Help parents out. What do teachers really want for holiday gifts?

A parent sent me an e-mail asking what are the ideal gifts for teachers. She said teachers always tell her personal notes or letters from the student, but the parent asked, “If you want to spend some money, what should it be spent on? What would teachers really like this year?”

Pals who are teachers have told me they like books for their classrooms, gift cards and restaurant certificates. What they  don’t want are any more mugs.

Any other ideas?

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

60 comments Add your comment


December 13th, 2011
3:47 pm

Charitable donations for me — Special Olympics or something in that vein

Middle School teacher

December 13th, 2011
4:03 pm

Classrooms always need tissues, hand sanitizer, paper towels and pencils. Dull but always appreciated :-)
Also cute or colorful office supplies (paper clips, binder clips, folders, note pads) are useful.
Other than that, gift cards are nice.


December 13th, 2011
4:06 pm

I agree with Middle School teacher….supplies are always needed and much appreciated! Gift cards are always great to get.

Dedicated if maligned teacher

December 13th, 2011
4:08 pm

I would like for Xmas: 1. Expos markers and 2. A promise that parents will get their children OFF of facebook and into bed at reasonable hours 3. A well stocked kitchen for my students so they will not come to school with a breakfast of hot cheetos or krispie kremes but something much more nutritious. 4. Support Support Support– make learning and being educated a high priority at home so that students will value it when they walk in the door.
FYI- I have received exactly one mug from a family who’s son worked exceptionally hard in my class. I use it all the time.


December 13th, 2011
4:19 pm

Dedicated if maligned teacher

Unfortunately, the chances of you gettin any of these is about zero.

Joy in Teaching

December 13th, 2011
4:41 pm

Copy paper! I only have 4 reams to last me for the rest of the school year.

Good Mother

December 13th, 2011
4:43 pm

I’m the room parent for my child’s class. We had a collection for the teacher and bought a VISA gift card — it spends like cash but is a little more elegant than cash.

My neighbor is a thirty year veteran teacher and she told me that although the mugs are thoughtful, she doesn’t have room for permanent items like mugs, candles and so on. She said it broke her heart to actually have to throw them away because she gets so many. She likes a Barnes and Noble gift card but every teacher is different, that is why the parents in my class collected for a very practical gift from the teacher.

The other items all teacher agreed on unanimously are: handmade gifts that are really made by the children — a drawing, a card, anthing…and a geniune thank you note from the parent that says specifically what they appreciate about the teacher, for example, his or her flexibility in accomodating parent-teacher meetings or giving helpful feedback about the child…something other than “thanks for being a great teacher” — tell them why you think they are great. I think that falls under the heading of being “supportive.”

HS Public Teacher

December 13th, 2011
4:45 pm

Okay – I’ll be honest. I’d love a gift card….. to where ever. That way, I can buy supplies that I need when I need them. I really don’t have storage space in my classroom.

A gift card to Staples, WalMart, Target, or even Kroger would work.


December 13th, 2011
4:56 pm

Agreed – there is a ongoing shortage of classroom supplies. Gift cards help a great deal. The parents who are asking about gifts, and giving the gifts are not the ones who need to to hear dedicated if maligned teacher’s requests.


December 13th, 2011
5:11 pm

One school that I taught at had a terrific idea for teacher gifts. Parents could buy a book for the school library in your name. Many books were bought for the library like this. Of course, this was optional for the parent. But I really loved when they did that.

Gift cards and supplies for your classroom are always nice as well.

frustrated APS mom

December 13th, 2011
5:14 pm

At our school we collect cold hard cash and pool it to give the teacher some spending money. It works really well. Not everyone participates, of course, and the gift is from the whole class – no names are ever left off – but the teachers usually end up with a few hundred dollars. They are always so grateful.


December 13th, 2011
5:16 pm

How about a letter to the editor of the local newspaper detailing the positive virtues of their child’s teacher?

Education Pitfalls

December 13th, 2011
5:22 pm

I would love my student’s parents to teach them how to show respect to their fellow classmates. Thanks.


December 13th, 2011
5:23 pm

Showing up for PTA.
Checking Homework.
Bed times at an appropriate time.
School supplies are great.
Keeping your kid home when they are sick.
Reading to and with your child.
Watching something educational and not anything that begins with “The Real…”


December 13th, 2011
5:36 pm

It’s sad that public school teachers, when asked here, have all responded with the same answer: money to buy supplies for the kids. What a tough, unappreciated job you folks have. Thanks for doing it.


December 13th, 2011
5:52 pm

Gift cards to bookstores, office supply stores, TARGET, WALMART, etc. are all welcomed gifts. Please no coffee cups. These are my recommendations, but always understand that any gift is appreciated by a teacher. It IS the thought that counts.

Jordan Kohanim

December 13th, 2011
5:56 pm

Dry erase markers!! I kill those bad boys. Those and scratch-and-sniff stickers are my holiday faves. My favorite gift was from a student who hand-made pillows for me. I still have them. :)


December 13th, 2011
6:13 pm

Just simply spread the word that teachers are under-paid, over-worked and yet, they love the children and their jobs. Then ask, “Would you do it?” Also, applaud all of the school administrators that always get a hit on the chin. They also work tirelessly….and love the children. So, KIND WORKS OF JOY IN THE COMMUNITY.

Former APS Teacher

December 13th, 2011
6:22 pm

Thoughtful notes from parents and students are the best. I have a file of them that I have kept over the years. In terms of purchasing something- gift cards. Target, Barnes and Noble, restaurants, etc.

B. Killebrew

December 13th, 2011
6:23 pm

This is a no-brainer:

Gift Cards and Restaurant Certificates

Your pals nailed it. Except for the part about books for the classroom–must have been suggested by some of those homemaker-ish, mom-esque, apple-sweater-wearing teachers.

B. Killebrew

December 13th, 2011
6:24 pm

Oh, and Kind Notes/Cards/Letters.

long time educator

December 13th, 2011
6:29 pm

No one has mentioned card or board games for rainy days in elementary school.

Proud Teacher

December 13th, 2011
6:56 pm

Hey Teacher

December 13th, 2011
6:57 pm

My favorite gift from last year was a huge basket of non-perishable snacks (crackers, granola bars, nuts etc) to keep in our department office area. Several families went in on the gift and gave one to each of the major departments. Very thoughtful — and for any teacher that has been STARVING because they had to work through lunch, a package of crackers is a life-saver. Office supplies are always good — especially quality pens which disappear like crazy.


December 13th, 2011
7:03 pm

Whew… glad my $25 gift cards will be helpful for our kindergarten teacher. I was worried that it would come off as generic and not thoughtful.


December 13th, 2011
7:16 pm

Momania covered this a week ago.

I’d love the intangibles. However, the parents I’d like it from are not at all going to provide it! I agree with “Dedicated”, but I will buy my own markers! I treasure nearly 40 years of occasional notes from parents and students, however.

Being a “push in,” I rarely get any gifts, but it is fun to watch the other teachers.


December 13th, 2011
7:32 pm

I have sent casseroles (in a throw away pan), bagged salad, and rolls to my kids teachers. At this time of the year cooking is almost the last thing teachers want to do when they get home.
I also think the community gift card is great. The teacher can spend it on supplies, or a treat.

Dr. Monica Henson

December 13th, 2011
7:55 pm

I have notes and letters from students (and young teachers I supervised), dating back many, many years that I absolutely treasure. That was always my favorite gift to receive, and to give.


December 13th, 2011
8:32 pm

I keep the letters and the Christmas cards with handwritten notes.

I’d love to have respectful students who get plenty of sleep at night and who do their best in class.

And at some point, receiving an ink cartridge for my school printer would be awesome.


December 13th, 2011
8:35 pm

I’ve never worn an “apple” sweater, but books for the classroom or library were a favorite of mine.

A vase made by a 6th grade student was terrific. And my Christmas tree had some really cool ornaments hand made by students. Anything that students take the time to make is appreciated.


December 13th, 2011
9:03 pm

I second (third?) the supplies for the classroom. Post-its, staples, pencils, markers, etc. By December, lots of that stuff is gone. (It’s amazing how fast 2nd graders can go through markers!)


December 13th, 2011
9:11 pm

gift cards = awesome
chocolate = appreciated at first; however, my waistline doesn’t like it afterwards
handwritten cards (and anything homemade) = thoughtful and appreciated


December 14th, 2011
12:06 am

I am a college professor and always appreciate some Jack Daniels.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

December 14th, 2011
12:42 am

Good teachers really want students eager to learn and parents eager to team with teachers in making learning happen.


December 14th, 2011
12:51 am

Over 30 years ago, a cute little boy student with red hair gave me a bright yellow coffee mug. I don’t like heavy mugs, and this one was “just right”.For over 20 years, I had my morning coffee in it before I went to school. When a crack came in the side, I thought it was ruined. It was ruined as a coffee mug, but I recycled and have used it since as a pencil holder. I could not get rid of it. The little boy with red hair is now a teacher in the district for which I am Chairman of the Board.

The American Dream

December 14th, 2011
1:26 am

I always get my child’s teacher a gift card. Last year, Mr Smith, my child’s biology teacher, told me that the $75 he received in Cheetah bucks really went a long way toward paying for one of the best nights out in his life. Two years ago, a group of parents got together and purchased our favorite physical education teacher a case of scotch. We always thought it made this teacher feel a little better at the end of a long day. I have also purchased lingerie for a few of my child’s teachers. Some of these poor teachers don’t have enough money or an attentive enough husband to purchase them such luxury items. It is really important to talk to the teacher however before you give them intimate items. I have also provided my teachers with tickets to Wrestlemania. Always a great gift too!! Merry Christmas everyone. God bless you all. Watch for the second coming on December 26 at 9:00AM. My preacher at First Christian Church in Gwinnett has predicted that the second coming is upon us. Again, Merry Christmas!!!

Honk Tonk Man

December 14th, 2011
1:31 am

The American Dream . . . there is no room for this kind of smut on this wonderful blog. Your child probably dropped out of the third grade and spends most of its time with his father on the couch watching wrestling in their double wide trailor. You should be ashamed of yourself. I am a teacher. I have taught for 22 years in Duluth and I am insulted by your assertions that you have provided teachers with strip club memberships, alcohol, and lingerie for X-Mas gifts. I bet you aren’t a Christian at all. You are probably one of them Muslims. You should go back to the God forsaken sand trap you came from.


December 14th, 2011
5:19 am

how about extra dictionaries and thesauruses? the student versions in the classroom usually lack the words the kids really need. plus looking up words and the ability to determine guide words is a skill measured on those darn standardized assessments. it also eliminates the “how do you spell….?” “what’s that word..?” Dictionaries and thesauruses can be purchased at a dollar store so the cost is minimal.


December 14th, 2011
5:55 am

malleesmom-in middle school we are allowing smart phones for looking up words.
I vote gift cards…along w/ a nice note to save for when you’re having a bad day. In middle school, receiving anything is nice…very few gifts, usually. I got a Barnes and Noble card yesterday…I will use it to get some new books for my classroom library.

Lib in Cobb

December 14th, 2011
5:55 am

Cooperative parents

Two More Days

December 14th, 2011
5:55 am

Printer cartridges! I received one black and one color ink cartridge to last the entire year. They were gone before Thanksgiving. I can’t imagine any other profession (other than the self-employed) where employees are required to purchase basic supplies (staplers, copy paper, etc.


December 14th, 2011
5:58 am

Most teachers would like a state legislature and governor who support public education and learning that cannot simply be measured by a multiple-choice exam. please.

Lib in Cobb

December 14th, 2011
6:00 am

@Honk: American Dream is yanking your chain. You can forget the sermon.

God Bless the Teacher!

December 14th, 2011
6:16 am

The fact I am even asked what I want is gift enough for me. However, I feel uncomfortable wanting to say anything since doing so may give the appearance I am being swayed by any gifts. I know that’s not the intent by most givers, but we’re scrutinized for everything else we do and I don’t like the fact I feel like someone may have an ulterior motive. With that said, I’ll always welcome dry erase markers, gift cards to food places or home improvement stores, and cherubs who are polite and motivated each and every school day. :-)

EC Mom

December 14th, 2011
9:06 am

At our elementary school, teachers are usually given cash or a gift card (for their personal use, not for classroom supplies). A handful of teachers request a donation to a charity instead. Most families contribute $10 per child at the holidays and again at the end of the year, so depending on class size the gift amounts range from $100-$250.

Pretty much all kids in our school provide the requested supplies when school begins, and additional requests throughout the year for things like Expo markers are met by parents. Fortunately at our school there is not a need for teachers to ask for Kleenix, copy paper, etc. for gifts, and the gifts they receive are truly for them. Teachers deserve this token of appreciation from the parents!

LGBT HS Teacher

December 14th, 2011
9:19 am

I received one of the sweetest, most thoughtful, most personal gifts of my career this year. I drink a lot of Coca-Cola; it’s become the point of a running gag in the classroom. It’s been so for years.

A student this morning brought me a gift bag with a thank you note for assisting with college essaays & a six-can pack of Coca-Cola. It was not expensive enough to be awkward, and not some trinket that would be displayed for a year and then forgotten, but rather a simple acknowledgement of what I do, and was very classy and clearly personalized- this was something he selected himself for me.

LGBT HS Teacher

December 14th, 2011
9:20 am

Just A Teacher

December 14th, 2011
9:27 am

I would like a Christmas bonus this year. Thank you for asking.


December 14th, 2011
9:30 am

copy paper and a smile from parents


December 14th, 2011
9:32 am

Just want parents to understand we love to teach and we really are trying to prepare your children and that we are sorry for teaching the test but we have no control over what the state and federal government dumps on us.