Do I Really Need To Buy Every Teacher a Holiday Gift?

Child giving gift to a teacher

Highwaystarz-Photography / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • A holiday gift is great way to show your childs' teacher you appreciate them.
  • It truly is the thought that counts, a homemade gift or a heartfelt card is just as good as something store bought.
  • The decision is up to you and your family, there are many ways to show appreciation outside of a holiday gift.

The holidays are a magical time of year, but frankly, they can also be chaotic. With decorating, juggling social engagements, themed school days, and moving around The Elf on the Shelf (if that is a tradition for your family), it seems like there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. December flies by, and before you know it, it’s a new year. 

Holiday shopping, and getting gifts for all the friends and family on your list, are stressful, but there’s an added panic many parents feel when thinking about giving a gift to their child’s teacher. Do you get them a gift? What should you get? Should you buy something or make something? Are gift cards acceptable? It’s a lot to decide and it can feel like a lot of pressure—so we've tapped teachers, parents, and an etiquette expert to guide you on your teacher gift-giving decisions.

Yes! I'm On Team Teacher Gifts For The Holidays

Teachers are some of the unsung heroes of the world. They teach the minds of future generations and have a huge impact on our children. Teachers don't only shape children academically, but also have the ability to affect their character, and motivation to learn. Historically, educators are extremely underpaid and systemically underappreciated, which is why there are teacher shortages nationwide. Giving your child's teacher a holiday gift is a thoughtful way to show your family's appreciation for all that they do.

Melissa Flocco, a Christopher Columbus Charter School kindergarten teacher says that she loves to receive gifts from her students and their families. She recalls one of her favorites, "a Disney plaque with my name and quotes from my favorite movies that related to the fun in my classroom.”

Many parents agree and do get gifts for their kids' teachers. Angela Culbreath, a mother of four, says it is important to express our gratitude for their care, concern, and instruction. Their roles can be challenging on many levels.

"Over the years, we have given gifts to my children's care providers, teachers, and coaches. A small token of thanks serves as an acknowledgment that what they do is valued. It truly takes a village," Culbreath says. Among the gifts she's given are mugs, gift cards, candles, scarves, tasty treats, and Bath and Body Works Stress Relief products.

What's an Appropriate Teacher Gift?

What do you buy for your child’s teacher when oftentimes you may not know much about their personal lives, or their likes and dislikes? Myka Meier, a two-time best-selling author, social savant, and founder of Beaumont Etiquette says getting something thoughtful that relates back to the children or their teaching role is always a great gift idea for a teacher.  “A sweet coffee cup with a photo of the class printed on it, almost anything monogrammed like a personalized notebook, planner or calendar, or lovely new pen set.”

"Class materials are always welcome; whiteboard markers, pencils, laminating sheets, tissues, etc. I've got enough mugs though, thank you," says Veronica Rohach, a teacher and English-language assistant in France.

Meier says to never gift money to your kids' teacher. "It can be seen as bribing and many teachers have policies against accepting monetary gifts. Feel free to chip in with all the other families of the class who wish to join in to give one class gift," Meier says. "Don't sign specific names on the group holiday gift, however, as you would never want to leave one family or child out who were unable to put finances into the gift."

No! Giving Every Teacher a Gift is Too Much

On the other hand, giving your child's teacher a gift may be too much, and buying something can be problematic, says Lillie Marshall, a veteran teacher of 18 years and the creator of Drawings Of and Teaching Traveling education sites.

“First, this can cause pressures for families that can't afford them—either financially or in terms of time,” Marshall says. “Second, such gifts raise ethical issues, as teachers may feel expected to give different treatment to children who gave them.”

Additionally, if your kid has numerous teachers that are heavily involved in their schooling, it can be unrealistic and expensive to buy every teacher a gift.

Should Middle and High Schoolers Give Gifts?

As kids transition from elementary to middle and high school, so do their academic classes. They often don't spend as much time with a homeroom or specific teacher. In these cases, giving gifts becomes less practical or necessary. When they become older, gift-giving becomes more sparse. There are also added social pressures to consider. Gift-giving can single your child out amongst their peers, as a 'teacher's pet.'

However, if your child has a teacher they have a special bond with you can always give them a gift away from the other kids to show your appreciation. "I think gifts are appreciated no matter how old the child is—a gift simply shows gratitude, which is always appreciated at any age," Meier says.

Other Ways To Show Teachers Appreciation

Gifting doesn't always mean buying something, there are many other ways to show your child's teacher appreciation. "The #1 best gift, in my opinion, is a detailed letter explaining specific reasons why that teacher is appreciated. These letters are treasured by educators, and can make a world of difference in morale," Marshall says.

Rohach also values the sentiment no matter the gift. "As a teacher, I love receiving gifts even if you've regifted them, even if they're homemade. I'm just grateful to receive a little recognition."

"The more thoughtful the better, so you often don't even need to spend any money on a purchased gift at all," Meier adds. "A homemade holiday ornament, a batch of homemade cookies, a beautiful Christmas card made by your little ones, a thoughtful poem, or a painting will be loved and show appreciation." 

What This Means For You

Giving your kid's teacher a holiday gift is a wonderful way to show them appreciation for all that they do, but buying something isn't always necessary. There are many other ways to give, that are just as thoughtful, such as a homemade gift or a card with heartfelt words.

Teachers will be moved by anything that shows your family values their contributions to your child's life (maybe except mugs). But remember staying involved, and helping in the classroom is a wonderful way to show appreciation all year long.

1 Source
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  1. General Accounting Office. K-12 Education:Education Should Assess Its Efforts to Address Teacher Shortages.

By Chelsie DeSouza
Chelsie DeSouza is a writer specializing in parenting, sharing her knowledge on all stages of motherhood. She has a 5-year-old daughter and has been writing for the last 3 years with bylines in WHYY, The Everymom, Mother Mag, and more.