The ultimate guide to buying teachers a gift

What they want (and also what they don't!)

Christmas is almost upon us and we’re officially in shopping mode.
Our lists have been made, we’ve checked them twice and we’re on the look out for the perfect gifts for the loved ones in our lives. But, has your child’s teacher made the ‘nice’ list? To gift or not to gift? That is the question.
I’m a secondary school teacher. Secondary school teachers don’t generally receive Christmas gifts from parents or students. If you’ve absoutely nailed it in the first term and inpired in Dead Poets Society proportions, then maybe – just maybe – you’ll get a Twix and a handmade card fashioned from the middle page of a copybook and signed by the 70% of the class that doesn’t want to hurt you or key your car.
Primary and pre-school teachers, on the other hand, get showered annually with all sorts of goodies. Come December 22nd, they’ll be laden down with chocolates, bath products and homemade crafts. But what really puts a smile on a teacher’s face at Christmas time? Well, I’ve asked a number of my teaching friends on the chirpier side of the divide for their input and I’ve put together the perfect gift guide for that saintly someone who spends six hours a day with your little cherubs and thirty of their clamorous companions.
No, it’s not. As sweet as the custom is, no teacher expects a gift at Christmas time. All of the teachers I spoke to deemed the practice completely unnecessary. In fact, an increasing number of schools – including the school my son goes to – have no-gift policies. So, if the teacher specifically requests no gift, then we should kindly respect her wishes, shouldn’t we? If the school has such a policy, we should obey it. Blatantly flouting these rules tends to a) make teachers uncomfortable and b) make other parents feel like they look bad for not breaking the rules too. School staff are aware of financial strain at Christmas and feel just as appreciated when their students make them a card, put their gratitude into words or draw a festive picture. It’s the thought that counts.
If you have decided to give a token of your appreciation, the gift guide below outlines some simple ideas that cost less than €15 and were given a thumbs-up by the folk in the trenches. Interestingly, a number of the teachers I spoke to said that receiving expensive and ostentatious gifts made them feel awkward and embarrassed. So just don’t.
I’ve also made note of items that are likely to be regifted to an elderly neighbour.
  • Toiletries – you don’t like it when you receive a cheap Lily of the Valley soap set. Neither does your child’s teacher.
  • Jewellery – it’s difficult enough to buy jewellery for yourself.  It’s almost 
  • impossible to gauge a relative stranger’s taste.
  • Personalised items or anything that says ‘World’s Greatest Teacher’ – He already has three picture frames, eight key chains, eleven mugs, four wall plaques and a partridge in a pear tree trumpeting the accolade. And he can’t regift any of them.
  • ‘Best Teacher’ soft toys – Just, no.
There are certain items that, while they make perfectly lovely gifts, teachers don’t really need any more of. These include the following:
  • Mugs –  teachers have been gifted mugs since their career began, the majority of which will have some teaching-realted text on the front. Unless you have found one that’s very distinctive, quirky or humorous, then don’t bother. They don’t really need another one that says ‘Mrs Reid’s Coffee.’
  • Scented Candles – A perfectly acceptable gift, but I have it on good authority that teachers receive a lot of scented candles. Approach the Yankee Candle shop with caution.
  • Newbridge Christmas decorations – as beautiful as they are, her tree is already full of shiny silver carriages and angels. She has received two a year for the past ten years. That’s enough Newbridge for anyone.
  • Chocolates –  Everyone loves a little box of luxury choccies to indulge in over the holidays. Nobody wants nineteen boxes of luxury choccies, an eight pound weight-gain and an acne break-out. Think outside the (chocolate) box.
  • Cinema tickets make the perfect gift for someone who spends their days containing a gang of rambunctious seven-year-olds. Relaxation is guaranteed.
  • A voucher for a filling-station, while falling on the boring side of practical, is a great gift provided he/she owns a car.
  • Do you know how much time these people spend walking around yards on cold, wet days? An umbrella or a nice pair of gloves? Yes, please!
  • Books work for pretty much everyone but don’t buy anything too political or risqué. Play it safe and pop the receipt inside or pick up a book voucher instead.
  • Many in the profession have an unsurprising stationery fetish. Classroom supplies will always be accepted with gratitude, especially since teachers usually have to buy them themselves.
  • The break-time offerings in school staff rooms are generally grim. Public sector budgets don’t stretch to as much as a packet of Marietta biscuits. Home-baked goods generate much excitement, but only if baked by a parent; teachers witness enough nose-picking to be wary of goods baked by students themselves.
  • A charitable donation in a teacher’s name is one of the nicest ways of acknowledging your gratitude. All of the teachers I spoke to agreed that the likes of Bóthar, Trócaire or a local homeless charity are much more deserving of your money.
  • Everyone loves a gift-card. Everyone. No exceptions. Pick up one for a cafe, the local pharmacy or a nearby department store. Avoid cash in a card – that’s just weird.
  • As a rule of thumb, don’t buy anything you wouldn’t like to receive yourself and don’t spend a fortune. Remember, kind words of gratitude or a note of thanks – either from a parent or a student – will make a teacher’s day and nothing else is really called for. No mater how you choose to express your gratitude to a teacher, it will always be appreciated.
  • A special thanks to all the lovely primary teachers who shared their thoughts with me. You know who you are! 
I’d love to hear some more suggestions. What gifts have you given teachers in the past? Are you in favour of the practice? Do share your thoughts!
Written by Sinead, a mother of three who writes over at
 Go check her out!

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