The best teacher gifts have nothing to do with apples or school buses, I promise

Guess This: We trust our teachers with the education and well-being of our children for most of the day, every day. We know that educators have a great influence on the growth and development of our children. We know that teachers are underpaid and overworked. We know that education is a labor of love, and that a truly amazing teacher can positively change our children’s lives … In short, teachers are totally amazing, so why do we think a $ 5 Christmas tchotchke? Is Tree Shop an appropriate way to show our appreciation?

I don’t actually have kids, but I have several friends who are teachers, and I’ve seen some staggeringly horrible things diligently brought home in brightly colored gift bags. Seriously folks, COOL IT UP WITH THE APPLE STUFF! (or whatever teacher # 1 says or has a school bus for that matter).

1. The best gifts are personal, they don’t even have to cost money. Teachers don’t expect fancy swag, but they like to know they’re recognized and appreciated. A homemade card and a heartfelt sentiment from you and / or your child (preferably both) will definitely win you a bargain at any time. However, if you can wrap your feelings around a nice gift … well then, all the better.

2. Gift cards / certificates! You most likely don’t know where your teacher likes to shop or what he does in his spare time, which is why generic bank gift cards, Target, Starbucks, or mall gift cards are pretty safe. A gift certificate to a local day spa or a good local restaurant is also appropriate. * NOTE * this does not mean APPLEBEES! It means locally owned, a bit on the upscale side, and with amazing food. Also, the amount should be enough for a full meal. For gift cards in general, if you can’t afford to give a reasonable amount, don’t go this route. Just stick with the nice card option as detailed above.

3 things! If you want to give a concrete “little detail”, that’s fine. Just steer clear of apple / teacher-oriented junk (because that’s where you’ll inevitably end up), and try to get something that’s attractive, useful, and of good quality. Some ideas that won’t decimate your budget:

– A very nice (and possibly ecological) travel mug.

– An adorable novelty flash drive.

– A set of beautiful stationery or blank cards (I’m talking about pressing letters here, not the distinctive gold crown).

– A nice and sturdy reusable bag (teachers always have a lot to carry!).

– Or, make a collection with the other parents and buy a high-value item like tickets to a professional sports game, a high-value gift card, or something specifically designed to fit your favorite teacher.

It’s not wildly innovative, but it’s definitely less likely to end up at Goodwill.

4. Pitfalls! Besides not buying junk, there are a couple of things to avoid in the world of classy teacher gifts:

– A gift for the classroom is not a gift for the teacher. If you want to give something nice to the classroom, please do it separately. Give the teacher something for him / her. You wouldn’t give your housekeeper Windex as a holiday gift (would you?).

– Food is a slippery slope. Any diet low in fat, or calories seems insulting. Anything high-fat or decadent is just plain unhealthy (and probably made worse by free gifts of saturated fat-laden food from at least 10 other parents). Aim for something in the middle. I think they are in bad taste, but those edible arrangements seem popular, or maybe just a beautiful fruit wrapped in foil from Harry & David? Or, if you must give away candy, let it be the best candy available. Unless they are diabetic or allergic to chocolate, Godiva is usually a surefire situation.

At the end of the day, teacher gifts are optional, not required. If you can’t put together something genuinely nice or thoughtful to say or gift to your child’s teacher (let’s face it, it’s not all jewelry), skip it altogether. Chances are they don’t even realize it.