This is a guest blog post by Hydaway ambassador and English teacher (aka an expert on teacher gifts) Dana Foley. Find her on Instagram at @illreadwhatsheread where she’s always recommending the best books and small shops that make great holiday gifts.
No one will deny that holidays are stressful and gift giving adds to that. As a teacher, December can be a rough month. Two weeks off are coming and EVERYONE knows it! I am often asked as a teacher what the perfect gift for a teacher is. Despite my occupation, I struggle with what to get for my own children’s teachers. Let’s be honest, for some teachers, there isn’t a gift big enough to express my gratitude. I am fortunate that both my kids have teachers that are so dedicated to their craft that I am questioning how much is too much to give. Tough problem to have. Because I teach secondary, I can offer that perspective and I also asked a number of elementary teaching saints for their input as well.
While all children are gifts and all gifts are appreciated, there are some avenues I would suggest steering clear of when expressing gratitude. The first is mugs. We end up with an insane amount and some schools don’t allow teachers to drink out of cups without lids, especially in the lower grades. The same goes for accoutrements for the desks. Seasoned teachers are loaded with these items and want to display things for their students to see which can be difficult with a desk full of mugs and signs. As much as I love my name, I don’t need it on every surface. Candles are another – it is too hard to get the correct scent as that’s so taste-specific.
What can you do? Ask your child what they notice about their teacher. For example, I am a Dunkin’ coffee gal and love when my students notice this and get a gift card to help with my morning wake up. In all honesty, gift cards are the way to go. Teachers are generous by nature, which includes buying books for our classrooms, little prizes for the classroom, and supplies for those less fortunate. Target and Amazon are the most practical if you want to go that direction. If you want to personalize, a gift card to a nearby restaurant that will deliver during a lunch hour has a great, personal touch. There are a lot of websites for book worms now; a gift card to Out of Print is personal, yet allows the teacher to choose what they want. Attaching a small box of chocolates or a new bookmark allows for some flair that’s your own. I adore owls and often tell the students I have a tattoo of a giant owl reading on my back (some students are still trying to decide if this is true). Because of this, owl trinkets are all over and I love them. I have the giver write the name and the year on the bottom and they go on my owl shelf. Practical? No. Loved and appreciated? Yes.
Is your child hellbent on buying a gift? Then buy it. At the end of the day, it’s a gift, and your child’s teacher will make a big deal about it no matter what. I gave you practical ideas, but life doesn’t always have to be that way. Because I am a writing teacher, I model writing almost daily for my students. I would love to say I am just loaded with creativity, but at the end I write what I know, which is an awful lot about me, so I get gifts that are personalized. One year, a student learned how much I love to bake so I got oven mitts for Christmas. She said her mom thought that was the weirdest teacher gift but I still use them!
This is the route I am going this year. Each of my middle school daughter’s teachers are getting a cup cozy. I got one this summer and love it for my cold drinks so they don’t sweat on my desk and for my hot drinks so I don’t need a sleeve. Inside of these, I am putting a gift card based on what my daughter thinks they will like. My son’s teacher is getting the same cozy and a single, larger gift card to Amazon. Both children will be writing notes to each teacher thanking them for their dedication.
No matter what you give a teacher, never underestimate the power of a handwritten note from you and your child. I have a file in my drawer that is nothing but notes and cards from students and parents. If I am having a rough day, I will flip through them and get an instant boost. That is the cheapest and most powerful gift you can award these hard working professionals, the gift of your gratitude and respect. Isn’t that what the holiday season is all about?