Teacher Gifts that Could Land You on the Naughty List

teacher supplies
(and what teachers REALLY want)

We asked local teachers what the best gifts for teachers are—and in the process, also discovered which are worth reconsideration. All contributing teachers expressed nothing but appreciation and gratitude for the thought and time that goes into gift giving. “When someone thinks enough to give me any kind of gift, the only thing I say is thank you — sincerely,” says one local educator.

Some teachers don’t expect a gift during the busy holiday season due to all the love and attention they receive for birthdays and teacher appreciation week. But we want to acknowledge these important people who invest countless hours educating our kids. So, what makes an awesome teacher gift? Here are ideas on what not to give—and what teachers really want.

What NOT to Give
Candy. Teachers receive a lot of chocolate and other candy this time of year — it’s just too much, they say. And for those who are trying to eat healthier, there’s little hope of success with a constant stream of sweets coming through the door.  

Mugs. In honor of teachers everywhere, a word problem: If five students give you one mug each year, how many mugs will you have at the end of six years. Yes, 30. Now, write a sentence describing how you arrived at that answer. Just kidding. But do keep in mind that teachers have 25-90 students, depending on what grade level they teach. That’s a lot of mug potential! Bottom line: No more mugs, please.

Homemade treats. While the gesture is appreciated, it’s risky business. With allergies, germophobes and unknown ingredients, homemade goodies often end up in the trash. Sad, but true.

Clothing, jewelry or other items featuring apples or school themes. “But,” you say, “our teacher loves bees —they’re all over her classroom!” Listen closely: If the theme in a classroom is bees or owls, don’t assume the teacher likes to decorate her home (or body!) with that character. Classroom themes are typically connected to something teachers want students to remember (e.g. Bee Responsible, Bee Respectful, Bee Safe); it’s a room theme, not a way of life.

Lotion. Scent preferences vary greatly from person to person. Unless you know exactly what your teacher likes or you shop at a store that allows exchanges, it’s best to steer clear of this type of gift.

Trinkets. One teacher says, “While we appreciate the sentiment and love involved in purchasing trinkets, they pile up, we run out of space, and sadly, they end up in the give-away pile.” See the word problem under “mugs.” Same concept applies here.

Pets. Clearly, a pet requires a lot of responsibility. No one should purchase a pet for someone without permission from the recipient. One teacher shared that she received a tortoise one year. Really? Just say no.

So, what do teachers really want? It’s simple, really—and fits every budget: notes of appreciation, school supplies and gift cards. Read on for specifics.

Gifts Teachers REALLY Want
Thoughtful notes. Teachers love sincere messages of thanks and appreciation. One teacher says, “I love notes from students and parents. I keep them in a folder so I can read them when I have a difficult day. They help keep me positive.” Others noted they enjoy gifts that students are involved in. 

Versatile gift cards. Teachers really appreciate gift cards (along with handwritten notes). No surprise here. Think Amazon, Costco, Target or Staples. These allow teachers to buy what they want for their classroom or for personal use. Consider pitching in with other parents if you’re on a budget.

School supplies. A recent survey revealed that teachers spend almost $500 of their own money on classroom needs every year. Yikes. Supporting teachers in this department is certainly appreciated. As one teacher put it, “The way to a teacher's heart is through school supplies!” Another says, “I would be totally excited to get a “blinged-out” new stapler, class set of new rulers, or a gift card to help fill the needs in our classroom!” A few more ideas: a Lakeshore gift certificate, dry erase markers, “funky” post-it notes, colored pens or books for the classroom.

Restaurant gift cards. Find out where your teacher likes to eat — and what’s convenient to where she lives or hangs out. No need to get fancy. One teacher suggested a Jamba Juice card. Another says, “A gift card to Souplantaion or Rubio’s means I get the night off from making dinner!” Warning: beware the overrated Starbucks card. While some teachers love their Starbucks, it’s not for everyone. Several teachers said they get way too many. Not sure if your teacher is a fan? Ask. (See “Great Idea!” below) 

Gift certificates for family fun. Teachers spend a lot of “off” time grading papers and creating lesson plans. Gift certificates for fun are welcome (movies, miniature golf, bowling, etc.). Be sure to ask what activities your teachers like and how old their kids are.

If you take the time to acknowledge your teachers, why not “hit it out of the park” with something they really want this year! Whatever you decide, know that teachers appreciate any gesture of thanks.

Great Idea!
Ask teachers to fill out a questionnaire about their favorite things (hot/cold drink, lunch, restaurants, color, hobbies; what they do in their spare time, ages of kids, etc.). Then, use the list as a guideline when purchasing gifts for special occasions.

Lisa Gipson is the editor of San Diego Family Magazine and is so appreciative of the teachers who have influenced her daughters over the years.

Published December 2015

How to Find the Right Preschool

Choosing the right preschool is an important decision for parents. For some, it will be the first time a stranger will watch and care for their child. Here are tips to help make the right decision.C . . .

Read more

5 Tips for SAT Success

Mastering the SAT can have tremendous impact on a student’s life, but it comes at a cost. Preparing for the SAT can be a stressful process for teens (because the stakes are high) and for parents ( . . .

Read more

5 Back-to-School Tips for Divorced Parents

Transitions from grade to grade can be challenging. Adding the stress of divorce—especially for newly divorced parents—can make a new school year even more nerve-racking for the entire family. C . . .

Read more

Farmers Markets Offer a Bounty of Learning Opportunities

Farmers Markets Offer a Bounty of Learning Opportunities

Going to farmers markets on a regular basis puts fresh, seasonal produce at kids’ eye level. They start to notice that foods vary week by week and learn what’s in season. This offers an opportunit . . .

Read more

The Preschool Years: The ideal time to introduce a second language

Studies show that when children learn a second language, there is a boost to cognitive growth, creativity and critical thinking skills. Bilingual children also tend to be more empathetic and open-mind . . .

Read more

Safety Tips for Children Who Walk to School

Is your child ready to walk to school? Ask yourself the questions below before deciding. These safety guidelines and tips will help ensure a safe walk to school.Walking to school is a healthy alternat . . .

Read more

How to Find the Perfect Preschool

Looking for a preschool program for your child? Help ensure a positive preschool experience with this list of tips, highlighting what to look for in a preschool and questions to ask.   The Benefi . . .

Read more

Teacher Gifts that Could Land You on the Naughty List

(and what teachers REALLY want)We asked local teachers what the best gifts for teachers are—and in the process, also discovered which are worth reconsideration. All contributing teachers expressed n . . .

Read more

Junior Achievement Opens Mission Fed JA Finance Park for Teens

Junior Achievement of San Diego County (JA) recently opened the Mission Fed JA Finance Park, an innovative, interactive educational center, to teach a new generation of tech-savvy high school students . . .

Read more

25 Activities that Support Your Child in Math

Is math homework giving you a headache? Do you dread hearing the words, “I hate math!” While math may not appeal to some children, it is helpful to everyday living, and strong math skills can open . . .

Read more

How to Volunteer at School without Burning Out

According to the nonprofit research center Child Trends, parent involvement in school is linked to better grades and fewer behavior problems in students, particularly for those in elementary school. P . . .

Read more

Your Child's Education: You Have Options

When it comes to being a parent, perhaps one of the most important responsibilities you have is to provide your child with a quality education. The good news is, parents have numerous educational opti . . .

Read more

A+ Parent Teacher Conferences

Parents usually fall into different categories when it comes to parent teacher conferences. Some love to spend time with their child’s teacher, talking about what is going well and brainstorming sol . . .

Read more

How (and Why) to Maintain a Positive Relationship with Your Child’s Teacher

The relationship you have with your child’s teacher affects how your child views school and education, which will impact his life for years to come. Use these tips to cultivate a positive working re . . .

Read more

Fall and Winter School Directory 2016

Let us help you navigate the process of finding the right educational environment for your child. Start with our list of charter schools, preschools & kindergartens, language academies, hom . . .

Read more

Discover San Diego's Landmark Central Library

Looking for another great way to inspire your little ones to get reading? How about a visit to the Central Library (opened September 2013)? One of the first things you’ll notice when you visit the C . . .

Read more

Exploring the Common Core Curriculum

The Common Core State Standards or CCSS (also referred to as the Core Curriculum) have been adopted by 46 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. These new educational standards will replace the No . . .

Read more

Could Online Education Be Right For Your Child?

In recent years, we have come to see the benefit of customizable education. More and more colleges and universities offer online or accelerated programs, and there is no end to the availability of onl . . .

Read more

How to Manage Child-Teacher Conflict

“I hate my teacher,” *Elora, 9, declared to her mother. But, when pressed for details, her mom says Elora buried her head in her knees. So she tried a different approach. “I engaged her in a fun . . .

Read more

How to Nurture Your Child's Writing Passion Outside of School

Away from home, or simply away from school, summer is an ideal time to nurture your child’s love of writing. Kids that normally balk at homework assignments and deadlines can relax and write what in . . .

Read more

San Diego Family Magazine Logo

Be Family Informed – Sign up for our Newsletters below!