Help! Mom needs cheap teacher present ideas fast!

I received a note from a mom on Friday in desperate need of INEXPENSIVE gift ideas for teachers. Here’s what she wrote:

“It may be late in the game, but I would love to see some teacher gift suggestions. I have 4 children, and when I add up school and church, it’s almost 20 teachers! I want to do something, but can’t spend a ton of money on each one.  I’m sure your readers have some great ideas, especially the teachers out there who have one too many apple ornaments!”

I usually do $20 movie gift cards for teachers (school, Sunday School and bus drivers) so they can relax with their families and contribute to the class gift. But this year I have cut back. I did contribute $15 to the class gift for each main teacher. For the Sunday School teachers I found these very cute little bags at Barnes & Noble for under $10. They had a bright illustration of a peace dove on them and I thought that would be appropriate for church.

I was tempted to bake something extra for the teachers but it’s my understanding they are creeped out by eating home-baked goods. The ironic part is the school has asked parents to bake or buy two-dozen cookies so each teacher can bring home cookies for their families. So I may contribute to that — but I would want to bake. Are they not going to eat it if I bake it? (I have “The Gourmet Cookie Book” from the library so I want to make something from there.)

So give this mom with 20 teachers to buy for your very best inexpensive, yet thoughtful suggestions for holiday gifts!

(I will post a second topic around noon so be sure to check back!)

58 comments Add your comment

middleschoolteacher

December 12th, 2010
9:25 pm

Truly, it is the thought that counts with my students and the gifts or cards that they bring to me. I appreciate any recognition of my role in the lives of my students. Each year I write and mail a thank you note to each student who brings anything to me at this time of year. I include on my thank you list any student who has created cards for me, brought store cards, or shared any type of gift. If a student brings a homemade item, I will eat some of it in the student’s presence. This has worked for me for my 20+ years of teaching.
I am sensitive to the fact that not all families can afford to share something.

1sus

December 12th, 2010
9:31 pm

I found some cute pens at a gift shop this year with a letter monogram on them and got them for some of my daughter’s teachers (I think they may have been about $6 each) and a zebra print monogramed luggage tag for one because she has told the kids that “zebra is her favorite color!). It was the only inexpensive zebra thing I could get my hands on. But even $6 could be a lot if you are buying 20 plus items. In previous years we have even done a charity donation in honor of my child’s teachers. My child drew a picture representing their vision of the charity (that they chose) and we made color copies of that as little tags and attached it to candy or other treat. Some may not have like it, but I’m married to a teacher and am a child of a principal and can honestly say they would both have appreciate that as much as all of the other little things they have gotten from kids over the years. Bookstore gift cards, Starbucks cards, Brusters, Schoolbox, etc. are also always gift card options. Good luck. It is tough.

1sus

December 12th, 2010
9:33 pm

. . . and P.S. we have eaten all sorts of home-baked items over the years . . . most of it is DELICIOUS!

HISTORY TEACHER

December 12th, 2010
9:33 pm

I have been teaching for many years and have received many gifts. While I always appreciate a gift, I can tell you there are just so many cups and teacher christmas ornaments that one can use. However the gifts that mean the most to me are letters from my students and their parents. I have box full of letters that I have received over the last 25 years from students and parents. When I am low( and like many teachers these days, there are a lot of low times) I get the box down and read some of the letters. They always help me get back my prospective on why I am a teacher. I consider these letters some of my most precious posessions. I would rather get a letter of appreciation that 100 coffee cups or candy.

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1sus

December 12th, 2010
9:38 pm

How about even a letter to the principal telling how much your teacher means to your child with some great examples. Everyone can use “attaboys” and having your boss know about it is even better!

suzi

December 12th, 2010
9:39 pm

What about one of those small plastic bears full of honey and have your child include a letter about the “sweet teacher” or maybe some handsanitzer – you can find each of those items for around $1….

Mary

December 12th, 2010
9:46 pm

In “The Gourmet Cookie Book” is the recipe for Skibo Castle Ginger Crunch (1999). The ginger is very subtle, hard to define. It’s a 13″ x 9′” bar cookie with a shortbread base & a briefly cooked icing. I love these cookies. They’re easy & delicious.

South Ga Teacher

December 12th, 2010
9:48 pm

Some of the best things I have received are baked goods from my students! One gift I particularly remember was a plate of buckeyes, and the plate was a christmas plate, and it has been reused often.
This year for my son’s teachers, I’m making swirly/marble ornaments-the glass ball ornaments with acrylic paint swirled inside, topped off with matching ribbon. Cheap and easy, I think I spent a total of 12 bucks for 24 ornaments, ribbon and paint.

SpED teacher

December 12th, 2010
9:52 pm

How about a gift card for $160. That’s one dollar per day for someone who spends more time with children than the parents.

Alabama Teacher

December 12th, 2010
10:00 pm

I try to give my co-workers meaningful gifts each year. I have been known to buy a set of solid color (usually a school color or their favorite color, not necessarily holiday) cups or mugs and actually personalize each one with the person’s name and a quote that means something to them. I usually do this with a metallic sharpie or paint pen. Of course, teachers get many cups this time of year, but very few of them, if any, are personalized and appropriate for use all year long!

JATL

December 12th, 2010
10:09 pm

Hit a Tuesday Morning, Target, Walmart, TJ Maxx , Kohls or Homegoods (Garden Ridge too if one is nearby). You should be able to find some cute and cheap Christmas and holiday-themed plates and jars for treats. Some teachers eat them, some don’t, so it’s up to you -make something yummy to fill them with or buy some yummy and festive candies -maybe do a mix so if they don’t eat homemade things, they can still enjoy the candy. They can use the plate or jar again as well.

I love the idea of writing the principal a letter about how much you appreciate or like the teachers! Copy and put in a card for the teacher with a note letting him/her know you wanted them to realize how much you appreciated their teaching. Or -have your children make a special card for them. If you know the teachers are coffee drinkers -tuck a $5 Caribou or Starbucks card in -you may only be buying one coffee, but it’s still nice!

teacher1

December 12th, 2010
10:10 pm

I would echo the responses of others above, as a teacher I would prefer a heartfelt note or letter over a mug or ornament or other small dust catcher any day. Knowing that I am appreciated is far more powerful. I take the time to personally write each student a handwritten thank you card for each gift and the heartfelt messages are the ones I love saying thank you for the best! Meaningful and heartfelt trumps a mug or smelly bath salts any day in my book!

Knighton

December 12th, 2010
10:13 pm

As a high school teacher, I do not see that many gifts. I think people stop after elementary school. I concur with the above poster, however, who said that his/her favorite things are the letters received over the years. I, too, have a sunshine folder where I keep cards, letters, pictures, etc. from my students and even my principal. It is the BEST pick-me-up! For my own children’s teachers, I usually buy holdiay hand towels. I recently them in packs of two from Kohls. They were on sale for $6.50. So, if you wanted to split them up, you’d spend half that per teacher. I try to think of things I’d like to receive. Holiday towels would be great (although I’ve never received them). I’ve also given dry erase markers, pens, pencils, and other such desk supplies. Oftentimes, teachers must buy their own supplies, so I know these things would be something that I’d appreciate. I also have eaten many, many things my students have made for me. The only ones I avoid are the ones with nuts. So, maybe keep in mind that some may be allergic to nuts when you make your goodies. Whatever you do, I am sure it will be appreciated.

Knighton

December 12th, 2010
10:15 pm

Sorry–it is late! It should be “holiday” and “I recently bought them”!

st

December 12th, 2010
10:25 pm

I am a teacher and I agree with the others about a letter. My favorite gifts are the ones that money can’t buy. Have your child handwrite or type a letter to their teachers and decorate it. I keep mine in an album and look through it each year. Some days it is what keeps me going. No coffee cups please. Also, any donations for our classroom are most appreciated too. We love the different colored pens, markers, sticky notes, etc.

middle school teacher

December 12th, 2010
10:28 pm

honestly- a card with a heart-felt message is a wonderful gift. I am so grateful for those sweet students that are so thoughtful to send me a Christmas wish. Do not stress mom, “we” teachers are appreciative with a simple card! Bless you and Merry Christmas!

irisheyes

December 12th, 2010
10:51 pm

I’m making soup mixes in a jar. I found a great recipe on the internet for confetti bean soup and a cornbread mix. (It would taste great on a day like this!) As a teacher myself, I have more than enough candles and mugs, and I usually donate those to Goodwill. For elementary teachers, boxes of crayons, pencils, markers, and colored pencils are always appreciated. (As is Kleenex! It’s amazing how fast I go through boxes in my room.) Construction paper and copy paper are appreciated too. Our supply budgets are getting cut every year, and more and more money is coming out of my pocket to make sure my kids have the consumable supplies they need.

MiddleSchoolSocialStudies Teacher

December 12th, 2010
10:56 pm

When I taught at my first high school in a wealthier area a few years back, I was shocked and thankful at the gift cards I recieved. I was not expecting anything since I taught high schoolers. What really brought tears to my eyes, though, was the gifts I recieved last year during my first year teaching middle school. It was so sweet. I got candy, ornaments, cookies, fudge, books, etc. I made sure that I wrote a thank you card right there for my kids because it was so thoughtful and sweet. Those kids had such a big smile on their faces. Those little gifts meant so much to me because I was teaching in an economically disadvantaged area and knew that these little gifts were important. After I was laid off from that school because of the district cuts, I made sure that the non-edible gifts had names on them so that I can remember who gave them to me when I moved to my new district. They make me smile on my worst and best days in my classroom.

msteacher

December 12th, 2010
11:15 pm

How about some school supplies…. a pack of pens, pencils or even kleenex (especially this time of year) is well needed. We spend much of our own money buying pens and pencils. You would be AMAZED at the number of middle school students who come in EVERY DAY and ask to “borrow” a pen or a pencil. I don’t fight that battle, I give them what they need as many of my students are truly in need of supplies. Go to the dollar store and get a pack of each with a note to the teacher to use for the class! Merry Christmas!

abacus2

December 12th, 2010
11:21 pm

Ditto – PLEASE no mugs! I like to get letters, cards, and drawings. Gift cards are good, too, especially those that can be used for school supplies. I mail my thank you cards because even in this electronic age the kids get a kick out of real mail addressed to them.

louise

December 12th, 2010
11:23 pm

I teach high school. We don’t get many presents but cards are always appreciated. For a gift I would love tissues, hand sanitizer, etc for the room. School supplies for those who can’t go buy pencils and paper. I need nor expect anything. A bag of candy for the class on a test day.

MSSpeEdTeacher

December 12th, 2010
11:31 pm

As a middle school special education teacher, please save your money on the teacher mugs and ornaments. Take that money and pay it forward to a charity. Have your child write me a letter and mention who the organization you supported; you never know, I might add some money to your chosen cause. My favorite gift – a huge hug and “Merry Christmas”

Cindy B

December 12th, 2010
11:47 pm

When my son got to middle school and it was more than just a couple of teachers to buy for, I started buying a case of grapefruit and oranges for $30 and putting it in the teachers’ break room with a note for the entire staff thanking them for the terrific job they do all year around. That way I felt like I was including everyone, connections teachers, custodial staff, lunchroom workers, administration, etc.

Yvette Johnston

December 13th, 2010
2:32 am

I will be giving ChickFilA Calendars to each teacher this year – only $6 each.

Diane

December 13th, 2010
3:49 am

I am making cookie kits for my daughter’s teachers. She is in Kindergarten and has a teacher and an aide. I bought a bag of sugar cookie mix, some cookie cutters (Dollar Tree – 6 for $1), some sprinkles (Target dollar section), and a Christmas plate (clearance after Christmas last year). Put in a Christmas bag and they have a gift that they can bake with their families. I like the idea of school supplies as well. I’ll have to check the budget to see if that is doable.

KA

December 13th, 2010
5:25 am

I have found that teachers really enjoy a $10 gift card to a local restaurant, enough for lunch out.

Middle_School_Teacher

December 13th, 2010
6:05 am

When your kids get to middle school, you generally have 6 teachers per quarter…that’s kind of crazy to buy for! Most kids bring nothing, and that’s fine. These same kids bring in a ton of expensive gifts for their friends, which is somewhat outrageous for that age group, in my opinion. If you want to do a “little something,” I suggest $5 starbucks cards or Brusters cards…you can actually get something for $5. I love bookstore gift cards, too. I like homebaked things as long as your kid is nice. If your kid is a trouble maker, I throw it away, as I assume it’s got spit on it, or some other diabolical item (sorry, middle school kids are a different breed). I’d really love some tissues and paper towels, too! Merry Christmas!

t4

December 13th, 2010
6:56 am

Christmas ornaments are an easy and meaningful idea. Not necessarily the ones with ‘teacher’ and apples all over, but just a very pretty ornament. Snow globes are also a good idea. Hobby Lobby or Kohl’s has both things for very reasonable prices.

Middle_School_Teacher

December 13th, 2010
7:58 am

I vote no on the ornaments, but yes on the snow globes. After 25+years of marriage and children, I really have all the ornaments I could want. A young teacher might feel differently.

RJ

December 13th, 2010
8:22 am

I love ornaments and have every one I’ve been given since I started teaching. When I took off a couple of years after having my youngest, I didn’t have a lot of money for gifts. I went to the dollar store and bought mugs, hershey kisses, peppermint and hot chocolate packs. I filled each cup with the goodies, wrapped them in cellophane paper and put a red ribbon around it. The presentation was great and I’m sure the teachers liked something in the mug. I’ve also gone to Target and gotten the plastic popcorn containers for $1. I put tissue paper at the bottom, added a pack of popcorn and a couple of candy bars. Again, wrapped it in cellophane paper with red ribbon.

It really is more about the thought. Most of my career has been teaching in Title 1 schools in poor areas. We don’t usually get the gift cards or expensive gifts. I don’t think I’d know how to act getting such “lavish” gifts from students:)! Those teachers that get so many gift cards and ornaments, realize that on the other side of the tracks, life is very different. Our kids expect us to give them a gift.

RJ

December 13th, 2010
8:24 am

@Middle School teacher, kids actually have about that many in elementary school. You have the homeroom teacher, the techonology teacher, PE, Music, Art and sometimes gifted. In middle school I give gift cards for $5. That’s all that I can afford.

TechMom

December 13th, 2010
8:44 am

Timely topic- thank you! I am glad to hear from teachers that they do enjoy baked goods. I was considering making banana bread for my son’s teachers this year.

One year when my son was in middle school I was able to do a group gift for my son’s main “team” teachers by coordinating with many of the parents to send in $10. Some people opted out but it was nice to be able to give each teacher a $50 gift cards to their favorite restaraunt and another $50 to the local school supply shop. Maybe if I’d been more on the ball this year, I could have done it again. Of course it’s more difficult now b/c he’s in high school and not all the kids have the same teachers but he goes to a small private school so I probably still could have made it work. Maybe I’ll do better next year.

Another year I found a website that makes personalized note pads and ordered each teacher a set of sticky notes with their name and tied it up with a pen. Those were pretty inexpensive but again, I had planned better and ordered them in November. Too late for that now.

srh

December 13th, 2010
9:32 am

I think it is clear that 99% of the people don’t want mugs or ornaments! I like the idea of school supplies, or even a $5-10 gift card,

abc

December 13th, 2010
9:41 am

You don’t need to give teachers any gifts at all. My ex is a teacher. All the baked goods she brought home over the years went straight into the trash — not only would we not eat anything made in someone’s unknown kitchen, the last thing we needed were a gross of cookies, fudge, etc. Most of what she brought home at Christmas from school — moving boxes full — also went straight into the trash. She tended to keep all the Christmas ornaments, acquiring so many over the years that it came to pass that none of them had anything to do with me and the kids. The boys stopped wanting to trim the tree because there were only “Mom’s ornaments”.

Spare them all the junk. They don’t really need nor want a thing as regards Christmas gifts from you, and their families even less so.

Belle

December 13th, 2010
10:09 am

Right now I send movie gift cards because there is only one teacher and a helper. When there are more I think I’ll go with the idea of note pads and pens. Michaels always has a bunch in the 1$ bin that are really cute…shopping list, menu planner or just a cute picture on them. Wrap that up with a cool pen and candy bar maybe…Heck I would like that!!

dixie pixie

December 13th, 2010
10:33 am

My sister is a teacher, and the best “gift” is a home-made coupon for such things as invitations to a home-cooked meal later on–like maybe the beginning of next year. She also enjoys the gifts she can share with her classes–like a gift certificate for cupcakes from a local bakery. She uses those on test days.

irisheyes

December 13th, 2010
11:15 am

Wow, @abc, bitter much? I never threw anything away. Like I said, I may have donated what I didn’t have room for to Goodwill, but I ALWAYS appreciate ANY gift my students give me.

catlady

December 13th, 2010
11:53 am

I have loved the notes. I keep them in a special place and read them on really bad days.

I have many ornaments that I enjoy taking out and putting on the tree and remembering the child (now adults with children of their own–some of whom I am teaching!)

Two of the nicest things I ever got were a handmade cuttingboard and a kitchen towel with a crocheted top. I still have both of them, and the “kids” are well over 30 now ( I taught them in kindergarten).

Because of the students I work with (the poorest and those whose families don’t prize schools)I rarely get gifts anymore. In fact, few teachers at my school do. Times are hard for most of our families. My daughter teaches in Hall and she is given lovely gift cards and such,but she teaches at a much more affluent school.

Like I say, the notes are what I treasure, especially when they mention a specific incident.

catlady

December 13th, 2010
12:02 pm

To give a beloved teacher a thrill, write LAST year’s teacher a note! Those are even better!

abc

December 13th, 2010
12:10 pm

I have nothing to be bitter about. An adolescent statement like that leads me to suspect you have spent way too much time around only kids in school, though. That makes sense; it’s what my kids and I have observed about their mother, too. Especially now that they’re in the 20’s, it becomes more obvious even to them that she’s 50 going on 15.

M1chelle

December 13th, 2010
1:29 pm

@catlady – Great idea! What an impact that would make to a teacher!!

M1chelle

December 13th, 2010
1:32 pm

I have given individually wrapped gourmet tea bags and/or individual candy bars with a card and I think that was well accepted.

RJ

December 13th, 2010
1:48 pm

It’s interesting to see what some teachers value. I love mugs and ornaments. I don’t think there’s any one gift you can give that is better or worse. Every teacher is different. I think it really depends on where you work.

catlady

December 13th, 2010
2:13 pm

Some of the best gifts I have ever had have come YEARS after teaching the child. Last year, a former student from 30 plus years ago, gave me a bouquet of words. He asked me where I was teaching, and after I told him, he said, “Well, I am very glad you were at ____School teaching kindergarten when I was there.” I thanked him and went to my car quickly so he wouldn’t see the tears.

I have had that happen a number of times before, frequently from unexpected sources, and it never fails to move me. Sometimes a former student or their parent will approach me in the grocery, and how cool is that! It happened Saturday evening at a restaurant. One of the benefits from working/living in an insular,rural community, I guess.

Anyway, Theresa, let me encourage you to give some heartfelt notes.

jarvis

December 13th, 2010
2:43 pm

Unless you and the teacher know each other well, baked goods are a no-no.
My wife is a kindergarten teacher, and unfortunately unless we know you and your kitchen, we aren’t eating what’s coming from either.

Homemade cards from the kids are appreciated.

motherjanegoose

December 13th, 2010
3:35 pm

Late to the dance as I was with my sister this morning for some medical tests and such.

I met DB for lunch, who mentioned the topic.

Just as we are all different on this blog, teachers are all different too.

As a younger teacher, I did eat the baked goods but learned things that cured me of that. I am with jarvis on: Unless you and the teacher know each other well, baked goods are a no-no.

Some kids are known to pick their nose and then help mom with the baking…nothing different than what they used to do at school when I cooked with my Kinder class. This is just how 5 year olds are…they also tend to sneeze all over you and YES I have had this happen to me more than once.

I did love the ornaments and still proudly display them on my tree…remembering students who are now 30 or so! I also love coffee mugs and have an entire cabinet full. I still have the one my husband’s friends gave me when I graduated from college….yikes! But a nice box of tea or hot chocolate is great too!

I think a $5 gift card is the way to go: books, movies, fast food, ice cream, coffee, pizza or even gas! Just a small way to show appreciation. I do agree that the letters are nice too and a great pick me up. I gave gifts all through HS and now that they are both in college…I do not have that list. Kinda strange for me! Things are certainly different around here!

Busy Mom

December 13th, 2010
6:33 pm

Thanks for the suggestions! I really worry that a $5 gift card or gift is not enough, but from what I’m reading, it really is the thought that counts. It seems like it’s mixed on baked goods, depending on the teacher. Thanks for the great tips!

motherjanegoose

December 13th, 2010
7:10 pm

OH wow…I forgot about this…JATL mentioned** Tuesday Morning** and you could get some Christmas plates,cups and napkins for a teacher to use for dinner and not have to wash dishes but eat on something fun! I did this at the end of the year some years, for summer picnics! I love fun paper goods and many of the teachers did too!

Chevytruckgirl

December 13th, 2010
9:46 pm

My son is autistic so with his teacher and 4 aids plus his home behavior therpist I have 6 to buy for. After dealing with 5 year old autistic children all day then going home to their own kids I figure they need a break. I bought them each a nice fluffy towel (who doesn’t love a new towel) and I’m making bath salts and putting them into mason jars with ribbons around it. I’m hoping they like them!