I couldn’t believe my eyes that day in late October when I saw the first decorations stocked on the shelves of my local superstore. Within a few weeks, more and more decorations were spotted; next came the twinkling trees, and finally the music started to play. Yes, the Christmas countdown is well underway!

This is always an exciting time at schools as the kids, and yes, of course the teachers too, anxiously await holiday break. December always flies by as our days are filled with the normal reading, writing, and math, but with some holiday magic added to each of the subjects. I look forward to pulling out some of my Christmas favorites like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Polar Express, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to share with my class. We make prime factorization Christmas trees, graph holiday objects, write holiday cards, and research holiday celebrations around the world. We have feasts at school, holiday performances, band concerts, and everybody seems to be full of good cheer. While there are definitely no “silent nights” or days in our schools during December, there are classrooms full of holiday spirit!

With the arrival of holidays of course also comes the thought of gift giving and one of the questions I am asked most often around this time from all of my friends is what to give a teacher. Before I begin my wish list, I mean suggestions, of the coolest teacher presents ever, let me preface by saying that I have yet to meet a teacher who expects a present. Believe me…we don’t teach for the presents! But, if you are planning on surprising your teacher with a holiday present, here are a couple ideas to meet anybody’s budget from FREE to A BIT MORE:
~ FREE ~

1) Write a letter to your principal recognizing your child’s teacher. It would be great if you could give specific examples of what they do that you especially appreciate. Be sure to “cc” a copy to the teacher too because sometimes those letters don’t make it to our box. I still have a letter that a parent wrote to my principal and superintendent from my second year of teaching. While I could never tell you all the gifts I’ve received over the years, I can tell you that I pull out that letter every so often when I need a pick-me-up and I will never forget the kind words that parent wrote about me.

2) Send the teacher a Christmas card. It can even be homemade! It’s a great way to just let them know you appreciate them and wish them a happy holiday.

3) Donate used books that you may have laying around the house. Teachers are always looking to increase their libraries so if you have books that are around the grade level your child is in and they aren’t being read consider donating them. Add a little note inside along with the date and your child’s name so the teacher will always have the memory of your gift.

4) Board games are always appreciated for cold, rainy, winter days when outdoor recess isn’t available, so consider donating a used game. Or outdoor recess toys like kick balls, jump ropes, boxes of sidewalk chalk, hula hoops, bubbles, etc. are always fun.

~ BUDGET FRIENDLY ~

1) Teachers love fun pens and markers so they make great gifts.

2) Lotions that can be stuck in their desk to battle the dry hands of winter are always appreciated.

3) A coffee gift card is sure to be a winner, and it doesn’t have to be from an expensive place. $5 will get a couple cups of coffee from a local coffee shop or convenience store at the gas station. Not sure if the teacher drinks coffee? Well they could do tea, donuts, muffins, or something else to snack on! Ask for an empty cup, put the card inside and tie on a ribbon for a quick and easy gift.

4) A fast food gift card is nice too and $5 can get you a sub with chips and a drink, a couple tacos, or a salad. Everybody loves a free lunch!

5) Scarves are a big hit with the ladies right now and you can usually get them for $10 or less, so they are a perfect winter gift.

6) Flowers are always nice and thoughtful, and poinsettias are easy to find and inexpensive during the holiday season. Teachers could leave it on their desk to enjoy or take it home to decorate their house.

7) Tote Bags! Teachers carry stuff back and forth everyday so you can never have too many totes. The reusable bags that just about every store is carrying nowadays are very affordable, and many stores are now offering them in fun colors and patterns.

~ A BIT MORE ~

1) Most teachers I work with pack their lunches every day and just like our students, we like our fun lunch boxes. There are some super cute ones out there, some even monogrammed that your teacher is sure to enjoy. Want to make it more special? Add a couple snacks and a water bottle for a treat along with a gift they can use all year.

2) A gift card to Walmart is a definite hit because if you ever need to find your teacher after school hours or right before the bell rings, that is where they will be buying supplies for the classroom.

3) A gift card to Michaels, AC Moore, or another craft store would be great. All those crafts for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother's Day, etc... yep, that's where we get the goods.

4) Pizza gift certificates help because those incentive pizza parties really add up.

5) A gift card to a local restaurant is always a special treat! It’s nice to know after a long day at work you can go and enjoy a dinner out.

6) You can’t go wrong with a gift card for a manicure or pedicure at a local shop. Every teacher enjoys a bit of pampering!

Remember though: Presents are never expected! You have given us the gift of your child, and present or no present, we will enjoy that gift all school year long. Of course with all the present ideas above, I am presuming that you are having an awesome year. That would definitely be my Christmas wish for all of you, but if I’m assuming incorrectly and it’s been a rough year, I hear coal usually does the trick! •

Melissa Tuttle is a 5th grade teacher. When she isn’t deciding what to give her own children’s teachers for Christmas you can find her hanging out with her friends and family, shopping, or socializing in social media. Melissa is also the owner of survivingthesandcastles.com, a guide to family friendly fun at the Delaware beaches. She would love to answer some of your questions in upcoming articles so if you have something you have always wanted to ask a teacher, but wasn’t sure how, email her at mstigger@verizon.net.

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