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Teacher Gift Ideas – What the Teacher Really Wants (and doesn’t want)

If you’ve ever been friends with a teacher, you have probably been pretty jealous of them during teacher appreciation week. Their bellies get filled with food and they get adorable little gifts from their students.

But the truth is, teachers also get a lot of that they will never use or wish they hadn’t gotten. (Yep, I said it). Teachers have a hard time admitting that any gift they get isn’t the best gift in the world.

In reality, they get a lot of items they look at and think, “what am I going to do with ANOTHER bottle of lotion or where am I going to put one more apple pencil holder.” But, being the magnificent teacher that they are, they smile and tell the child/parent how much they love it.

So now that I am not a teacher, I can tell you the truth. The honest truth about what teachers really want. And what teachers really don’t want. This post is important for holidays, the end of the year, and especially teacher appreciation week.

This list is just a list of ideas. There are so many more things that you can get your teacher if you know them well enough (teachers love personalized, unique gifts). For my teachers out there, is there anything on the want list that I am missing? Anything on the don’t list that you wish I included? I’d love to hear from you so that I can add to my list.


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Teacher Gift Ideas

The Gifts Teachers Actually Want


Hand-made items from the Student

I bet you thought this was going to be on the don’t list based on my introduction. We actually love getting items made by our students. Let me emphasize, made by our students.

We cherish the things our students make especially for us. But please don’t force this, it will only make the child dislike us more if they have to make a craft for us instead of playing video games (they will tell us the truth).

But getting items made by you that are meant as a decoration, isn’t our favorite thing to receive. Hand-made gifts mostly pertain to Elementary School, although I have seen some great hand-made gifts from high schoolers as well (generally funny items).


Letter or E-mail to the Principal/Supervisor (don’t forget to copy the teacher so they can read it, too!)

Low on cash but want to really make your teacher happy? This is probably one of the best things you can do for your child’s teacher. You have no idea what a big impact this can have (especially if it’s during an evaluation year for the teacher!) Principals hear complaints about teachers all the time often.

And they may hear a compliment about a teacher in passing but getting a written letter from a parent is completely different than hearing a compliment. This is something the teacher can place in their file or use in a portfolio. This may possibly be the best gift you can give your teacher!


Classroom Supplies (especially ones we’re always running out of)

We spend hundreds of our own money buying supplies for our classroom. Many of you may think the school supplies the tissue boxes, markers, crayons, etc. But in fact, in almost all cases, those supplies are provided by the teacher.

Yes, I know you send some in at the beginning of the year. But most of the time those supplies don’t last us long. Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher (or even child) what supplies they run out of often. Providing supplies benefits both your child and the teacher. This may seem like a boring gift, but it’s actually a great one saving teachers both time and money.


Lunch from a Restaurant or Made by You! (preferably not during teacher appreciation week – an IOU for another week would be better)

As a teacher, most of us do not have the time (or are not allowed) to go out for lunch. And we often get a lot of sweets (which we love, too). But getting lunch is totally amazing. Teachers get to eat something better than PB&J and they save time from not packing one in the morning.

Just give the teacher a note stating that you will be bringing them lunch and ask them to pick a date (best if you give them a list of dates to choose from so you know you are available). You can also give them a menu to the restaurant or a list of items you can make (this way you make sure they will actually enjoy the lunch).

If you can’t bring it in yourself, find a place that delivers and prepay for their lunch to be delivered to school (just make sure this is allowed by the school). Don’t forget to check if the teacher has any food allergies or dietary restrictions.


Gift Cards

This is a teacher favorite. While this may seem impersonal, there is nothing a teacher loves more than gift cards (other than hand-made items).

Want to make it more personal? Get the gift card to the teacher’s favorite restaurant or store. Want to ease their burden of buying classroom supplies again? Get them a card to Target, Walmart, or an office supply store. Not sure what to get? Go with Amazon. Then your teacher can pick out anything they’d like and shop in their PJs.

Want to add a little flair to your gift? Download free gift card holders for teachers. 


The Gifts Teachers Definitely Don’t Want

Jewelry and Clothing (unless you know the teacher well)

This is one of those items that could be on the want list depending on the teacher but most often, it’s a don’t. Clothing is incredibly hard especially trying to figure out the teacher’s size and fit.



Teachers get SO many mugs. Unless they’re in their first few years of teaching, it’s best to stay away from mugs.


Apple-themed Items

I know, apples and teachers go hand-in-hand and are adorable. The problem is, often times we already have lots of apple-themed items from students in previous years.


Lotions/Body Products

I don’t know about you, but I am pretty particular about what scents I like for a lotion or body product. And the type of fragrance I like is different than other people I know.

While it’s a nice sentiment (you want to give them something just for themselves), this is better to skip. We get a lot of lotions and if you want to give something different, I would steer away from these (unless you know your teacher’s favorite or they love to collect different lotions).

Tote Bags

Unless the tote bag is personalized (picture of the class, class handprints, etc) or you can tell their teacher bag is in need of replacement then this is another item to skip.

Teachers often get tote bags for gifts not just from students but from administration as well. They end up in the goodwill pile oftentimes because there are only so many tote bags we can use. A lot of us also prefer bags that have more pockets and are more functional than a tote bag.

Picture Frames

We get a lot of picture frames, especially with apples or school buses on them. Unless the frame is holding a class picture, this is another item that is better to skip.

Cliche Teacher Ornaments

Now, if your child makes the teacher a homemade ornament, that’s different. What I mean here is an apple ornament, a pencil, or any other typical teacher ornaments you see hanging in the ornament aisle. Unless they’re in their first few years of teaching, they probably have quite a few. Now, if your teacher collects ornaments or you find something more personal, then this can stay on your list.


Did you know your child may have more than one teacher?

Don’t forget that sometimes your child’s classroom teacher is not their only teacher, and it may not even be their most important teacher. As a special education teacher, parents generally left me out of teacher appreciation gifts.

What’s hard about that is that for some of my students, I saw them far more than their classroom teacher ever did. If your child is in special ed, don’t forget about their special education teacher, specialist or instructional assistant they work with.

I know it can get expensive by buying something like gift cards, so either take the amount you would have bought for one teacher and split it, write a letter to the Principal about them, or stick to a homemade gift from the child. It’s nice to be recognized and it can be hard to be forgotten (especially when you’re a child’s primary teacher).

If your child is in Elementary school, having something small for the related arts teachers (art, music, PE, media) is extremely thoughtful. They often get left out of teacher appreciation week as well. Again, it doesn’t have to cost a lot.


Free Printable Teacher Gift Card Holders

Wednesday 6th of June 2018

[…] you read my previous post, Gift Ideas for Teachers – What Teachers Really Want (and Don’t Want), you’ll see that a gift card was one of the top gifts for teachers. As a former teacher, I […]


Saturday 6th of May 2017

YES!!!!!!! I love this. As a music teacher--we often get left out! Great idea on the emailing of the boss. As a new mom, I hope I remember these tips for when she gets to school.