By Patricia Hall, Fairfax Family Fun
The holiday season is upon us and that means that many people are out buying gifts. Most people are shopping for family and friends, but some also will be picking up items for teachers: this is a time when many like to express their gratitude, and it’s natural to want to give them something. But what do teachers really want?
If you ask your teacher friends, as I did, then you know there is no doubt about it: the most appreciated gifts are those that come from the heart or that help them with their classrooms by saving them time or money. Classroom items such as school supplies are always in demand and highly useful. And gift cards are always a hot item on a teacher’s wish list, something that, as veteran teacher Sanford says, is “simple but appreciated.”
Still, school supplies alone may not seem like an exciting present, and giving gift cards is not for everyone. Some people don’t like to give out gift cards, or if they do, they at least want to attach them to something tangible. If that’s the case, we have some great ideas for you: teacher gifts that are thoughtful but also tangible and practical. See our ideas below, all of them inspired by a recent trip to an At Home store and feedback from friends who have been teachers at schools in Virginia, Florida, Nebraska, Texas, Washington, and Maryland. Before you go shopping, remember that it helps if you know your teachers’ tastes or at least have an idea of what they could use the most. While the ideas below will work well for many people, each one won’t necessarily be the right choice for everyone. Still, we are sure at least one of these will be ideal for you!
Gifts from the heart
“One of the nicest things I ever received was a beautiful framed poem. Another one I have loved is when they give me a class picture maybe with a message from all of them around on the frame,” one teacher friend, Lissette, says. “What I really like,” says Luis, another teacher, “is a heartfelt letter showing their appreciation.” Sure enough, a heartfelt thank-you note or card was one of the items my friends cited often when talking about what they liked the most. Carla, who teaches young children, also agreed that “gifts from the heart” are the best. But what are good ways to present those gifts? See our suggestions below.
Poems, cards, paintings, drawings, and photos are highly appreciated, but where will they all go? How about some picture frames to display them? Maybe this year you can give your child’s teacher a heartfelt letter or note in a lovely frame, or just a few nice frames so he or she can use to display their favorite mementos. Since personal style varies greatly, go for simple, elegant designs that would work well with any décor. At Home stores carry a huge – and I mean huge – selection of frames, all very reasonably priced.
Over the years, of course, teachers are bound to collect more cards, letters, photos, and art than frames could store or that they would want to display. Add to that the souvenirs and handmade items they have received, and you can imagine how many presents teachers end up with, even when they’re selective about what to keep. Why not help them hang on to these items in an orderly way with some good organization bins or boxes? These also would be good for classroom use, and At Home stores have some awesome choices, from basic plastic storage boxes to fancier bins and baskets made from wicker, wire, canvas, and other materials that add to the decor.
Even something as simple as these metal bins marked “Stuff” would be great to fill up with something for the classroom. For example, Luanne, an art teacher, says “I love office supplies! Dry erase markers, cute sticky notes, thank-you cards, or pens with fun colored ink.” Amy, an elementary school teacher, agrees that even basic supplies such as hand sanitizers are welcome. On their own, these may not seem like the most exciting gifts to give, but put these items in a cute bin or box (and maybe add a gift card, too!) and no you have a cuter, thoughtful, and useful gift. The more you can tailor the items to the particular teacher, the better, and you don’t need to create a large, extravagant basket: Teachers know that funds are very tight for some families so they do appreciate any gesture. Giselle Calejo, who teaches at a Title I school, adds “My students’ parents usually don’t have the means to buy teacher gifts, so I’ve gotten things such as care baskets with mints, nail files, hand cream, etcetera, and food (lots and lots of food), plus plants and candy, which makes me happy.”
Cushions, pillows, and throws
Teachers have very demanding jobs and they don’t get to sit down for long. When they do get a break, help make it more comfortable with a super-comfy pillow or cushion. A plush, luxurious throw (especially for those who live in colder climates) is a nice touch, too. If you’re adding a gift card, one pretty presentation is to punch a hole in the gift card envelope, put an elegant ribbon through it, and then tie it around the cushion as you would do around a box.
Planters and vases
Teachers often get flowers, but several of them also noted they have received plants. “I have been given plants that I replanted in the yard,” says Lisa, a kindergarten teacher. Since not all teachers will have the option to replant them or they may only be able to keep indoor plants, a good, quality pot could be another gift option. If you know your teacher likes plants, a stylish pot with a simple design that could fit in well in any room at any time of year may be the safer choice. But you also could go in the opposite direction with a seasonal item: “I once had a wonderful parent bring me in a Poinsettia. I never remember yo buy Poinsettias, so that was a wonderful gift!” says Lori Johnson Craig, a preschool teacher. A Poinsettia in a lovely holiday pot would therefore make a unique present.
Ditto vases: for the flowers that they receive now and throughout the year, why not get teachers a vase of good quality? Whether they end up keeping the vase at home or in the classroom for these surprises, if you can find a vase with a practical, spacious design that can do double-duty for storage of other items, your gift is twice as practical!
If you want to give a seasonal gift, ornaments can be a fun idea. Annie, another veteran teacher, says “A few students gave me Christmas ornaments that I still hang on my tree.” This can be another way of personalizing a gift by selecting something that “speaks” to the teacher or will remind him or her of the student (At Home has great ornaments, too!).
So now you know… you can get teachers something from the heart but also still enjoy the “hunt” at a store for a gift that is practical. Maybe you can combine multiple items and make a custom set for that very special teacher. As my friend Lizette, another teacher, said, “I love it when a student and/or parent has taken the time to think of me with a card filled with sweet sentiments. In the past, I have received a frame of the student with a picture and message. Perhaps a basket with a scarf, holiday pillow, or items for organization inside of it would be great. Many times, the gifts show that they took their time and effort.”
Teachers do appreciate the gestures: Giselle says that as an educator who has been far underpaid in expensive cities, gift cards are especially appreciated simply they “allow us to get nice luxury we might not necessarily buy for ourselves.” But ultimately, she notes, teachers appreciate any gifts, as they are thoughtful to begin with.
This post is sponsored by At Home Stores, which we are customers of and huge fans of! The ideas and opinions expressed here are my own. Thanks to my teacher friends for their input!