Your teacher doesn't want an apple. Or gifts, really, if you ask them.
When pressed, most of the teachers we know would not tell us what they would want - which probably is to be expected in a profession characterized by selflessness and humility. It would make them uncomfortable to admit that they might like something material. Nonetheless, it was clear that all of them enjoyed knowing they made an impact on their students. Forget the tchotchkes, apples, and all of those punny and sugar-coated Pinterest projects. Here's what teachers actually want.
"I do get handwritten notes from kids sometimes," says Jennifer Piatchek-Keith, a high school English Teacher in Lincoln, Illinois. "[I] tuck those away in my 'pick me up' box for after a bad day." Other teachers agreed that the notes and cards they get from their students are better than anything else they receive. Best of all, a heartfelt handwritten note has a price tag of absolutely 100% free.
"I do occasionally get paintings, knick-knacks, or mementos which have value in their meaning and memories," says Chris Gray, Dean of Arts & Communication at Illinois Central College. "I have a Disco Stu figurine that I received over a decade ago because of my great style."
Got that, everyone? Teachers really want nothing more than a heartfelt thank you. But if you're still inclined to spend a little cash, we're told that these next few suggestions never go unappreciated.
A batch of homemade cookies may not be the greatest idea since you probably don't know your teacher's allergies or dietary restrictions, but we heard from more than one source that it's tough to go wrong with a professionally catered lunch. Coordinate with your school's PTO if you go this route - many PTOs provide lunches all through Teacher Appreciation Week and thus have it covered.
Teachers often spend their own money to shore up classroom supplies, buy a kid a cafeteria lunch, and any number of expenses related to the job that never get reimbursed. So while a Starbucks gift card is a nice treat for a teacher who loves coffee, a gift card for A.C. Moore or Staples that can buy supplies is also a thoughtful way to help defray their out of pocket costs. We also like Barnes & Noble for books and Amazon for, well, just about everything.
One teacher we spoke with said that spa gift certificates and gift baskets filled with luxury items like really nice soaps and lotions rated highly with the teachers she works with - anything they wouldn't normally splurge on that allows them to de-stress is sure to get a big thumbs up.
While teachers definitely appreciate your teacher appreciation, there are some gifts which are best avoided altogether. Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Education Association, recently told Aberdeen News that mugs are "too impersonal", homemade food is an allergy risk, and apple-themed gifts get old fast. “The best gifts are thoughtful and personal to the specific teacher,” he says. “They pile up, and soon, the teachers can’t even remember who gave them the gift.”
One more thing to keep in mind: A school psychologist participating in our conversation pointed out that art, P.E. and special education teachers are often overlooked. If you're doing something special for teachers today, make sure you include them as well!
By the way, Chick-Fil-A and Chipotle are both giving teachers some love today, as well as some free food. Check with your local restaurants to see if they're participating.
Finally, because every day should be Teacher Appreciation Day, check out our list of more than 90 stores with Teacher Discounts.
Photo: Apple and Pear Australia Ltd / Flickr