Teacher Appreciation 101

NO. Please, no.

Mamacita says: Every year around this time, I like to re-run this little piece about choosing a gift for your children’s teachers. We really do appreciate anything and everything we receive from our kids and their families, but some things are appreciated a little more than others.


The school year is winding down;  summer vacation is just around the corner, and It’s time to be thinking about giving your child’s teacher a gift of appreciation.  After all, this dedicated professional has spent more time with other people’s children than their parents have, and deserves some little something to show them you care.  You don’t have to do this, of course; in fact, most families don’t, but if you do, here are some suggestions.

Might I suggest – nay, plead – that you NOT give your child’s teacher a candle, statue, t-shirt, mug, plaque, hankie, seasonal brooch, earrings (unless they’re actual jewelry), snowglobe, poster, pencil holder, candy,  book (unless you know for sure it’s one she/he really wants), toiletry (unless you know exactly what kind he/she likes) homemade goodies (however pinteresting they might be), or a framed picture of your child? Teachers have more than enough of that stuff, and we never really liked most of it in the first place. Trinkets are something that must either be displayed or packed away, and who has the space to do either? The third option will be explained later in this post.*

I loved your children, but I didn’t want their pictures on my wall or dangling from my Christmas tree or sitting on my desk. Those spaces are for my own children.

Yes, please. Oh dear lord, YES.

What your child’s teachers really want are gift cards to restaurants, stores, and cool educational websites. Your child’s teacher would genuinely appreciate some genuine appreciation. Teachers have very little spare time; gift cards to restaurants are really appreciated. The best educational toys are found online, and since science isn’t tested in most states yet, science toys would be met with grateful thanks of such sincere intensity that you might shed a few tears, yourself.

Teacher Appreciation certificates, good for merchandise, are also well-received. The simple act of letting a teacher know that he/she IS appreciated is really all we want, but a little swag added to it is nice, too.

I know it’s easy, heading to the Dollar Tree or WalMart or one of those overpriced classroom supply stores when it’s time to get a little something for Billy’s teacher, and anything sincerely given is sincerely appreciated. But if you want your child’s teacher to remember you forever as a parent who KNOWS, go for the science toys, restaurant cards, and even a mall card, good for every store in the shopping center. If the teacher has young children herself/himself, fast food cards are a lifesaver; you know how much YOU appreciate having the wherewithal to run through the occasional drive-through, well, a teacher is just like you, except he/she has 30 children (200 if he/she is a secondary teacher) instead of three and less free time than . . . . well, you. If your kid is in secondary school, please don’t forget those teachers, too. Elementary teachers always rake in the loot, but junior high and high school teachers, who deal with hundreds of students each day, are often forgotten.

Amazon cards are lovely, too. Breathtakingly lovely.

*Oh, and that third option, for dealing with the onslaught of the candles, picture frames, apple-shaped stuff, mugs, ornaments, and trinkets?  Brace yourself:

Summer yard sale. Do you really want to see the gift your child gave his/her teacher on the ten-cent-table?

But then, what would YOU do if you were given forty trinkets every year?

So, do what I tell you. Gift cards. Restaurant cards. Science toys. Certificates of appreciation/swag-of-choice.  Starbucks.  Prepaid Visa.  (A girl can dream. . . .)

Amazon card. iTunes. (Make sure the teacher uses iTunes first.)

Teachers are people, you know. Most of them are INTERESTING people. They have actual LIVES, lives that really don’t include ten thousand candles, statues, picture frames, and “World’s Best Teacher” mugs. They don’t really want more wax and ceramics, but they could really, really use some gifts that give them a little breather (coughcoughrestaurantcardcough), and useful things they can actually use at home or in the classroom.

Please include a positive, grateful note.  That will be the best part.  Those, we save.  You don’t even need to include a gift – a positive, grateful, thank-you means so much.  I’m not exaggeration.  Those notes mean the world to a teacher.  I’ve saved every one I ever got.

P.S.  Did I mention that your teacher already has enough mugs and lotion to start a shop?  I did?  Well, I”m mentioning it again.

P.P.S.  Even if we already love you, your child, and the whole family, please be careful about bringing a teacher home-made edibles.  We have allergies, too, or diets, or even just likes and dislikes.  I hate to break it to you well-meaning, generous, lovely givers, but most homemade goodies end up in the wastebasket.  All those adorable, crafty, homemade “favorite teacher” treats you’re seeing on Pinterest?

No.  Thank you, and we appreciate the effort and we know you are appreciative, but. . . . no.

P.P.P.S.  I’m mentioning gift cards again.  Total coincidence.

P.P.P.P.S.  One of the best gifts I ever got from a parent was a pair of razor-sharp fabulous fantastic marvelous Fiskar’s scissors.  It was over ten years ago, and I still thank that woman every time I run into her.

P.P.P.P.P.S.  I also adore the 2-ft.-tall hourglass a student gave me.  Not every teacher would, but this kid knew me well.  Who else among you has a gigantic 2-ft.- tall hourglass, prominently displayed in the living room for all to see? That’s just what I thought.  I rule.



Teacher Appreciation 101 — 7 Comments

  1. THANK YOU so much for this post. I’ve been a science teacher for years and though I’m thankful that parents think enough to pick up a gift, most of them are useless and end up being thrown out or given to goodwill. A gift card is the perfect idea – Amazon – definitely. And ironically, I’d probably spend in on my classroom kids anyway. So everyone benefits.

  2. Hi Mamacita, checking in after a loooong absence. You’re right, elem and middle school teachers get tons of gifts, and HS teachers just get the gift of our kids’ company and that’s not fair! Especially since, in my case at least, my kids’ HS teachers are/were AWESOME, much more so than most of their elem/middle school ones. I think one of the reasons for this is that parents don’t want to embarrass their teenage kids by showering teachers with gifts. I have no money for that anymore, though. Still on one income and expenses are still through the roof. If it’s any consolation, last few times I gave gifts (way back when), I gave gift cards. I was warned by a teacher friend many years ago not to give candles, mugs and ornaments.

    Also, hope this counts as a gift, when my oldest was a HS senior, they let him (because he was in top 40 of his class) nominate three of his favorite teachers from K-12 for the school’s annual award ceremony. He nominated his 3rd grade teacher; no one else did. She was very happy and thrilled to receive an award. I am now telling my youngest (HS junior) to keep his grades up to make sure he’s in top 40; and to nominate the teachers that no one else will. There are always the ones that walk away with 39 awards every year; as awesome as those teachers are, I want my son to nominate the ones that don’t get as much attention as they deserve.

  3. My friend, mother of elementary schoolers, regales me with the smiles and hugs and “OMG this is SO perfect”‘s she receives when presenting Starbucks or Amazon gift cards to the teachers. Her rationale is the same as yours – teachers are as busy as she (a lawyer) is, they want what she wants, it’s simple.

    I’m sending her this link so she can see just how smart she really is 🙂

  4. I have a teacher who let me know a week in advance that next week was teacher appreciation week, and not to forget to bring her one of the items off a list she meticulously compiled of preposterously specific items. She literally made demands of stuff. Guess what she gets? The homework she assigned yesterday. If you demand it, it’s not a gift. That’s called rude. In the words of my mother, who is a loan processor “Hey, what’s with this teacher appreciation week? When’s loan processor appreciation week?” My response- “What about panhandler week?” Don’t beg for stuff. I give freely and generously to the few great teachers I’ve had. It may be just my horrendous experience with the public schools, but it’s been rare that I met a decent, let alone great teacher. Teachers, rethink this holiday. It cheapens your valuable societal role. Teachers are supposed to be role models for children, not panhandlers.

  5. You know what really bites? When the Boy was in school, we really couldn’t afford to gift his teachers the way we wanted, and he had a few who deserved some really spiffy gifts. Now we can afford it, and he’s 30. Damn kids, growing up before it’s convenient. Someone would totally be getting a Kindle if he was still in school…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *