Holiday Gift Ideas for Teachers

gift ideas for teachers

A lot of posts are written on gifts to buy for teachers at holiday time, but I thought I’d chim in with my 2 cents. Because when do I not chime in on anything!?

I was a 3rd grade teacher for several years, and I can definitely tell you what gifts NOT to buy for teachers . . . scented candles, fragranced body lotions, anything apple or teacher themed, for starters. Teachers get SO much of that stuff, and often it is not according their particular tastes.

Of course most teachers are appreciative of all gifts and the sentiment behind them, but please, oh, please, there is simply not room for one more apple-shaped pencil holder on her desk! Give her something she can really use. I realize there are a lot of male teachers out there, but this list is admittedly slanted to the feminine side. Still, I think a lot of the ideas can be tailored to male or female.

15 Holiday Gift Ideas for Teachers

  1. Gift Card
  2. Gift Card
  3. Sephora Gift Card
  4. Starbucks Gift Card (if he/she likes coffee)
  5. spa gift card
  6. Christmas ornament (IF you know her tastes or a specific hobby or affection she has for something that makes it personal; otherwise, skip this one. I do still have – and use – Christmas ornaments I received as a teacher.)
  7. homemade card or craft made by the student (it would be a hard hearted teacher that couldn’t appreciate a gift like this, although personally I would also include a small gift card)
  8. baked goods – THIS one is a tough one. You need to know her tastes, be aware of any food allergies, and then there is the issue of eating something that comes from someone’s home. A few years ago this would not have been a consideration  but nowadays people are much more careful about eating food that was baked in someone’s home. I still give homemade food gifts, but I realize that they may or may not get eaten. I prefer to give fudge or peanut butter balls or something that can be easily frozen if they get overloaded with homemade goodies.
  9. basket of gourmet coffees or gourmet teas (IF you know the teacher has an affinity for one or the other)
  10. note pads or thank you cards (I personally think everyone can always use these)
  11. bouquet of flowers
  12. bottle of wine or eggnog (again, ONLY if you know for sure they will like it)
  13. Williams Sonoma dish towel wrapped around their Winter Forest dish soap (this was recommended by my friend Shelly in a former teacher gift guide post)
  14. gift basket with bag of coffee, travel mug and a magazine — again, if you know her tastes (right now you can get 5 monthly issues of InStyle & PEOPLE StyleWatch for $10; of course you would have to know this is her thing, but personally I think that’s a really great gift!)
  15. class gift* (my personal favorite)

Yes, there are a lot of gift cards on that list. I know, you are going to tell me it is impersonal, but I am going to tell you so what. You can always make it personal by including a small Christmas ornament or a tin of baked goods or something else small.

Teachers love gift certificates because they can get what they want with them (who DOESN’T love gift certificates? I have always said they are highly underrated) and in many areas teachers are underpaid and gift certificates are a great way to help them out.

Now, it can be a bit awkward with the amount. It really depends on your budget, your area, and how many you have to buy for. One year I got all our Sunday School teachers, school teachers, bus drivers, etc at $10 gift card to Starbucks and I stuck it in a little gift bag with homemade fudge. Since I had about 10 teachers on my list, I could only afford to do a small gift card, but I felt okay about it because $10 goes a long ways at Starbucks. For the male bus driver, I did a gift card to Wawa, a local convenience store. I thought it might be a better fit.

*At my kids’ school, the room mothers usually coordinate a class gift. They collect money from all parents who want to contribute and purchase one nice gift card to a place the teacher likes. This is usually optional, and often the amount is unspecified. I like this a lot because it takes out any awkwardness about how much to spend; the teacher won’t know who spent what, and she gets one generous gift rather than 20 small ones. I think that’s a win. Again, I usually supplement with a homemade treat, or at least a card made by the kids.

I’d love to hear your input — especially from the teachers out there! Any other suggestions?

2012 Holiday Gift Guide

For more gift ideas, see my complete collection of 2012 Holiday Gift Guide posts!

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  1. says

    Great list! I used to be a teacher too, and although I was always grateful for someone thinking of me at the Holidays, I really didn’t need one more mug or cutesy “teachery” gift. Gift cards are great, but I agree that the best gifts are when the class works together to get something big. Teachers don’t make a lot of money so gifts like that are truly appreciated. It sounds really crass, but now when I’m room mom I don’t even do gift cards- I do straight cash along with flowers or something else cute.

  2. says

    My husband (now a literacy coach, so not teaching in a classroom) used to receive gift cards to Barnes & Noble and local restaurants/coffee shops. He loved those.

    One year, he received a pair of slippers that had been decorated by a student. Puffy paint snowmen. On a pair of women’s slippers. They were awesome. :)

  3. Cathy says

    This is a great list…I am always looking for nice gifts for teachers. I tend to stay away from baked goods because I worry that a teacher is going to get a whole bunch of freshly baked goods that can’t be consumed in the right window of time, so they will wind up going stale. However, I have done baking kits where I include a nice towel, a whisk and a nice baking mix (either boxed or homemade).

    • Nancy says

      Along this line, when my kids were in preschool I gave the teacher’s the Pampered Chef Small Batter Bowl with brownie ingredients layered inside. The teacher had a nice treat which she could make up at her convenience and a nice bowl that she could use through the years.

      Not to be overlooked are the heart-felt handwritten notes. I am also a former teacher (4th grade, 15 years ago) and have decided to finally clean out my many boxes of teaching stuff, as I don’t see myself returning to the classroom. In those boxes I have found some notes that warmed my heart again when reading them, and reminded me of some really special people. Also, if it’s a young teacher that’s doing a fantastic job, consider a note to the principal as well.

  4. Leigh says

    As a teacher my favourite gift was a from an eighth grader who made a gingerbread person for each teacher, decorated like them.

    I am room parent for my son’s preschool class and we are doing Amazon gift cards and home made cards

  5. says

    I am knitting little “gift card-igans” to hold Starbucks cards for my kids’ teachers. I have four kids in four different schools – in past years I would bake a huge platter of different cookies to put in the teachers’ lounge to thank all the other staff but this year I think I’m just going with the gift cards!


  6. Lee Ann says

    As a teacher, you hit the nail on the head when you said no more apple/teachery things. I have so many things, that my kitchen is an apple theme to keep all the “apples”. I also have way too many tree ornaments. Gift cards are great, especially to a teacher store or a restaurant. Since I now work with small groups of students, I don’t get too many gifts anymore. My first year of teaching 22 years ago, a student’s mom cross-stitched me a sweatshirt that I still have. Now it’s my husband’s turn to bring home the great gifts; he’s a letter carrier. He got 8 boxes of chocolates last year!

  7. says

    As a former teacher at Christian schools, I applaud the use of gift cards. Before them, I received SO MANY Christmas mugs, plates of sweets, and tree ornaments. The thought is nice, but when you teach 50 kids a year, those things add up, and your house simply can’t hold them all. The families’ money is much better spent on gift cards, which harried, busy teachers can spend at their leisure. Tired teachers need leisure time — a date with the spouse. Restaurant cards are great. But teachers also don’t make lots of money, so a simply WalMart gift card is wonderful!! My husband and I were both teachers for several years, and we used our Wally’s cards to buy our family’s groceries for several weeks. That may not sound very festive, but we were so very grateful for the generosity of families!

  8. says

    Last year my kids’ teachers got a reusable mug filled with chocolate and a Starbucks gift card. They can always find someone to take the chocolate if they don’t want it. This year Cady’s teacher is getting the sweetest necklace from Shining Stones that has stamped, “Imagine, Impact, Inspire.” It is a little more than I normally spend on a teacher gift, but we’ve had some issues this year and the teacher has been super helpful. James’ pre-k teacher is getting a cute little bucket with a body scrubber thingy (to look like soap) and a gift card to Bath & Body.

  9. Erin says

    The last couple of years I’ve done gift cards to the movies along with a homemade goodie (usually almond bark pretzel rods/carmels/cookie dough truffles) for my girls preschool/sunday school teachers. It’s always been well received. I haven’t exactly decided what I’ll do this year now that I’ve got one in kindergarten. My husband is a high school teacher so he doesn’t get many gifts and I’m okay with that!

  10. says

    one year i gave a package of hand sanitizer and lotion; two things i can never get enough of. another year i RECEIVED gift cards to restaurants and book stores, which i loved.

  11. Kris says

    Last year I gave the teachers mason jars filled with strips of colorful paper. Each strip had a different quote that I keep in a Word file (there are more than 365 quotes in the file) and I cut them out with fancy scrapbooking scissors. I tied a ribbon around the top of the jar and that was it. This way they could reach into the jar every day and read a new quote.

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