Ten tips

Instead of an apple...


Linda S. Rudlaff


The twinkling lights are up and provide a warm and friendly glow in the great room. Beautifully wrapped gifts crowd the floor space, each one vying for their spot. The candles from holidays past are placed in the windows and on the tables.

Things both old and new are on display for the holiday season. The smell of cinnamon is in the air as cookies come from the hot oven. The fireplace light is flickering and everything seems to be in place. Then it comes. The voice from upstairs.

“Mom, did we get a present for my teacher yet?”

The spatula drops as I struggle to remember if anything was purchased. The shoulders droop as I check the calendar for the next day to see when I have time to get and wrap yet another gift. 

Fortunately for me, I am both a teacher and a parent. As a teacher, I am acquainted with a family’s desire to give me a gift during the holiday season. I also feel somewhat guilty when they purchase something that I know cannot be used.

I know what I enjoy and can use as a teacher, but I decided to see what other teachers had to say on the subject. As I talked to them, they answered both as teachers and parents. Some of the same gift ideas kept coming up over and over again. 

That last-minute call for a gift for your child’s teacher doesn’t have to be a frustrating one. Look through the list and pick out something that suits your budget, time constraints and personality. Then take a deep breath—and make gift giving a simple pleasure.

1 Thank-you note. Nearly all teachers mentioned this idea.  The cost to the family is time, but the thanks to a teacher is priceless. If your child adores his teacher, consider this as a gift. Find (or create if you are crafty) some fun stationery and ask your children to write a letter telling their teachers what they enjoy about the teacher, the class and the whole school experience. As a parent, you could also add your own note.

2 Book(s). All teachers have libraries in their classrooms. They love getting new books to add to the classroom library. If time permits, take your child with you to buy the book. Allow her to inscribe the inside cover with a message to the teacher and the class. Make sure she signs her full name. It will be great fun for your child as this book is checked out and read by other kids in the room. 

3 Gift certificate to a teacher store. We use a lot of “stuff” in the classroom. Stickers, pencils, nametags—the cost adds up. Jean Petersen, a teacher in northern Indiana, says, “I really don’t want things for me. I would rather have things I can use for the kids.”

4 Picture frames. Teacher Sue Hill had a great idea for using a picture frame as a gift to her children’s teachers: “I get a picture frame and a mat that is big enough for the teacher to use for her class photo. Then the kids can all sign their names on the mat. It is a nice memory for the teacher as years go by.” 

5 Games. During our cold winter season, it is often too cold to go outside for recess. Games are a great diversion for those cold days. Board games can be found virtually anywhere and kids enjoy playing them. If you are uncertain about choices, checkers or chessboards seem to have universal appeal. Word games are also popular with kids and teachers.

6 Stamps/stickers. Is your child in a lower primary grade? Does he bring home papers with stickers on them? Do you ever see papers stamped with certain expressions? These may be a good choice for your child’s teacher. Animal stickers are always fun. Motivating stickers are also a good choice. Stamps with smiley faces, positive expressions or cute animals are also a good bet.

7 Restaurant gift certificates. We all know how busy life gets around the holidays. A gift certificate to a restaurant will be a much appreciated gift. If you are not sure of their food preferences, choose someplace that you enjoy and they may find a new favorite place.

8 Individual packs of coffee/cocoa/tea. Many of the teachers say they really enjoy these. You might consider buying several packs and putting them in a big, heavy mug and then embellishing it with a colorful, seasonal bow. 

9 Stationery. Teachers are always writing notes to someone. Individual note cards or longer list-type pads would be appropriate. And consider giving a neat pen along with the stationery. I just received a fun lizard pen from a student. It is squishy and fun to write with.

10 Homemade treats. Nearly all teachers mentioned these as a lovely gift. Package them in a plain white shirt box and let your child decorate it. Then all you need to do is wrap up the goodies, place them in the box, add a bow and it’s ready to go. This gift might be an especially easy one if you already are a big holiday baker. Special education teacher Edi Murray says, “I love getting homemade goodies. I don’t always have time to bake at home and this gives me something to keep around the house in case of unexpected company.” 

Linda Rudlaff, a mother, teacher and writer, has seen both sides of this challenge. She lives and works in northern Indiana.

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