May 6-10 is Teacher Appreciation Week!

It happens this time every year, but if you’re like many busy working parents, it sneaks up all too quickly: Teacher Appreciation Week. If you’re in a panic about how to send a thoughtful, meaningful, useful gift with only a couple days left in the week: read on.

Last-minute best bet? Small surprises and gift cards.

They may seem impersonal, but gift cards are useful, practical and always appreciated by teachers, no matter whether the amount is $5, $15, or more.

Jennifer, a Denver-area teacher, shared that while personal notes and cards are always special, “I was also super appreciative for gifts that showed my students really knew me. I didn’t hand out a list, but received a 12 pack of La Croix, hot tamales, and my favorite chocolates. As far as other gifts, I preferred gift cards that I could use to buy classroom materials. So, Amazon was my favorite, but Target and Michaels worked too.”

The biggest teacher gift don’t? Coffee mugs.

“Please, no coffee mugs, lotion, handmade gifts, or homemade foods!” said Brittany, a teacher in the north Denver area. “A thoughtful note of appreciation to the teacher means everything! Teaching is such a thankless job, so this means so much more than many parents know.”

Amy, a teacher in Broomfield, agrees: “After nine years of teaching and over 20 students each year, you can imagine how many mugs, stuffed animals in mugs, etc. have been thrown away. Sad to say, but true.”

Gifts that help teachers help their students.

It’s also perfectly fine to ask teachers if there are items they could use to support learning in their classroom. You could join forces with a few other parents to fill a wish list for supplies. Or consider that a letter from you, written on behalf of your child’s teacher might prompt a local business to make a needed donation.

Teachers: remember that Teacher Appreciation Week is a good chance for you to cross wish-list items off your classroom list, too. Sharon Thomas, a third-grade teacher at Panola Way Elementary School in Lithonia, Georgia, flipped the script this year when she decided to ask for a teacher appreciation gift not for herself, but for her class. Inspired by a recent visit with her family, she wanted to use a trip to SeaWorld Orlando as a way to get her students involved in learning about the impact of plastic on the environment. SeaWorld Orlando surprised her this week with tickets for her entire class to visit the park, as did The Georgia Aquarium. 

Sharon Thomas and her third grade class at Panola Way Elementary School in Lithonia, Georgia.

Photo provided by Sharon Thomas.

Thoughtfulness always wins the day.

“Cards and senior pictures with notes on the back are my favorite keepsake,” shares Lindsey, a high school teacher in Northglenn. “I have a memory box with hundreds of them and on those really tough teaching days, I pull them out to remind myself why this job is so, so important.”

Other thoughtful low and no-cost gift ideas shared by teachers include a homemade recipe that reflects that child's cultural background or home life, along with a card, and classroom items that disappear quickly, like sticky notes and dry erase markers.

“I will still always maintain that a personal card or note is the best way to show appreciation to your child's teacher,” shares Kate Winn, a writer and kindergarten teacher in Ontario, Canada. “And by personal, I mean it's not just signed, but there's some sort of a message written either by an older child or a parent on behalf of a younger child, naming something specific that has been appreciated: a class trip, open communication, a fun unit of study, help with fractions or friendship drama, support for a transition to a new school - anything! I had one parent who kept a list throughout the year of things her children's teachers did well, and her thank you cards were full of special details!”

Do you have any other gift ideas for teachers? Let us know in the comments section below.