Best Teacher Gift Ideas (and Ones to Avoid)

Whether for the holidays, a birthday, the end of the year or just because, these teacher gift ideas will get you moved to the front of the class. Each teacher gift was selected BY teachers FOR teachers. 

Can We Really Thank Them Enough?

As if we shouldn’t be sending gifts and thank you notes every day to the teachers that put up with mold young minds and shape the next generation, we scramble the day before a holiday or the last day of school to find that perfect gift to express our gratitude. The end result? A ceramic mug with candy…

Okay, not always. But far too often… And while all the teachers I surveyed agreed that they equally love any gift they receive from a child, many of them expressed that a simple thank you with a hug or a hand written thank you note goes much further than any physical gift ever would.

Best and Worst Teacher Gift Ideas | Cleverful Living with Holley Grainger
Frances made Mrs. Barbie the necklace she is wearing at the beginning of the school year. She painted her the picture (on the left) towards the end of the school year.


Growing Up with a Teacher

When I was a child, my mom was an elementary school music teacher. I remember my favorite school day for her was the day before Christmas vacation and the last day of school. She would come home with a box of gifts from her students and always let my sister and me open the gifts. Being the sugar addicts that we are/were, we loved the homemade cookies and candy. (Of course, Mom had to inspect everything before we could eat.) Mom received dozens of ornaments over the years and to this day she still hangs many on our family Christmas tree. In addition to the Facebook survey I took, I asked Mom to contribute to the list. Her top picks for favorite gifts were gift certificates, ornaments, CDs and home made goodies with her least favorite being overly personal items like lipstick and perfume.


“Ornaments were always my favorite because even to this day I remember who gave me each one and remember them fondly and my time with them in the classroom. It is a great way for me to share stories with my kids. Plus I always take a picture of it and send it to that student to show them I still have it and to wish them a Merry Christmas.”

-Rosie Contri Johnson 
Retired Music Teacher


Best and Worst Teacher Gift Ideas | Cleverful Living with Holley Grainger

What Gifts Do Teachers Really Want?

I took a survey on my Facebook page asking teacher friends to share the best gifts that they’ve received from students over the years. I also asked if they would share ones that they didn’t particularly care for. In addition to over two dozen responses, I received numerous inbox messages, emails and texts with suggestions. After rounding up all of the responses, I found there was one resounding sentiment…teachers are happy to be remembered and appreciated.


Best and Worst Teacher Gift Ideas | Cleverful Living with Holley Grainger


“Anything is appreciated and loved especially because everyone is coming from different economic backgrounds.”



Best and Worst Teacher Gift Ideas | Cleverful Living with Holley Grainger

Best Teacher Gift Ideas

  1. Thank you note
  2. Gift cards (Starbucks, Target, Walmart, local restaurant)
  3. Ornament (with child’s name and date)
  4. Manicure or pedicure gift certificate
  5. Personalized items (clipboards, cups, notepads)
  6. School supplies basket (fine point Sharpees, laminating pouches, nice markers, sticky notes, card stock, ink)
  7. Movie passes
  8. Original art from student
  9. Local produce market or (plant) nursery gift certificate
  10. Living plants (orchid, poinsettia, flowers)
  11. 100% cotton kitchen towels
  12. Pre-packaged jarred cookie mix
  13. Spa gift card
  14. Amazon gift card
  15. Monogrammed bags
  16. Books for the classroom
  17. Bookstore gift card with a bookmark made by the student
  18. Cute lanyard (for keys or ID badge)
  19. Beach bag with magazine, sunscreen, etc.
  20. Redbox gift card with snacks (I love this gift package!)
  21. Prepackaged tea
  22. Prepackaged gourmet foods
  23. Any items the teacher collects (angels, nativity scenes, etc.)
  24. Scarf/pashmina
  25. Charity donation

“When I was teaching I loved getting ornaments. It’s even more fun now when I’m putting up my tree to remember the kids who gave them to me!”



2-Ingredient Applesauce Cupcakes from Holley Grainger

  1. Baked Goods
    These results were split. Whether it be homemade cookies, spiced nuts, breads, candies, or cakes some teachers said they love sweet treats made with love as a gift (especially wrapped in cute towels or packaged in a keepsake item like a pie plate, holiday tin, etc). Others said they are grateful but normally skip the treats since they don’t eat sweets, aren’t sure about the ingredients used, the are are uneasy about the preparation methods or are saving their Christmas calories for other foods. If you’re looking for no fail recipes that are always a crowd pleaser, try my Roasted Rosemary Almonds, Rosemary Shortbread Cookie Cutouts, Pistachio White Chocolate and Cardamom Biscotti or Sweet and Salty Dark Chocolate Bark!)
  2. Scented Items
    While most said that they would prefer to not receive products with strong scents (mainly because of allergies and migraine triggers) quite a few people said they love receiving candles with clean scents.
  3. Money
    This is a hard one! Almost everyone said YES to “gift card” but only a few said money in the form of a gift like a “money tree.” Many people put cash on the “no” list but maybe because it would be a bit awkward versus them just not wanting cash.


“Honestly, it is just nice to be remembered by my kids.”



(…but equally appreciated because of the sentiment)

  1. Ceramic mugs (note “ceramic” as I’m pretty sure not many would turn down a Yeti rambler)
  2. Plastic cups with candy
  3. Statues of Santa or snowmen (unless they collect them)
  4. Picture frames (unless something sentimental with teacher and child)
  5. Holiday tchotchkes and knick knacks
  6. Holiday jewelry
  7. #1 Teacher gifts
  8. Stuffed animals (unless for the teacher’s child or pet)


Note: These lists may contain affiliate links.

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Best and Worst Teacher Gift Ideas | Cleverful Living with Holley Grainger


Love Giving Gifts? Hooray!! More Gift Ideas!

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*Stuff your stockings with these fun kitchen gadgets. These 12 kitchen gadget stocking stuffers are the perfect mini gifts for your foodie friends!

*Love to meal prep, bake, or experiment with new recipes in the kitchen? Then these 20 meal prep gifts for the kitchen are just what the chef ordered! 


What Gifts for Teachers Are You Giving? 

Do you have go-to gift ideas for teachers? Or, are you a teacher with an opinion about what you love receiving or what you prefer to pass on? Share below so I can add them to the list!!