A member of our community asked how much money a PTO should spend on teacher appreciation. We had tons of feedback on Facebook, and it’s clear that plenty of PTOs and PTAs can handle teacher appreciation celebrations on a tight budget. So we challenged our community to come up with ideas to celebrate teacher appreciation with $100 or less. Many of you can easily pull that off! What’s more, you pointed out that the actual money spent isn’t what counts. It’s the sincerity of the thank-you. Here are some tips for thrifty teacher appreciation celebrations from our community.

50+ teacher appreciation ideas, plus planning tools, flyers, and more

  • One dish at a time: Ask parents to send in a favorite dish for a luncheon buffet. Many parents want to help but don’t have time to do much. Sending in one dish is manageable for most parents, and it costs very little.

  • Group effort: Instead of asking each parent for a donation, ask each class to send in a main dish, side dish, and dessert. The room parent can help coordinate this.

  • It doesn’t have to be lobster: There are many inexpensive food options for teacher luncheons. Try a baked potato bar with a range of toppings, like sour cream, bacon bits, and chili.

  • Local businesses can kick in: Ask local businesses to donate to your celebration. In addition to monetary donations, some restaurants will donate paper goods and utensils.

  • Group gift: For groups with budgets in the $100 range, buy a gift for the teachers lounge, such as a coffeemaker, and supplement the gift with a selection of coffees, teas, and donated baked goods.

  • Shop smart: Watch for bargains, such as when grocery stores offer deals like “buy one, get one free.” Better yet, don’t be afraid to ask the store manager for a special discount on (or outright donation of) baked goods, breads, and other items.

  • Handmade items can be best: Reach out to students to make creative gifts. For example, your group can send small slips of paper home to each student. Ask them to write a note of thanks to the teacher and return them to school. (Room parents could easily coordinate this.) Collect notes and deliver them to the teachers throughout Teacher Appreciation Week.

  • Free services: Reach out to parents who run businesses and provide services in the community to see what they can donate. Offer gifts of free massages, haircuts, and other services for teachers. If you have just a few services, give them away as special prizes (youngest teacher, teacher with the most grandchildren, etc.).

  • This could go a long way: Give each teacher a $1 lottery ticket or scratch ticket.

  • Digital memories: Collect digital photos of teachers, school events, and students. Burn them onto CDs for the teachers.

  • One small gift a day: Ask the children to do one simple thing each day of Teacher Appreciation Week, such as bringing a cut flower to her teacher, bringing a piece of candy, or giving the teacher a homemade thank-you card.

Originally posted in 2012 and updated regularly.