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Etiquette tips for teacher gifts

Are you confused by the etiquette of gifting to teachers? Don’t be! Here’s what you need to know about giving to the people who educate your kids — from actual educators.

Boy with thank you card

Does your kid have great teachers? If so, then recognizing their efforts is a great way to polish off a good school year. We talked to real educators to find out what they really want and to answer some key questions you might have.

First things first, most teachers say that ultimately they don’t expect gifts — and, if you don’t give one, they won’t think anything of it. Now, onto the details.

Say thank you

The number one gift that educators said they wanted to receive from students and parents? A thank you note. “Some of my most treasured gifts were notes stating ways I made a difference in the lives of my students. Ive saved some of these for over twenty years,” says Sheila Kreditor Lobel, a sixth grade teacher.

Lobel isn’t alone. Educators say that the gesture of appreciation are even better than a present. “I am a teacher. I certainly do not want nor need a gift. All that I want is a note, or even an email or voicemail, that says, ‘Thank you.’ That would be enough,” says Alexander Seinfeld, who has taught grades 6 through 12.

>> Gift ideas for teachers

So, what is a good thank you note? “A really nice note that thanks the teacher for their hard work and speaks to what she has done for you child is a wonderful gift. I also loved getting handmade cards from my students,” says Kari Edmonds, a former first grade teacher and owner of Hip and Little.

Class gifts vs individual gifts

Some class moms like to pull together a gift from the class. This is a nice gesture that allows families to give one big, meaningful thing. If your class does that, don’t feel like you need to give an individual one from your family as well. “If a class gift is given, I wouldn’t expect individual gifts. There can be some awkwardness if people bring extra presents on top of the group gift,” says Edmonds.

>> DIY gifts kids can make

Personal gifts

Want to buy a personal gift for your child’s teacher? One way to go is to buy something that the teacher might not get for themselves. “Things like gift certificates that can be used at restaurants [or] spas/salons are … great ideas for teachers like me,” says Bekah, a high school teacher. If you know what your child’s teacher enjoys, that can help.

>> Simple teacher gifts… what do you do?

Classroom gifts

Another route to go, teachers say, is to purchase a gift that contributes to their classroom. “If you really feel the need to spend money, I would purchase the teacher a gift card to a place like Target that has a large selection. Teachers spend a lot of their own money each year on their classroom, so a gift card to a teacher supply store or a bookstore is also very nice,” says Edmonds.

Another idea? Purchase a favorite book for the teacher’s classroom library.

>> Fresh ideas for teacher appreciation

How much to spend

Now, how much should you spend? Teachers say, you needn’t spend a dime… but if you do, keep it within your means. “I’ve received $1 lottery tickets from a family who really shouldn’t have spent that dollar on me. I’ve received gifts that must have cost $50 or more. There’s no set amount that families usually spend, because this is something extra that they want to give and don’t have to give,” says Lobel.

And yes, a $10 gift certificate is fine.

>> Give the gift of food: Homemade treats from the kitchen

Gifts to avoid

We asked teachers what they don’t want to receive. Here’s what they said.

  • Mugs: “I can tell you — no teacher needs another coffee mug. I think I have enough to serve over thirty guests at my next dinner party,” says Lobel.
  • Skip the iconic “apple for the teacher” items, says Edmonds.
  • Trinkets: “Many teachers would have no room for all the gifts they were given, if that’s what they got,” says Bekah

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