Easy Teacher Gift Ideas

I have mixed feelings about Teacher Appreciation Day, which in the United States takes place on Tuesday of the first full week in May.  On one hand, I'm always SO blown away and humbled that my students' parents would want to communicate appreciation for the small role I play in their kids' lives--it's such an honor to have that role, and I love my job.  On the other hand, though, it's never been clear to me why my profession in particular is singled out.  If anyone deserves a national holiday, I think it's our school's janitor, who spends his nights cleaning up unspeakable messes left behind by the students.  (And all the teachers said, "Amen.")

In any case, I thought it might be fun to write a post with some practical and meaningful gift ideas for teachers, based on my own experience and conversations I've had with colleagues over the years.  You may be reading this and thinking, “Wait, isn’t it kind of awkward and inappropriate for a teacher to talk about Teacher Appreciation Day, like a kid telling strangers at the park what he’d like for his birthday?”  The answer is yes, I do feel a little awkward writing this.  However, I've received this question from many parent-friends over the years who suspected their child’s teacher might have enough mugs and apple-themed desk supplies to last a lifetime, and who wanted an inside scoop from a teacher in the trenches.  So, what follows is in no way a personal wishlist (though I do have to admit it’s probably more aimed at women than men), and I hope it will be helpful for parents searching for an easy, inexpensive, meaningful, and practical gift.  I should also say that the list isn’t just aimed at parents--for those of you who are teachers, these could be great gift ideas for thanking volunteers or celebrating a colleague! Okay, without further ado, here's the list:

1. Essential Oil Diffuser, $20, to make the classroom smell like Heaven even after PE class.

2. Flair Pens, $14, to add a little splash of joy to grading and note-taking in staff meetings.

3. Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, $5, for obvious reasons.

4. Stickers for Organizing, $10, because stickers and cute labels make a teacher's heart sing.

5. Initial Necklace, $38, to dress up an everyday work outfit.

6. Glue Sticks, $10, because it seriously feels like these things evaporate into thin air as the year progresses. Where in the world do they go!?

7. Tote Bag, $30, because teachers carry a comical amount of items back and forth from school every day, and these cute bags can take a beating. (You can get them monogrammed, too!)

8. Grading Stamps, $19, for cheering on the kiddos AND making grading easier at the same time.

9. Personalized Zippered Pouch, $25, for carrying all of those flair pens, paper clips, and tiny confiscated toys in style.

10. A Funny To-Do List, $9, to make them laugh even when the teacher to-do list feels unending.

11. Personal Cinematic Light Box, $20, to make writing a morning message for the students even more fun. It's whimsical and silly, but could have so many fun uses in the classroom!

12. Beautiful File Folders, $14, so those stacks of paper look pretty instead of overwhelming.

13. A note from your child that will be treasured forever!

14. Finally, I've also found that some of the most meaningful gifts are the ones that communicate to teachers that the parents and students know and care about them personally.  Pretty much every teacher I've met has a secret (or not-so-secret) sweet tooth, caffeine addiction, or other quirk, and a well-placed packet of Skittles or a vanilla latte with an encouraging note can have a huge impact.  Ask your kids what they've noticed about their teachers (does she always have a bottle of Coke on her desk, or does he love going to Friday night movies at that downtown theater with his wife?), or have your school's staff fill out surveys at the beginning of the year to discover those more subtle, but high-impact, gift ideas.

Well, there you have it!  I'll keep adding to this list over time, as I come across more great ideas, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.  If you're a teacher or a parent, what are some of the most meaningful and practical teacher or volunteer gifts you've given and received? 

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