What teachers really want for the holidays

I was recently asked: What gifts do teachers really want for the holidays?

I thought this would be a great opportunity to share some ideas based on my insights as both a primary schoolteacher and frugal mother of four who’s working to make sure gifts I purchase during this holiday season have both meaning and purpose.

First of all, I must say: Teachers aren’t expecting gifts from their students around the holidays. But many parents — myself included — like to express their gratitude and support of their child’s teacher by giving a token of appreciation. In my own experiences, more often than not, well-intentioned gifts from students and their families come in the form of knick-knacks, ornaments or mugs that tend to accumulate after years of teaching. This is my 14th year of teaching in an elementary school and I think I could outfit a whole tree with all the school-themed ornaments I’ve received as gifts! This year, if you would like to give your child’s teacher a holiday gift, consider the following ideas:


Teachers spend a lot of their own money supplying and maintaining their classrooms year round. Gift cards are a perfect solution to help teachers purchase materials and supplies. Cards to stores such as Target, Walmart, Costco or Barnes & Noble can be used easily by classroom teachers. Gift cards to online merchants such as Amazon, iTunes and teacherspayteachers.com would be very practical as they’re go-to places for teachers seeking classroom resources. If your child attends a public school, your teacher may have a project request posted for their classroom at donorschoose.org, where you can make tax-deductible contributions toward projects organized by individual teachers.


If you want to give a more tangible gift, supplies such as crayons, markers, glue sticks and whiteboard markers often wear out or tend to run low mid-year — along with items such as hand sanitizer or extra snacks. With limited school budgets, classroom teachers often end up soaking up the expenses to replace these items when they run out. 


A wonderful gift you may want to consider giving is the gift of your time and energy. Do you have some time to volunteer in your child’s classroom? This could be working directly with children during instructional time or volunteering your time to organize or label books in the classroom library. There may be opportunities to help from home, too: Preschool and elementary teachers spend a lot of valuable time cutting, stapling and tracing. You may have time to do some of these essential prep activities in your home if you can’t make it into the classroom to volunteer.


If you’re thinking you want to get something special just for your child’s teacher, try to think of something personal. Do you know that your teacher frequents your local coffee shop? Is there a close sandwich shop or cafe he or she might sneak off to occasionally for lunch? If you’re the crafty type, you may want to make something: On Pinterest there are hundreds of fun and creative ideas for teacher-appreciation gifts to inspire you. 


Ask your child’s teacher: He or she might need some extra mittens, hats, socks or winter boots to outfit young children who often misplace these items during long, cold Minnesota winters. Or, your child’s teacher may have their eye on something special like a book, board game or supplies for a special activity or project. Ask your child: He or she may have some good ideas on what the teacher might want or need in the classroom.


Finally, kids can’t go wrong offering simple and genuine sentiments to their teachers. I think every teacher has a collection of special handwritten notes and pictures from students that would bring a smile to anyone’s face.

Again, know that teachers aren’t expecting gifts, but thoughtfulness and support are always appreciated. Always remember the greatest gift you can give your child’s teacher is your involvement and partnership in your child’s education. You as a parent are your child’s best teacher, and it’s a gift to us as educators that you share your young children with us each school day.