As a parent and former teacher, I’ve been on both sides of Teacher Appreciation Week and know that the best gift of appreciation is the simplest: a note of thanks.
My teacher friends have confirmed that heartfelt notes from their students and parents warm their heart. Yet, as a parent, I also know that we like to do more to show appreciation to our children’s dedicated teachers!
This list is a collection of teachers’ favorites and tried-and-true ways to honor teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week. These teacher gift ideas also work for Christmas and holiday gifts for teachers, and end-of-year teacher gifts:
1. Notes of appreciation: Parents and students can write a letter or poem of appreciation, or draw or paint a picture. Notes of appreciation can be brought in all week or collected and presented on the last day of Teacher Appreciation Week in a festive basket, gift bag, or treasure chest.
- Teacher Acrostic Poem: These printable templates will help your child get started in writing an acrostic poem for his/her teacher.
2. Treats and tags: Handmade tags can accompany a small gift. Here are some ideas for clever puns and pairings:
- “HANDS DOWN you’re the best teacher around” or “You deserve a HAND for all you do”—Trace your child’s handprint for the tag and attach the tag to hand lotion, hand soap, a manicure certificate, oven hand mitt, or garden gloves.
- “Thank you to a teacher who is ON FIRE”—with hot sauce or items for the grill.
- “You are a ‘TEA’-riffic teacher” or “A gift for the best TEA-cher” — with tea bags, tea cup, or teacher’s favorite tea drink.
- “Thanks for helping me GROW” or “Thanks for helping me BLOOM” — with seeds, fresh flowers, or a potted plant. Look at this blog for a simple teacher gift using a mason jar and fresh flowers.
- “A NOTE to say you’re special” or “A NOTE to say thanks”— with a notepad, stack of sticky notes, or note cards.
- “You’re a MINT of a teacher” — with mints or mint gum.
- “Thanks a LATTE” —with teacher’s favorite coffee drink, or coffee gift card.
- “For a PITCHER perfect teacher. Thanks for all you do” — Fill a glass pitcher with fresh lemons, fresh oranges, or iced tea ingredients. See this blog for “pitcher perfect“ teacher gift ideas.
- For more ideas, visit this blog for “pun-tastic teacher gifts” and this Pinterest site for teacher gifts and fun puns.
3. Simple scrapbook: Ask every child in class to show in writing or a drawing “What I like about (teacher’s name)” or “My favorite things about 2nd Grade.” Be sure to have students sign their contributions and place the pages in an inexpensive scrapbook or have the pages bound at a copy center. You can also ask students to add a photo of themselves to their artwork. For uniformity, you can provide students with special paper or unlined index cards, or ask students to complete their submission on full or half sheets of unlined paper.
4. Book or classroom supplies: Teachers often purchase classroom supplies out of pocket. Consider contributing a book to the classroom library, replenishing classroom supplies, or giving a gift card to a teacher store.
5. A truly unique flower arrangement: Establish a day of the week for every student to bring a flower from his/her garden. Have a large vase (or two) ready to collect the flowers. Your child’s teacher will have an arrangement as unique as her students.
6. Teacher’s favorites: If you know of favorite hobbies or interests of your child’s teacher, you can join with parents in the class to collect items for a themed gift basket. For example:
- gourmet food items for a teacher who likes to cook
- new garden tools, seeds, and flower starters for a teacher who likes to garden
- sports paraphernalia for the sports fan
- movie tickets, and gift certificates for local dinner or dessert spots
- a small cooler or picnic basket filled with picnic goodies for an afternoon out
7. Something for each day of the week: Plan something simple for each day of Teacher Appreciation Week for students to take to their teachers. Here’s an example from one California school that is a tradition for Teacher Appreciation Week. The school community is given suggestions for what to do for teachers each day:
- Monday: A flower from your garden
- Tuesday: Wear your teacher’s favorite color
- Wednesday: School supplies
- Thursday: Gift card to teacher’s favorite restaurant
- Friday: Write a letter or card to your teacher (and PTA hosts a teacher luncheon)
8. Class keepsake projects: Create a keepsake for the teacher by using student signatures, handprints, or fingerprints to decorate an item that the teacher can use, such as:
- an apron (perhaps add a recipe book of students’ favorite recipes)
- outdoor pillow for a garden bench
- cooler bag or stainless steel drinks cooler
- large terracotta pot (add flowers or herbs)
- painted serving tray
- fold-up beach chair or canvas chair
Or use a class photo to create a gift such as a customized notebook or notepads. When creating class gifts, consider a teacher’s personal interests and storage space in her classroom (there may not be space for large art projects).
9. Treats in the Teacher’s lounge: Some schools provide teachers some sort of treat in the teachers’ lounge throughout the week, or select one day to offer teachers a surprise, such as:
- Breakfast: Ideas include bagels with cream cheese, quiche or egg dishes, crepes with an assortment of fillings, fresh fruit, breakfast muffins or breads, juice, and coffee & tea.
- Pampering treats: Hire a manicurist, or a massage therapist for mini chair massages.
- Coffee & Cookie break: Ask parents to bake a variety of cookies, and bring coffee, cream, sugar, and an assortment of teas for a break.
10. Dinner in a bag (or basket): Teachers are busy, so give your child’s teacher the night off from cooking with all the items for a ready-made dinner. Be sure to ask your child’s teacher about food allergies before planning a dinner. We’ve created BBQ and Italian themed dinners, asking parents to sign up for different items from the main dish to drinks to dessert. You could also pool funds for a certificate to a local restaurant.
11. Themed potluck lunch for teachers & staff: While a Teacher Appreciation luncheon takes time to coordinate, it’s worth the work! Here are some memorable ideas shared by a local teacher. At her school, parents planned a themed potluck each year with coordinating decorations and giveaways for the teachers, such as:
o Beach theme:
- Food idea: picnic-style dishes or BBQ theme
- Table Decoration: clear vases partly filled with sand, seashells, and a white candle; or beach pail with a plant or flowers
- Gift idea: rolled beach mat or rolled beach towel wrapped in a pretty ribbon
o Garden theme
- Food ideas: soup & salad bar
- Decoration: potted plants or watering can with flowers
- Gift: outdoor or indoor potted plant for every teacher, or seed packets wrapped with a gift card to a local garden/home store
o Movie theme:
- Food idea: Italian-themed dishes or pizza party
- Decoration: black, gold, & white balloons and/or stars, or giant popcorn containers filled with flowers
- Gift ideas: pair of movie tickets wrapped with a box of movie-theater candy, licorice, or microwave popcorn
Planning ahead for next year:
12. Teachers’ Survey: At my kids’ school, teachers are asked to fill out a short survey at the beginning of the school year. The one-page survey asks teachers for their favorite color, cake flavor, restaurants, hobbies, classroom wish list, etc. This helps provide parents with ideas for a teacher’s birthday, teacher appreciation, and end-of-year gifts.
Whatever you choose to do, remember to include a personal thank you to your child’s teacher. A few words of appreciation will go a long way!
Theresa Wooler has more than 10 years’ experience in K–6 classrooms as a parent volunteer, has taught high school English, and is currently involved in education through Evan-Moor’s marketing communications team.