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Holiday Gifts that Teachers Really Appreciate

Posted Dec 12 2009 4:44pm

NOTE FROM SUSAN: With a son in college, another in high school, and two now in kindergarten, I’ve spent a lot of years agonizing over what gifts to buy for teachers! I know I’m not alone in this quest for the “perfect gift.” There are several teachers in my family, and they’ve told me that they have enough Christmas ornaments and coffee mugs to last a lifetime! So, what’s a parent to do? In this article, Emily Robinson, a mother and former teacher, shares her perspective on selecting teacher gifts based on her research and personal experience.

Holiday Gifts that Teachers Really Appreciate
By Emily Robinson

Like many teachers, I came away from my career with a treasure chest. Inside is the real bounty of the teaching profession. For example, there’s the headless rubber alligator from Edgar. A delightful cookie tin from Jessie, which mysteriously arrived holding only one lonesome cookie -- and a whole lot of crumbs. And from Susan, what appears to be some sort of abstract sculpture, made from duct tape.

After seven years of teaching first grade, I’ve accumulated some unusual holiday gifts, but they all have one thing in common: they’re a wonderful reminder of the children who passed through my classroom, and concrete proof that my efforts were appreciated in what can otherwise seem like the most thankless of professions.

Now I’m on the other side of the fence, a parent trying to decide what to send my kids to school with on the last day of the year. Even for a former teacher, choosing a Christmas present for a child’s teacher can be a daunting task.

For starters, you may not have even met this person, let alone have a good idea as to their likes and interests. You don’t want to give the impression that you’re trying to buy a teacher’s favor (let alone run astray of school policy), yet you do want to show your appreciation for the valuable work that educators do. As if this wasn’t complicated enough, the would-be teacher gift buyer must run a gauntlet of misleading marketing from gift shops and department stores: Teachers love apples! You can never have too many coffee mugs! Any teacher will treasure this ornament!

Perhaps in no other area of gift-giving is there such a large disconnect as between parents and teachers. Every year, parents waste a lot of hard-earned money buying “apple for teacher” ornaments, “World’s Greatest Math Teacher” coffee mugs, and other tchotchkes marketed as “great gifts for teachers.”

Meanwhile, teachers are spending a lot of their own money keeping the classrooms stocked with basics like school supplies, crafts, books, movies, and materials for science experiments -- see any opportunities there? Contrary to popular belief, most teachers don’t have their homes decked out in a red apple motif, and even the most die-hard caffeine addict soon has enough coffee mugs. Yet a teacher’s salary doesn’t allow for a lot of luxuries, and chances are that even a small indulgence like a night at the movies for the family, or a gift certificate for lunch at a local restaurant, is going to be appreciated a lot more than that shiny apple ornament.

Most importantly, a great gift for a teacher is something that lets a teacher know that you respect them and appreciate their work. It’s not about spending a lot of money. Nothing beats a sincere note of appreciation from a parent. Consider mentioning some of the things your child has enjoyed learning, and if possible, ask how you might be able to help out in the classroom. Just the act of demonstrating you appreciate their work enough to want to be able to help out means a lot to a teacher, and that’s the kind of gift that anyone can use.

Emily Robinson is a former first-grade teacher who surveyed over 100 fellow teachers to come up with her advice on choosing a Christmas gift for a teacher and list of most-appreciated teacher gift ideas.




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