What Teachers Want: Homemade Teacher Gift Poll Results

Reading Time: 5 minutes

With the holidays coming up, seeing as it’s still way too early for me to think about shopping for my family (they all want to be surprised, the little boogers), I like to focus first on teachers.

Specifically, teacher gifts. There’s a lot of gifting going on, and we all like to offer up thoughtful, meaningful gifts that let them know how much we appreciate the fact that they tolerate–I mean, nurture–our children for a good portion of the day.

So I sent out a poll to teachers, asking them a few questions about homemade gifts (because, let’s be honest here, I wanted to know what they like, because I like giving homemade gifts). I offer you the results, in their entirety, to make of what you will.

Homemade Teacher Gift Poll: The Questions

  1. What are the best teacher gifts you have received? What made them your favorites?
  2. What is the worst gift you have received? Why?
  3. What is a gift you wish you would receive?
  4. In the realm of homemade gifts, rate these gifts (1 please no, 5 yes yes yes):
    • Baked goods (banana bread, cookies, etc.)
    • Drink mixes (non-alcoholic, of course: lemonade, hot cocoa, tea, coffee)
    • Savory snacks (mixed nuts, snack mix)
    • Stationery
    • Plants
  5. What grade(s) do you teach?
  6. What subject(s) do you teach?

Homemade Teacher Gift Poll: The Results

Honestly, I had about a dozen respondents, so this may not be super-reflective of the general population. But there are some results here that seem to suggest some common ground, so maybe it will be helpful after all.

Q1: Best Teacher Gift

    • “The student made gifts / cards. They mean so much more. At the end of last year one student had a jar under her desk for weeks. I thought she was doing some sort of craft project and it never disrupted my class so I let it go. On the last day of school it was on my desk. Every student in class wrote something on a slip of paper that was inside. I cried reading all of them.”
    • “Things the children have made, all the food kits especially – a clay pig tree ornament, very simple cookie cutter shape but makes me happy each year as I put it on the tree.”
    • “Gift cards- easy to use”
    • “Flower in a beautiful vase. I love flowers and I still use the vase.”
    • “I received a letter from a student with a packet of stationary once. I still have the letter. It was so sweet of her to write about what had made her year with me special. Still gives me warm fuzzies to think about it. :-)”
    • “In-school massage”
    • “I’m an Art teacher so the handmade gifts are the best :)”
    • “Gift cards for places like Starbucks (useful) and handmade cards from the students (meaningful)”
    • “Pencils and other supplies. Useful.”
    • “Gift cards, thoughtful cards, personalized ornaments”
    • “Anything made by students; thoughtful gifts”
    • “Best gift is something that can be enjoyed and consumed, like a bottle of wine or a delicious treat. A well-selected book is also welcome; I’ll pass on the Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul stuff. Favorite gift was a gift card to a local shop.”

“An insulated lunch bag embroidered with my name, and a snowflake ornament. Both because they were thoughtful (I mentioned to a coworker that my lunch bag had ripped, I collect snowflakes…both times my 5-year-old students remembered this and related the info). Also a necklace because a little guy ‘loves you so much he wanted to get you a diamond necklace’ (costume jewelry)”

Q2: Worst Teacher Gift

  • “I am not a fan of trinkets that collect dust.”
  • “Sugary, impractical, pre-packaged gifts. I don’t eat a lot of sugar and don’t need 8,000 coffee mugs.”
  • “Candles, lotions, homemade food”
  • “That is tough because I know the time and care that went into choosing or making a couple of things, but a bottle of perfume was the worst as I am a bit allergic and don’t wear perfume, and this was a very cheap one.”
  • “Chocolate. Don’t like it.”
  • “Bath and body stuff (I have so much of that already!)”
  • “A really ugly wallet that was obviously regifted, and a Pinterest fail on the mom’s part that I think was supposed to be a centerpiece”
  • “None. Any gift I’ve been gracious about.”
  • “Teacher mugs—way too many.”
  • “Bag of ‘Muddy Buddy’ snacks from the family of the kid who pooped his pants every damn day.”
  • “A questionable bag of cookies that had turned into some form of nuggety powder on his trip from home to school that day has been the worst, I think. However, anytime a student takes the time to think of me, I appreciate it. Gift or no gift.”
  • “Scented shower gel with a name like passion or intimate. I have sensitive skin so I can only use unscented products. Overall the gift was embarrassing.”

Q3: Teacher Wish List

  • “I don’t need gifts, but if you are a parent and you are going to buy something, gift cards to bookstores or restaurants are always great.”
  • “Gift cards”
  • “Gift card for pedi or massage.”
  • “Money. Haha.”
  • “Thoughtful crafts”
  • “Gift cards, picture frames, and a handmade card from the student, a letter from the parents.”
  • “I don’t wish. If it happens it’s a nice gesture/surprise :)”
  • “gift cards for local businesses are nice because of the support given to the community, and it is a treat to go use it. The notes that come with the gifts are so lovely too.”
  • “Gift card Dunkin [Donuts] or Manicure”
  • “Gift card”
  • “Anything that I can use in my classroom and not have to purchase myself is a winner! Examples include dry erase markers, pencils, highlighters, stickers, etc.”
  • “Gift cards.”
  • “The written notes from students and parents are the best.”

Q4: Rating Homemade Teacher Gifts

Graph showing results of teacher poll
Image Credit: N Engineer

In terms of raw data, here’s what I got:

Counts for Desirability of Certain Homemade Teacher Gifts
Image Credit: N Engineer

Looking at the results, we see that Baked Goods got the greatest number of 1’s (4 of them), yet as three people rated it 5 (Yes Yes Yes) and one person gave it a 4, it’s hard to rule it out completely. (In other words, if baking is not your forté, don’t feel compelled to attempt it because you think everyone loves it; that’s more stress for you in an already stressful time).

Next up, Beverages. One teacher had specifically mentioned appreciating a bottle of wine, which I would suggest ought to be hand-delivered by a parent. By and large, this was a mediocre choice at best, but if you’re so inclined, think in terms of your teacher’s favorite beverage, and skip the mug.

Savory Snacks got some positive results, but nobody ranked it a 5. So I’d say it totally depends on what you have in mind. Have a great family recipe for trail mix? Is there something that has gone over well when you’ve brought it to a classroom event? Again, may not work for everyone.

Stationery had an even distribution. 2 teachers absolutely didn’t want it, while 3 ranked it 5. So it really depends. If, of course, it comes pre-written with a thoughtful note from you and/or your child, well that’s a whole other matter. Teachers appreciate being recognized specifically for what they do and have done for your child.

Finally, Plants. This could work, if you’re a plant person, and your teacher is a plant person. It’s not at all my thing, but the results seem to suggest that I ought to come up with some gift suggestions in this category.

Q5: Respondent Demographics

In case you were wondering, I got responses from teachers across a wide range of grades and subjects taught. Specifically: Pre-K (2), K-5 (1), K-8 (1), 3-5 (2), 4th (2), 4-8 (1), High school (3), 11th (1).

And as far as subjects taught? These ranged broadly, too: All of them! (2), Art (3),Art and Science, Business, Creative Writing, Language Arts, Math, Reading, Special Ed, Science.

So What Do We Learn From This?

Looking at all the results, there’s really only one thing to learn. Teachers, even in such a small sample size, vary. Sure, there were a few things that were generally agreed upon as undesired (candles, lotions, and mugs come to mind), while gift cards and personalized letters are appreciated all around. But beyond that, there’s no real uniformity. There is no easy answer. Which means, I’m afraid, that your best bet in picking out a great gift for your teachers is to get to know them as individuals, because there doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all solution (other than cold, hard cash).

Nonetheless, I will soon be posting a guide for Homemade Teacher Gifts. To be offered to those teachers who would appreciate the gifts. Because for all they do for our children and our sanity by not having to homeschool them*, they deserve our appreciation.

*More power to those of you who do homeschool, but as you’re off the hook for making teacher gifts, this information isn’t exactly relevant to you, unless you plan to subtly share it with your kids.

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