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5 best and worst Christmas gifts for teachers

Dec. 20, 2013 at 9:48 AM ET

School’s out for the holidays very soon, and chances are your child’s teacher is as relieved as your child!

After all of those months of lecturing, coaching, mentoring and inspiring, many educators receive a token of appreciation at Christmas from their pupils and their parents. If you're giving a present, will it make the grade?

teacher and apple
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Think twice before you give your teacher another apple (or an item with an apple motif). Gift cards, thank you notes and handmade gifts are better.

“I honestly don't think there is any such thing as a ‘bad’ gift, especially from an elementary school student,” Stephanie Giese, a former public school teacher who lives in York, Penn., told TODAY Moms.

“But it is true that certain gifts, like mugs, candles, and lotions do tend to outnumber all the rest at a rate of about ten to one.”

We’ve scoured teacher and education blogs, and asked teachers to weigh in on the TODAY Moms Facebook page. Here’s what we found:

5 worst gifts for teachers:

1. Mugs and candles: Chances are your teacher has so many of these that she doesn’t know what to do with them.

“I literally have hundreds of mugs,” Giese wrote in her blog. “And I already have enough (candles) to get me through the next 87 years.”

2. Homemade food: Teachers know a lot of effort goes into these treats, but let’s just say they don’t exactly trust their students’ culinary skills or their attention to hygiene.

“Homemade food… not so great. We end up throwing it away, as you are never really sure what is in it!” wrote Kasey Engel.

“Any cakes, biscuits or other foodstuffs made by pupils go straight in the bin. Having seen how much nose-picking and nail-biting goes on in the classroom, I can never bring myself to eat them,” a teacher confessed on TheSchoolRun.com.

3. Things shaped like apples or with apple motifs: Yes, it’s cute and it’s what many people think of when they consider the profession, but it’s likely your teacher already has a collection of such items, especially if he or she’s a veteran.

4. ‘Intimate’ gifts: Lotions, perfumes, and bath products can be nice if you know the person very well, but that’s hardly the case when it comes to pupils or parents picking out gifts for teachers. Plus, the very scent you adore can make someone else gag or break out in hives. Skip the personal presents, especially anything that might make your educator blush.

“Worst gift ever — see-through nightie from a fifth grader! Very memorable though!” wrote Paula Trimble Hutton, a teacher in Wilmington, Del.

5. Cash: Gift cards are a favorite, but actual money in an envelope is awkward.

While I appreciated the thought, it made me feel like maybe I was being bribed to give the student a better grade and it put me in an awkward position,” Giese said. “Do I offend the parent by not accepting it, or do I risk being reprimanded by the school board for taking it?”

5 best gifts for teachers:

1. Gift cards: Over and over again, teachers said you can’t go wrong with a gift card, either to a store the educator can enjoy for personal reasons, like a coffee shop or a spa, or to a place where they stock up on supplies.

“I think my best was a gift card to my hair salon,” wrote Carly Leen.

“I wanted gift cards (because) that equals money I can spend in my classroom without getting four approvals and ordering and waiting forever or spending my own paycheck,” wrote Bonnie Sears, a teacher in Oxford, Ala.

2. Handmade presents: Children shouldn’t be shy about crafting a gift for their favorite educator, anything from a special drawing to a personalized trinket for the Christmas tree.

“I LOVE handmade gifts from my kids,” wrote Carly Leen, a teacher in Howell, Mich. “I still have ornaments from eight years ago that my students made for me.”

“Perhaps the most valued and remembered gifts were homemade crafts made by students just for me,” added Margaret Lebak, a teacher in Bismarck, N.D.

3. A class gift: Instead of coming up with a present, each child contributes a set amount of money, say $5, and the entire amount is spent on one gift or gift card that the teacher really wants.

4. Store-bought food: While homemade treats can make teachers queasy (see above), gourmet offerings made by professionals are always a good idea. Think chocolates, cookies, popcorn mixes and fudge. Knowing what teachers go through, some parents provide a bottle of wine.

5. Handwritten thank you notes & letters: “The best gift is any gift seeing that the student decided to show their appreciation. I absolutely love the letters of ‘thanks for being the best teacher,’” wrote Valerie Aceves, a teacher in Fresno, Calif.

“Over the years, I've been the recipient of many gifts: from expensive to thoughtful and everything in between. The gifts I still have? They're the cards and letters that students and parents have written me that detail the difference that all those late nights I spent planning, marking and preparing engaging lessons made,” wrote Jodie Commons.

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