Let me be clear. Holiday gifts to your child’s teacher are not required. They are absolutely 100% optional. However, many families choose to give a gift of some kind to their children’s teacher during the holiday season. Teachers are absolutely 100% grateful for each holiday gift received, but if you really want to guarantee that the gift will be a success, follow a few simple guidelines.

Group Gifts and Gift Cards

Many room parents will send an e-mail to parents before the winter holidays offering to collect funds for a group gift. The room parent usually gives a suggested donation amount in the letter, typically around $10 per family, and gives each family the choice to donate or not. The Homeroom Mom compiles any funds collected and purchases a generic gift card like an American Express, Visa, or Amazon card.

If the room parent knows the teacher’s favorite store or restaurant, a specific gift card is great too. The benefit of one larger gift card from the group is the ability for the teacher to purchase something more substantial. I used to get $5 gift cards to a restaurant or book store (which I was REALLY GRATEFUL to receive—do not send hate mail to me about being ungrateful), but I often had to chip in my own money to buy something I could use. The gift became something I had to subsidize.

Don’t assume teachers are out living it up on the group gift card. In my experience, teachers will often use a gift card from a class to purchase items that will return to the classroom. When I receive a Visa-type gift card, I usually purchase books for my class library, so the students can share in the gift.

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Mass Produced Gifts and Shared Gifts

What if your school aged child has multiple teachers, and you would like to give a little something to each one? The cost of a big batch of gifts multiplies quickly. The key to mass producing gifts is to think of a small item that a teacher would love to have during the school day or when she/he arrives home after a busy day with students.

My children attend the school where I teach, and I like to give a gift to their main teacher, their special area teachers, administrators, and the support staff. It adds up to 20+ gifts. Last year I made Mason Jar Soup Mixes because I know how I love to have meals that are easy to prepare when I get home from school. I have made Cocoa Kits with bags of homemade cookies because teachers usually need a hot drink and snack on a cold school day.

If you can’t think of an idea that is affordable and easy to assemble in large quantities, consider bringing something for the faculty lounge that can be shared by all teachers in a teacher team, grade level, or school. I brought Coffee Cake one morning for a teacher friend’s birthday. That thing was demolished in about 37 minutes. Collaborate with a few parents to bring items like a breakfast casserole, fruit salad, mini muffins, or yogurt and toppings right before winter break. Don’t forget to include paper products and plasticware. Access to good food in the morning is a true gift for educators.


A Personal Note

Believe it or not, a thoughtful note is one of the nicest gifts you can give a teacher. Sit down with your child and make a list of things you will remember about the teacher. Handwrite a short note that names specific student achievements or memorable school events for which you appreciate the teacher’s involvement. The best part about this gift-- it costs you nothing but your time.

If you can figure out a way to combine all three gift categories, you really have a winner. One year, I organized a week of freezable meals to be delivered to my daughter’s two kindergarten teachers. The parents who did not like to cook, donated $5, which was used to purchase a grocery store gift card. The students each wrote a Recipe for a Good Teacher note that we bundled and gave to the teachers at the end of the week. Every year, I secretly hope that the Homeroom Mom for my classroom will organize a Freezable Meal Gift for me. I sure could use it by the time the winter break starts!


Guest Contributor: Caitlin Tobin is a mom to two elementary aged children and a teacher. She currently teaches 4th grade but has experience working with children from nursery school up through freshmen in high school. She loves snack foods, crafty projects, and spreadsheets. She is on a mission to help the world choose the perfect teacher gift and writes about many of her ideas at www.The-Room-Mom.com.