Best and worst end-of-year gifts

Kids are gearing up for the end of the year, eagerly anticipating the start of summer vacation. And if you’re like me, you’ve been racking your brain for what to give the people who have meant the most to your child throughout the school year. First on the list is their teacher. But on that same list are their daycare providers, bus driver, crossing guard, sports coach, librarian….

What do you give the people that have been shaping your child’s life all school year long?

1. A simple thank you note. The best way to say thank you is to, well, say thank you. A handwritten card by your child (and maybe a little note from you as well) can go a long way in letting your child’s teacher know they’re appreciated.

2. Make a Scrapbook. This is fantastic for a coach or a teacher. Each child takes a page with their photo on it, and then writes a favorite memory of the year or season on it.

3. Your time. At the end of the year, teachers, librarians, and daycare providers are busy taking down the room so that it’s ready to be prepped for the next year. As you can imagine, this takes a lot of work. And an offer to help out might be much appreciated.

4. A gift card. It sounds impersonal, but it’s the perfect way for the person you’re thanking to be able to get what they need or want. A nice dinner out, a day at the spa, coffee… And for teachers who are most likely using their own money in the classroom, a gift card to the local bookstore or school supply shop will be highly appreciated.

5. Gift basket of school supplies. Along with the mention above, teachers can never have too much help in stocking up their classroom. Pens, dry erase supplies, Kleenex, paper, scissors, tape refills, paper clips, staples…. The list goes on and on. This would be a fantastic gift from just your child, or even a whole classroom.

6. Photos. If you’ve been taking pictures all year long, burn them onto a CD and give them to your teacher or coach. You can also print them out and make a photo album or collage. You can include them on a digital frame. Or you can create a book from them using the programs with Snapfish, Shutterfly, or other programs that allows you to bind them in a hardcover book. You can even create a calendar for the following year so that when your teacher has a new class, she’ll also have memories to share of her old class.

7. Growing a thank you. A potted plant can last long past the summertime. And it doesn’t just have to be flowers. It can be a start for a tomato plant, some fresh herbs, or even some seeds so that your child’s teacher or bus driver can plant their own garden. Even a gift card to the local Seed Bank can be a wonderful gift.

8. Movie Night In. Tie a ribbon around a package of microwave popcorn, a box of candy, and a gift card to the movie store. To make it extra fun, put it all in a pail with a couple glass bottles of soda. Who wouldn’t enjoy an excuse to stay in?

9. Recipe Book. Have each child in the class write out their favorite recipe on an index card and then tie it with a ribbon to a new apron. Or photo copy each recipe and bind it together in a book.

10. And don’t forget to have your child include their address in the thank you card with a few extra stamps. They may just receive a summertime pen pal from their teacher, crossing guard, bus driver, daycare provider, librarian, coach, or anyone else who has made a huge difference in their life this school year. And through the years, teachers don’t forget their students. Proof – I just heard from my 1st grade teacher who hasn’t seen me in over 20 years!

Of course, while those we are thanking would never tell you this, there are a few gifts that you should avoid giving if you can.

Coffee cups. I guarantee each teacher receives several each year. Multiply that now by every year the teacher is in the classroom. That’s a lot of coffee cups.

Ornaments. Unless you know your teacher is an avid collector of all things Christmas, there comes a point when their tree just can’t take anymore.

Gifts that are TOO personal. Skip the Victoria’s Secret gift certificate or the fishnet stockings. I’m not saying teachers don’t need lingerie too, but it probably shouldn’t come from their student.

Anything that says “World’s Best Teacher” on it (or anything else teacher related). They might just be the world’s best teacher. They don’t need 20 plaques that say it all over their home or classroom that were given to them by numerous students. Same goes for Chicken Soup for a Teacher’s Soul. I know the stories are tear-jerking. I also know that each teacher has probably been gifted this more than once.

Religious gifts. Saying thank you while saving their soul might not feel like much of a thank you, especially if they don’t share your faith. Just saying.

Baked goods. Some might appreciate it, but most just end up in the teacher’s lounge. Just like us, teachers are watching their waist lines too. And let’s face it, even if you are the best baker in the county there are plenty of others who are not. After years of braving mediocre homemade goodies, the teacher may just decide they can’t chance it even on your prize winning banana bread.

Scented gifts. Candles, lotions, body soaps… They might smell lovely to you, but they also might induce an allergic reaction in your teacher. Not only that, some of the lesser expensive scented gifts smell AWFUL. Best to skip it in favor of a gift card to your favorite bath shop.


Are you a teacher, daycare provider, librarian, coach, principal, teacher’s aide, bus driver…? What was the best end of year/season gift you have ever received? And are you brave enough to share the worst (I’ll totally accept anonymous comments if you’ll dish!)?


5 thoughts on “Best and worst end-of-year gifts

Add yours

  1. I’m surprised to see coffee mugs as a don’t on here. Maybe it is the way we give the mugs. My daughter loves to do a Cup Cake. We found it at:
    We usually do it for Christmas. We get the mugs at the dollar store and put them all together at home. Her teachers have always loved it. Although I guess they are not going to tell her that they don’t like it. 🙂 But it is a bit different than just a mug. Although you could combine the scrap book, photos, and mug and make a collage on one of those customizable travel mugs from Starbucks. Or if you don’t have pictures from the class, you could just have each student sign the paper and put it in there. Those travel mugs have become an instant hit among my coffee loving family. 🙂 I personally have two of them, and feel that you can never have too many travel mugs. 🙂

  2. I have been teaching for 20+ years and I have to agree that there’s nothing I love more than a handwritten thank-you from a student. Next to that–school supplies or gift cards for supplies/books/etc.

    The worst has to be baked goods & See’s Candies–I so appreciate the effort and my mouth loves them, but my health does not.

  3. With personalized mugs we never have to compromise with a plain and ordinary coffee mug that doesn’t excite us or make us happy. Custom mugs allow us to customize our mug according to the way we want to see it .The best thing about custom mugs is that they are cheap but at the same time can arouse many emotions in the minds of the person we are presenting it. It displays our intensity of love and care. It can be unique gift item in any occasion and make our life more colorful .

  4. My sons are in 4th and 5th grade. I sent an email to all the parents asking them for a head/torso picture of their child; those who elected not to send one knew that my husband and I took pictures of all the kids as a backup.

    I uploaded the pictures to Shutterfly and created a photobook for each class. Some students wrote personal text; the others knew that I would enter something (“Thank you for being a great teacher!”) so that no photo page was blank.

    I am now in the process of having each child sign his/her page (we’re talking 60 kids!) but hope to have it all done by June 15th.

    I think the teachers will like it – it’s a small book (8×8) but looks well done (to me!) and hopefully will remind the teacher of good times with this class!

    I’ve done the See’s Candies before – always figuring that the teacher could share it with family, friends or the teacher’s lounge! 🙂

  5. My go-to gift for years has been gift certificates for a full-service car wash. They are ALWAYS appreciated!

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