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Holiday Gifts for Teachers

Jacqui Murray

Holiday gifts for teachers are a challenge. If your child has many teachers, it's difficult to find a personalized gift for each that is both affordable and valued. For me, as a teacher, I am always happy with a gift certificate that works anywhere, but there are time-proven ways to get more creative than a gift that sounds like "Money.” When I chat with teacher friends, here are the most popular holiday gifts they've gotten over the years. Many are free, and others allow you to spend only what you can afford while still giving a gift the teacher will love.

Most-Popular Holiday Gifts

Let's start by stipulating that what defines a great teacher gift is subjective. It depends upon the teacher's subject, how long they've taught, their personal style, and so much more. The seven suggestions below provide ample ways to provide a gift your child's teacher will love regardless of how well you know them.

A Helping Hand

Probably the most popular gift with most teachers is the gift of time. Sure, money is nice, but when parents are willing to give of themselves to organize class events, chaperone, help out on lesson plans, or any number of other activities, that's priceless. As a tech teacher, my ideal is to have two parents for every K-2 class I teach. That's a lot of helpers and a huge commitment from parents. I rarely found that many so was thrilled whenever parents offered to assist.

Compliments to the Administration

Happy parents often forget to share their joy with the teachers' administrators. Too often, principals hear from parents only when they're angry about the teacher or some class activity. Providing unsolicited good news about the teacher's effectiveness is a wonderful treat for both the teacher and the school's administrators.

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A Thank-You Letter

Handwrite a note to the teacher telling them how much you and your child appreciate what they do. There's little more valuable to a teacher than the acknowledgment from stakeholders that what they work on nights and weekends is working.

Tech Help

If you're geeky and know your way around a computer, iPad, or Chromebook, offer to help your favorite teacher with either training, debugging, or problem-solving. While some teachers are comfortable chatting with a computer, many others aren't. It’s nice to gift her/him with a personal guru available either in person, through a remote connection, or virtually with a program like Google Hangouts.

Holiday Food

This includes any foods that the teacher can use at their holiday celebrations. That might be cookies, candies, cider, alcohol, spiced nuts, or Chex Mix. By providing holiday foods for their parties, they work less and enjoy their guests more. One last point: Your mother always told you the best gifts are those that can be used up. This one fits that category perfectly.

Gift Cards

While this feels impersonal, it is a great gift. Let teachers use whatever amount you're comfortable giving on whatever they need most, often something you wouldn't have thought of. Gift cards can be a general card, like an American Express or Master Card gift card, available for use wherever that card is taken, or store-specific like a movie theatre, Amazon, Scholastic, or Starbucks. Gift cards are one of my favorite gifts because I enjoy them for months afterward.

A Gift from a Teacher’s Wish List

It's becoming popular for teachers to have an online wish list of teaching materials they need. You may remember these from Scholastic books or back-to-school supplies. They've grown up, and now cover all kinds of teaching and classroom resources. Take the time to find out if your teacher is registered online with an organization. Or, help them do this.

Most Unpopular Gifts

Wondering what to avoid? Here's a list I curated from online "Worst teacher gift" sites. It's worth noting that I have received all of these and actually liked them, so take this list with a grain of salt:

  1. Candles (teachers got their fill of these their first few years teaching).
  2. Mugs (like candles, teachers have plenty of these).
  3. I Love Teacher stuff (they already have as much as they can ever use).
  4. Homemade food (lots of people worry about how well these are made. Me, I've actually gotten food poisoning from homemade food).
  5. Intimate gifts (teachers just don't know you enough for this).
  6. Jewelry (what's beautiful to you might not be to the teacher).
  7. Cheap stuff -- these are gifts that are poorly made and will not last. Better to spend the same amount of money on a well-made lesser-priced gift.

Remember: You don't have to give gifts. Often, a heartfelt greeting or holiday card is as meaningful as a bar of expensive soap or a holiday ornament for the tree. One of my favorite gifts was a framed Thank You to me from a student. I displayed that for years, until I retired and now it has a place of honor in my home office.

Whatever you give, make it from your heart, with your love, and carrying a personal meaning.


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of more than 100 ed-tech resources, including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in ed-tech, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on ed-tech topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.