You can only own so many coffee mugs.

I love my kids. Soooo much. But they’re a handful, to put it mildly. I also feel that the overwhelming majority of school staff we’ve encountered through the years really do go above and beyond. The daycare aides who try so hard to redirect my crying daughter when she’s clinging to my leg in the morning. The teachers who have their own demanding kids at home deal with mine from 8am -3pm. Even the school nurses deserve a reward, as far as I’m concerned, because my children seem drawn to their office like a magnet for even the tiniest, weirdest of concerns. (“My tongue was feeling dry so…”)

Come end of year, I try very hard to acknowledge these men and women in a thoughtful, grateful way. This usually means a small token in addition to the group gift that’s organized by the class moms. The challenge, of course: what do they really want? This year, I did my homework and spoke to quite a few teacher friends about the best gifts for teachers. Below, their hits and misses.

A+ pick: Gift Cards or Cash

“A gift card for an inexpensive lunch at Panera or even just a cup of coffee is always appreciated and useful.”

“A gift card to basically anywhere works. Coffee shops, restaurants, nail salons, massages, or even a teachers’ supply store.”

 “Cash is even better. We spend so much on the kids.”

 “Supplies cost us an arm and a leg and even the nicest school districts do not supply electric pencil sharpeners, three whole punchers, staplers, and these expensive things are due yearly.”

Gold star: Personalized Teacher Gifts

“One of the best gifts I ever got was a desktop pencil holder that was decorated with puffy paint. It was obvious that my student took her time and personalized it with all things I liked.”

“Something personalized that I wouldn’t normally buy myself (notepaper, thank you cards, self-stamper, etc.)”

 “The best end of year gift I ever got was a mash up of ‘all things me.’ The class Mom polled all the kids and asked them what my favorite things were (without me knowing).”

“I am obsessed with notepads and pens so if a student gave me a stationery set I always knew they cared enough to pay attention to what I like.”

“Last year a student gave me a mortar and pestle. I thought, “How weird? But I dig it.”

“I think one of the best ones I have received was a set of nail polish, since I am nail obsessed!!”

“My favorites are personalized group gifts, like a poem with all their names on the back that I keep hanging in my classroom, or a framed picture of the kids forming letters with their bodies to say thank you.”

 

The Flunkys: Please Don’t!

“I would steer away from manicures/pedicures unless you find out where the teacher goes—we all like our own salons.”

 “Not good—a framed picture of your child posing in the surf like a swimsuit model…where am I supposed to appropriately display that??” Anything that is clearly being re-gifted, like a Happy Valentine’s Day mug.”

“Scented anything, knick knacks, mugs.”

“I have so many unused tumblers, coffee mugs, candles, jewelry, and accessories that are just not my style.”

“No more candles, picture frames, or beach towels.”

Extra Credit: Show and Tell

“A heartfelt note of gratitude is also meaningful.”

“The notes from parents really mean a lot to me.”

“I still have handmade cards from my students. The sayings are always so sweet.”

Anything with a personal touch, particularly handwritten sentiments are the most special tokens of appreciation.

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