During many times throughout the school year, such as Teacher Appreciation Week or holidays, students like to give their teachers a token of gratitude. Many schools have this very well-organized with different gifts to give each day of the week or collaborative gifts from the entire class. Other schools leave what to give teachers to show how much they are appreciated to the student’s own imagination.

Whether it be a handmade ornament or a gift card, teachers are thankful for every gift. However, over the period of a teacher’s career, there are oftentimes gifts from students that have stood out. In an attempt to help students know which types of teacher appreciation gifts are most treasured, we interviewed several teachers and asked them what their favorite gifts have been and why they meant so much. Here’s what they had to say.

Let’s stop with the apples and “World’s Best Teacher” mugs.

Although surely coming from a sincere intention, the apples and mugs have become a very stereotyped and generic gift for teachers. There are but so many mugs and ceramic apples that a teacher can realistically keep. One teacher mentioned that you will find many of these items in thrift stores since they are eventually donated over time.

Re-gifted items from parents are precious.

A few teachers spoke of half-used perfume bottles, necklaces, and even knee-high stockings that young students had swiped as gifts that actually belong to their moms. Clearly, these items were secretly given back to the original owners without the child’s knowledge, but these gifts showed that the child had really put thought into what the teacher would truly use. If Mom likes it and uses it, then surely my teacher will, too!

The oddest and simplest gifts demonstrate thoughtfulness.

Teacher Appreciation GiftThe random items that show a student has put thought into a gift are the ones that teachers tend to save and proudly display on their desks. Beth Watt, a sixth-grade teacher from Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy, described a pine cone gift a student had given her. The student knew they both really enjoyed the outdoors, so she made Beth a pine cone craft. Other teachers mentioned a red star that represented being a superstar teacher, a photo album of coffee mugs for a coffee-loving teacher, a football team stocking, and a jar decorated with crayons and filled with favorite candy. Ingredients for s’mores were put in a bag with a note stating, “There’s no teacher who I love s’more than you!” All of these gifts are extremely simple and basic, but they have been the most meaningful and memorable for these teachers.

Showing lessons learned is invaluable.

A few teachers spoke about the most meaningful gift being when the student shows they have learned something from the teacher. For example, a music teacher watching a student successfully play a piece of music they learned in class is a priceless gift. An art teacher receiving a craft made using the skills just taught in class validates the teacher in knowing that they are making a difference in a child’s learning. As a parent, perhaps try encouraging your student to apply a recently learned lesson in whatever teacher appreciation gift he wants to make.

A sincere, handwritten note touches the heart.

Overwhelmingly, teachers voiced that it was the little notes in the students’ handwriting that were the most prized gifts. Words that revealed how the student viewed the teacher as a superhero or how the teacher helped get the student where he is today—those are used by the teachers as pick-me-ups on the stressful and tiring days that every teacher endures. As eighth-grade teacher Elizabeth Nelson from Arizona Virtual Academy stated, a note always meant so much because “It was heartfelt and honest by my students and made me feel genuinely appreciated.”

Don’t underestimate non-traditional, practical gifts.

Car washes, massages, gift cards, school supplies—all of these practical gifts help get teachers through the days or help with areas of their lives often overlooked. By thinking of special treats that a teacher may not have time for or may not be able to afford on a regular basis, your students help to give their teachers a much-needed boost. These more practical gifts are not considered any less thoughtful, as they are addressing a specific need or taking a moment to spoil their teachers.


Overall, the consensus among the teachers was that the most treasured gifts were ones that showed the student put thought and sincerity behind them. These, for the most part, were the handmade or non-traditional gifts. That being the case, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed in trying to come up with the biggest and best teacher appreciation gifts. Let your children think about what they would like to give to show their teachers how much they care, and then go with it! As one teacher referenced, the gifts do not matter nearly as much as how the students view the teacher. The value is in the teacher feeling like they’ve positively impacted the child in some way, big or small.

Note: The references to most treasured teacher appreciation gifts mentioned above are based on personal interviews as well as comments gathered from a Facebook inquiry of teachers.

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