By Rachel Hoeing

Teachers might as well be the target of Donna Summer’s song “She Works Hard for the Money.” Teachers put in a full day of work inside the school walls, but also spend hours upon hours planning, grading, and assessing at home as well. We all want to show them our appreciation at the holidays. Even if you are low on money this year, a handmade card or treat from the student is always cherished. I have a few favorite gifts from all price ranges that I received throughout my years of teaching. I hope these ideas are helpful as you make your gift lists this year.

Most classes these days decide to go in on a gift together. This is a wonderful idea. The downfall is the fact that not everyone can afford to contribute the same amount of money. The upside is that when collecting a little bit of money from everyone, the class can surprise the teacher(s) with a wonderful gift…

If your class decides to do a class gift together, gift cards are always a fantabulous way to go. Use your super sleuth ways to find out your teacher’s favorite restaurants, clothing stores, coffee houses, spas, book stores, or gift shops. It is fun to get an assortment of gift cards and present them to the teacher in creative ways. You can attach all the cards around a wreath or put them on sticks that are in a poinsettia, or write a poem to go along with each gift certificate as he/she opens the cards.

Other great ideas for collaborative class gifts:

Put together a scrapbook for the teachers. Each child will have their picture on one page and a letter (or illustration for younger kids) on the facing page. I received this one year from a second grade class and it is always fun to go back and read the letters they wrote to me. The accompanying pictures are perfect reminders of past students.

A VISA gift card is an easy way to let the teacher choose how he/she wants to spend the money. Be aware that there is an additional charge for these cards most of the time.

CASH – one year my swim team asked each child to bring in two one-dollar bills. I had about 125 kids I coached that year and they presented me with a box filled with 250 one-dollar bills. It was so fun to open and even more fun to spend! This is a great idea for a special area, middle school, high school, or resource teacher who sees hundreds of students throughout their day.

Another idea is a homemade project by the students. One year a class parent made a beautiful wooden bench for me. Each student painted a bug or flower on the bench. They all wrote their names on the bottom. This is still on my porch and we use it all the time.

If your class is not doing a group gift, here a few ideas to do on your own:

First and foremost, anything that has an apple or says “A+ Teacher” or “Teachers Have Class” is really sweet, but overdone. I cannot tell you how many magnets, ornaments, mugs and doodads I have accumulated over the years with these phrases. There is one exception – if the student has somehow personalized it, I love it! For example, when pulling out my Christmas ornaments last year, I came across a bunch of “#1 Teacher” ornaments and ended up not hanging any of them on my tree because they really didn’t mean anything. But, when I came across the little chalkboard that said “A+ Teacher” with a picture of the student who gave it to me taped to the back, I hung that baby front and center on the tree! It made me smile to see little Jeremy’s face from 10 years ago and it sparked wonderful memories of those years. So, if you are going to buy a gift along these lines, just add a little something personal from the student and you are good to go!

I don’t think teachers can ever have too much stationery, so any type of notepads or cards are terrific. If it is personalized, even better!

Another idea is to take a look at all the notes that have some home asking for class supplies. Gather a basket of these needed items such as copy paper, glue sticks, markers, crayons, etc and wrap it up to look festive. I know you want to give a gift to the teacher, not the class, but most teachers end up spending their own money to buy these essentials anyway, so you have just saved them time and money.

Make it personal – I had a parent one year who knew I was into cheesy top 40 music, so she always gave me a CD at the holidays. If your teacher enjoys music, an iTunes card or a newly released CD is great. If they like going out to eat – get a gift card for a restaurant. If they like sports, buy a memento with their favorite team on it. If they like crafts – an AC Moore gift card would be perfect.

One final idea – food! Some of you mommas can make the best banana breads, cookies and apple cider in the world. Teachers love these! If the teacher does not want the food personally, you know there will be out-of-town visitors that can enjoy them! And speaking of food, I had a parent in my class one year who would surprise me with lunch many times. If you know your teacher loves Chick-fil-A or a local deli, swing by with lunch one day. I am sure the lunch they had planned to buy at the cafeteria, or the yogurt cup sitting in the desk can be saved for another day!

Most of all, enjoy shopping this season! Don’t think of it as a dark cloud hanging over your head. Think of it as a way to make someone feel special and appreciated. If you have some great gift ideas for teachers, please share them below!