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Do’s & Don’t’s of Teacher Gift-Giving

This is the time of year when every time a mother turns around, she needs to dole out forty bucks or so — for things like dance photos, theatre seats for the choir show, baseball team snack duty, or year-end excursions to Wonderland. It’s also a time when we need to look ahead to the fall activities for the kids, to make sure we don’t miss the boat:  “You better sign up for the fall programs and get the early-bird rate!  The class/league/program for __________ is already half full!”

On top of all the random money that we hemorrhage, the kids need new clothes and shoes and sports equipment and summer camp supplies….the list is never-ending…..

It’s a very busy and expensive time of year!

And then there are the teacher gifts.

What do you do to show thanks to teachers?

Many classes in elementary school have designated class parents who organize group gifts via cash collection.  This is a wonderful way to purchase a meaningful and substantial gift for the teacher.  In other situations, kids bring individual gifts to their homeroom teacher, and perhaps something else special for rotary teachers.

As a former homeroom teacher, I received tons of thoughtful gifts, ranging from dollar store items to mugs to movie coupons to booze.  I even received a few “gently used” items, such as favourite stuffed animals and toys (they stayed in the classroom, on a little display ledge, thank you very much!)  I loved all of the gifts because of the thoughtfulness behind them.  I loved all of the cards too – especially the ones in which a student took the time to write (or print!) something kind.  I still have many cards from students saved in a box in my basement.

So what is a good price point for teacher gifts?

Well this is a personal thing, and it will depend on your budget – but I like to think that when choosing a gift for the main person in my kid’s life — the person who has spent all day, five-days-a-week — for the last ten months — with my kid — motivating, disciplining, inspiring, managing, teaching, and maintaining patience……

Well, I want to spend a little more money on her than on the tip I gave to the woman who did my last mani-pedi!

My child’s teacher has given my child care, love, warmth, direction, structure, attention, patience, guidance, and encouragement, even on her worst day at work, all while imparting information, teaching life/character skills and curriculum, and doing assessments and evaluations.

So here are my two cents:

Gift-Giving Do’s and Don’ts


  • DON’T GIVE a donation to a charity in the teacher’s name (often this is made in a group gift format).  Teachers give, give, give, give, give…..all year long!  Let them receive at year’s end (and Christmas too!)  It doesn’t have to be anything BIG and expensive.

  • DON’T GIVE a mug.  Imagine getting a few of these, every year, for however many years that you’ve taught?

  • DON’T GIVE anything apple-themed.  Enough said.

  • DON’T GIVE anything that has a fragrance.  Your taste in perfume, scented candles, potpourri, strong-smelling creams and lotions is not necessarily someone else’s taste.

  • DON’T GIVE anything fussy such as a large set of crystal candlesticks or vases.  These things may never make it out of the classroom.

  • DON’T GIVE a patterned sweater, or any piece of clothing that is patterned (a.k.a. “the teacher sweater”).


  • DO GIVE gift certificates:  Starbucks, Chapters, LCBO, Cadillac Fairview shopping centres, restaurants, etc.

  • DO GIVE spa certificates:  for any service that you love!

  • DO GIVE movie coupons.

  • DO GIVE wine, or other special treats from the LCBO, depending on teacher’s tastes.  Even if the teacher doesn’t drink (I don’t know many like this), then he/she can always give it away.

  • DO GIVE chocolate or other sweets (your child will know what the teacher likes – they’ve spent the year getting to know each other).

  • DO GIVE items reflecting the teacher’s hobbies, such as golf balls, craft supplies, travel books.

  • DO GIVE stylish and/or beautiful ornaments, such as a tree decoration at Christmas.  When I decorate our family Christmas tree, I enjoy seeing gifts from former students – it makes me think about them.

  • If your child has an assistant in the classroom, share a wonderful gift with him/her also.  Their work during the year had impact, is important, and deserves acknowledgement.

Most important:  Make sure your child writes a few heartfelt sentences in a card about their experiences during the year.  It is important for him/her to show appreciation and take part in the giving process; it is a wonderful life skill to develop.  In my humble opinion, the card writing is the most meaningful thing that you and your children can do for the teachers in their lives.

The bottom line here is that teachers are teachers because they love kids and teaching.  They do not expect anything at Christmas or year’s end.  I just feel strongly about showing appreciation to role-models.  I see what they do for my kids on a daily basis, and I see the change in my kids since the beginning of the year — largely due to the influence of their teachers.  I like to show appreciation.

I hope you do too!


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