Teacher Appreciation Day/Week is here, and I know that many parents scramble to find something appreciative, thoughtful, and/or last minute. Before I suggest a few amazing (if I do say so myself) ideas, here are a few teacher truths that you should be aware of:
1. IT MIGHT BE CUTE ON PINTEREST, BUT IT'S NOT PRACTICAL. There are so many adorable ideas on Pinterest (think crayon monograms and framed printables), but some of them aren't practical. Chances are, your child's teacher already has their room set up just how they like it. The crayon monogram might look cute, but if counter space is already at a premium, it might just be one more thing that takes up valuable space.
2. TEACHERS LOVE NOTES FROM THEIR STUDENTS. Your child's teacher knows what they are capable of writing, and having them write a heartfelt note on their own means the world. If the note makes perfect sense and has no errors, it's obvious that they had help with it. If your child has a hard time writing something, encourage them to write what they like most about their teacher, most about their classroom, or something fun that they did in class that they will never forget.
3. TEACHERS BUY A LOT OF THEIR OWN CLASSROOM MATERIALS. An online article by ABC News reported that the average teacher spent $448 of their own money on supplies for their students during the 1998-1999 school year. Since then, budgets have decreased and class sizes have increased, so I'd guess that teachers spend closer to $600 on activities and supplies now. Beginning teachers can spend upwards of $2,000 to build classroom libraries, purchase supplies for bulletin board displays, and/or buy furniture.
4. TEACHERS APPRECIATE KIND WORDS. Every year, there is at least one parent that can't seem to find anything nice to say. They may write a nasty note, they may speak poorly of their teacher in front of their child, or they may criticize decisions that the teacher makes. If you have something nice to share with your child's teacher, your words mean more to them than you know.
5. TEACHERS BRING THEIR PERSONAL INTERESTS INTO THEIR CLASSROOMS. Your child's teacher might love traveling, crafting, blogging, visiting museums, reading, animals, running, surfing, etc. How can you tell? Look around their classroom, ask your child what they talk about on Mondays and Fridays, and ask other teachers at school.
With all of that being said, I've got quite the list of teacher appreciation gifts for you. I separated them into 5 different categories so that you all can find what works best for you.
1. pencil sharpener: Teachers need new pencil sharpeners every year because they get so much use.
2. EXPO pens/erasers: By now, the only pens that still work well are the ugly colors. If students use markers as well, you can print out (or hand write) mailing labels with their names and attach one to every marker. This prevents fighting over markers, and your child's teacher will love you!
3. new stamps and/or stamp pads: New colors, new smells, new designs!
4. treasure box items and/or raffle tickets: If your child's teacher uses raffle tickets and a prize box, or if they have a classroom store, you can load up on raffle tickets at your local office supply store and prizes from the dollar section at Target or your closest Dollar Tree store.
5. sharpened pencils: Those pencils start looking pretty dreary around this time of year.
6. mailing labels: Some teachers print out several sheets of names at the beginning of the year, but I don't ever think a teacher can have too many. Teachers use them for classroom folders, homework folders, supply boxes, art work, book bags, etc.
7. postcards/notecards: I can't think of a single teacher that doesn't send thank you notes home with students. If you're looking for something more versatile, try "a note from" or "I'm proud of you because" cards instead. I love these on Etsy by katygirldesigns.
8. gift cards: Your 4 safe bets are Target, Starbucks, Michaels, and Amazon. If your child's teacher uses an iPad or iPhone in class, they might like an iTunes/Apple gift card that they can use for apps and/or music. If they print out lots of pictures, perhaps a Shutterfly gift card would be most useful. If they make a lot of their own worksheets and paper materials, they would probably enjoy a TeachersPayTeachers gift card.
9. planner: I'd be willing to bet that 95% of teachers use a paper plan book. Some use those supplied by the school, and others purchase theirs online or from their local teacher supply store. You can probably sneak a peek at theirs on their desk. You can find some at teacher supply stores, such as Lakeshore and C&M, and online retailers such as Erin Condren sell them as well. You can always ask another teacher in the same grade level since, chances are, they plan together and are familiar with how they each use their planners.
10. non-reusable items: Teachers use tons of materials that they personalize for students each year. Teachers buy new sets of these items every year, and I don't know a single teacher that wouldn't appreciate a basket full of them. If your child is in elementary school, chances are they have a book bag. Teachers use gallon bags to send home small phonics and decodable books, and some even purchase the "fancy" ones with handles on them. If your child's teacher has a Student of the Week, they might use and appreciate a new set of posters for next year. Look around the room to see if you can find the ones your child's teacher prefers. You might also look for clothespin clips and binder clips. Teachers often use these to hand student work and/or label student mailboxes.
11. Homework bag: I have fallen in LOVE with the Thirty-One line of bags. I have many of them, but I think that the organizing utility tote with the file folder box is the BEST for classrooms. You can personalize it with the teacher's name, include a file for every student, and students can use this to turn in papers. Teacher can also use it to take things home to grade or prepare. See how I use mine here.
12. yearbook: If you've got pictures of each of the students, you can make class yearbooks for the kids to sign at the end of the year. You can contact other parents, or even the room mom, to get pictures of field trips and classroom activities. Shutterfly has some great templates that are easy to add pictures to.
13. manicure/pedicure: Isn't this just the perfect gift for someone that need to sit down and unwind for an hour? This one is self explanatory.
14. gas card: Does your child's teacher drive long distances to get to work? If so, they might love a gas gift card. Those miles really add up!
15. animal food and/or supplies: Does your child's teacher have animals in the room? If so, they might appreciate supplies for its habitat, food, or some new toys.
16. cleaning supplies: If your child's teacher has a new rug, new whiteboards, or wipes down the desks everyday, they might really enjoy some new cleaning supplies. I worked with a teacher that was very meticulous about his rug, and he spot cleaned it everyday after school. An even BETTER idea would be to organize a small group of parents (and maybe some helpful former students) to come in and clean the room after school one day. You can reorganize supplies, clean out bins, wipe down desks, clean off ledges, dust bookshelves...the possibilities are endless. Most janitors sweep the floor and vacuum rugs, so anything above and beyond that is up to the teacher. Any help will be GREATLY appreciated!
17. special interests: If your child's teacher has a special interest, they probably share it with their students all the time. Do they love to travel? Do they have a child away at college? Do they love to run, stand up paddleboard, hike, swim, or surf? Do they make crafts? Do they read or write? Think about some of their passions and find something that might be useful to them.
18. printables: We all know that you didn't MEAN to put this off until the last possible moment, but it happens to the best of us. If you're in need of something you can print and grab, I've got some solutions for you. Here are some great printables that you can attach to items easily found at the last minute. This one is from my girl Heather at river&bridge:
You can find a few others on the same blog post here. Another favorite of mine is from chickabug:
If you don't have time to go grab pencils or scissors, you can print off one of these bad boys and pick up a gift card at your local grocery store. If you so choose, you can also troll the teacher appreciation Pinterest boards for printables you can pop in a frame, amongst several other ideas with doughnuts and apples and stuff like that.
19. organize meals: You can ask a few other parents to help you organize a week or a day of meals and snacks to bring to the classroom. Consider bringing in lunch, coffee, healthy snacks, and sweet treats. Ask your kids what their teacher likes to snack on!
20. grade papers: If you really want to warm a teacher's heart, ask what kind of grading you can help with. Some grading must be done by the teacher, but other worksheets and quizzes are easily graded by parents (math facts tests, spelling tests, etc).
21. set up a donorschoose.org account: donorschoose.org is a fantastic site that allows teachers to create classroom wish lists. Donors can browse through the accounts and donate money that goes towards these gifts. If your teacher doesn't have an account, and you know that they have items they'd like for their classroom (SMART boards, whiteboards, Expo pens, website subscriptions, projectors, document cameras, iPads, etc), you can set up an account for them here.
22. prep an activity: This is a great idea, especially if your student is in grades K-2. Teachers spend lots of time cutting, sorting, and assembling materials for fun activities. Stop in and ask if there is an activity that you can help set up. You might even be able to do this at home!
23. ten minutes: If your time is limited, and you only have a few minutes to spare, read my post from the beginning of the year to see how you can make a BIG difference in ten minutes.
I hope this helps some of you that are out there scrambling!