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By Michael Tedder
Updated: May 11, 2020 12:25 PM ET | Originally published: May 6, 2020
Courtesy of Amazon

Teacher Appreciation time has come again, and if you are a parent dealing with a quarantined kid and you have a newfound respect for teachers, you are not alone.

According to a poll conducted for the National Education Association, 88% of parents approve of how teachers are handling the coronavirus pandemic. That’s a higher approval rating than people give to states and local government officials. In the wake of suddenly having their child home all day, some parents have seen their teachers rise to the occasion and do their best to maintain education plans via online classes, such as the Camden, New Jersey, teacher who posts daily video lessons on YouTube and Facebook and also started an initiative to get books donated to local food banks.

Unfortunately, online classes remain inaccessible in many areas and households, which only reinforces the importance of a good teacher in the emotional and mental development of a young person.

So in case you are in the mood to show your child’s teachers how much you appreciate everything they do for your family, we talked to some teachers about what gifts they like to receive. We also learned what they, politely, would prefer not to receive. Kate Winn is an Ontario-based kindergarten teacher and the founder of This Mom Loves. “Because I am always trying to cut back on ‘stuff,’ I prefer not to receive teacher-themed items like mugs or decorations.”

What Are the Best Teacher Gifts?

If you don’t have much disposable income at the moment, don’t worry. Even a small token of thanks or inexpensive gift is greatly appreciated, teachers say. All that matters is that the gesture comes from the heart.

Brett Murphy Hunt, who teaches MBA courses at Assumption College and also owns the Boston-area Brett E. Murphy Tutoring & Consulting, Inc., says that students and parents don’t need to overdo it.

“When I truly think about it, the best gifts that I’ve ever gotten from students are notes. I have a folder on my computer of notes from students — even casual emails — that students felt compelled to write after a semester together,” she says. “During this time, especially, I know a lot of my colleagues are feeling unsure and particularly stressed. I am confident that a student intentionally communicating how their teachers helped them in the classroom, in their own words, would be the most cherished thing we could possibly receive right now. In a way, this type of gift is perfect for our self-isolating situation because they can be emailed or sent in the mail.”

Speaking of which: Where do you even send teacher gifts nowadays? It’s not like your child can drop it off on the teacher’s desk. Murphy Hunt says that “when in doubt, send it to the school. Teachers have varying levels of comfort when it comes to disclosing their personal addresses.” If your gift or card is of the electronic nature, that’s easier, because nearly all teachers have a readily searchable school e-mail address. Though really, your kid ideally should have that already written down somewhere.

If you are in a generous mood, here’s what real teachers say make the best teacher gift ideas.

Gift Cards: The Perfect Practical Gift

Some people consider gift cards to be impersonal, and an admission you don’t know the recipient that well. But they can also be very useful, and sometimes you don’t know the other person that well but still want to do something nice. Even if you’re not a big fan of gift cards normally, they’re particularly practical at the moment.

“I don’t know if it’s awful to say this or not but I love gift cards, and they’re probably the easiest gifts to send during this COVID-19 Teacher Appreciation Week, especially since many businesses will now email them!” Winn, the teacher from Ontario, says. “Traditional teacher-pleasers are cards for places like coffee shops, bookstores or dollar stores, though I also find it very thoughtful when parents pay attention to something I like.For example, at Christmas one student gave me a gift certificate to a nail salon.”

Speaking of which, Winn highly suggests that parents consider buying gift cards or certificates for small businesses right now. “Or even consider making a charitable donation in the teacher’s name. I’ve had families do that for me before and I really do like it,” she adds. “While not COVID-19 related, one example is the World Vision gifts because the child can still ‘choose’ something, though the teacher isn’t actually the one to receive it.”

Chocolate: Delicious and Thoughtful

There’s an old truism that when in doubt, just give chocolate. But first, make sure you know the teacher isn’t on a diet, avoiding sugar, or just one of the rare people who doesn’t like chocolate. Second, remember that a personal touch is always nice.

“I think any gift that is tied to a student’s accomplishment because of my working with them is the best. Last year in late April, I received a box of 31 chocolate-dipped strawberries with a note attached,” says Alex Beene, an ACT Prep instructor in Nashville, Tennessee. “The note explained the reason there were 31 of them is the giving student had scored a 31 on her ACT and was so thankful for my help in getting there. I was overwhelmed; I don’t think students realize how special gifts are when they celebrate the education behind them.”

Teacher Thank You Gift: Send Pics or a Video

As teachers are turning to online videos to keep their students on track, many students are using videos to say thank you.

Len Saunders teaches physical education at Valley View Elementary School in Montville, New Jersey. “Because of COVID 19, our school district uses a platform called Schoology. This is a platform where teachers from our school district post assignments and the kids submit their assignments there,” he says. “When I give work out, the kids will send me videos showing me their work, while others just send videos to say ‘I miss you.’ At the same time, kids can draw me a picture, take a picture of it, then send it to me via Schoology.

“This is the perfect gift,” he adds. “I miss my students and getting these little reminders from them truly show how much they appreciate their teachers. It is the one main thing about my job that I love.”

School Supplies and Class Project Donations

Teaching is one of the most selfless professions, and many teachers would above all appreciate a little help so they can simply keep doing their jobs. Diane Yokoyama is a second-grade teacher at Gates Elementary School in Los Angeles, where more than three-quarters of students come from low-income households. Like every other teacher, she is doing her best to adjust to current circumstances, and she appreciates any help she can get in terms of funding class projects for her kids.

The non-profit DonorsChoose launched the Keep Kids Learning initiative in March as schools began to close down and enforce distance learning. Since the program launched, $6.5 million has been given to support the initiative by over 12,500 individual citizen donors and DonorsChoose partners, including a recent donation of $2 million from Google.

“It’s thanks to DonorChoose’s Keep Kids Learning, Google.org’s recent gift and other donors that teachers like me are able to send snacks, playing cards, paint and other crafts to keep students engaged at home,” Yokoyama says. “The tools and resources received from this initiative help set teachers up to succeed and thrive as we continue to learn together virtually and safely from home.”

Teacher Gifts for Stress Relief

Teachers are just as stressed as you are, if not more so. And, perhaps more so than ever, they’ll love gifts that help them relieve stress.

Imani Francies is a fifth and sixth-grade teacher in Atlanta, who also works a second job writing and researching for the life insurance comparison site, QuickQuote.com. “Teachers are expected to put in the same level of energy into students while teaching virtually during a global pandemic, and it is mentally exhausting. Like others, we are taking care of our home, families, and children while simultaneously fulfilling or job responsibilities,” she says. “Taking care of a toddler, making sure she does not interrupt my classes, and ensuring all of my scholars comprehend what I am teaching them through a webcam all while experiencing intense anxiety over the state of the world and my health is draining.”

So, any gift that could help your favorite teacher relax would be greatly appreciated, she says, including “noise cancellation headphones, candles, herbal teas, or virtual gift cards with a note reminding teachers to take care of themselves.”

Free Teacher Gift Idea: Promise to Help, and Follow Through

Meredith Essalat, an author and principal in San Francisco, as well as the founder of the teaching website Overly Honest Teacher, says that one gift teachers could also use would be the promise to lend a hand in the future.

“Many teachers left their classrooms quickly and without much time to prep for the long-term closure. Reaching out with an offer to help would be greatly appreciated,” she says. “Students could assist in taking down and re-doing bulletin boards for the fall term, rearranging classroom furniture, touching-up paint, or taking part in a deep-clean disinfection before next year’s class arrives. This would go a long way toward easing the burden teachers are carrying as they anticipate what awaits them when they are able to return to school.”

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