At the end of the year, many parents and students wish to give teachers a token of their thanks, but they're not sure what's appropriate. The best advice I have is: Know thy teacher.
So, for example, if you're not certain the teacher drinks alcohol, don't offer a bottle of wine, and don't give gift certificates to a big, corporate bookstore like Barnes & Noble to someone who was petitioning the city council not to allow any more big box stores into your town because they drive out local businesses.
If you're planning to bake something for your teacher, it's also important to know if your school or school district allows teachers to accept and eat home baked gifts.
Some of the gifts I list here may be out of your budget—heck, they're out of mine. So I recommend you team up with other students or parents to assemble them.
1. A gift basket. I know. They can be cheesy. But if you put them together yourself with a theme the teacher likes—for example, vegetable gardening or barbecue—your gesture is an especially thoughtful one.
2. Flowers or a plant in a nice pot. Ah, the first week of summer vacation—and the house smells like fresh flowers. Or I'm stuck in grading jail, and the house smells like flowers. Either way, I'm grateful.
3. A guided tour. If your teacher likes to walk or bike, many cities, towns, and rural areas have historical walking tours, bike tours, or guided hikes of nature areas or local farms. Typically these are offered on several dates throughout the temperate months, and you should be able to get a gift certificate that allows the teacher to choose his or her preferred date and tour. Recent tours in my neck of the woods included a bike tour of chicken coops in various neighborhoods and a walking tour to watch bats emerge from their homes at dusk. Tip: This is an especially great way to get teachers who are new to the area connected to the local scene.
4. A gift card to a local coffeehouse, juice bar, or wine store. Of course, proceed with caution: You want to get a sense of which beverage your teacher would most appreciate.
5. The New Yorker Book of Teacher Cartoons. You can preview this book of 118 cartoons at Google Books; teachers are sure to appreciate the wit and wisdom expressed in these drawings.
6. A magazine subscription. This one may take some snooping. You'll need to know your teacher's interests as well as find out what publications he already receives. And don't limit yourself to education magazines. Check out those gardening, science, nature, tech, and literary/arts magazines as well.
7. Personalized stationery. Teachers have to write a lot of notes to parents and students, and it's nice to have a pad of paper or a stack of note cards with one's name already blazoned across the top. There are a ton of places to order such stationery online, but I've had great success giving folks items from Design-her Gals. This company allows you to add not only a teacher's name, but also a custom avatar. Tip: Get on their e-mail list and you'll receive discount codes at least once a month. And don't let the name fool you: Design-her Gals also offers male avatars.
8. A summer-long subscription to a CSA. CSA stands for "Community-Supported Agriculture," and such programs are available in cities and towns nationwide. Depending on the CSA and subscription you choose, you'll sign up for a weekly, semimonthly, or monthly pick-ups or deliveries of farm-fresh produce. The fruits and vegetables change with the season, so it's always a surprise to see what's on the doorstep, and a fun challenge to figure out how to prepare it for a meal.
9. A few months of Powell's Books Indiespensible. I'm loving this high-end book club. Every six weeks or so, Portland's famous independent bookstore sends Indiespensible subscribers a package that includes a new hardcover book autographed by the author—often in special numbered editions printed especially for Powell's—along with a surprise like a pre-release bound manuscript of a book or an attractive book bag.
10. A thank-you note. I used this suggestion in my previous list, but it's a classic. A handwritten letter from you and your child expressing how much the teacher means to both of you may be the most appreciated gift of all. Type up a letter with similar sentiments supporting the teacher's work and give it to the school principal. (Give the teacher a copy of this typed letter as well.)
You might also want to check out the previous version of my Top 10 Gifts for Teachers list.
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