Simple Times
(featured column)

Teacher Appreciation Ideas
by Deborah Taylor-Hough

As the years go by, it seems to become more and common for parents to be expected to give gifts to their children's teachers at school. For many families, there's a fine line between showing appreciation and going broke. Finding just the right gift -- at just the right price -- can be challenging at best. 

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And besides, how many apple-decorated key chains or coffee mugs can one teacher use?

Gina Dalquest, a California mother of four, says, "Every teacher appreciates school supplies. Often teachers spend a lot of their own money stocking their classrooms. Pencils, paper, whatever I can get inexpensively or in volume. I bought a big cube of construction paper and sent half to my son's class. Last year at the holidays, we made decorated glass ball ornaments by pouring several colors of acrylic paint into them and swirling the balls around to look marbled. It cost less than $2 per gift."

With the end of the school year looming on the not-so-distant horizon once again, here are suggestions for helpful -- and often inexpensive -- teacher appreciation gifts for the end of the year (or any other time when a gift for the teacher might be appropriate):

1) Shoe-box sized plastic storage box full of school and classroom supplies that you can stock up on throughout the year at sales, clearance stores, etc.

2) Bag of popcorn and a flavored salt sampler.

3) Gift certificate for a video rental. 

4) Homemade fudge in take-out meal containers (or Biscotti, or gingerbread men).

5) Pencils printed with their names on them.

6) Painted glass ball ornaments. 

7) Flavored coffee or tea mixes. 

8) Coffee and cup decorated by your child.

9) A candle and candleholder.

10) Anything for the classroom: games, writing equipment, books, rulers, things to decorate or theme objects.

11) Handmade items from the students (potholder, pencil holder, etc).

12) Movie theater passes.

13) A small basket of lotions or soaps. (See our article on Homemade Bath Salts.)

14) A letter from the student (and/or parent) telling what they enjoyed about the year or the teacher's input into the child's life.

15) A small plant potted in a thrift store coffee mug or tea cup.

16) A child-made apple-shaped something or other (although over the years many teachers end up with more apple decorations than they have room for in their house or classroom). 

17) Baked goods (bread, cookies, candies, quick 
breads, etc.). 

18) Chocolate dipped pretzels. 

19) Chocolate anything.

20) Christmas ornament.

One woman online said, "There are too many people who get left out and probably feel bad about it, such as the P.E. teacher, the principal, the secretary, the kitchen lady who knows your child by name, the teacher's aide who listens to them say their numbers or helps with reading, etc. And then there's the Awana leader, the Girl/Boy Scout leader, the Sunday School teacher, and the private teachers like piano and dance. A parent can't possibly buy/make gifts for all these people." 

Her unique suggestion to deal with this large number of potential gift recipients? Donate a book to the school or the public library "in the names of all the people who have been part of your child's life this year. Then give a card to each individual telling them why they were so important to your child and how this gift will help other children as much as he/she helped your child."

It's been my experience that people in volunteer helping positions (such as Sunday School teachers or nursery workers at church) are often completely overlooked when it comes time to give out thanks. Each year my husband and I try to invite our children's Sunday School teachers and their families to dinner at our house to thank them for all their hard work and dedication throughout the year. 

It's never ceased to amaze me that I always hear comments like, "No one has ever done anything like this for me before and I've been teaching Sunday School for twelve years." Even just a simple Thank You card given at the holidays or at the end of the school term could be enough to bowl them over in shock.

Remember: it isn't a competition to see which child or parent gives the teacher the best or most expensive gift. Showing appreciation to assorted teachers should be an expression of heart-felt thanks to the dedicated people who've touched our lives and given of themselves to our children.

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Copyright 2004 by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Related Articles: 63 Gifts for Under $10


Books by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month 

Frozen Assets Lite and Easy: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month 

Frugal Living For Dummies(r)

A Simple Choice: A practical guide for saving your time, money and sanity.

Mix and Match Recipes: Creative ideas for today's busy kitchens.


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