I deeply appreciate the impact teachers have on our lives and am especially grateful for those tasked with educating my kids. The trouble is, as the holidays approach and I start to rush, I find teachers becoming more of a category on my gift list than the names of caring professionals who spend all day encouraging and interacting with children.
This year, I’m determined not to buy body lotion in bulk, but instead to rise to the challenge of giving thoughtful and practical gifts. I’ve asked for some suggestions from teachers and am sharing the results for other BirminghamMoms.
A dear friend of mine who is a teacher offered a valuable perspective:
“Please let me say that I cannot proceed without you and anyone else knowing that any teacher who cares would appreciate any gesture that a child or the parents make. I will say that I have had my share of trinkets – perfume that is half empty, broken ornaments, and numerous other things – but that child is absolutely thrilled to give me something. What is really pitiful is the one or two children that are sitting there while I open and they have nothing to give me. They want to have something to give, but understandably they can’t do anything about it. I try to be very appreciative and yet not make too much fuss over gifts.
“As I start to type about ideas for teachers I feel somewhat silly since really there is nothing I can’t get for myself. I guess this is more for the folks like myself who enjoy giving something to their child’s teacher because you want them to know how much you do appreciate what they do and how they help your child.”
Most teachers say they prefer a practical gift over one that is cute but not particularly useful. Stores are full of cleverly packaged sets that follow holiday themes; however, a serviceable gift will ultimately be more satisfying. Here are several ideas:
1. Gift certificates from just about anywhere. Favorites:
- Walmart – anything and everything
- Target – slightly preferred its selection for stationery, home and seasonal items
- Jason’s Deli – fast and even small amounts can purchase an individual meal or offset a family night out
- Bookstores – not only for books but for fun desk supplies, planners, and bakery treats
- Ben & Jerry’s/Bruster’s Ice Cream – one teacher gives these to her student aids with a note: “Thanks for being so sweet.” This also sounds perfect for the various helpers in your child’s life (bus drivers, p.e. coaches, etc.)
If the room parent is particularly organized, suggest a combined gift card from all the students. Spa certificates or manicure/pedicures are highly rated as favorite gifts.
2. Movie night basket.
Blockbuster popcorn bucket $1.99
Box of candy $1.79
Gift card or DVD varies No additional packaging needed; one stop purchase!
Make your own: Fill a basket with packets of popcorn and hot chocolate, the teacher’s favorite soda (your child will know his/her preference), and a DVD or gift certificate).
Theater Gift Certificate taped to movie-size box of candy, tied with a ribbon
3. Cooking/entertaining interests.
- The Junior League of Birmingham’s Tables of Content is pretty enough to wrap with only a satin bow.
- Set of cloth napkins tied up with a Southern Lady or Tea Time magazine, both locally published.
- Buy a large batter bowl and spatula at Home Goods and fill it with a few gourmet mixes for soups or pancakes; tie a wired ribbon to the handle (one stop purchase)
4. Jewelry sets – the beaded necklaces and matching earrings – are widely available, and many teachers enjoy fun accessories.
5. Scarves and gloves are still appreciated, and Target has a great selection that is well-priced. Winter white, red, or black will surely match your teacher’s outerwear, but be daring and choose a hot pink or turquoise so she can enjoy a pop of color.
6. Chenille “house socks“ are good for lounging, and one size fits all. While you’re at it, pick up a pair for your grandmother or any older relative who stays indoors most of the time. Belk has a selection under $8, and you’ve no doubt seen the 20% discount coupons in the newspaper.
7. Male teachers and coaches: Team cap, sweatshirt or t-shirt; gift certificates as mentioned above.
Room parents are also good sources for information on your teacher’s collections or interests. Some PTOs gather information about the teachers such as alma mater, hobbies, and family activities, so a PTO leader may also be a rich source of ideas.
Incidentally, I heard from more than one teacher about receiving bottles of half-used perfume. One little boy told his teacher he gave it to her because it was his grandmother’s favorite. So sweet! This makes me wonder if our little ones might be tempted to pick up gifts from around the house to bring if they don’t have a gift to offer already. I also imagine some little boy’s grandmother wondering what happened to her bottle of perfume.