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Best, Worst Holiday Gift Ideas for Teachers

Janelle Cox

Experienced teachers know a thing or two about holiday gifts. They are the ones that usually get the “World’s Best Teacher” mugs or the teacher-themed knickknacks that you see hanging in the classrooms. They are the ones that know what they like to receive as a gift and what they do not. So, who better to ask what to get a teacher, than a teacher herself? Here are the top ideas for holiday gift ideas for teachers.

1. Do give gift cards. Some people may think that they are impersonal, but in actuality a gift card is a perfectly acceptable gift that all teachers would love to receive. A department store like Target or Walmart, a craft store like Michael’s or Joanne Fabrics, or a bookstore like Barnes and Noble are all great places where teachers can buy additional school supplies or a little something for themselves. For a special added touch you can print out a creative gift card printable to put your gift card in. There are very clever printables they say fun things like, “Thanks a Latte for All You Do,” or “Thanks for being an Amazing Teacher.” All you have to do with these cards is add a Starbucks or Amazon gift card. Teachers think they are adorable.

2. Don’t let children pick out the gift. You may think that it’s a wonderful idea to tell the teacher that your child picked out the gift, but as a teacher you know that’s the last thing you want as a gift. If you let your child pick out a gift the teacher would end up with one of those teacher knickknacks or mugs that all teachers dislike so much. So stick to picking out the gift yourself.

3. Do personalize your gift. If you like to shop at Pottery Barn, then you know that personalization is very “in” right now. You can get the teacher a personalized tote bag to carry their supplies in, or a personalized lunch bag. Notepads and personalized pencils are also a great useful gift for a teacher.

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4. Don’t get anything that says “#1 Teacher” or “World’s Best Teacher.” If you know that it is the teacher’s first year teaching, then it is OK to give this type of gift because it will be something that she will treasure. But if it is not her first year teaching, then this is a big NO-NO. A teacher can only have so many of these mugs or knickknacks. If you want to do something creative that shows what a great teacher they are, then find a DIY project that is unique for the gift.

5. Do find out what they like. Sometimes the room mom will have a list of the things and places that the teacher likes. If you don’t know these things yourself, then it’s best to ask her. If you know that the teacher loves Disney, then you can get her something Disney-themed. Or, if you know that the teacher loves too bake, then you can make her a basket full of baking supplies.

6. Don’t re-gift something that you have in your closet. If you didn’t like the gift that you received, then chances are she won’t either. And, you are risking the chance that when your child gives the gift to the teacher they may say something like, “My mom got this from my aunt and didn’t like it, so I hope that you do.” So to spare any embarrassment like that, stick to buying a gift yourself. 

7. Do make a basket. It’s perfectly acceptable to get creative and design a basket full of things that you know the teacher will use and love. You can create a school supplies basket where you could fill it with children’s books, pencils, crayons, colorful paper, markers, etc. You can also create a basket that is Christmas-themed. Everyone can always use some extra hand towels or Christmas cookies.

8. Don’t buy perfume or scented items. Unless you know the exact scent the teacher likes, stay away from anything that has a scent. The last thing a teacher wants is a candle or bottle of perfume that has an unpleasant smell. What may smell nice to you, may not to her.

9. Do get creative. While gift cards and baskets full of stuff we love are nice, there is still something to be said about receiving a gift that is unique. Pinterest has a lot of creative teacher gifts that you can do yourself. For example, you can create a wreath out of crayons and personalize it with the teachers’ name, or you can create a pencil holder out of pencils and personalize it with their initials.

10. Don’t be lazy. Don’t buy something just to buy it. Do you really think that anybody would want a wind chime in the winter or a knickknack of a cat? Take the time to put some thought into your gift. After all, the teacher does deserve some recognition for all of their hard work.

I can’t speak for other teachers, but I can say that any gift from a student is appreciated and will be treasured. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that the price tag does not matter. Teachers do not expect anything elaborate like an expensive handbag or wristwatch. Some of the best gifts that a teacher receives are the ones that are made from the heart.

Do you have any idea that you would like to share? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear your ideas.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.

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