The Best and Worst Teacher Gifts

The Best and Worst Teacher Gifts

What Do Teachers Really Want?

Twice a year, during the December holidays and at the end of the school year, parents have to think about whether or not to give their child’s teacher a gift. Finding something that shows your appreciation for all of the hard work she does can be a challenge for several reasons.

First, parents may not know what to buy the teacher. But if you listen carefully to the stories your child tells when s/he comes home each day, you will get a glimpse into her personality. If you are active in the school PTA, you may know her better and get a sense of her style, likes and dislikes.

These sterling sliver earrings make a terrific teachers gift. They are budget friendly and very stylish.

Sterling Silver earrings available on Amazon

For example, in 1992, I received a pair of earrings from a student similar to the ones featured above. I loved big, dangle earrings then and I still do! Her mother shared with me that her daughter loved what I wore and told her all about my earrings and outfits every day after school. All these years later, these earrings are still a part of my jewelry rotation.

Second, some parents do not know how much to spend. How much is too much and how much may appear to be cheap? That all depends on your own personal budget. Teachers are well aware of the socio-economic status of their school. If you drive a Mercedes but give a gift from the Dollar Store, then that sends a message to the teacher. If money is tight and you send in some homemade goodies, the thoughtfulness behind the gesture is greatly appreciated.

What are the best gifts for teachers? I have been teaching since 1987, and the following list is based on my personal opinion and those expressed by my colleagues.

Teacher Gifts-It’s Okay to Ask!

I have been asked outright by parents what my favorite stores are, and have received gift cards from those establishments. Those are always welcome, as I can indulge myself in something I might not normally purchase when I have extra money to put towards it.

I also like the occasional luxury item. For example, I have been given a small four piece box of Godiva chocolates, something I never would buy myself. Gourmet goodies, like an box of bakery cookies or chocolate dipped pretzels from the fancy store in town really make my day.

Not sure waht to give the teacher as a thank you gift? Why not give an elegant box of Godiva chocolates?

Godiva Chocolates are available here on Amazon

Gift certificates to a different area salons permit me to indulge in a pedicure each summer. If I am lucky, I get them to Ulta, where I get my hair treated with Kerastright every six months.

I love to get a bouquet of flowers, because I rarely buy them for myself. They brighten up my kitchen and I love the thought and sentiment behind it.

I also like gifts that are unique. For example, one year I received from a student two pouches of gourmet muffin mixes. They were so adorable. My children and I baked both of them as soon as we got home from Hebrew School. The muffins were delicious and it was a consumable gift…one that will not take up space in my home.

Gift Cards Are Not Tacky

When I began my teaching career in 1987, receiving a gift card from a single child was unheard of. All of the schools where I taught gave a class gift of cash or a gift card from all of the children, even if all did not contribute.

Not sure waht to get the teacher as an end-of-year gift? You can buy an Amazon gift card in any denomination! Buy one from your child, a group of friends or the entire class!

Amazon gift cards come in all denominations and styles. You can find this one and many other right here!

Now, with busy lives and little time to shop, it is commonplace for me, as well as other teachers, to receive a gift card from a child or group of children. Personally, I love these gift cards more than the scented potpourri cat or frog sponge holder I have received in the past. My personal favorites to receive are Starbucks, Panera, and Dunkin Donuts, because I rarely spend my money on treats like this

While there are some who believe that a gift card is just a last minute, put no thought into it kind of gift, I think otherwise. No matter what the denomination, someone worked, earned money, and took the time to say thank you for what I do for his or her child. Be it a gift card to a restaurant, a store or even a travel card, it is appreciated.

You really cannot go wrong with a gift card. It is the one size fits all present!

What Not to Give as a Teacher Gift

I’m just being honest here. I never judge people on the amount they spend. I am truly grateful for being remembered. But some gifts are better just left on the store shelves.

Coffee Mugs

Please, do not mug me! It does not matter what you put into the mug, please do not give this to a teacher as a gift. Write us a note of appreciation instead, and send a copy to the principal, too! I still have every one of these letters from the past 29 years. I treasure them.


Some people are into scented candles and others are allergic to anything with a fragrance. When my kids were younger, I just put these gifts on a shelf waiting for the day I could light them.

Bath and Body Sets

This is a hit or miss kind of gift. Some teachers (like me) love them while others do not. If it is a fragrance she likes, then it is a great gift. If not, it will sit on a shelf in a closet. Teachers receive this kind of gift by the truckload, so give with caution.

Decorative Soaps

It doesn’t matter what shape they are in, these are simply dust catchers for a bathroom.


Unless you know for certain that this is a fragrance a teacher wears, avoid this one, too.

Home Decor

Over the years, I have received more picture frames than I could ever use. I have also been given towels that do not match my home, kitchen utensils and plaques. I had to give these items to other people.

Religious Gifts

I am Jewish, but my husband is not…I have an Italian last name. Early in my teaching career, before parents got to know me, I received many Santa Claus gifts. My late mother-in-law loved all of the extra goodies I would give her for Christmas!

While it is appropriate for my Hebrew School students to give me Jewish gifts, unless you are certain of a teacher’s religion and her beliefs, it is best to steer clear of these.


Yes, I actually had a parent once buy me something from one of my favorite stores. It was not my taste, so I had to return it buy something that I would actually wear.

Anything That Needs to Be Dusted

That should be self explanatory.

Some Final Thoughts

Once children reach elementary school age, teachers spend more time with your children than you do. Over the years, I cannot tell you how many parents have told me, “I could never do what you do!”. While the job is not for everyone, it is certainly the one that gives me the most joy. I could never sit behind a desk all day and work with grown ups!

While giving a holiday gift or end of year gift is not mandatory, it is a nice gesture. Unlike other professions, teachers do not receive bonuses other than the light bulbs they see over their students’ heads. We pay for a lot of items out of our own pockets simply because it is not in the school budget. A little gift and a note of gratitude really brightens our day.

Featured image from Pixabay and altered by the author in Picmonkey.


Hannah Gold is a participant in a number of affiliate programs, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, Zazzle, Commission Junction, Oriental Trading, Viglink, eBay Partner Network, Shareasale and LinkShare, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites and writers to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and other online affiliates.

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