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Year-End Gifts Your Children’s Teachers Really Want

By Chris Jordan

The school year is thankfully coming to a close here in Texas next week. It’s funny because the anticipation I have for school to be over is the same as the anticipation I have in August for school to start again. Truth be told, I am just tired of making lunches. Only seven more school lunch days to go!

And so, I have begun shopping for teacher gifts. What sort of gifts do you give the people with whom you have entrusted your children for the entire school year? I find it difficult to buy them gifts that truly shows how much I appreciate all that they have done for my children.

Before I share my ideas for gifts, I want to share a list of things your child’s teacher does not want.  Keep in mind that unless your child’s teacher is a brand new teacher she has taught many children over many years.  Most of your ideas have probably already been done, more than once.


1. Anything “teacher” themed. To include anything with a design that incorporates rulers, apples, schoolhouses, and chalk boards. Where exactly will the teachers keep all of this? Their classrooms are small and I don’t know any teachers who have teacher-themed decor in their own homes.

2. Anything that says “#1 Teacher.”

3. Coffee mug, especially if it is decorated with anything mentioned in #1 and #2 above

4. A photo of your child. No matter how much your child’s teacher loves your child, they do not want a photo of him/her.

5. Fancy, smelly soaps. Does anyone use these really? A vat of hand sanitizer would probably be more practical.

6. Your teacher doesn’t want a gardening kit or a pot decorated with your child’s hand prints and some quip about “how my child bloomed this year” or thanking them for “planting the seeds of knowledge.”

7. Your teacher doesn’t want anything made from actual pencils. Or crayons. Or anything that involves the melting of crayons. They probably know the alphabet and don’t really want an alphabet poster.

8. Unless your teacher really likes a specific candy, don’t buy them candy.

9. Homemade food, to include in those adorable mason jars filled with mixes. If this is something that you enjoy making and can’t possibly live without doing, do it during the school year when the teacher won’t be inundated with snacks.

10. If you saw it on Pinterest, so did everyone else. And odds are several people will make the exact same craft. And odds are it will end up being discarded.

Usually I buy the teachers smaller gifts for the Christmas/Holiday season. My budget is more limited at that time of year, so I spend a bit more at the end of the year. I also tend to spend the most money on the elementary school teachers who really take on a larger role than just educator since they are with the children eight hours a day, five days a week. By the time my kids are in middle and high school I let my kids pick and choose which teachers to whom they want to give end-of-the-year presents. The presents tend to get less personal as they years go on simply because their relationships are less personal.


My suggestion is to use your creativity on the card or presentation of the gift.

1. I like consumable gifts. Who wants more clutter in their house? With the kids that are younger they have a more intimate relationships with their teachers it is easier to find out what the teachers like and gift accordingly. For example, one of my kids has a teacher who loves a certain local craft store. She has mentioned it to me several times that she spends so much money there. I got her a gift card specifically to this store. Another one of my kids has a young teacher who is moving out of her parents house into a home she just bought, a gift card to a home improvement store is perfect for her.

2. Gift certificate to a movie theater. Everyone likes to go to the movies, I think. Or they can regift it to a friend or family member who does. Attach the gift card to some microwave popcorn or a box of candy if giving a gift card doesn’t feel like a real present to you.

3. Gift card to a chain restaurant or store. Target, Subway, Sonic, or Starbucks are good choices. Or, if your teacher has children maybe an ice-cream shop where they can take their own kids when school ends.

4. Gift certificate to a local salon. There’s a great nail salon near the school and it is convenient for the teachers to use.

5. If you had an incredible teacher write them a note to let them know how much you appreciated them. Send a copy of this note to the principal and superintendent. They get so many complaints every year, a note of praise is a welcome change. If sadly it comes at a time when teachers’ jobs are in jeopardy this could make a difference in their careers.

6. Pool your money with some other families from your child’s class to get a larger gift card or present.

7. One friend of mine brings a catered lunch to the school for the teachers every year on the day after school. The teachers are always around for a few days/weeks more after school lets out for the kids. They’re cleaning up and organizing their things. What better way of letting the teachers know how much you have appreciated them all year.

8. Personalized note cards.  You can get them relatively inexpensively online with the teacher’s name printed on them.  Teachers are always writing notes home.  Just don’t make them teacher themed. (Here are two nice places: Tiny Prints and Minted)

9. Starting early on in the school year connect with other parents to capture photos during classroom activities throughout the year. Then, collect and print these photos into a small photo album/book for the teacher to keep in her room. This is a great idea for the whole class to give as one “Class Gift” to the teacher. (We’ve made great photos books through Blurb and Shutterfly).

What ideas do you have for Year End Teacher’s Gifts? Or, are you a teacher who has received gifts you really enjoyed? Spill it, we want to know what you think.

Find more Teacher Appreciation gift ideas here.

Chris Jordan
About the Author

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children. Yes, the...

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.
Yes, they are all hers.
No she’s not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.
Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That’s why her youngest is almost 6.
Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.

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  • Rayne

    May 23, 2013 at 11:01 am

    I write a thank you note for a good year and mention something specific about the teacher or a project the child enjoyed. I enclose cash in the card, generally $20 per teacher.  This year we had 7 teachers/aides/speech therapist for the preK son so I spread those gifts out between xmas and end of the year.  

  • Michele

    May 23, 2013 at 11:41 am

    I have done gift cards to Starbucks, Barnes & Noble and Target. This year I am doing a gift card to Archiver’s for a teacher that likes to scrapbook and a gift card to a nursery center for another one who likes to garden. I also write a note thanking the teacher for what they have done for my child and I have my child write a note saying what they liked best in class that year.

  • Susan:)

    May 23, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    When I taught preschool, the gifts I enjoyed the most were photos of the kids throughout the year, something the kid made for me and giftcards! I also enjoyed food gifts. I agree on smelly soaps (I’m allergic) and anything teacher themed. And I appreciated it if the parents and kids made a card with a note telling me how much they enjoyed the year with me. I still have all the notes, photos and homemade gifts that I’ve been given by my kids!

  • Shelby Roberts

    May 23, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    I taught and have worked in education for a few years. I always enjoy gift cards. Though they seem impersonal to some, I truly appreciated it more than a child-made gift. I knew I would use it and with most kids I know that the child probably picked out where/what from comments I had made. My favorite gift of all was a bottle of nice wine with a note to relax and enjoy the “sweet taste” of summer. 

  • Stacy Baum

    May 23, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    How about gift cards that give back up to 40% to your school, PTA, or favorite nonprofit organization. At Gift Cards for a Cause, parents can purchase all their end of the year teacher gift cards, and Gift Cards for a Cause will donate a percent back to your school, PTA, or other charitable organization of your choice. To purchase gift cards, simply visit, choose your gift cards, and write in your school/PTA name (or other non-profit organization) when you check out

  • Lana

    May 23, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    As a teacher I adore receiving gift cards! I always use them, and they allow me to treat myself. I WISH someone would give me a card for a pedicure or a home improvement store. Last year I ended up with 140$ to Starbucks (although that did keep me in iced tea and cake pops all summer guilt free!)

    • reema

      February 8, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      someone will give you a gift

    • sonia

      February 8, 2016 at 4:55 pm

      i gave every good person something special because he  is special to me.i realy like this

  • Barbara

    May 23, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    So far all my kids’ teachers drink alcohol. I find out their favorite and by them a bottle. Consumable and it’s from the parents, not my kids. The room parent usually puts together something from the kids.

  • […] more than crayon monograms or mugs).  If you don’t believe me, you should check out THIS POST – it’s pretty […]

  • Mara

    May 24, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    As an elementary art teacher, thank you! I don’t usually get gifts the way that classroom teachers do, but I really don’t want any more sweets. On the last day of school last year, I ended up with a desk covered in doughnuts, cupcakes, candy, and cookies. So sweet, but a note would be much more appreciated. I especially love the idea of sharing the compliments with the principal!
    And yes, gift cards are awesome. Don’t feel like we don’t appreciate a $5 card to Target – we really do!

  • Becky

    May 24, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I don’t have any genius end of the year ideas, but I’ve made them cute zipper pouches to carry stuff in when they go to the beach (keep the little stuff together instead of having to dig around in the bottom of a big bag).  I send treats in to my daughter’s teacher when I make them through out the year.

    For Christmas, I make them a menu to choose from and bring them dinner.  I bring the food to them after school and they pop it into the oven when they get home.  It might sound a little weird, but I get to know her teachers quite well because I volunteer weekly and they have LOVED it!  

  • Brianna

    May 24, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    As a teacher, I second all of your points, Chris!

    I would much rather have a thoughtful card or note from a student than almost anything else. I keep them in a scrapbook and pull them out when I’ve had a challenging day, or I don’t feel like I’m making a difference.

    Some of the best gifts I’ve received have been for my classroom. – a funky clock for the wall, a gorgeous poster brought back from a family vacation, a great desk organizer, a set of high-quality coloured pens (for marking), personalized folders – these can be enjoyed by me, and by my future students!

    I hope your last week goes well. Up here in Canada, we have 4 more weeks to go (some schools have 5!)

  • wendy

    May 27, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    along the lines of the personalized notes, my go-to gift is personalized pencils. this way teachers can keep track of their own pencils! my daughter’s teachers loved these.

    • Isabel


      May 28, 2013 at 12:07 am

      love this idea!

  • Jilynn Parmly

    June 8, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    As an elementary teacher, I wholeheartedly agree with all of these suggestions.  One more coffee mug may send me over the edge.  (Of course, the child who gives it to me will never know that because I will show great appreciation for their gifts.)

  • Annie

    June 20, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    My son’s teacher put her favorite poem in a book the school sent to all the parents, “Getting to know your teachers.” At the end of the year, I found a website (Katazoom) that creates wall decals and I had that poem made into a decal for her classroom. She flipped over it. Told us it was her favorite gift of the year.

  • Andrea

    July 22, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    To be honest, most teachers throw away many homemade gifts. I never eat anything baked by an elementary school student (I see how gross kids are). Good suggestions!

  • Phylis

    June 4, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    As a teacher, I LOVE gift cards.  I always use them.  I usually get Starbucks or Chapters but would love to get a “bigger” gc to a restaurant or salon or the movies.

    As a parent, I always make a point of honouring my son’s teacher at Christmas and year end.  I usually prepare a theme gift.  I have done:  snowman kit with snowman picture book; movie basket with gc, candy, chips, pop and popcorn; smore’s kit with graham crackers, marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate, twigs and matches; beach theme in a beach bag with flipflops, sunscreen, sunglasses, sudoku, beach towel;  mexican theme with homemade salsa, tortilla chips, jalapenos, lemon, lime and gc to mexican restuarant;  lemonade jug with gourmet lemonade mix, lemons and limes; lottery ticket tree with a whole bunch of scratch tickets attached with bows to a mini christmas tree.
    This June I think I will make a wine and cheese gift with some specialty cheese on a cheese plate and a bottle of wine/or gc to wine store since I’m not sure it’s appropriate to bring alcohol into an elementary school.

  • Beth

    June 22, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    The only thing I disagree with (as a teacher writing this) is photos of your child. This teacher loves photos of the children in her class. I hang them up, I keep them in a book, I save them and look at them when I am having a bad day. It helps remember why I chose to be in this wonderful, crazy profession and the students who make it all worthwhile.

  • Claudia

    June 24, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Room parents, please don’t force parents to spend money on a gift you chose without asking everyone first.  One year, in preschool a room parent went ahead and had a plant pot made with somewhat crude drawings of all the kids in the class.  Then asked all the parents to give her $10.  I would have rather put that money towards a target gift card because I know I wouldn’t want a pot for plants if I were a teacher.  It made me angry that she forced that on me especially since I liked that teacher very much. I would have rather she just give her the cash cause we all know teachers don’t make that much money.

  • […] Best Teachers’ Gifts | Alpha Mom – When I taught preschool, the gifts I enjoyed the most were photos of the kids throughout the year, something the kid made for me and giftcards!… […]

  • Jennifer

    April 24, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    My son’s first grade teacher had a 2 year old son.  Mr. O told us he’d be travelling most of the summer.  

    The entire class got together, the students made him an art piece that we framed, we were able to give him a date night out package (restaurant gift card and $ for babysitting) and a toddler travel survival kit (wood puzzles, stickers, and all sorts of fun toys to keep his son busy while travelling over the summer). 

    If you don’t want to ask your teacher what he/she likes, talk to the school secretary.  They know everything!

  • Michele Brennan

    April 28, 2015 at 10:24 am

    Teacher’s gifts…I love coming up with theme ideas every year and give the same gift to all teachers….one year i did little sewing boxes for the class room, another year I did animal/bird salt and pepper shakers; I did letter openers; aprons another year…..there’s a lot of fun things out there to do!!!! Enjoy!!!

  • […] Year-End Gifts Your Children’s Teachers Really Want [Alpha Mom] […]

  • Stephanie

    June 17, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    In our elementary school, the room moms give a class gift from the room fund collected at the beginning of the year, usually cash or a gift card for a lot of money. But then every mom gives an individual gift too, some of them pretty extravagant.  I never know what to do– I don’t want to give knick-knacks, but they already got cash or a GC (that came partially from us). Of course one answer is “just a nice card,” but it seems inadequate when everyone else is bringing in elaborate gifts. So tomorrow is the last day and I’ve got nada, zippo, zilch. 

  • kalani

    December 14, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    For a science teacher get him or her a cute coffee mug that uses elements from the periodic table to spell out teacher . For a reading teacher get him or her a gift card to Barnes and Nobles. For a math teacher you c an really do anything as long as you know it will be useful.

  • kalani

    December 14, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    If anyone disapproves of any of my ideas above then reply and let me know why!

  • Rebekah Worsham

    May 31, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    Some of the “Do not’s” on this were really rude. Sad that you have to sound so bitter.