When you need to find gifts for dozens of school staff members for teacher appreciation or other occasions, it quickly becomes important to keep costs down. But don’t get discouraged if your budget is tight—there’s still plenty you can do with a budget of $5 or less per person.
Consider making these low-cost, easy teacher gifts part of your plans for Teacher Appreciation Week in the first full week of May, or use them to show appreciation at any point in the school year.
School Supply Goody Bags
Fill goody bags with classroom supplies teachers always need, such as glue sticks, erasable markers, highlighters, sticky notes, and travel-size hand sanitizer. This printable goody bag tag can be customized to add teacher names and the name of your parent group, if you like.
Netflix and Grade
Add this “Netflix and grade” gift tag to a nice pen or a set of more affordable pens that teachers can use for grading. If your budget allows, include an individual bag of microwave popcorn or snack mix, which can be purchased in bulk at warehouse clubs for about 50 cents per unit. It’s a thoughtful nod to the amount of time teachers spend at home grading.
Snacks on Wheels
Surprise teachers by rolling a cart loaded with snack items through the halls. If necessary, set a limit on how many items a staff member can take—for example, one drink and two snacks. Offer bottled water and pouches of powder that can be mixed in to make iced tea fruit drinks or energy drinks. Stock the cart with granola bars, individual packages of pretzels, cheese, or nuts, and fruit that doesn’t require preparation, like whole bananas, apples, or oranges.
Allow teachers to choose their treats in advance with a room service menu. Teachers will enjoy picking their favorite items and not having to leave their classrooms. Another spin is to take custom orders for a popular drink spot, like a local coffee shop. Round up several volunteers to place the drink orders and make deliveries at school.
Before Thanksgiving, stock up small ready-to-serve pies, like these. The P.H. Greene Elementary PTA in Webster, Texas, paid 50 cents each for these pies and bought one for each teacher. The group simply added a ribbon to each box and used a few fall decorations to display the pies, which were given out before the Thanksgiving break.
Buy large containers of to-go coffee, or make your own and pour it into a large coffee urn. Load up a cart with the coffee as well as cups, cream, sugar, and straws—bonus points for adding flavored creamer and a few other choices of sweetener. Volunteers with the Fairgrove Elementary PTO in Grover Beach, Calif., rolled this cart through school so staff members could make their cup of coffee to their own taste.
Keep coffee gifts at $5 or less by giving staff members single-serve pouches of coffee, chai, or latte mix. Prices vary widely by brand, from about 50 cents to more than $1 per pouch. Search online and at warehouse clubs for lower prices on bulk purchases so you can give each staff member a variety of flavors, and affix this cute coffee gift tag with a special message. Another option is to choose a single coffee shop, like Starbucks, and ask school parents to donate $5 gift cards to the PTO to be given to staff members.
Popcorn and Movie
You might not be able to afford treating teachers to a night at the movies, but you could give them a promo code to pay for a Redbox movie rental (rentals start at $1.75) or a gift card that could be used for a movie on a streaming service, like GooglePlay. Add a bag of popcorn and this “For a very POPular teacher” gift tag for a nice theme gift.
Custom Drinking Glasses
Cups or mugs with the school logo make memorable teacher appreciation gifts. The Euclid Elementary PTC in Prospect, Ill., made school logo glasses part of a Hawaiian theme event and invited teachers to mix their own mocktails in the glasses. When ordered in a large quantity of several dozen or more, personalized coffee mugs and stemless wine glasses can be purchased online for around $2 or less per unit. If someone in your group has a die-cut machine, you can create your own vinyl transfers and apply them to lower-cost plain cups.
In many communities, you can rent large yard signs for teacher appreciation or other occasions. Instead of renting signs they’d need to return, volunteers at Beechview Elementary PTA in Farmington Hills, Mich., made their own version for less than $10 using poster board, duct tape, and campaign sign brackets.
Brown Bag Treats
Have students decorate plain brown lunch bags, then fill them with a few breakfast items and give them to teachers before school. Teachers at Clovis Grove Elementary in Menasha, Wisc., received bags containing a banana and a muffin. The PTO didn't forget the school's therapy dog, a police K-9 officer who makes regular visits to Clovis Grove. The dog's bag included several dog treats.
Cleaning supplies are always appreciated, especially in the spring when classroom supplies start to dwindle. For a practical-yet-pretty gift, the Hewitt Elementary PTA in Waco, Texas, attached tags that read “I am coming clean, you are the best!” to 80-count cannisters of disinfecting wipes ($4.16 apiece) for each of their teachers.
Students Say Thanks
The Dr. Eugene Sires Elementary PTA in Summerville, S.C., took an inventory of each school staff member’s favorite things (like color, team, snack, and more). Using a Friend’s theme, the group linked that list and asked students to honor the staff each day by wearing their teacher’s favorite color, drawing a picture, bring in a school supply, and more.
Originally posted in 2019 and updated regularly.