| Arts | Stuff We Love | Preschool | Kindergarten | Elementary

Top five gifts to give teachers

The countdown to summer is on! As kids cross off the days until the end of school, you can bet their teachers are doing the same, wondering how they’ll ever get it all done before they can collapse in a grateful, sunblocked, summer-lovin’ heap.

For nine long months, most kids have spent one-third of their waking hours in the care of a teacher; teachers who patiently explain, vigilantly supervise, enthusiastically praise, gently correct. They also sing on cue, staunch nosebleeds, and mitigate those endless “friendship problems” that seem to crop up at every age.

How can we ever thank them?

I recently surveyed a dozen teachers from schools all over the city. I promised them anonymity in exchange for a little inside scoop. A former teacher myself, I know they are delighted, flattered – even (sadly) surprised – when they receive any form of thanks at the end of the year. They are happy to be appreciated, and you don’t need to spend money to do it (see below). But if you want to take it a step farther, here are some gifts that teachers really love.

  • Gift cards. Ever-popular with teachers! Great teachers often spend their own money on classroom supplies and books, so a book store gift card is a great way to replenish their own book budgets – and provide for a little summer reading. The teachers I surveyed also like cards for coffeehouses and gardening centers, Nordstrom and REI.
Multiple families can pool their resources to give the best gift card possible to that special teacher. Gift cards also make excellent class gifts; imagine how much fun you’d have with a couple hundred dollars to spend at Nordstrom!
  • Pampering experiences. A great way to say, “Thank you for wearing yourself out on behalf of my child!” Consider a gift certificate to a spa if your teacher seems like the spa type; this is another great group gift.
  • Dinner out. One of my favorite gifts of all time was the gift certificate to a swanky Bellevue restaurant, given to me by four families from my classroom. My husband and I enjoyed Kobe beef and a fine bottle of wine, and toasted those nutty little kids I’d spent the past year teaching. It was so appreciated!
  • Other cool gifts. For those incredibly talented – but hard to buy for – teachers, why not think creatively? Concert tickets or even subscriptions (group gift!), a membership to EMP, or an Amazon gift card for buying great music could be the ticket.

And finally, the most beloved gift of all, which costs you not one dime:

  • A handwritten note of thanks. If your child’s teacher has touched his or her life…if you’ve seen growth, academically, emotionally, or socially… or if your kid just loved school, tell the teacher! Take a few minutes to write a note of praise, and have your child do the same, too. Let me tell you: Teachers have a lot of tough days! On those days, it’s wonderful to have a few heartfelt little notes to open and read, and remind you of why you do the exhausting, crazy-wonderful job of teaching little kids.

Oh, and the gift most often re-gifted (according to my informal survey and personal observation): chocolate.

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