George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Here's a secret. Teachers sleep soundly only when they're too tired to think. Most nights involve flipping their pillows over to the cool side, worrying that they've not done enough to help children succeed. Such commitment deserves some love on Teacher Appreciation Day, May 6, so I've researched some gifts that teachers would enjoy.

Appreciation on a Budget

Can’t afford a pricy gift? No worries, here are some low-cost suggestions:

  • Donut Heaven: Insert a Krispy Kreme Original Glazed into a wrapper with the following free printable label on the outside: "Donut I'd Do Without A Teacher Like You" ($0.79).
  • The Best Cookie: How good are Chocolate Marshmallow Clouds? So good that they make other cookies feel bad ($8).
  • Time: With parent volunteers, the Washington Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization in Indiana organized student activities in the gym so that teachers could spend two hours alone in their classrooms catching up on planning and grading. Teachers reported that it was the best gift they had ever received (free).
  • Screen-Saver: Create a screen saver or classroom poster using Canva's poster-template (free). Examples below:


Credit: Todd Finley


Credit: Todd Finley


These gifts can reduce the physical strain involved in teaching, grading and transporting materials:

  • Luxury Tote: This lightweight cart makes lugging materials easy, even up and down stairs ($45).
  • Grading Desk Light: The Verilux Original Natural Spectrum Desk Lamp reduces eyestrain. When my wife, a fifth grade teacher, used my lamp for her grading, she bought one for her desk, too ($45).
  • Foot Support: Superfeet insoles ($35).
  • Never Shout Again: The Portable Wireless Bluetooth Voice Amplifier eliminates voice strain. And you can rock that coveted Tony Robbins look ($99).
  • Honorable Mentions:
    • A Pivot-Plug Surge Protector ($65)
    • Stretchable pants for stress eating ($64)
    • A gift certificate to Quimby's, an independent bookstore with an unprecedented number of unusual publications (price varies).

Practical, But Pricey

If you own a pet monkey or can pool money from multiple parents, then you can afford one of these useful items:

  • White Board Paint: Idea Paint can turn the surface of student desks (or any flat object) into an erasable white board ($225 per 50 sq. ft.).
  • Grading Music: Google Play All Access Music provides unlimited listening to millions of songs on the web or Android device ($9.99 per month).


Teachers that listen to the right music (P.J. Harvey or Kendrick Lamar) or consume the right books (James Salter or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), will appreciate these items:

  • The Best TV Show Ever: The Wire: The Complete Series ($123.97).
  • Coffee Bliss: When not amped up on Yerba Mate tea, professional writers drink Black Cat Espresso from single origin beans ($15).
  • Cool Piano Jazz: Any album by jazz genius Marcus Roberts ($15).
  • Honorable Mentions:
    • Bitcoins . . . if the craze continues, you could be funding an instructor's retirement (price varies).
    • A subscription to The New Yorker ($59 a year)

Platinum Gifts

Maybe these gifts aren't realistic, but we can dream, right?

  • Lunch: The nine-course tasting menu at The French Laundry is for teachers who appreciate good squab ($250+).
  • Favorite Song Experience: The Hyde Bellagio Las Vegas package includes the largest bottle of champagne in the world and the opportunity to instantly sync the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas to your favorite song ($250K).
  • Ice Cream Delivery: Create a signature blend, or subscribe your lucky teacher to the Ice Cream Flavor of the Month Club at eCreamery ($775 for twelve months).
  • Hallway Carrier: For patrolling the school bathrooms and playground at 12 miles per hour, the two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered, electric Segway will get the job done ($2,111; add a cup holder for free).
  • Honorable Mentions:
    • Hip replacement surgery ($10-125K)
    • The Aqua Vista Dinosaur Gold Edition Aquarium is framed by a real gold veneer imbedded with real Tyrannosaurus rex bone shavings ($4.8M).

Guiding Multitudes

Before Jaime Escalante died, he requested that his closed-casket visitation take place in the Garfield High School math classroom where he never gave up on the students labeled "unteachable." Such commitment is shared by millions of teachers.

Teachers are not superhuman, but they show up precisely when we need them most -- when dark shadows of doubt eclipse self-esteem. They see past bad hair and sporadic incoherence. Among the gawky multitudes, they foresee individuals living graceful, poetic lives of merit -- and for a child, such conviction is received as ecstatic relief.

When kids graduate and charge toward adulthood without looking back, teachers cry in secret, take a breath, and with patience and faith, prepare to shepherd new students to high plateaus.

Teachers aren't superhuman. They just act like it.

What received tokens of appreciation have resonated with you?

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Comments (5) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

kakraeger's picture
Elementary Gifted Specialist from Atlanta, GA

Most wonderful gift ever!
I got the most wonderful Thank you card from one of my students this year. Among other things, he said that I must be his "Dream Teacher" because I GET him! His mother told me they feel like they've hit the lottery this year with me. Wow! Those two comments REALLY made my day and my year! This meant more than any gift ever could. It's exactly why I started teaching gifted kids--they need someone who gets them because they can be just as quirky as they are smart!

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

The best gift I ever gave (as a mom) was a lunch. I sent the teacher an email saying I wanted to buy her (and her aid) lunch at the end of the week and included a menu to a local bistro. They selected their choices, I picked it up and took it over. They were pleased as punch and their colleagues were terribly jealous. Best gift ever.

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

I laughed out loud at some of these gift ideas. Some of them are right on the money. Laura, I also really liked your idea of a school-delivered lunch.

I might sound a bit sappy saying this, so feel free to boo me, but the best gift I ever get: when a student has made a success of their life. They've gone to college, or got a trade or are having a successful marriage. And then they say that you, as their teacher, inspired them in some small way. That's a pretty powerful gift.

Not as tasty as a free lunch though.

Alina Moran's picture
Alina Moran
Curriculum Design & Edufeedback Specialist

I've received and cherished infinite, unique, and generous gifts throughout my teaching career. Many of those gifts remain with me. However, among the best gifts received I always include their successful transfer & application of knowledge and that tidal wave of unexpected affection and admiration they so sweetly have bestowed upon me... I taught for 25 yrs K-12 and am deeply humbled to continue to be sought out and embraced by many of my students in the US and abroad. For this educator they are the true gifts.

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