Step away from that "World's Best Teacher" mug.
Since the start of the pandemic, teachers and other school employees have been through the wringer: the challenges of virtual learning, staff shortages and raise freezes are just a few of the stressors keeping them up at night. So it's a no-brainer that the educators in your life deserve a gift that makes them feel loved, appreciated and valued.
That means eschewing the "#1 Teacher" plaques and basically anything apple or school bus-themed. Instead, get your child's teacher something that says, "Thank you for everything."
Instagram content creator Carly Anderson, a former teacher herself, recently uploaded a reel about the gifts teachers actually want.
"Since I was a teacher, a lot of parents ask me questions about teacher gift ideas," Anderson tells Yahoo Life. The reel was a fun way to give parents and caregivers support so they can celebrate the teachers they love."
Anderson's suggestions: a Doordash gift certificate, movie tickets, coffee or wine, Amazon gift cards, a note from you or your child or even going in together with other parents on a larger gift.
Megan Padilla, a parent from Minneapolis, Minn., likes this approach. "Most years we collect cash for the teacher from the other parents with the intention of helping the teacher save for something special they really want," says Padilla. "One year, one of the teachers was saving for a guitar. Another used the funds for special family experiences during the holidays."
If something like this is out of your budget this year, Anderson says, "anything as simple as a hand-drawn piece of artwork or a note" really goes a long way in making an educator feel loved and appreciated.
"The point is to acknowledge and thank," she says.
Anderson recalls a particularly memorable holiday gift that came about after she mentioned to a student's family that her own toddler loved tamales. "Every time they made them at home [for the holidays], they sent some to school for my daughter to enjoy," she says. "It was incredibly thoughtful and made me feel loved and valued. I felt included in a special family tradition and it meant the world to me."
Still stumped? Anderson suggested in her post to ask your child some questions about their teacher to learn more about what kind of gift they'd really like. For example:
What does your teacher do on the weekend?
What is your teacher's favorite food?
Where is your teacher's favorite place?
What is your teacher doing during winter break?
"Your child will know the answers," Anderson said in the post.
Yahoo Life spoke to teachers to find out what they'd love to see on their desks this year and what they just don't need.
Robin Morris, a band director in Melbourne, Fla., says, "Letters from my students mean the most. Gift cards and chocolate are nice, but I need the letters: They reassure me in my career and I love knowing I made a difference and what they enjoyed in class."
"I also love handmade gifts and have tons of my students' art in my room," Morris adds. "But, please, no more mugs. I get at least five every year."
"I once had a student bring me a pen from home because they knew it was my favorite style of pen," says Maggie Mair, who teaches elementary school in Salt Lake City, Utah. "Another student wrote down her favorite things about me and her mom printed it on a kitchen towel. I loved that."
Michael Meyer, who teaches high school in Snellville, Ga., says, "The best gifts I've received were specific to me and our experience together: things from other countries that reminded them of things they learned in our class, my favorite soccer team or comic book character or a band I love."
His wife, Lindsey Meyer, teaches dance in a neighboring school district in Lilburn, Ga., and says she loves handwritten notes, as well as grocery store and gas gift cards.
Orlando, Fla., high school teacher Chereeka Garner says, "The best gift I received was a student asking me to meet his mom in the parking lot at dismissal. She handed me a bottle of Patron in a brown paper bag."
Shannon D'Aurora, a teacher in Portland, Oreg., says "I've had families ask me directly that they could get that would be special to me — I loved that and wish that asking directly was more common."
The reality: Whatever you choose to give the educators in your life this year, make sure it's from the heart.
"Teachers have done so much for us all over the last few years in addition to the hard work they already do," says Anderson. "It's so important to acknowledge that we appreciate their life's work."
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