Ask Design Mom: Teacher Gifts

September 26, 2006

DM reader Erin writes:

“I have a question for you, Design Mom. My sister-in-law is in charge of giving the teachers at her son’s school a teacher appreciation something each month. She’s a terrific cook and has given many wonderful food gifts, but asked me if I had any ideas of non-edible, inexpensive things she could give the teachers. Any ideas?”

Great question. Here’s a few ideas off the top of my head. I’ll interpret “inexpensive” as something in the $10 range. And I’ll try to keep the ideas unisex.

1) Magazine Subscription.
Many, many magazines are really reasonable to subscribe to. Travel and Leisure for the Geography teacher? Cottage Living for the teacher with a weekend home? The americana-in-the-making Reader’s Digest? Or for a stylish teacher, maybe give Domino or Lucky. (My cool sister Jordan gets great magazine deals at Ebay.)

2) A plant.
In the $10 range you should be able to find something really pretty and really tiny. If you’re giving a plant as a gift I think small is better because then there’s less guilt when it dies and is thrown away. Also, it won’t take up much space on their desk. Trader Joe’s carries these wonderful small pots with some plant-I-can’t-identify blooming with tiny orange berries. So pretty. Perfect for Fall and I’ll bet they’d make a special order for a large quantity purchase. Or a gardening center/greenhouse could help you put something together.

3) A book.
Watch the bargain book sections of Borders and Barnes and Noble or check their bargain book sections online (Borders online is the same as Amazon). Great art books and recipe books and general coffee table books are readily available in the $10 range. If you need more than a handful, ask the store and they can locate more at the bargain price and have them sent to their location.

4) Good-looking soap or hand lotion.
There are about 1 million options in soap and lotion in the $10 or less range. Even men like a good hand lotion in their briefcase in the winter. You could order a box of this Sappo Hill soap which is amazing and comes unpackaged. Stack a few and wrap with pretty tissue paper. Finish with a ribbon or embossed seal. Or try Burts Bees which is commonplace now but still good-looking and has the advantage of being unisex. This site carries a shea butter hand cream by Pre de Provence in lovely aluminum packaging for $10.

5) Chocolate.
I know you asked for non-edible, but I’m including chocolate anyway. Target carries pretty bars of chocolate for less than $2 (in store only) that look imported — maybe even are imported. Stack 3 different varieties and tie with a ribbon. Or pick something from their new Choxie line. No one’s going to frown at that.

6) Office Supplies.
Attach a Staples gift card to a ream of paper or a box of good pens. The teacher can get a few new things for the classroom.

That’s a start. I hope any readers that want to add more ideas will do so. . .

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Heather September 26, 2006 at 12:39 pm

I’m starting to think of the holidays and what I give to the many teachers and therapists my daughter works with. Does the lead teacher get a nicer gift than the aids? Are gift certificates totally lame? How much do you spend for teachers at the holidays? I’d appreciate any input.


2 Lindsey September 26, 2006 at 1:13 pm

Brilliant. I don’t have to buy for teachers yet, but I did get some gifts from students when I worked at the elementary school. I appreciated getting nice stationary.


3 Kara September 26, 2006 at 3:41 pm

Great ideas!


4 Erin September 26, 2006 at 6:30 pm

thanks for the post. SO useful.


5 Design Mom September 27, 2006 at 8:56 am

At our school, yes, the head teacher gets something nicer than the aids. And gift certificates are common place. Many classes organize a group gift: everyone puts in $10 or $15 and they put all the money toward one large gift card.


6 c jane September 27, 2006 at 6:11 pm

I love to get things that make my classroom smell nice.
Cause nothing is worse than students-after-recess smell!


7 Super Zoe November 12, 2006 at 12:18 am

I taught for many years and I have one comment: NO FOOD. I loved gift cards, and I also loved the tea and coffee my kids gave me because they saw that I drank it everyday. Ask your kids what their teachers like – they will probably know just from conversation!!


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