Let’s Get Real About Teacher Appreciation: Part 1


You may or may not know that Teacher Appreciation Day is next week, May 7th to be exact. It’s been 3 years since I’ve been a public school teacher, but I think I appreciate teachers even more now that I am a mom. I’m going to talk more about WHY we should appreciate teachers in Part 2, coming up next week. For today let’s focus on some things you can do to show appreciation.

I was an elementary school teacher for 9 years. I can tell you without a doubt that teachers are absolutely not in this gig for the gifts. I was gifted everything from dirty stuffed animals to cash and I absolutely didn’t love any student differently based on what gift they gave me (or if they even gave me one at all). In fact, if buying your child’s teacher a gift for any occasion means that your family goes without something, then every single teacher would beg you to not spend money on them. Put your family’s needs first. I am going to give you plenty of free and budget-friendly options to show your teachers (and daycare workers, librarians, teacher’s assistants, principals, coaches, etc.) that you appreciate them caring for your child.

Once I had a single mom approach me as Teacher Appreciation Day was nearing and explain that she didn’t have any money to buy me anything, but she wanted to make sure I felt loved. I assured her that she didn’t need to do anything, but she just grinned and hugged me. Later that evening, I checked my email to find that the sweet mom had written the principal the sweetest email about me and blind carbon copied me on it. The email went on and on about how grateful she was that I was in her daughter’s life and about how hard she knew that I worked to get her daughter to read on grade level. Obviously, I cried. It is one of the most treasured Teacher Appreciation Day gifts I’ve ever received and it cost her nothing. Seriously, any time you feel like really making someone’s day, tell their boss how great they are! There are many other free things that you can do to make your child’s teacher feel special. Write them a note, have your child draw them a picture, cut some flowers from your (not someone else’s) yard, or simply tell them. All of these things will make them feel loved and appreciated for all of the hard work they do.

If your budget allows for a little more, then do that! Many schools have teachers complete a “favorites” page where they list their favorite food, drink, activity, and so on. Ask in the front office if they have something like this that you can see. If they don’t, ask the teacher next door. I guarantee he/she can give you some ideas. Gift cards are ALWAYS favorites, even $5 ones to Starbucks, Target, Market Street, or Sonic.

Another great (cheap) idea is to bring their favorite coffee to them in the morning or their favorite fountain drink that afternoon. McDonald’s has large fountain drinks for $1. You can’t get much cheaper than that. Also, teachers have such a short time for lunch (if they get a lunch break at all) that they can’t often go buy anything to eat even if they wanted to. I once had a parent bring me Chick-fil-A at lunch and I made sure their child made straight A’s the rest of the year. [OK, totally kidding about that part, but it did make me really happy!]

Some of my other favorite gifts are plants or flowers. Flowers are something that most people enjoy but rarely buy for themselves. May is a good time of year to find some beautiful hanging baskets and potted plants. Another idea is to have your child paint on the flower pot so that it’s a little bit special and unique.

I’m going to be honest about getting classroom supplies as a teacher gift. I’m not a fan. I was always appreciative, but sometimes it was nice to get a gift that said: “hey, we know you have a life outside of this classroom.” Would you want office supplies as a gift? Probably not. All that being said, here are a few school supplies that all teachers (including myself) LOVE:

  1. Ticonderoga SHARPENED Pencils – Yes, it’s hard to say, but it’s seriously the best brand of pencils. Make sure you get the sharpened ones. Just trust me on this. 
  2. Post-it Super Sticky Easel Pad – it’s so nice to write on chart paper and then just peel it off and stick it to the wall without having to put tape on the back. It sounds like such a small step, but little things like that matter.
  3. Sharpie Pens and Markers – these aren’t on most school supply lists, but it is the preferred brand of many teachers.

Last, but certainly not least, if you have that child, you know the one I’m talking about, go big or go home. We all have one child that we know is probably making their teacher’s hair a little more gray. We know this because that sweet baby is making our own hair a little more gray too. They are the kids who make life more fun and are going to do big things once they learn to harness all that energy into something productive. If you can afford it, do something really nice for that teacher as a way to say “hey, thank you for loving my baby even when they didn’t always act lovable.” I once got a gift certificate for a full spa day at Nordstrom with a note that said: “Because my child is the reason you were stressed this year, take some time to relax on us.” I laughed because it was true and much appreciated!

What are some other ideas you have to show love to teachers and other school employees? Stay tuned for part 2 where we talk about how and why you should appreciate ALL teachers.

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Kristen is a native West Texan and a graduate of Texas Tech University. After graduation, she promptly left Lubbock not ever imagining she would return. After almost 10 years away, through a series of fortunate events, she returned to the 806 and has never been happier. She is wife to Clay for almost 7 years and, together, they are raising their 2 spirited boys, ages 1 and 2. Kristen is a stay at home mom who enjoys kid-free trips to Target and sleeping.