10 gift ideas the teachers in your life REALLY want

Guest post by Jacqueleen Hale

gifts for teachers

If you are a human and live on the planet Earth, then there is a fair chance that you may know a teacher that you may be shopping for. Whether this teacher is related to you by blood, marriage, or association (when spending eight hours a day with your offspring), this person is appreciative that you’ve thought of them at all.

If you’re anything like my mom — the sweet woman who toiled endlessly in the kitchen making purposefully ugly-DIY-worthy cookies, so that my teachers would believe that they were the thoughtful product of a 3rd grader’s labor — then you probably have also found yourself weeping into the bowl of M&Ms at 2am on a weeknight and whispering, “There has to be a better way…”

And there is, my friends. There definitely is.

This year, whether it be a holiday, birthday, or end of the year “thanks for dealing with my kid for nine months,” get Teacher something they will cherish for always instead!

I present to you, the top ten gift ideas for the teacher in your life…

mini keurig

#1: Coffee

Because coffee is life. Gift cards, Keurig machines, and straight up IV drips are all welcomed. And look! The new mini Keurig comes in banana color.

#2: Gift cards for bookstores

Just because they teach, it doesn’t mean that they don’t like to read for fun. They usually end up spending an entire paycheck on books and supplies for the classroom, so it would be nice to pick up something fun, crazy, and decidedly not G rated.

#3: Audio Books

And sometimes their adult brains like to be stimulated while the rest of their body slowly decays in rush hour traffic.

Cabana Stripes Sweatshirt Tote Bag in grey fox
Cabana Stripes Sweatshirt Tote Bag in grey fox

#4: Totes

Because no one goes through bags like teachers do. Surprise your Teacher with something that’s totes awesome.

#5: Movie Theater Tickets

When teachers don’t want to read a book, they go and see it at the movies, just like normal people! Help a teacher out and send him to the movies so he can figure out what all the kids are talking about.

#6: Crafty handmade items that were actually made by kids

This one might take a little bit more time to put together than, let’s say, tote bag, but it is still an all-time favorite of teachers the world-over. Example: How awesome are these nifty Christmas tree earrings from one of my 9th graders? He actually made them!

Pencil Me In Flat

#7: Miss Frizzle inspired accessories

You can bet that most of the teachers teaching the kids today grew up in Miss Frizzle’s cracked out world of scientific exploration in the hit PBS show, The Magic School Bus. They actually want to be her. To get your favorite teacher one step closer to taking turning her students into space rocks or whatever, start off by making sure she has a pair of these bad boys.

#8: Weird desk supplies

Teachers don’t want to be that person who spends hard earned money on really stupid things like pushpins shaped like battle axes, but let’s face it; it’s what they really want.

#9: Booze

They’ll never tell you that, but it’s what they’re thinking when holding another tin of shortbread cookies and smiling… God, I hope there’s beer in here.

Photo courtesy of Etsy seller The Wool Fish
Photo courtesy of Etsy seller The Wool Fish

#10: Content Specific Tchotchkes

If your teacher is spending day after day trying to get the next generation to appreciate one particular subject, it’s probably because that teacher is highly attracted to that kind of content (even possibly on a sexual level… yes, you, grammar…I’m looking at you). Might I suggest any of the items for the content specific teacher in your life?

  • Math: For the strapping math teaching man or woman in your life, he or she may love this smashing tie full of math things from seller The Wool Fish on Etsy.
  • Science: For the nerdy science person, there is always this hip way to keep your sandwiches cool. The Organ Transplant lunch cooler is loved by all who won’t puke at the thought of such things.
  • History: While a lot of people these days are trying to steal your grandpa’s style, History teachers like to take it one step further and steal the panache of your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great- grandpa. One way to impress this teacher is with really, really old shit. Sometime like authentic Roman glass bling.
  • English/Language Arts: These quotation earrings will mean your English teacher will never leave the house without being properly quoted again.
  • Foreign Languages: I’m still not sure what it is about world language teachers, but they love hats.

Teachers, raise your hand. Teach us more about the things you REALLY want to be gifted!

Comments on 10 gift ideas the teachers in your life REALLY want

  1. Movie Tickets! This is the perfect daycare provider (women in their 20s) gift! I had been thinking about coffee gift cards, but movie tickets is a much better idea!

    Question to you all — would you rather get actual movie tickets (good at any movie, but with a surcharge for 3D) or a movie theater gift card that in addition to tickets, could be used for popcorn/candy/drinks , 3D movies, etc?

    • I am an early childhood special educator. My favorite gifts have been: lotion (heavy duty skin repair, UNSCENTED), because I wash my hands all the freaking time, and a massage gift card (the parents pooled their money and gave us $100 worth each). Target gift cards are also nice!

      I’ll second heartfelt notes. I keep a lot of those, and they mean a lot.

  2. As a teacher myself, I would warn against “teacher clothing” and teacher tchotchkes. As a ten-year high school teacher, I make it a point to look professional and not like Ms Frizzle. Not a single person I work with (in a staff of 100) wears educator- and school-themed clothing. I guess I’m just saying “know your audience.”

    I will add one to the list that is my favorite: recognition. The most memorable gifts I have ever gotten from students and their parents are genuine notes thanking me for specific ways I have helped their students.

    • An elementary teacher friend of mine mentioned that the change in dress has something to do with educational theories. Elementary school teachers in the 80-90s were encouraged to wear flashy clothing to help hold the attention of the students. Now they’ve moved on to other theories.

      But I agree that a personal note would be better than yet another generic “best teacher” ornament.

  3. I have the Organ Transplant cooler! It’s pretty roomy, and fits my typical lunch: salad, apple, and cup of yogurt. It also does a good job of grossing out my coworkers who don’t deal with science-y stuff. My students usually give an evil laugh when they see it.

  4. I’m an instructor at the state university (also still in grad school working on PhD) and my sister’s an elementary special ed teacher. We can both vouch for weird desk supplies! Also, instead of Ms. Frizzle-like clothes (though I do dig the pencil shoes), how about professional blouses and tops in the teacher’s school colors? There’s a never ending list of spirit days and stuff to get through, so it helps to have a number of those. Admittedly, this might be a better gift if you are related to a teacher.

  5. As a teacher I have to add my voice to the “no more tchochkes” side. Many teacher’s just need basic things like gift cards for office supplies so that we don’t have to spend our own money. Notes of recognition are also great; those help get you through the bad days more than anything.

  6. There are a lot of teachers in our family. While they really appreciate the sentiment behind gifts that aren’t disposable (like trinkets, etc), they deal with a lot of students, and over the years that is a lot of just.. stuff (junk).

    Booze is a yes (to the right kind of teacher). Also boxed food / gift basket-type things work for the busy teacher / parent-to-young-children; They are gifts they can give someone else (when theres no time for shopping from report cards)!

    I like the useful gifts (office supplies), and cards / notes from their students. Great idea!

  7. Definitely a gift card for any supermarket/store that sells everything and specify that it is to spend on the kids/pay tjrm back for all their own money they spend on the kids. Teachers spend tons of their own money for the kids. Making the classroom environment work. Making resources motivating. Stickers and other rewards. Food etc for celebrations. Even food and clothing for the kids who arrive cold or hungry. Schools do not pay for this stuff, teachers do. I once got a gift card like this and was in tears because I felt it really showed that the parents of the kids in my class really got how much I did for them and how much I loved them. And essentially it made my life easier and I was able to do these extras for the class without thinking twice.

  8. The things I appreciated the most, by far, were the handmade cards and drawings from students. I still have nearly all the notes I got in my three years of teaching because they were a token that showed I was appreciated. Teachers get a lot of crap thrown at them and the notes of appreciation can brighten a teacher’s day. I would pin up the drawings I got from students next to my desk as a reminder of why I was there on those really tough days, too.

    But flowers and gift cards to restaurants, bookstores, and Target are greatly appreciated! The kitschy teacher themed ornaments and stuff can by iffy, though… I’d say have your kids be observant about what a teacher likes. Do that have a lot of that kitschy teacher stuff? Are they always drinking coffee? Do they mention any hobbies or trips they’ve gone on?

  9. I teach at the post-secondary level, so I occasionally get cards and baked goods from students. Although the baked goods may be attempts to gain favor around grading time, they are still much appreciated. I will eat the brownie, thank you, but it won’t get you a better grade.

    I love coffee, coffee gift cards, and coffee-related items. Pretty much all of my colleagues are constantly drinking coffee. I can guarantee – professors looooove coffee! A lot of them really like beer for after work/weekends, as well, but that’s not my thing. I’m sure they would love a gift card for use at a local pub or a well-selected six-pack.

    If you have spare money and are in the mood to give a somewhat extravagant gift to a future MA/PhD graduate or current MA/PhD working at an educational institution (i.e. someone in your family), give regalia. Appropriate regalia is inappropriately expensive. If you have the money, it will save the MA/PhD-holder in your life their own hard-earned cash and help them avoid renting regalia (also inappropriately expensive). My colleague’s parents bought him his regalia, and I am actually a little bit jealous. You may think it’s a one-time-use thing, but once you have a job at an educational institution, wearing regalia can happen 4+ times a year, potentially. It’s not an especially exciting gift, but I think it would be very appreciated (if professor-in-your-family has to go to graduation 2x a year and doesn’t own regalia, that is).


    I’m not the teacher in the family, my husband is, but about 85% of our dates out in our first year of marriage were paid for, in part, by gift cards from parents. Our town was small enough that the families could get gift certificates from the downtown association that we could use at almost any of the shops downtown. The flexibility was amazing.

    Anything that acknowledges that your teacher is a person outside of teaching is really sweet. Movie tickets, books, personal notes, foods and drink, are all very much appreciated.

  11. This is a good list, but check your board/district/school policy. Many places gave rules against giving teachers gifts, and for good reason. Gift cards are awesome, but so is something simple and handmade. Be discrete. As a teacher I would feel really awkward if I received clothing, or a Keurig…that just seems to cross a boundary for me.

    • I think the tone of this article indicates that some are gifts for people who teach you and your kids and some are gifts for friends and relations who, incidentally, are teachers.

  12. As a kindy teacher my favourite gifts were things actually for me in the classroom (I’m not their friends, so too personal gifts like clothing can feel really awkward), and as said we spend so much money on them in the classroom it’s nice not to have to.

    I loved the voucher for the office supplies store, and good hardcover books for the classroom with a beautiful dedication written inside the cover, and stuff that doesn’t last too long (and thus require storage) like chocolate or flowers 🙂 Although the mum last year who paid special attention and bought me a lord of the rings Lego mini set did get total awesome points.

  13. As a teacher, I appreciate any gift of appreciation since our job is so often a one-way street. But I do have to admit, the simple $5 Starbucks gift cards are pretty awesome. Don’t be afraid of feeling boring or unoriginal when giving gifts like this! I’d rather have something that I can and will actually use on a given day! One awesome gift that I got last year was a coffee and hot cocoa kit that came with a cute mug. You could get a Starbucks card and put it in a cute cheap mug with a bow around it. Perfect gift 🙂

    Another suggestion regarding home made food items – don’t give home made food items to people who you don’t know personally. I say this because I have received tons of well intentioned home made food gifts that unfortunately end up being passed along to other colleagues, or much to my shame a guilt, the trash because I have a litany of food allergies and I can’t eat random home made things if I don’t know exactly what the ingredients are 🙁 Many of my coworkers are in the same situation. I realize that lots of people probably do the food thing because it’s cheaper than buying gifts and it certainly has a personal touch, but I’d much rather just have a nice note.

  14. Booze… well, I shouldn’t say it’s a flat-out no, but it’s REALLY AWKWARD when a 10-year-old kid hands you a bottle of gin at school. Just ask my husband 😛

    • One time when I was working at an after school program, one of the families gave me and my friend a bottle of vodka each…on the Christmas before we turned 21.

  15. Uh, yeah don’t send your kid to school with booze for their teacher. Even if it’s a gift, that will get your kid very much suspended from school. Also agreed on the allergy check for homemade goodies – teachers have just as many food allergies as your kid’s classmates.

    As for gift cards, maybe look into a ThinkGeek gift certificate, especially for teachers of math or science, or teachers who are known geeks. Dunkin Donuts cards are great, but I could get so many cool things for my classroom from ThinkGeek! Etsy would probably work well for gift certificates as well. It’s versatile and different from what we normally get.

  16. I think the most important line here is “get Teacher something” to show your appreciation for everything they do. As a music teacher, there are so many things that I do outside of my contract, and I know many other teachers in many other subjects that do the same. We as teachers constantly do extra work in the evenings and in our “free” time. ANY little gift is appreciated — even if it is just a card saying thanks. Some of my favorite items were thank you cards signed by my students. Gifts do not need to cost much to be meaningful.

    To add to the conversation, I have seen a significant decrease in the amount of teacher gifts in my district. This is not due to a district policy forbidding teacher gifts, but seems to be a trend. This is such a shame, because with new teacher evaluation standards, the only time that many teachers are told that they are doing a good job is when they hear it from parents and students. I cannot state enough how important it is to tell a teacher when they are doing a good job.

    Not only that, but the act of giving a gift to teaches the student as well. Students learn how to express gratitude and begin to cultivate compassion towards others. 🙂

  17. Please don’t give me cutesy teacher themed stuff, it just makes me feel awful when I eventually throw it away 🙁 Same with “cute” stationary, let me buy my own please (because I love cutting my hand open on that pen covered in teeny little mirrors as I unwrap it, then feel really guilty every single time I see you for the next 12 months and I am not using the death trap pen).

    I love a good gift of Booze! I have never heard of a kid here getting suspended for delivering gifts of wine 😉

    Here in Australia, Christmas is also the end of the teaching year so sometimes the presents can be a little more substantial, I get lots of booze, loads of Tea, Chocolate, and giftcards cards. Some Australian Suggestions 😉
    Giftcards to Officeworks (my favourite gift from a kid EVER!)
    Chocolate (that isn’t Lindt Balls 😉 )

    Honestly, it is the handwritten cards that are the best thing ever! I don’t need the rest of the stuff, but I love a good handwritten card!

  18. I’m a primary school teacher from Australia, and I must plead with every parent out there currently trying to buy their child’s teacher a Christmas gift right now- please, no more coffee mugs! Every year it seems I get inundated with mugs, and the worst thing is, I don’t even drink tea or coffee!! (I know I know, shock horror! A teacher that doesn’t need caffeine to survive! Haha) Chocolate is another one that I’m sick of receiving. Last year I regifted a lot of the chocolate boxes to friends and family because I just had far too many!

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