Best and worst teacher’s gifts

We are wrapping up our first official year of school.  My little guy is just about to complete junior kindergarten and I definitely have mixed emotions.  I am so proud – and sad at the same time, he’s growing up way too fast.

I’m grateful for the progress and development over the last year and I have to thank his dedicated teachers.

But how to do that? I have no idea what to get them, where to start and what to do.

Luckily, I am surrounded by a family of teachers so I asked, and they’ve graded their end-of-year thank you gifts.


1. Presents that are too personal FINAL GRADE: D-

Perfume or clothing is definitely a matter of personal taste. The teachers that I spoke to often would give away these items because they did not like certain scents or styles. Definitely a crap shoot.


Yes, it’s a cute thing. Yes, it’s the perfect price point. And yes, you can get coordinating ones for every teacher, but don’t. Just don’t. Because don’t. Even if you fill it will jelly beans and think it’s the cutest thing – it’s just not original and year after year teachers add to their vast collection. Teachers appreciate a good cup of coffee, but just like ordinary mortals, they only need one mug of coffee. These get put away, given away or donated to the thrift store pretty fast.

mug collection

3. Candles & bath supplies FINAL GRADE C- 

While we won’t say that this is a no-go for all teachers, you need to know your educator well if you’re going with this. If they’re one to love indulging in baths, go for it, and stick with either an organic retailer or one of the big faves like The Body Shop. Otherwise you may be getting into uncharted waters, picking scents that they may not like and choosing products that may upset delicate skin. Candles… This is another one that people default to because of affordability. By the time they retire, most teachers could live the rest of their years by candlelight.


1. Gift card FINAL GRADE: A+

Gift Cards

This allows teachers the freedom to choose what they want.  Gift cards to book stores like Indigo or Barnes & Noble are great.  You can also try gift cards to school or general supply stores like Amazon or Walmart.  Teachers actually invest a lot of their own money into school supplies. Coffee cards, restaurant cards or gift cards to stores that you know they enjoy are also ideal. (Liquor store gift card, ahem.)

2. School supplies and related items FINAL GRADE: A

Kate Spade file folders and organizers $14-$16

Teachers actually have a use for and like stationary, perhaps personalized, nice pens, etc. They keep a ton of notes, so a special notebook is a handy thing. Stickers, a desktop organizer or even a great agenda will all go a long way towards making a teacher’s day easier.

3. Wine and chocolates FINAL GRADE: B+ 

Sweets and treats are apparently appreciated by teachers too. Who doesn’t love a delectable box of Godiva chocolates or a good merlot to help unwind after a long day with your child. But make sure you know of food restrictions before you buy.

Godiva Chocolates $15
Godiva Chocolates $15

4. Plants and flowers FINAL GRADE: B+ Flowers and plants are a big hits. You can go for a simple bouquet or something they can plant. I am actually leaning towards a potted hanging plant for my son’s teachers.


Price Range: You do whatever feels comfortable and right for you.  The teachers polled have received gifts anywhere from $5-$50 in value.

Urban Mommy Elisa adds: My older son’s school has teacher gifts down to an art form, both for winter holiday gifts and for end-of-year teacher gifts. There is a binder containing envelopes and cards for each teacher, which is placed in the office. You ask for the teacher you want and the school office manager gives you their envelope. You sign the card, you drop in whatever amount you want to contribute, and two days before the end of the semester, a class parent goes out and picks up a gift card with the money.

We usually collect about $200-$300 per teacher, which is way easier to appreciate than 30 mugs full of jelly beans! There are also envelopes for support staff – from gym teachers to librarians and special educators, so even teachers who don’t have a homeroom class do get something.

It’s a really evolved and truly amazing system. It’s easy to budget for and you can be sure it will be used and enjoyed. We encourage all families to sign the card whether they contribute or not, and contributions are anonymous so there’s no issue of affordability. I highly recommend this to any parent who would be willing to set this system up – you’ll be a schoolyard hero and your legend will live on for years!

(Sometimes, when I’m playing “Superhero Mom” I actually get the boys doing crafts and they make their teachers cards, keychains, beaded necklaces or bracelets or just draw them a picture. But I never commit to this, it’s on an “As Time Permits” only basis.)



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