The last day of school is drawing near and with it comes that age-old dilemma: What to get your child’s teacher in appreciation of a year’s worth of service? I went straight to the source and asked the teachers themselves what type of gift they enjoy getting the most. Perhaps their answers will surprise you…or maybe not?
But before you rush out to buy a gift, first double-check your school’s policies. Some schools prohibit teachers from receiving gifts above a certain value. Others don’t allow gifts at all. Know what your children are allowed to give so that your children and their teachers are not put in an embarrassing situation where the teacher must refuse a gift.
Thank-You’s From the Heart
High school teacher, Christina Rufenacht, teaches in a school where gifts for teachers aren’t part of the routine. “But the best thing I’ve ever gotten was a handwritten, sincere expression of gratitude from a student,” Rufenacht says. “In fact, I still have that note on my home refrigerator.”
Her thoughts echo those of other teachers.
Third-grade teacher Carolina Adame says one of her most favorite teacher appreciation gifts was a letter from a parent. “It expressed her sincere appreciation for all the sacrifices made throughout the year,” she said.
In a time when budget cuts have led to larger class sizes and more responsibilities, Adame says that most teachers spend 10 or more hours of their own unpaid time preparing, grading, etc. “Teachers need to hear parents appreciate these sacrifices,” Adame says. “Just like we appreciate good parenting! Both are equally important.”
Kathleen Moll teaches fourth and fifth grades. She has kept every card a student has given her in appreciation. But, she says, “I also love getting potted plants.”
Keep in mind that teachers will have to take these home for the summer. Giving a plant, though, serves many purposes, such as serving as an air purifier for the classroom, as a model for learning about plants, as a tool for giving the classroom a more “homey” atmosphere to calm and reassure students, and as a way to teach responsibility. But the nicest part is that potted plants serve as a constant reminder of a heartfelt act of gratitude from a family.
Many teachers love gift certificates that allow them to purchase products they need or want. “A book you have read and highly recommend would also be a great gift because often the summer represents our only time to indulge in such relaxing activities,” high school teacher Selena Sutherland says. With summer just a few weeks away, teachers are eager to engage in a little down time, pampering themselves and re-energizing themselves before the next school year begins. Gift certificates to spas, bookstores, beauty salons, and restaurants are a great way to help your child’s teacher relax.
Other teachers prefer gift cards to educational resources because the budget cuts have left them no option but to use their own money to buy supplies. For these teachers, gift cards to companies like Amazon.com, office supply stores, craft stores, and local bookshops are especially thoughtful.
If you happen to know your son’s teachers really well, buying them actual teaching materials that you know they need or want is a possibility. “Each individual teacher’s needs varies per classroom as far as books/maps/toys go,” Adame says. “I know there are many things I would love to have, but time is limited as far as being able to use them, so I would stick to the basics.” To avoid giving materials your child’s teacher doesn’t want or have time to incorporate into lessons, don’t be afraid to just ask them what’s on their wish list for next year.
And as more and more schools are challenged to update their teaching techniques, technology is seeing a rise in classrooms across the country. Adame also recommends iTunes gift cards for those classrooms that use iPods.
Treasure Box Prizes
For kindergarten teacher, Ana González, fast food restaurants can be an unusual blessing. Like many other teachers, González keeps a “treasure box” in her classroom. The box is filled with fun, little prizes to reward students for good academic performance or a job well done. But teachers typically have to stock them using their own money.
“I like for parents to donate items (I ask for gently used happy meal toys and such) for our treasure box,” González says. “I use these trips to the treasure box as positive reinforcement for good behavior and completed work.”