The Best & Worst Teacher Gifts

I never ever remember buying a gift for a teacher.  I’m not sure we did that when I was in school.  Maybe my parents were clueless, but I don’t ever recall any student buying the teacher a gift.  It could be I didn’t notice, but either way it’s not in my memory bank.

The first year I taught school, I was stunned at all the presents children gave me.  I carried them to my car and drove to my mom’s house to show them off.  I just had no idea that people did that.  She was just as stunned as I.  Every Christmas, Valentine’s, and Last Day of School, I would cart my goodies to my mom and we would oooohhhhh and aaaaaahhhhh over them. 

The years have passed, and the last ten years of teaching have flown by.  The presents have come and gone.  Some have gone to good use, some have gone to a charity, some have gone regifted, and some have gone to the trash.

Perhaps a teacher is on your Christmas list this year.  Perhaps you’re a procrastinator and haven’t bought a gift yet.  Perhaps you are racking your brain for what to get her.  No need to rack any longer, I have gone to the field and done some cold, hard research.  I interviewed teachers far and near, well, uh, really just near, to discover the best and the worst teacher gifts.  No need to thank me.

Coffee mugs
These are probably the most often given gift to teachers. My coffee cup cabinet is crammed full. This came across on the best and worst list. You’ve got to know your teacher; some hate them, some love them. The reason given for worst gift was they either didn’t drink coffee or they already had so many. Rather than a mug, you could always go with a gift certificate from a local coffee house, listed among the best. It’s probably a good idea to make sure they drink coffee first.

Classroom gifts or gift cards
These were mentioned as some of the best gifts. Any supplies for the classroom or gift cards to a teacher supply store are well appreciated. Teachers spend so much money out of their own pockets stocking their classrooms, this is always helpful.

Food If you are an excellent, out of this world, make a person start moaning kind of cook, food is always good.  If your child constantly has head lice or urine smell on his coat, not so good.
One teacher told of melt in your mouth Christmasey goodness cookies that she received.  Another teacher received a homemade cookie mix in a jar, but the jar still had dried spaghetti sauce in it. 

Candles and Lotions
The cabinet next to my crammed-full-of-coffee-mugs-cabinet is my crammed-full-of-candles-cabinet.  Candles and lotions were on the best and worst list also.  The worst being they don’t like the scent or have an allergy.  Again I’ll say, you need to know the teacher.

Gift cards/certificates/cold, hard cash
It may seem impersonal, but teachers appreciate them.  Who in their right mind wouldn’t?  It can be to a restaraunt, a bookstore, one teacher even got $100 Visa Check card once.  Secretly wishing that child was in my room this year.  One Christmas, a room mother collected money from the children.  She then created a corsage using rolled up five dollar bills.  The teacher bought herself a pair of shoes with the gift money, and the children loved it every time she wore those shoes.  Perfect.  Just perfect.

The best gift winner….overall…..repeated again and again…….would be,

The kind from the heart that doesn’t cost anything. 
Yep, those teachers.  They do love kids, and it is very evident when something is sincerely given. 

Free, heart-felt gifts:

  • A half empty bottle of perfume from mom’s dresser.  So sweet.
  • A handmade angel named for his teacher.  Ahhhhh…….
  • Half eaten box of chocolates wrapped in Saran wrap.  How precious.
  • A child’s worn teddy bear. Doesn’t that just make your heart hurt??
  • Personalized gifts with the children’s names on them.
  • A card from the parents telling how they appreciate them.
  • A letter written to the teacher and copied to the principal and superintendent describing the difference they are making.
  • Moms who volunteer to watch the classroom so the teacher can go Christmas shopping!!  Wow!  Check with your child’s school first to see if that is allowed, but what a treat to know your class is left in good hands and you don’t have to take a day of leave for it.

You know the old saying, “It’s the thought that counts.”  All the teachers I interviewed had a hard time thinking of a worst gift to mention and many are currently suffering from guilt pangs, lost sleep, or are in counseling for critizing a precious gift from a child.  The second it passed their lips, they were wishing they hadn’t said it.  I could be gracious and keep quiet, but frankly, it’s too late now.  Face it, some gifts are just unnecessary or clutter or unnecessary clutter.  Trinkets, stuffed animals, apple thingies, premade gift baskets from Wal-Mart, and aprons for detergent bottles all made the worst list, with a lot of guilt afterwards, I must add.

Merry Christmas.

This has been a public service announcement by Angel.


  1. Anonymous says:

    I have bought Christmas gifts for teachers for at least 40 years!!!!!!!!!!! It's not something new…'s been happening for years. I remember back in the day, when I sold Sarah Coventry Jewelry. I gave the most expensive and beautiful jewelry in the collection to the teacher. There are only 2 times (years) that I didn't buy teacher gifts, and that was when I DIDN'T LIKE THE TEACHER. PERIOD!!!!!!! That has happened twice. Once was in 1973 and the other….last year in 2008 and 2009. This year I bought such great gifts that I got three great thank you notes!!!!!!!! And, you know that teachers DON'T lie in those thank you notes!!!!!!


  2. Anonymous says:

    Angel, I laughed out loud and got my hubby curious, so I had to read it to him too. It was hard to rad with tears in my eyes!! I would like to subscribe to your blog! It is awesome!! Love and miss you bunches!!Beth


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