Appreciation Gifts Teachers Really Want (And What They Don’t)

A variety of gift cards, pens, and teacher for appreciation items laid out on the table

Summer looms before us. The long, long, long days of “can I have a snack?” and “Mom, he hit me! No, he hit me!” Not to mention temperatures rivaling the pits of Hell.

Oh sweet baby Jesus.

It’s times like this, with the days of 110 degree weather, 24/7 kids, and zero quiet ahead that I’m reminded how grateful I am for my kids’ teachers. For the moments of quiet I get in my house while they’re dealing with snack times, sight words, kindergarten line leader politics and the beautiful chaos that comes with raising and educating small humans. God knows it takes a special kind of person to do it all with the grace and patience of my children’s teachers.

To the teachers that guided my son during his first year of elementary school, and helped me potty train my incredibly stubborn preschooler, I see you. I value you. Please god don’t leave me…

I’m cool. I’m cool. It’s fine.

It’s appropriate that Teacher Appreciation Week should fall at this particular time of year when their impending absence reminds us all just how important a role they’ve played in our lives the past 9+ months. And I don’t know about you, but I struggle every blessed year to come up with some way to show them how much they mean to us. So I took to the experts and interviewed several teachers (and even a school principal) to ask what teachers really want when it comes to gifts and appreciative gestures. And boy were they a gold mine of information, so let’s dive in.

Gift Cards

This will come as a surprise to approximately zero percent of you, but the most requested gift that teachers really want were gift cards. But what was new information to me was how many of the teachers requested gift cards to websites like Teachers Pay Teachers, an “online marketplace where teachers buy and sell original educational material”. Gift cards to sites like this allow teachers to supplement their materials for OUR children’s education and pay it forward to other teachers without it coming out of their own paycheck. So basically it’s a win/win/win situation – sign me up!

Other top giftcards requests include Amazon, Target, Walmart, Etsy and Visa. One teacher even suggested a certificate for a massage or pedicure as another fun options. For those parents who dislike the impersonal nature of gift cards, one of my inside sources suggested parents could include a handwritten note, a letter or drawing from their child, or for younger kids, a handprint accompanying the card to make it more personal.

Favorite Teacher Supplies

Another fan favorite among the teachers I spoke with — office supplies, and in particular, flair pens (the number one choice of every teacher I talked to). Apparently teachers really love their flair pens, and go through them quickly so getting a new stash is like Christmas come early. Other requested items include felt tip pens, multicolored sharpies, dry erase markers, and Post It notes.

Ideas Based on Past Favorites

I asked all the teachers what their favorite gifts they received in the past {that weren’t gift cards or gel pens}, and got some great answers that can be easily taken care of via Prime or Target pickup.

Portable speakers

Charging stations

Folding chairs


Tote bags

You’ll notice nearly every item they loved in the past was functional – this seemed a common theme among every teacher’s answer.

Non-Monetary Gifts

For those of you who are not in the season to be able to give much, or who are perhaps just looking to do something in addition to a gift, here are some other ways we can show our teachers how much we appreciate them.

Write a note filled with all the ways they impacted your children’s lives, from the small acts of kindness your son or daughter came home and told you about, to the improvements they helped make academically.

Email a formal letter of recognition to their principal or supervisor acknowledging their hard work and CC them on it. It may not win them any awards (though you never know), but everyone appreciates when their hard work is praised and pointed out to upper management.

Gifts to Avoid

Now that you know what teachers really want, let’s talk about what they don’t want. Let me warn you, this is gonna disappoint some folks. The top most disliked Teacher Appreciation Week Gifts are, *drumroll* —

Mugs and Yetis – I don’t think there was a single teacher that didn’t emotically state no more mugs. They get them every single year, for pretty much every holiday and teacher event, and frankly, they’d like just about anything else before yet another mug.

Cookies, Desserts and Candy – They’re sweet. They’re tasty. And they really don’t want any more. Teachers often work long hours and they don’t need a sugar crash making the draining hours harder. If you’re interested in giving something edible, one teacher suggested asking what their favorite snack item was and purchasing that instead.

Anything apple or pencil shaped – Whatever you can think up, they already have it. Probably with an adorable monogram.

And finally, as one very sweet {and blunt} teacher put it, cutesy Pinterest-worthy gifts that look great in photos but offer very little of actual use.

Essentially the feedback I got was when putting together gifts for Teacher Appreciation Week, make sure they’re gifts of substance. Whether it be a financial donation in the form of a gift card or nice pens, or acts of appreciation like handwritten notes or emails to their supervisors, what teachers really want are items that are useful and show that they’re valued.

So if you excuse me, now that I know what teachers really want this week, I have to get started writing some very nice letters to my kids’ teachers. I need to let them know how much I…I mean the kids, ahem, are going to miss them this summer.

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