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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Danielle Wolf and Emily Sher

Teaching is an often thankless yet very important job. If anyone deserves a back-to-school gift, we'd say teachers should be first on the list. After all, they do take kids off your hands for many hours per day. But what do they really want? To find out, TODAY asked teachers and parents for the best gifts they've ever received or given. The results are, well, educational!

DON'T: Waste money on little trinkets or mugs

There's no need to add extra clutter to their desk. As one teacher responded to TODAY: "I get so many mugs and ornaments and little trinkets for my desk that I don't know what to do with them all. They end up getting re-gifted or donated."

DO: Get creative!

Homemade survival kits are a great way to show your appreciation for the stresses teachers combat daily. Make sure that each item is actually useful and include a few special treats. Extra credit if you choose a reusable container!

Personalized Teacher Appreciation Kit Box, $7, Etsy

TODAY editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! Just so you know, TODAY does have affiliate relationships. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.

Prefer to keep the gift as simple as possible? Fill mason jars instead.

32 Ounce Mason Jars (Pack of 2), $13, Amazon

Here are a few ideas for what to include in your kit (bonus: they're all from Amazon!):

Dove Chocolate Variety Mix, $17, Amazon

Individually wrapped chocolate gives teachers a sweet way to indulge after (or during) a hectic day.

Tide To Go Instant Stain Remover (Pack of 6), $17, Amazon

These Tide To Go Pens can get rid of any highlighter, food or art stains a teacher might come in contact with.

Advil Packets, $10, Amazon

Managing a room full of kids can't always be easy ... sometimes it may even be headache-inducing. Having these Advil packets handy can stop those pains in their tracks.

Starbucks $10 Gift Cards (Pack Of Four), $40, Amazon

Because who doesn't need coffee to get through the day?

Purell Hand Sanitizer (Case Of Eight), $12 (usually $24), Amazon

Children, especially younger kids, have a tendency to carry germs with them.

Burt's Bees Lip Balm (Pack Of Four), $8, Amazon

What teacher couldn't use a little pampering? These Burt's Bees bestsellers feel great on lips and leave them moisturized all day.

Teacher Survival Kit Tag, $4, Etsy

Teachers will love how much thought went into pulling all of the different items together, but if you want to go the extra mile, these tags from Etsy are perfect. Have your child write a note to his/her teacher on the back for a personalized touch.

DON'T: Go overboard or too weird

One teacher relayed a story of receiving silk worm eggs because she once taught a history class on The Silk Road. Creative? Maybe. Practical? Absolutely not. Try to find gifts that they'll actually enjoy.

DO: Work within your budget

When it comes to giving teacher gifts, it truly is the thought that counts. In a heartwarming story shared on TODAY's Facebook page, one teacher recounted that her favorite present was a used bottle of lotion. She was working at an inner-city school in Philadelphia, and the student was upset she couldn't afford a "real gift" and explained it was the best she could do. Little did she know her teacher would be sharing the story as the best gift she received in her entire career.

Here are four inexpensive choices to show your teacher just how much you care without breaking the bank:

Taylors of Harrogate Classic Tea Variety Gift Box, $11, Amazon

Tea is an easy thoughtful gift for a teacher to wind down with after a long day. With eight different types, there's something for everyone's tastes.

Pink Grapefruit Treats, $11, The Body Shop

This set includes shower gel, gel lotion and a pink loofah.

Target Gift Card, $5+, Target

Target's gift cards can fit any budget and make it easy to choose how much you want to spend. These can be delivered through mail, email or mobile phone. The best part? Teachers can buy what they actually want for themselves, their families or their classrooms.

Personalized Red Polka Dot Apple Notepad, $6, Etsy

This notepad is perfect for making lists, jotting down ideas or sending notes home with students. The cute personalization elevates it above other generic notepads.

DO: Remember that teachers are adults too

Believe it or not, a bottle of alcohol can be a perfect gift for your child's teacher. One parent commented that she bought a bottle of Patron tequila for her son's preschool teacher while another mentioned that, "a bottle of champagne usually does the trick." Even if the teacher doesn't drink, he or she can always bring the bottle to an upcoming party.

Patron Silver Tequila, $50, Zachys

Champagne Moutard Brut Grand Cuvee, $30, Wine.com

Teacher Wine Glass, $11, Etsy

If you're uncomfortable bringing alcohol to your child's school, a personalized stemless wine glass or beer mug is a great alternative.

DO: Give a gift from the heart

Teachers really want one gift in particular: a heartfelt thank you. Homemade gifts from their students or handwritten thank you notes are the kind of presents a teacher will cherish for years to come.

Thank You Cards (48 Count), $12, Amazon

After teaching for 12 years, one commenter explained: "A hug, or a heartfelt wish for the season is always terrific and doesn't cost a thing. So wonderful to be remembered in the thoughts of others."

DON'T: Forget the specialty teachers

Teachers who focus on subjects like music, art, gym and more often go unnoticed. Recognize their hard work and they are sure to be appreciative!

DO: Make it personal

Do they have a favorite football team? Are they proud alumni? People love to feel that their gifts are personal, so don't be afraid to tap their interests. One teacher proudly stated that tickets to a Giants game were her favorite gift ever.

DO: Pool money with other parents

If you're considering the gift card route, make it especially impressive by working together with other parents in the class. That way, the teacher can feel free to splurge on a gift they really want.

This article was originally published on October 14, 2016.