The Best Teacher Gifts Have Nothing to Do With Apples Or School Buses – I Promise

Riddle me this: We trust our teachers with the education and well-being of our children for the majority of their day, every day. We know that educators are hugely influential in the growth and development of our children. We know that teachers are undercompensated and overworked. We know that education is a labor of love, and that a really amazing teacher can positively change our children’s lives… In short, teachers are totally awesome, so why do we think that a $5 tchotchke from the Christmas Tree Shop is an appropriate way to show our thanks?

I don’t actually have any kids, but I do have a number of friends who are teachers, and I’ve seen some pretty amazingly awful things get toted home dutifully in brightly colored gift bags. Seriously people, COOL IT WITH THE APPLE STUFF! (or anything that says #1 teacher or has a school bus on it for that matter).

1. The best gifts are personal, it doesn’t even have to cost money. Teachers aren’t expecting fancy swag, but they do like to know that they are recognized and appreciated. A home made card and heartfelt sentiment from you and/or your child (preferably both) will win hands down over a bargain bin sno-globe any day. However, if you can wrap your sentiment around a nice gift… well then, all the better.

2. Gift cards/certificates! Chances are you don’t know where your teacher likes to shop, or what he/she does on his/her free time- so generic bank gift cards, Target, Starbucks, or mall gift cards are pretty safe. A gift certificate to a local day spa or nice local restaurant is also appropriate. *NOTE* this does not mean APPLEBEES! It means locally owned, a little on the upscale side, and with incredible food. Also, the amount should be enough for a full meal. For gift cards in general, if you can’t afford to give a reasonable amount- then don’t go this route. Just stick with the nice card option as detailed above.

3. Stuff! So you want to give a concrete “little something”, that’s fine. Just stay away from the apple/teacher oriented garbage (because that is where it will inevitably wind up), and try to get something that is attractive, useful, and of good quality. A few ideas that won’t decimate your budget:

– A really nice (and possibly eco-friendly) travel mug.
– An adorable novelty flash drive.
– A set of beautiful stationery or blank cards (i’m talking letter-press here not hallmark gold crown).
– A nice and sturdy reusable bag (teachers always have so much to carry!).
– Or, take up a collection with the other parents, and buy one big ticket item like tickets to a pro sports game, a high-value gift card, or something specifically tailored to suit your favorite teacher.

Not earth shatteringly innovative, but definitely less likely to wind up at the Goodwill.

4. Pitfalls! Along with not buying crap, there are a couple other things to avoid in the world of classy teacher gift giving:

– A gift for the classroom is not a gift for the teacher. If you want to gift the classroom with something nice, then do that separately. Give the teacher something for him/her. You wouldn’t give your housekeeper Windex as a holiday gift (or would you!?).

– Food is a slippery slope. Anything low-fat, low-cal, or diet seems insulting. Anything high fat or decadent is just unhealthy (and probably compounded by saturated fat laden food gifts from at least 10 other parents). Aim for something in the middle. I think they’re tacky as hell, but those edible arrangements seem popular, or maybe just some gorgeous foil wrapped fruit from Harry & David? Or, if you must give sweets, let them be the best sweets available. Unless they’re diabetic or allergic to chocolate, Godiva is usually a no-fail situation.

At the end of the day, teacher gifts are optional, not required. If you can’t muster up anything genuinely nice or thoughtful to say to/give to your child’s teacher (let’s face it, they’re not all gems), then skip it entirely. Chances are, they won’t even notice.

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