Tired of giving apple stationery, apple earrings and “#1 teacher” sweatshirts to your children’s teachers every holiday season? Imagine how the teachers feel! Here are some parent- and teacher-tested gift ideas that will really make the grade.
THINK OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM.
“I like giving something that conveys that you know the teacher is human, too — not just a teacher,” says Las Vegas, Nevada mom Joy Hall. Think sports memorabilia (if you know the teacher’s favorite team), an addition to a favorite collection of bears, dolls, snow globes… The list can be endless if you or your child just happen to listen up when the teacher mentions favorite hobbies and activities.
CONSIDER A GIFT FOR THE CLASSROOM.
As school budgets are increasingly cut, teachers are often asked to supply certain classroom items. So when her child was in kindergarten, Dorothy Foltz-Gray of Knoxville, Tennessee asked what classroom game the kids needed. “The teacher responded as if I were a saint!” she says. Another time, she gave a monetary gift, again to be used for classroom supplies. Jennifer Vena of Manhattan Beach, California, gives goody bags full of classroom supplies — dry-erase markers, paper clips, Post-Its, overhead markers, etc. With many teachers spending their own money on these items, this is a welcome gift.
MAKE IT PERSONAL.
“Have your child make something that shows how much the teacher is appreciated,” suggests Hall. Including a photo is a wonderful touch, she adds, and it will help the teacher to remember your child when she looks at the gift in years to come. A personal letter of appreciation, along with a drawing from your child, is something many teachers say they read over and over again — and keep forever.
CHOOSE A GIFT FROM THE WHOLE CLASS.
Several parents suggested taking up a collection and choosing a class gift. “This eliminates the two-dozen ‘#1 Teacher’ gifts,” says Karen Hammond of South Bristol, Maine. Some classes choose to purchase a pair of earrings or a gift certificate. One Southern California class pooled their gift funds and bought the teacher a much-longed-for gift: a beach-cruiser-style bicycle. While the bike cost a couple hundred dollars, when divided by the number of families in the class, it became an affordable group gift. The teacher was speechless – and thrilled. Celeste Armitage of Hermosa Beach, California, suggests creating a class quilt. Have each child draw a picture. Then transfer the pictures onto individual fabric squares using heat transfers (the kind designed to be used on fabric), which are sold at craft stores. Finally, sew the squares into a simple quilt pattern. “I’ve seen self portraits, flowers or a mixture of pictures,” says Armitage. “The important thing is to have each child sign his or her picture.”
RaShell LeMay, a teacher in El Segundo, California, says teachers love to receive children’s books to help beef up their classroom libraries. Adding your child’s photo to the inside cover, along with a note from the child, makes the gift extra special. To add a truly memorable touch, have the book signed by the author and dedicated to the teacher.
LET THE TEACHER DECIDE — WITH A GIFT CERTIFICATE.
Ruth Opdycke of Livonia, Michigan, says she once gave her son’s preschool teachers gift certificates to be used at any store at the local mall. “They all loved it,” she reports, adding that she’s also given gift certificates for upscale toy stores to those teachers who have to buy classroom toys on their own. Other popular gift-certificate options: massages, facials, manicures and pedicures, movies (either for movie theaters or the local video store) and restaurants. Most teachers don’t splurge on themselves very often, and a group gift of a gift certificate good for a day at a local spa may be just the well-deserved slice of heaven your favorite teacher has been wishing for.
MAKE YOUR OWN GOODIES.
When you’re a teacher, there’s never enough time for holiday preparations. With winter music programs to organize, homework to grade, classrooms to decorate, class parties to plan, and a whole class of kids on holiday overdrive, what teacher has time — or energy — to go home and bake cookies in the evening? “A can’t-miss idea for teachers is a plate of assorted, nicely decorated, homemade holiday cookies, wrapped for freezing or for immediate use,” says Hammond. “I used to buy inexpensive ceramic holiday plates to put them on (these can often be picked up at garage sales), but heavy-duty paper plates will work. They were so popular the first time I made them, that I repeated the idea for years.” Be careful, though, or you may be labeled the “Wonderful Cookie Mom” for the duration of your child’s school career, says Lisa Iannucci of Poughkeepsie, New York. “Now my kids’ teachers actually request the cookies,” she says. “One teacher told me she had to fight her husband for the last ones!”