Tips for the perfect teacher gift

Teacher gift WWondering what to get your child's teacher for a holiday gift? Resist the temptation to get that cute “World’s Best Teacher” mug. Turns out most teachers don’t need another mug, candle or teacher-related tchotchke.

"A small gift card to Starbucks to start my day off with a java boost is just what this kindergarten teacher appreciates," says Christa Jacobson of Manor Woods Elementary in Ellicott City.

A gift card can also be a great way to help your teacher offset the cost of classroom expenses.

"I love receiving gift cards to Target because our class is always in need of supplies, books and dry erase markers,” says Kelli Byle, a first-grade teacher at Waterloo Elementary School in Columbia.

A recent survey by Kelton Research found that almost 97 percent of teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies, with an average spending more than $350 per year.

Many schools, like School of the Incarnation in Gambrills, keep a centralized wish list of teacher gift cards. Parents at the school can also purchase gift cards through the school's Shop with Scrip fundraising program, which offers cards to dozens of national retailers. A percentage of each gift card sale goes back to the school.

Another great option is ClassWish.org, which sells tax-deductible “Thank the Teacher” gift cards that teachers can redeem for classroom supplies. The website also offers matching programs from more than 16,000 nationwide employers.

If a gift card seems impersonal, think outside the box. Teacher Michael Hobson of Oakland Mills Middle in Columbia says his favorite gift from students is plants.

“I keep plants in my classroom because they're kind of a metaphor for learning, living and growing,” he says. “So it would be nice to receive a small nonflowering plant as a gift, and it would remind me of that student after they move on to high school."

Every teacher agrees that a personalized gift or memento is a cherished reminder of students year after year.

"Some of my most treasured gifts from my students have been personally made ornaments for my holiday tree, especially if the ornament has a photo of the student on it,” says Lisa Young of Altholten Elementary in Columbia. “Each year when I take out the ornaments, I am struck by the heartwarming feeling of seeing their sweet faces again. It’s a confirmation that we truly have the most special job in the world."

By Katie Riley

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