As the holidays quickly approach, I’ve been brainstorming, crowdsourcing, and researching thoughtful and frugal gifts for teachers and school support staff who all help make my daughter’s school the wonderful place of learning that it is.
This is my daughter’s first year in public school and it wasn’t until I asked around that I realized how many individuals contribute to providing an exceptional educational experience for our children. There are a lot of people I never would have thought of!
Many people give small gifts and cards to their child’s main teachers and aides, but what about the unified arts teachers (art, music, gym, library, foreign language, guidance) and the underlooked people behind the scenes, such as cafeteria staff, custodians, administrative help, bus drivers, and the principal? Holy moly, that’s a lot of people- and they all deserve to be recognized. While I would give them all a million dollars if I could, our budget is a bit smaller than that.
Here are some thoughtful and frugal gifts for teachers and school support staff I found that allow us to acknowledge everyone in a manageable way, followed by some of the popular (and more expensive) gifts that were repeatedly suggested in my research. I asked parents, caregivers, teachers, and support staff in several parenting groups, websites, and blogs, local and nationwide.
Luckily, my girls love to get crafty! And so do I. Thank you, Pinterest, for the inspiration and instructions! Here are a few crafty ideas that foster creativity, are easy to personalize, and don’t require you to buy an abundance of supplies.
- Handmade card (#1 answer)
- Homemade bookmark
- Painted rock paperweight
- Pebble magnets
- Canvas tote bag decorated by student
- Painted terracotta pot filled with plant
- Mason jar filled with new writing tools
- Portrait of teacher with list of what the student likes about them
- Beaded jewelry or keychain
- Picture of flowers with seed packet attached “Thank you for Helping Me Grow”
- Bath bombs/bath salts
- Homemade soap
I am intentionally shying away from homemade bites here because my research indicates that teachers get a lot of edible treats. ‘Tis the season for gluttony, but if we go that route, I think we will give a gift card or something less perishable so they don’t have to consume everything all at once.
- Maple syrup (I’m told you cannot go wrong with this here in Vermont)
- Locally sourced chocolates or coffee
- Tea bag assortment
- Favorite snack to stash in desk drawer (Ask student to gather intel during snack time for this)
- Edible arrangement (Perishable, but may be a welcome change from the sweets)
One way to be very mindful and intentional about gift-giving is to find out the teacher’s interests. You can do so by asking them to fill out a “Getting to Know My Teacher” survey. There are many free printable options like this on Pinterest as well as ones you can purchase on Etsy. This could help narrow things down if you decide on one of the ideas in this category.
- Nice stationery (blank cards that can be used as thank-you notes are ideal)
- Hobby-related items (cookbook, sporting equipment, camping gear, art supplies, etc.)
- Gift cards (#2 answer, only behind handmade cards)
- Visa/MC/Amex (Absolutely cannot go wrong here)
- Local book store
- Local coffee shop/restaurant
- Farmer’s market bucks
- Grocery store
- Local crafter
- Movie theater
- Experience gift (Gondola ride, Escape Room, spa treatment)
I feel conflicted about this one. I include it because of the number of times it was suggested in my search, although I would like to give a gift more intended for the recipient than the classroom. In that same breath, teachers are angels and spend too much of their own money on things for the classroom, so it is nice to lessen that burden for them. If you do choose this category, many schools have set up Wish Lists for items that are most needed in the building. Check with your child’s teacher or the PTO for more information.
Another lovely way to show you care about everyone without doing individual gifts is to make or buy something that the entire faculty can enjoy.
- Prepackaged snacks for the teacher’s lounge (is that still a thing?)
- A tray of your favorite homemade delights (I know I said no homemade sweets, but I do think this works well when it doesn’t have to be consumed by one person or family).
- Work with other parents to send in breakfast or lunch for the staff one day (depending on faculty size). For my daughter’s preschool, we use Sign-Up Genius to plan the menu for Teacher Appreciation Week. The teachers know they don’t have to bring lunch that week and everyone knows what dish to contribute.
- Pool together with other caregivers to hire someone to come give the staff members a chair massage.
What NOT to Give
Some items that were repeatedly hard NOs are mugs, candles, lotions, and ornaments. Wine was suggested in all seriousness and jest, but unless you know for sure that the person drinks, stay away from alcohol as a gift.
I hope this list helps you navigate gift-giving for those amazing people in the education field, without whom we would not be able to send our kids to school every day. Please note that one of the most popular answers from teachers was that they don’t expect anything, which is just part of why they deserve something special.
As I said, I’m new at this public school thing. Please let me know if I’ve missed any key players or great thoughtful and frugal gifts for teachers and school support staff. Let me know if you use any of these ideas too. Happy creating, shopping, and gift-giving!
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