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teacher appreciation

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Gift cards are a much appreciated end-of-year gift.

Color-coordinated shirts for field day? Check. Watermelon, bubbles and chalk for class party? Check. Graduation party invites? Check. Teacher gifts? Teacher gifts….

Still trying to devise a fresh way to show your appreciation to the people who meet your children at the other side of the bus or car line, whose supply of patience seems to outpace yours by miles and who, most importantly, educate and nurture our children throughout the day? No pressure or anything. I’m just saying.

The good news is that, in many cases, classes pool their resources, taking donations from all the parents, to purchase a class gift for the teacher.  If this is the case, then you’re golden. But not all classes do a group gift and some families still like to do something for the teacher in addition to a class gift. Of course, if you have more than one child and each has more than one teacher, personalized gifting can get a bit daunting and even a little pricey.

So I reached out to my network of mom and teacher friends to get some more ideas of gifts that say “thank you,” are useful and don’t contribute to clutter.

  1. Gift Cards. Everyone — teachers and parents alike — universally agree that you can’t go wrong with a gift card.  Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, Target, Visa, restaurant gift cards and movie passes. It’s all good!
  1. Photo gifts. If you’ve got a camera-happy class parent or students on sports teams and in clubs who like to document everything with their cell phone camera, you can put together photo gifts like travel mugs or photo books. And FYI, the end of the year coincides with fantastic Father’s Day sales on photo sites, so photo gifts can be sentimental and economical.
  1. A gift that is personalized and says something about your child’s relationship with the teacher. A friend mentioned personalized cereal bowls. She has a word each of her children uses to describe their teachers, along with the teachers’ names, inscribed on a cereal bowl.  As far as I can tell, you can never have enough cereal bowls! Another friend who taught high school mentioned a student who made awards — à la the Emmys — for his teachers. She still remembers the student and his thoughtfulness years later.
  1. A new take on homemade treats. Or maybe this is an old take, but it’s yummy and relatively healthy. If you have the time and energy and like to cook, like one of my Martha Stewart-esque friends, homemade preserves may be the way to go. And I think it’s pretty safe to say that most teachers don’t have an overabundance of preserves landing on their desks.
  1. Potted Plants.  I’m sure it’s been done before, but it’s such a lovely idea, especially at this time of year. Another mother — and former Camp Fire Girl, always the nature lover — mentioned that you can get really nice plants on clearance at the end of the season. That will make both your teacher and wallet happy.
  1. Thank you notes from the kids. This, by far, seemed to have the greatest resonance among teachers, who said they remembered those notes for years after students had left their classrooms. Whether your child is young and draws a picture or writes a few words, or is older and can tell the teacher what he learned from her that year, this is always a treasured gift.

At the end of the day — or school year, really — what really matters is that your gift is a token of appreciation and acknowledgment of the role a teacher has played in your child’s development. And while teachers don’t expect anything and will appreciate just about any gesture, it is the simple one — the one that expresses what your child experienced with that teacher — that has the most meaning.