As we approach the end of the school year, it’s a great time to show appreciation to our teachers.  Some call it National Teacher Appreciation Day, National Teacher Day, some just call it Teacher Day, and some call it National Teacher Appreciation Week.

Overall it really doesn’t matter what we call it or whether we show appreciation for a day or a week.  What matters is that we do something, even if it’s just a simple “thank you”.

Teachers spend an entire year thinking about, planning for, and worrying about other people’s kids.  They give up nights and weekends to grade papers or rummage through the bargain bin at Target to get supplies for tomorrow’s science experiment.

Teachers a more than educators, they invest in lives, they are mentors and role models.  They notice if someone needs a lunch, a jacket, or someone to talk to. Teachers see potential and believe in their students more than they do.National Teacher Appreciation Day - What Teachers Really Want

Unfortunately teachers are often undervalued.  Teacher Appreciation Day is perfectly placed in May (the Tuesday of the first full week in May) so teachers can feel that their efforts are paying off, giving them the stamina to make it one more month until summer break.

You may have heard the saying: If you can read this, thank a teacher!

And thank them we should.  Although, some thank you’s are better than others. While teachers will graciously accept any gift from an appreciative student (or parent), some gifts aren’t very useful.

How many coffee cups does one human being need, particularly when bathroom breaks are limited to twice a day? Does a teacher really need one more chalkboard (or crayon or button or string) initial to hang in their room lest they forget what letter their name begins with?

And is there any other profession in which it is socially acceptable to give sticky notes and pencils and call it a legitimate gift?  We need Teacher Appreciation Day ideas that let teachers know we see them as a person and respect and value the work they do for our kids each and every day.

So… I asked a group of teachers to tell me what kind of end of the school year gifts make them really feel appreciated and which gifts they could do without.  Almost all of them responded with gratitude and said that any gesture made a difference, but they definitely had a list of favorites and recommendations of ideas to stay away from.  I share them below:

Food and Drink

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We’ve already nixed the idea of a coffee mug. Let’s take that a step further and point out that not every teacher wants home-baked goods either.

Aside from the question of food allergies or intolerances, many teachers have been in the trenches long enough to have legitimate questions about the safety and handling of homemade food gifts (check out the video below 🙂 ).  Unless you are a professional cook or have a food-based business, it’s best to bypass the homemade goods.

Yes, Do It!

But teachers are humans too and do love good food and drink. A box of doughnuts first thing in the morning? Oh, yeah. Same with a gift card to a restaurant.

Heck, a fast food restaurant gift card is great because it allows the teacher to hit up a drive through on the way to school one morning.  A variety of food type gift cards is the way to go here since not every teacher is as enamored with a particular coffee chain as one would have you believe.  In fact, a few said they do not even like coffee.

A catered lunch during the school day would be a welcome surprise, particularly if you can arrange other parents to cover the teachers’ duties so they can have an actual lunch break (as opposed to their usual 20 minute lunch).

If your child has done enough surveillance and knows what kinds of snacks the teacher prefers, a gift box with those snacks would be most appreciated as well.  Bonus points to whoever brings the snacks in a cute container that can be creatively reused for another purpose.

School Supplies

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As stated before, no other profession considers basic office supplies a legitimate gift.  Do not take this time to load the teacher up with basic school supplies that will just end up getting used by the students like basic pencils, paper, glue, bookmarks, stickers etc.  These would be classroom gifts, not teacher appreciation gifts.

Though, there are ways to turn school supplies into a gift the teacher would actually like (and isn’t a school supply cake).

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Rather than a box of standard yellow number two pencils, get the teacher a set of pencils personalized with his or her name. Personalized pencils really cuts down on the chances of them walking away in some student’s binder.

Quirky and offbeat pencils, like those made from recycled money or blue jeans, are also a great choice.  Teachers also love the cool new stuff, like stapleless staplers.

High quality portfolios, leather-bound notebooks, or really nice pens can make a teacher feel like a boss during faculty meetings.

And never underestimate a teacher’s joy when he or she receives a bottle of Germ-X hand sanitizer with a pump. Decorate the bottle if you are so inclined, but Germ-X is the gift that keeps on giving.

(Side note: Bigger is not always better. State fire codes do not allow large bottles of Germ-X in schools because they can explode in case of a fire. Limit your Germ-X bottles to 15 ounces or smaller.)


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Teachers have also said that though they appreciate the gifts, they get way too many candles, lotions, jewelry, flowers and home made crafts.

I know it may seem a bit surprising to see flowers, candles and lotions on the list, but it’s not as exciting for a teacher if she is allergic to them.  Or even if she is not allergic to them, but her neighbor/teacher next door is so allergic that he or she is reacting to the 5 bouquets of flowers in her room.

The fragrances in candles and lotions can also be bad news for the sensitive teacher.  Quite honestly, I’m not a teacher and I have already more candles than I know what to do with.  It seems as if every Christmas I receive at least a few candles. I could only imagine how many candles a teacher receives.

Another thing to keep in mind is that teachers do not need to be reminded that they are teachers.  So no need to give them little trinkets with teacher sayings on them like keychains, book bags, bracelets with teacher charms, apple earrings, best teacher t-shirts, or another apple shaped sticky note holder etc.

These are all cute ideas only the first time.  Imagine if a teacher has 30 students and teaches only 10 years.  How many keychains, mugs and sticky note holders would that teacher accumulate over the 10 year period?  Too many to get excited about.

Yes, Do It!

Teachers LOVE handwritten thank you notes and homemade cards.  They appreciate receiving feedback and want to hear how they specifically made an impact on a student.

Some teachers specifically said that they loved receiving “100 Reasons We Love You” or “Why We Love You” type books, filled with quotes or drawings from each student.

I bet it would be just as welcomed if instead of a quote or drawing, each student wrote down a favorite class memory.  Most teachers said that they keep these notes handy so they can read them on difficult days.

Depending on the teacher, some of them enjoy funny (but not cheesy) teacher t-shirts.  You just have to be careful with this one because it would be awful to get a teacher a t-shirt that is way too small or way too big for them.

I prefer to stay away from t-shirts all together for that reason, but I do believe there are some exceptions, so I wanted to include it because there are some teachers out there with a great sense of humor and would love a funny t-shirt.

Another idea for a teacher with a sense of humor would be a pair of fun socks.  Like this pair of Banned Books socks for a high school Literature teacher.

Life Outside of School

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Perhaps the most appreciated Teacher Appreciation Day gifts recognize that teachers have a life outside of school.  We want them to embrace that and feel spoiled.

This is where gift cards to a favorite store come in handy.  Gift certificates to an out-of-school activity, like a movie theater, comedy show or, even better, a massage, or facial, pedicure, manicure are also great.

Desk picture frames to display their own families are always nice, and gifts for a teacher’s pet will also be greatly appreciated.

Teachers who have particular hobbies would be thrilled to receive anything pertaining to their interest, like a water bottle for an avid hiker or new drumsticks for a musician.

If a teacher has a particular cause that is dear to their heart, a donation made to a corresponding charity on their behalf is an excellent idea.  Are your funds limited so you can’t make a donation?

Spend a couple of hours volunteering and let the organization know that you were inspired to do so because of your teacher’s influence. Does appreciation get any better than that?

One final gift idea that kept coming up with teachers was different themed gift baskets.  Popular ones included summer themes, spa themes, and travel themes.  You can buy these themed gift baskets or make them yourself.

A summer gift basket can include a swim towel, flip flops, a sun hat, sunscreen, instant lemonade packet, and/or sunglasses.

A spa themed gift basket could include nail polish, cute slippers, a bathrobe, bath bombs, a sleep mask, and/or a mini massager.

A travel themed gift basket can include some fancy tea, travel blanket, a new book and a gift certificate to a night in a cabin.

There are also gift baskets geared towards men and sports enthusiasts.  Sometimes male teachers can be a little harder to shop for when we don’t know them really well.  A gift basket is a great option.

Regardless of which Teacher Appreciation Day idea strikes your fancy, remember that the most important part of Teacher Appreciation Day is the appreciation.

Something as simple as a handwritten note expressing your heartfelt gratitude can be the difference between a teacher’s spending a day sobbing in the janitor’s closet between classes and a day in which the world is bright and everyone deserves an A+++.

Avoid the cliché gifts and show the teachers in your life that you truly value what they do each and every day.

Check out this awesome video on why thanking our teachers is important:

This video reminds me of a highschool teacher that really made a difference in my life.  He saw potential in me that I didn’t think I had at that time.

I didn’t even realize it until at least 10 years after high school.  I’m so grateful that at least now as an adult I see how he invested in me without me even realizing it.

It just goes to show that teachers are always planting seeds in students without always being able to see when they bloom.  They only know if we let them know.  Thank you teachers. We really appreciate all that you do!

Do you have a teacher that at some point made a difference in your life?  Did you ever get to show your appreciation? Let us know in the comments below!

To teachers,



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