For me, as a teacher, I am always happy with a gift certificate that works anywhere but there are time-proven ways to get more creative than a gift that sounds like “money”.
When I chat with teacher friends, here are the most popular gifts they’ve gotten over the years. Many are free and others allow you to spend only what you can afford while still giving a gift the teacher will love.
Most popular gifts
The suggestions below provide ample choices of gifts for your child’s teacher regardless of how well you know them.
Compliments to the Administration
Happy parents often forget to share their joy with the teachers’ administrators. Too often, Principals hear from parents only when they’re angry about the teacher or some class activity. Providing unsolicited good news about the teacher’s effectiveness is a wonderful treat for both the teacher and the school’s administrators.
A Thank You Letter
Handwrite a note to the teacher telling them how much you and your child appreciate what they do. There’s little more valuable to a teacher than the acknowledgment from stakeholders that their efforts are appreciated.
If you know your way around a computer, iPad, or Chromebook, offer to help your favorite teacher with either training, debugging, or problem-solving. While some teachers are comfortable chatting with a computer, many aren’t. How nice to gift her/him with a personal guru available either in person, through a remote connection, or virtually with a program like Google Meet or Zoom. And the list of tech challenges from my fellow teachers was much longer than usual. Parents: Feel free to offer some tech help with the teacher or students.
While this feels impersonal, it is a great gift. Let teachers use them on whatever they need most, often something you wouldn’t have thought of. Gift cards can be used in the physical store or online, as a general card like an American Express or MasterCard Gift Card, available for use wherever that card is taken, or store-specific like a movie theatre, Amazon, Scholastic, and Starbucks. Gift Cards are one of my favorite gifts because I enjoy them for month’s afterward.
A Gift from Teacher Wish List
It’s becoming popular for teachers to have an online wish list of teaching materials they need. You may remember these from Scholastic books or back-to-school supplies. They’ve grown up and now cover all kinds of teaching and classroom resources. Take the time to find out if your teacher is registered online with an organization. Or, help them do this.
Most Unpopular Gifts
Wondering what to avoid? Here’s a list I curated from online “worst teacher gift” sites. It’s worth noting that I have received all of these and actually liked them, so take this list with a grain of salt:
- candles (teachers got their fill of these their first few years teaching)
- mugs (like candles, teachers have plenty of these)
- I Love Teacher stuff (they already have as much as they can ever use)
- homemade food (lots of people worry about how well these are made. Me, I’ve actually gotten food poisoning from homemade food)
- intimate gifts (teachers just don’t know you well enough for this)
- jewelry (what’s beautiful to you might not be to the teacher)
- cheap stuff — these are gifts that are poorly-made and will not last. Better to spend the same amount of money on a well-made lesser-priced gift.
Remember: You don’t have to give gifts. Often, a heartfelt greeting or holiday card is as meaningful as a bar of expensive soap or a holiday ornament for the tree. One of my favorite gifts was a framed Thank You to me from a student. I displayed that for years, until I retired and now it has a place of honor in my home office.
Whatever you give, make it from your heart, with your love, and carrying a personal meaning.
More on holidays:
More Holiday Activities That Keep the Learning Going
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.