Gift Cards, Books, and Classroom Supplies Top Teachers' Wish List

December 08, 2009 (PRLEAP.COM) Education News
Former first-grade teacher Emily Robinson knows how frustrating holiday gift-giving can be for teachers and parents. After seven years of teaching she's collected an entire cupboard full of apple-themed ornaments, mugs emblazoned with "#1 Teacher", and other knick-knacks she'll never use, but can't bear to throw away.

"I really do treasure every one," said Robinson. "Just the fact that a parent appreciated my work enough to say thank you is what matters most."

A new survey of teachers and parents conducted online at shows that Ms. Robinson is not alone: few areas of gift-giving show such a large disconnect between giver and recipient as the annual tradition of end-of-the-year holiday gifts for teachers. While the majority of teachers prefer to receive gift cards, books, and supplies to improve their classrooms, many parents would rather give handmade crafts, ornaments, or coffee mugs.

27% of the over 100 teachers surveyed said they would most appreciate receiving a gift card or gift certificate. Many teachers cited the need to purchase classroom supplies with their own money in the face of dwindling school budgets as the reason gift cards were a particularly appreciated gift. Books or music was the second most-wished for gift category among teachers, followed closely by classroom supplies.

"I have enough coffee mugs to last the rest of my lifetime," said Kirsten, a teacher in Portland, Maine. "And despite popular belief, most teachers don't really have their homes decked out in a red apple motif. Honestly the best gift is just a heartfelt note of appreciation."

20% of teachers said they would prefer not to receive any more coffee mugs, followed closely by ornaments or decorative items, and candles or lotions all categories heavily marketed by gift shops and department stores as suggested gift ideas for teachers.

Ms. Robinson said she decided to launch her website to help well-meaning parents who want to give a gift, but might not know what teachers would appreciate. "It's so frustrating to see parents spending their hard-earned money on knick-knacks or coffee mugs when what the teachers would really appreciate is a simple thank you note, or some help with a classroom activity, or maybe donating some old clothes that can be used for a craft project. If in doubt, just ask your child's teacher what they might be able to use in the classroom."

In addition to the survey of teacher gift preferences, Ms. Robinson's website includes advice on choosing a gift for teachers, how much to spend on teacher gifts, and lists of suggested gift ideas in categories such as gifts for new teachers and gifts for male teachers.

"Many schools have specific policies regarding gifts for teachers," advises Robinson. "Some prohibit overly expensive items; others don't allow homemade food. In some areas the Parent Teacher Association coordinates a group gift from the entire class. Make sure to enquire about the specific gift-giving guidelines in your district if you're uncertain."

Teachers and parents also disagree about what is an appropriate amount to spend on a gift for a teacher. Most teachers surveyed felt that a gift should cost less than $15, while most parents felt gifts up to $30 were appropriate.

"The key message I'd like to communicate to parents is that it's not how much you spend that's most important, it's how well you convey your appreciation for the teacher's work," said Robinson. "Ultimately that is what's going to make an impression that they'll cherish much longer than another coffee cup or an apple for teacher knick-knack."

Complete results of the Teacher Gift Preferences poll can be found online at

Written by former first grade teacher Emily Robinson, provides advice for parents on choosing gifts for teachers, as well as suggested gift ideas for teachers and other education professionals.