Parents: Your Essential Gift-Giving Guide for Teachers

Navigating the school system can be difficult, but don't fret: Sarah Brown Wessling is here to help. Each month Sarah will offer insight into the classroom and share tips on how to help your child flourish in school.

As the holiday season gets closer, many parents and students want to thank their teachers. I’ll often have parents ask me what teachers would really like. Here are some ideas to help you share your sentiments this season.

1. The personal gift

If you want to give that special teacher a more personal gift, here are some considerations. Try to think of something usable. While we love those “A+ teacher” knick-knacks, it’s just as nice to enjoy something that we might not usually do for ourselves. Teachers spend so much time giving and caring unselfishly, that little respites can make a big difference. Here are some of my favorites with the help of gift cards:

A favorite coffee stop or lunch outing Movie theater tickets A trip to a local bookstore Car wash (I always ask my own family for this and no one ever gets it for me, but I actually would love to have someone else detail my car!)

If you’ve ever been in a teacher’s lounge then you probably also know how quickly good food gets eaten up, especially when there’s enough to share. Sometimes parents in my district get together and take turns bringing snacks the week before winter break for the whole staff. It’s another way to say thank you to everyone who makes a school work.

More: Parents: The Dos and Don’ts of Teacher Conferences

2. The classroom gift

If you’re not sure what the “just right” personal gift is, another option is to think about helping to restock classroom supplies before the new semester or trimester begins. You’d be surprised what kinds of things we teachers have to keep stocked in our classrooms:

markers, colored pencils and crayons Kleenex, napkins, plastic ware, hand sanitizer, band-aids thank you cards, stamps, note pads, envelopes books, magazines, and more books

Sometimes teachers even have “wish lists” for classroom supplies, which is a fantastic way to find out just what he or she needs for the classroom.

3. The donation gift

Truly, one of my favorite thank-yous comes this way: as a donation in my name to a worthy organization. I would always be proud to have my name associated with organizations like Heifer International, DonorsChoose (which is for classroom projects) or Kids with Cameras.

4. The gift of time

You may decide that what you’d really like to do is help teachers recapture some of that most precious commodity: time. Volunteering in your child’s classroom or at the school can be a gift that helps teachers enjoy a few extra hours with their friends or families over the winter break.

Regardless of what you get, just remember that it really is the thought that counts. Whether it’s a kind note, classroom supplies, or your time, the extra effort you made to say “thanks” will mean the most.

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In 2010, veteran teacher Sarah Brown Wessling was selected at the National Teacher of the Year. Having had hundreds of engagements around the country during that time, she says that the experience has “made her feel more responsible than ever to be a better teacher tomorrow.” She returned to Johnston High School inIowa in 2011. Sarah and her husband, Tim, relish their favorite role as parents to Evan, Lauren and Zachary at home in Johnston, Iowa.