Anything but Vanilla Cookie Candles: Gift Ideas Your Favorite Teacher will Love!
By: Jen Cornett
In college, I was told that teaching is a thankless job, so during my first year in the classroom, I was overwhelmed in December and May when my desk was piled with presents from my sweet students. Because giving gifts is my love language, I cannot begin to describe how thankful I am for a career that I am passionate about that also comes with a gift bonus. Most teachers prefer not to receive gifts covered in red apples and yellow pencils, but I seem to be haunted by a different gift – Vanilla Cookie Candles. I am sure that someone in the world loves for his or her home and classroom to smell like fresh baked sweetness, but I am not that person. Luckily, for each sugary fragranced candle I have received (and passed on), there have been many amazing gifts from phenomenal families that left me feeling incredibly blessed by the career that others consider thankless.
Teachers are People, too…
The best teacher gifts start with the recipient in mind. One year, a mom approached me with an interest inventory that asked me to list my favorite things. She explained that it was her first time not to be classroom mom, and she wanted a teacher to love. I was more than happy to fill that void in her heart. She used the information to bless me all year. Sometimes her gifts would be small, like a large Sonic Diet Coke first thing in the morning, which guaranteed a great day. My favorite was the Hotty Toddy Tervis Tumbler filled with miniature Reese’s because the gift incorporated three of my favorite things – big cups, Ole Miss, and chocolate. I loved each surprise she sent me, and I now cherish the friendship we have because she took the time to get to know me as a person aswell as a teacher.
A Little Goes a Long Way…
The end of the school year seems to be one of the busiest times in our lives. In the midst of baseball practice, baby showers, weddings, and graduations, it can be hard to find time to get a gift worthy of someone who has positively impacted the life of your child. Because of this, partnering with other parents for teacher gifts is a win-win situation for you and your favorite educator. When I was student teaching, the students each chipped in a small amount of money to give the classroom teacher an amazing gift card. She used it to buy a beautiful pair of designer boots. Each time she wore those boots to school, she would thank the students for their generous gift. The children felt special, and she looked fabulous. There were no complaints from anyone.
Ladies Love to Be Carded…
Speaking of gift cards, some people consider them to be the tackiest of all gifts. I honestly do not know any teacher who would say that because we know that gift cards are actually the gift that keeps on giving. Gift cards to bookstores, office supply stores, and discount stores allow teachers to buy much needed supplies for their classrooms without paying out of their pockets. Paying for dinner with restaurant and coffee gift cards has helped me survive more than one January, which is the longest, poorest month in the life of a teacher. If you are of the mindset that gift cards are not appropriate gifts, think about this: Each time I use a student-given gift card, I think fondly of the student, remember something he did or said, or think of an achievement we reached that at one point seemed impossible. You are giving more than a simple gift card; you are giving a moment to enjoy sweet memories.
If You Teach a Man to Fish…
If a physical gift is a necessity, which is usually true for the littlest learners, baked goods and homemade happies are great. Last year, on a cold winter day, a precocious, pragmatic boy brought me the greatest gift – an apple pie. There was no reason for the gift other than his mom thought I might enjoy the pie – and she was right. That afternoon, several teacher friends and I gathered around the pie with flimsy forks and talked about our day. His gift fed my tummy, the thoughtfulness fed my heart, and the moments with my teacher friends fed my spirit. If you are not the pie baking type, don’t worry – it was store bought. It actually is the thought that counts!
The Days are Long, but the Years are Short…
If you are looking for a truly meaningful gift to give a teacher, there is nothing better than giving of your time. Instead of giving monetarily, lots of parents choose to honor teachers by spending time in their classrooms. This could be done by serving as a classroom reader or leading an activity so the teacher has a few extra minutes to tackle her to-do list. One of my favorite ways for parents to give their time is to take their student’s class to lunch. The lunch process at school is hectic; most teachers get about five minutes to eat before getting everyone ready to head back to the classroom. Arriving at school a little before lunch and letting your teacher eat his or her peanut butter and jelly sandwich in peace is a priceless gift. Be sure to double check the school policies before making these plans. Some schools may have different rules about what parents are allowed to do, but all schools will welcome your support of the classroom.
Don’t Forget to Remember Me…
As many gifts as elementary school teachers receive, middle and high school teachers often get passed over. It is understandable, since few parents can easily manage purchasing gifts for ten teachers instead of one. If that is the case, partnering with parents and adopting one teacher to honor is a great compromise.
That being said, the very best teacher gifts costs very little. Last week, a colleague and friend received a graduation invitation in his school mailbox. When he opened the envelope, a photo of a former student fluttered out with a small piece of white paper. On it she had written the most beautiful sentence: You changed my life. Those are the four words that teachers live to hear. Each day we are exchanging a day in our lives for the chance to make a positive impact on the future through the lives of the children in our classrooms. It is not an exchange we take lightly. Over the course of a career, teachers will serve countless students, and probably receive an innumerable amount of vanilla cookie candles, but the gift that matters most is one that simply says, “You mattered.”
Teacher Gift Dos:
Accessories: Jewelry, Scarves, Totes
Food & Drinks: Candy, Baked Goods, Coffee, Favorite Soft Drinks
Gift Cards: All Kinds, Any Amount
Necessities: Lunch Boxes, Beach Towels, Tumblers, Blankets (Bonus points for personalization!)
Office/ School Supplies: Clipboards, Calendars, Cute Notebooks/ Pads, Book Stamp
Teacher Gift Don’ts:
Anything with apples and pencils
Vanilla Cookie Candles
Jen Cornett is finally graduating from fourth grade this year and will begin teaching World History in the fall. She’s hoping for a classroom that smells like laundry detergent.