School's Out for Summer: Hot Gifts For Teacher

Filed under: Books for Parents, Gear Guides: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Gear Guides: Big Kids

A classic children's story book with a personalized note is priceless. Credit: Amazon

Looking to earn an "A" when it comes to picking out an end-of-year gift for your child's teacher? With these creative and thoughtful ideas, you'll be at the head of the class.

After asking many parents and teachers for ideas, the answers I received on gift-giving ideas seem to need their own grading curve -- they run the gamut from gift cards to Gucci bags. Yes, I said Gucci bags. It almost makes me want to change careers.

But, let's assume, for a moment, that you're not going to rush out and drop a mortgage payment on a new designer satchel for the third grade teacher. There's still a whole lot of room for a little creativity. Because even though the end-of-year gift is a gesture, it shouldn't be meaningless. After all, how many travel mugs and Starbucks gift cards does one teacher need?

We broke gift giving down to a few categories -- with reasonable budgets -- to help guide you through the end of the school year and send you breezing into summer with high honors without blowing your vacation money.

FROM $5 to $15
  • Children's Book with personal note, about $15: One teacher I spoke with says the best gifts she's received were personalized letters from parents detailing how much she helped a child learn and grow. A handwritten note from a parent or child is priceless. Inserting the note into a favorite children's book can take the gesture one step further. Because, let's face it, if we can tip our barista for giving us our daily morning jolt, shouldn't we at least give a decent nod to the people shaping the minds of our young children?

A whimsical take on poor grammar skills. Credit: ModCloth

  • Grammar book, $10: If you're an educator, you must have, at the very least, a good sense of humor. A perfect way to tickle the funny bone of an instructor with an eye for detail is the book "I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar" by Sharon Eliza Nichols. Each colorful photograph details the bloops and blunders in signs and symbols from everyday life.

An apple clock with a good vocabulary. Credit: modcloth

  • Apple Clock, $15: Be the apple of the teacher's eye. Give them a shiny green apple that tells time. This "Take a Bit Out of Time" talking apple clock will read the time and room temperature aloud when pressed. Sounds like great oral presentation skills to me.

A gift of wine is always a refreshing treat. Credit: jupiterimages

  • Bottle of wine, price varies: After a year, a month or even a day of mentoring rowdy little children, who wouldn't need to wind down with a nice bottle of vino -- or maybe a case? Opt for a recommended bottle that's at least $12, but don't cap this gift at $15. You can spend however much you see fit. Check out Wine to find ratings of select vintages. Then, if you're the creative type, print a customized message label from

FROM $15 to $25
The best thing you can do when thinking about a teacher's gift is think about the teacher. Sounds simple, right? Does he or she have any hobbies that you know of? Is he or she a fitness freak? An avid baker? A green-thumbed guru? Cater to those interests with gifts like these:

Keep runner's on track with a digital pedometer. Credit: Amazon

  • Digital Pedometer, $24: Omron's Digital Pocket Pedometer has dual sensor technology allowing it to measure steps from inside a pocket. Keeping track of aerobic steps, minutes, calories burned and distance traveled, it makes you wonder how many calories a teacher torches in a given day. If only it had a setting for patience exuded.

A sweet teacher deserves an even sweeter gift. Credit: ChefsTools

  • Cupcake Decorating Set, $20: Does your child's teacher bake cakes just to emphasize and teach math skills? Sweet treats are bound to result with a gift of Cuisipro's new Cupcake Corer and Decorating Set. With a corer to bore a hole and two squeeze bottles with tips for filling and decorating, you might be the one sending request notes home to the teacher for snack time sign-up.

The garden buff will love this bamboo bee house. Credit: Gardener's Supply Co.

  • Bee House, about $19 with flower seeds: More than just a beautifully crafted art piece, this bamboo bee house will attract prolific pollinating mason bees to the garden. Pair it with some flower seeds or a potted plant to keep the teacher toiling throughout the long summer break.

Give the gift of charitable giving. Credit: Network for Good

  • Gift of Charity, any amount: We've all heard the phrase, "it's the gift that keeps on giving." Well this one really is. Basically, you purchase an amount as a charitable donation from Network for Good. Then give the card to the teacher and he or she decides to which organization it should go. Plus, the teacher gets the credit for the donation.


Show those teachers you know your letters. Credit: Petit Tresor

  • Initial Pillow, $59: With students calling their names all day, the last thing teachers should have is an identity crisis. Don't take any chances. These initial pillows will spell it out. It doesn't even matter that they are intended for wee ones; they're too cute to pass up.

Print a 3D base for a cool pencil bowl. Credit: Shapeways

  • Pencil Bowl, $67: Got a crafty schoolmarm to address? Check out, a 3D printer company that allows you to make your own designs or choose from someone else's brainstorm. Shapeways prints the design in 3D, and delivers it to your door. The possibilities are endless. We especially love the pencil bowl, as it's so befitting of the giftee.

Flip's new SlideHD captures up to four hours of High Def video. Credit: Flip

  • SlideHD, $280: Perhaps a splurge is in order for an extra special mentor. Or maybe your school opts for class gifts over individual ones. In any case, a grand token of appreciation is the new SlideHD from Flip. Teachers can record the entire school play, up to four hours in HD, then instantly play it back on the flip-up screen. Personalize the shell with a class photo or choose from an assortment of other options.

This chic market tote expands 200 percent. Credit: Built NY

  • Market Tote, $45: Let 'em shop 'til the they drop with Built NY's Fishnet Market Tote. The crazy comfortable neoprene shoulder bag expands up to 200 percent from its original size. Now that's interesting math. Available in stripes or solid.


Whether your school has a no gift policy, or you would rather give from the heart and hands, these handmade gifts are a special way to commemorate the year.

Make class pictures into a treasured album. Credit: Shutterfly

  • Photo album, $13 to $55: Call on the class mother to help with this delightful project. Collect photos from all the children and various school functions from the past year. Coordinate them with an easy drag and drop format on The delivered result is a beautiful, hard cover printed photo album filled with a year of pictures and a lifetime of memories. Okay, so it's not exactly handmade, but with personality and quality like this, it's hard to argue the point.

Scrapbooking punches make ordinary shapes extraordinary. Credit: Ali Edwards

  • Punched Collage, about $40 with frame, paper and punch: It's amazing how something so elementary can be so incredibly breathtaking: The punched collage is simply a matter of repetition and gluing in a straight line inside a shadow box frame. The butterfly motif is just one of many punches you can find in the scrapbooking aisle at your local craft store. Maybe there's one more befitting the teacher. ABCs perhaps?

A stenciled tea towel project is a great way to personalize a gift. Credit: Martha Stewart

  • Stenciled tea towels, about $15 for a set of four: Let kids help with a simple stencil or stamped tea towel project. Take your inspiration from Martha. Then, make an initial stamp from a large potato or a flat craft sponge, or use store bought stencils to add a single, yet, personal embellishment to plain tea towels.

  • Personalized treat jar, about $25 with markers: A penny candy jar filled with favorite treats can be easily personalized with paint markers. Does your child's teacher prefer cookies or candy? Either way, the jar can be refilled over and over. Find your inspiration here.

Related: Great Gifts that Won't Bust Your Budget

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.