Thoughtful Teacher Gifts (with a Natural Twist!)

Written by contributor Megan Tietz of Sorta Crunchy.

Last year was my oldest daughter”s first year in public school.  I found myself to be incredibly unprepared for tackling the project of finding thoughtful and meaningful gifts for her teachers.  This year, I am determined to avoid that last-minute scramble, and so teacher gifts have been on my mind.

I informally surveyed some friends and readers to hear opinions on favorite teacher gifts.  Both parents and teachers have a lot to say on this topic!  I read through all of the suggestions and thought about how we could put a simple, natural twist on some old favorites:

HANDMADE

I heard from more than a few teachers who mentioned how much they love receiving handmade gifts.  Do you sew, knit, or create some other kind of art?  Giving a gift that you have put time, energy, and effort into is a wonderful way to connect with your child”s teacher.

Handmade scarves are sure to delight, and a crocheted coffee sleeve for a coffee aficionado would definitely be a hit.  What about a handmade beaded bracelet or necklace?  Some  teachers don”t have the ability to control the thermostat in their classrooms; you could repurpose a t-shirt or sweater into a pair of fingerless gloves to keep those hardworking hands warm all winter long.

Many teachers treasure gifts made by the children they have had the joy of having in class.  Handcrafted cards, letters, and holiday ornaments are always unique and are sure to be treasured by the special teachers who are making an impact on the life of your child. Even if your child isn”t old enough (or is uninterested) in creating a gift, you can always follow Maya”s lead and repurpose your child”s art into gift wrap for a teacher gift.

(Katie”s article Homemade Holiday Link Round-Up has many more homemade/handmade gift suggestions!)

FOOD

Photo by AntaresIV
There”s never a shortage of food when it comes to celebrating end-of-the-year holidays!  A meaningful way to celebrate a beloved teacher is to combine yummy ingredients with tender loving care to create something scrumptious to enjoy. Bonus: food is a great consumable gift – little to no clutter left behind!

Here are some ideas to inspire and motivate:

CHARITABLE

There is a growing trend for families to be more mindful in spending dollars during the holidays.  A teacher with a heart for social justice or activism would surely be touched by a gift in his or honor to a charitable organization. Here are some ideas:

  • I know many teachers who have been heartbroken over students who come from underfed families.  Feeding America”s sends home non-perishable foods with students who won”t have access to school breakfast and lunch over the weekend, school holidays, or summer vacation.  I imagine any teacher would be touched by a donation made in his or her name to feed hungry children in our country.
  • Kiva offers “loans that change lives” in a collaborative effort to alleviate poverty.  These micro loans connect generous lenders with individuals seeking to rise above poverty through entrepreneurial opportunity.  Kiva even provides gift cards which enables recipients (like a special teacher) to browse loan requests and select which projects they would like to support through a loan.
  • You”re familiar with Heifer International, right?  Like Kiva, Heifer works through connecting donors to people in need around the world.  The behind Heifer”s work is to end hunger through “helping people obtain a sustainable source of food and income.”  The giving page is filled with gift ideas (how about a flock of chicks given in honor of your child”s teacher?) or you might choose to make a contribution instead to a project like this one to create a sustainable food system in Honduras.

ECO-FRIENDLY ALTERNATIVES TO OLD FAVORITES

Photo by lindsay.dee.bunny
Favorite teacher gifts are popular for a reason!  This year, try an alternative approach to the standards and your gift is one that is sure to be remembered.

For example:

  • Rather than a petroleum-based paraffin candle from a big box store, choose a 100%  soy-based candle that burns clean and is non-toxic and biodegradable.
  • Instead of lotion or body care gifts from the mall which are generally filled with chemical preservatives and other ingredients that are unkind to skin, plan ahead and order from a store like Graham Gardens which features only products made with healthy, skin-friendly ingredients.
  • Skip picking up department store trinkets, and shop businesses that support fair trade ethics and practices such as Lotus Jayne, 31 Bits, and Fair Indigo.
  • Instead of another Starbucks gift card, partner with other parents in your child”s class to purchase a gift certificate for a relaxing massage to be enjoyed over the winter break.
  • Teachers are always on guard against the many germs that swarm in a classroom.  Instead of giving hand sanitizer that may contain triclosan, make up a batch of elderberry syrup to help support health and wellness through the cold and flu season.  (Modern Alternative Mama shared this easy recipe.)

When I taught high school, I didn”t receive very many gifts before the holiday break.  I suppose most high schoolers are way too cool for teacher gifts!  But what I did receive that I still treasure all these years later were thoughtful notes, cards, and letters from my students. From time to time, I go through those sentiments from my students and it brings me an incredible amount of joy.

Sometimes the best gift is truly the most simple.  SortaCrunchy reader Jana suggested a nice letter talking about the positive things you see in your child because of the teacher; for example, that this teacher introduced your child to a new book series they love, or your child is getting better in math because of this teacher”s devotion to her students” learning. Most every teacher just loves to know that he or she is appreciated.  What better time of year than this to be intentional about relaying your gratitude for his or her work in the classroom?

What are some of your favorite gifts to give teachers? How might you be able to put a simple or natural twist on a favorite gift to give or receive?

About Megan

Megan spends her days with dirt under her nails, paint on her shirt, and laughter in her ears, and she wouldn't have it any other way. She writes about faith, mothering, and natural living at SortaCrunchy. Read her full bio here.

Comments

  1. This is a great post! I wonder though, since I am my children’s teacher, do I get gifts for that too?! :)
    When they were in school, one year we made a set of dinner conversation starters, on pretty cardstock, and gave a set to every teacher, assistant, aid, and therapist. It was a huge hit! More than any store bought gift we had given in years prior.
    Sofia’s Ideas´s latest post: … and the winner is …

    • Fun idea! I would never have thought of that. Actually, that could be a great gift for lots of occasions! Thank you, Sofia. :)

  2. My daughter is a 4th grade teacher and, BELIEVE ME, she doesn’t want any candles, homemade food, ornaments, etc. She brings home boxes of this stuff every year. The best gift you can give a teacher is a gift card to some store – Target, Walmart, Starbucks. They get paid so little and gift cards are a big help. Sorry to rain on your parade, but……my opinion.

    • :)

      As a former teacher and a sister to a career teacher, I completely see your point! I don’t think my sister has ever been disappointed about receiving a gift card.

      The audience here at Simple Organic is generally one looking for ways to gently advocate for a more natural-geared life, and I was thinking that this time of year is when Simple Organic readers would be looking for natural-themed gift ideas.

      But truly, a significant part of giving a thoughtful gift is considering both the wants and needs of the recipient, and many times a simple gift card really does fit the bill.

  3. Great ideas, especially the thoughtful cards. But I’ll tell you, that as a past elementary school teacher, nothing beats a gift card. I have boxes of lovely handmade gifts and mugs that I can’t bear to throw out, but can’t really use. In the name of simplicity, please, consider giving your child’s teacher a gift card! $5 at a local Mom-n-Pop bookstore or coffee place will be so much appreciated : ) And no more candy, bread or jam please! Most of us are watching our weight or are on a special diet.

  4. Sue Klingseis says:

    I am a retired teacher from California. Money is TIGHT in our education budget. What I appreciated was gifts for the classroom and/or gift cards I could use for classroom supplies. I also loved the notes from the students and their parents.

    • Another excellent idea. Teachers definitely spend a lot of money out of pocket on classroom materials! This would be such a thoughtful way to bless a teacher at the holidays.

  5. We gibe gift cards to various teachers (ballet, etc)- and we go out for lunch for ME (because I am the homeschool mom) :)
    priest’s wife´s latest post: So Thankful for Gods Blessings

  6. My favorite gift to give my kids’ teachers is to put money in their classroom funds. I think it falls under the “green” category because it helps them buys supplies they would get anyway.

  7. I am a teaching assistant, and yes each year I generally get the same things but it’s true that the ones that stand out have added a twist to the usual presents.

    For example I get plenty of chocolates but the hand decorated chocolate bar was the one that stood out, I get candles but again it was the homemade candle that was noticed.

    Yes a gift card is nice rather than the standard gift but when someone has put the thought and effort into it I would rather have the gift with the personal touch.
    Cathy´s latest post: Vintage Christmas Decorations For Sale updated Sun Nov 21 2010 9-01 am CST

  8. I also like the idea of putting money in the classroom and education funds – green and useful of course so they can get what they need. Secondly, like the idea of gift cards- a more 21 century idea. These can be quite useful, especially to those who are on a budget.
    Karen Ho Fatt@ fire pit reviews´s latest post: Patina Products Chinese Symbols Fire Pit with Cover – Warmth With Harmony

  9. This year I am giving all my son’s classroom aids and teachers handmade pocket handwarmers, using scrap fabric and rice. Since he is only 5 they still spend a lot of time outside during the school day. I know I would have liked them when I was a TA.

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