Holiday gifts for teachers: how the heck do you know how much to give

Okay, so today I was talking with a friend about the gift cards we’re each giving to our kiddo’s teachers this holiday and I almost died when I said the amount out loud. It sounded so low. I mean shit, I spent more on the stoopid party favors for my rugrat’s birthday party. Yup, I spent more money on crappy cancer-causing plastic shit from China than I spent on my kid’s teacher.

After saying it, I wanted to take myself behind the building and beat the crap out of myself for being such an a-hole. But then I realized, it’s not too late!!! I can go back to the store and get another gift card with more on it!!

Anyways, the whole thing got me thinking that there are probably lots of moms out there who don’t know how much to give. So here goes, I made a little guideline for me and all the other moms out there who have no F’ing idea.


If you like your kid’s teacher:


If you REALLY like your kid’s teacher:


If you want your kid’s teacher to get fat:

homemade cookies

If your kid is a total douchewipe and you know his teacher deals with his shit on a minutely basis:


If you think about the fact that this person is a total saint and watches your little crotchmuffin five days a week for many hours a day and never plops him in front of the TV set and doesn’t lose her patience very often and teaches your kiddo important shit like how to read and do math and then she goes home at night and thinks about your kiddo even more and grades his papers and emails you back and plans tomorrow’s lesson plan and does alllllllllll this for an itty-bitty salary:

As much as you can truly afford and slap that GENEROUS amount on a gift card to a place where she can get a bunch of shit she REALLY needs

And don’t forget about allllll the other teachers in your kid’s life like teacher’s aids and other awesome people who give their hearts to our kiddos every day.

And whatever you do, do NOT get them one of these awesome books for the holidays. Like if you’re thinking about giving your kiddo’s teacher a gift card AND one of these books, DON’T. Just give them a gift card with $12 more dollars on it and they can decide if they want to spend it on a book. A book that would make a kickass present for OTHER people on your holiday list.


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There are 23 comments for this article
  1. Angela at 11:30 pm

    My husband is a high school teacher and hardly ever gets gifts from students. I guess elementary school teachers get the good sh*t. He deals with crazed hormonal psychopaths a day, the least he could get is a $5 gift card to Starbucks.

    • Jessica at 12:37 am

      I am also a high school teacher. I have 150 students, and last year the only gift I got was from a boy whose mom also teaches at our school.

    • Jenny at 12:14 pm

      My kids are in elementary, so I can’t say for sure… but they have 1 teacher for basically the entire day. It’s really easy to get a present for 1 teacher. In high school, each child could have more than 6 teachers, and there is just no way our budget can accommodate gifts for everyone. That’s just my thought. It’s not that they aren’t deserving (they are!) but the economics of it are tough for a lot of families.

  2. Erin Kelley at 6:36 am

    i’m a teacher, too. special needs. i saved my receipts from the stuff i bought my classroom one year and it was 4 figures… (i’m almost embarrassed to say because it seems stupid to do that, but?!). if you don’t have money for your kid’s teacher then a thank you card would be nice. seriously. something to let us know you appreciate how hard we work. i have never gotten a $10 gift card. ($5, yes, other gifts, from the dollar store, yes). how about a gift card to staples??

    • julie at 9:17 pm

      That’s a shame!! My 3 day a week preschooler comes home with stuff I KNOW cost his teacher money out of her own pocket- and my husband and I give $50 on teachers appreciation day and on the winter holiday! Graduation is even more! I spent $70 for each teacher (am/pm) for Erin Condren personalized Planners. And we live on my husbands modest salary! People should put more importance on stuff like that! You guys are such important people in our kids lives!!

  3. Logansmom at 7:23 am

    What about if you HATE your kids teacher and she is the huge douchbag? Im guessing no gift at all LOL! Cause I sure as heck am not spending my hard earned money on a complete a$$hole like her! #cannotwaittillnextyear

  4. Crystal Rose at 8:12 am

    Thank you for remembering to include aides. I don’t need a gift, but a thank you note would be nice. I have been an aide for special education preschoolers for nine years. I LOVE what I do, but I can’t help but feel a little miffed when I get overlooked. The teacher is great and works hard, but is really only with the kids a few hours a day. I am hands on in the trenches with the little nose pickers full time, and have the (literal) scars to prove it. Doing a sister a favor by kicking back a sweet thank you note that you worked on with your kid (yeah, she’s a biter and I’m the one that taught her to form letters, much to the peril of my flesh) would go a looooooooong a*s way with me.

  5. Gibson Jacobs at 9:07 am

    my kid is only 2. and yes, he can be difficult. but I went out of my way to find a school that respects its teachers and I make a point of expressing my appreciation. mostly in homemade treats. because daycare is freaking expensive! he has three teachers and they get a big box of chocolates for Xmas. because what woman doesn’t want an adorable tiny crazy person to bring them chocolates??

  6. Michelle at 1:01 pm

    In high school, the kids have 6-8 different teachers. The gifts stop because it gets too expensive.

    • Jessica at 1:36 pm

      Expensive? I get all teary-eyed for a “Merry Christmas” written in pencil on a piece of notebook paper, because it’s just so rare to even be thought of.

  7. heather at 5:51 pm

    Michelle, I think high school teachers know that. The least you can do would be to divide what you would have given and give a little. Somehow I doubt you would have given any.

  8. Brian McDonald at 7:32 pm

    I think it is not about what you get but what you give. That is the real story. Thank you should be good enough. Just say’en.

  9. Christine at 9:59 pm

    I’ve given gifts to the high school teachers (I make small photo calendars, once I’ve taken the photos and done the initial set up, printing them is quite inexpensive), but 95% of them did not bother to acknowledge the gift, even with a quick email. At conferences 2 months later, I saw one of my gifts still wrapped on the teacher’s shelf. All the elementary teachers hand wrote and usually mailed thank you notes.

  10. sammichespsychmeds at 10:50 pm

    As a teacher, I have to say THANK YOU for recognizing what we do. And I would love that book 😉 But in all honesty, it’s the heartfelt and sincere notes that mean the most. I save them and look at them when I’m having a rough day. It means the world.

  11. HappinessSavouredHot at 5:33 am

    I’m surprised. I’ve always given $25 to my kids teachers, and it doesn’t seem too much to me. (BTW, my kids are NOT douchebags, lol) I’ve also received very generous presents (I’m a specialist teacher).

    I am bothered by the fact that only moms are mentioned at the top of this post. Fathers should be equally responsible for their kids, those presents, and any other Holiday prep, for that matter.

    • alison at 8:08 pm

      As a teacher of 32 ten year olds, I’ve been the most grateful for those handwritten notes from parents and kids telling me how much I am appreciated. In Australia, the school year finishes in December and I cherish the holiday cards and gifts that come from the heart. And as sappy as it sounds, my greatest gift has been seeing those kids rise to every challenge I set them and achieve such amazing things

  12. Pat at 11:46 am

    Just say Thank You! Or let the teachers know you appreciate that they try to give their best each day for each child. An email or card that expresses this is wonderful! I’m a high school teacher and this means the world to me! (If you bake send cookies …. or chocolate lol). But seriously monetary gifts not needed ?

  13. Laura Anne at 11:55 am

    One of my student’s parents gave me your book “I Heart my Little A-Holes” when they found out I was pregnant. It was the best gift ever because it led me to your blog, not to mention it gave me endless laughs and “Me, too! Me, too!” giggles!

  14. Tamara at 3:15 pm

    I’m a high school teacher. I totally understand why I don’t get actual gifts, since I only see the kids for one period a day. However…the notes and cards from parents and occasionally kids make my day! I keep cards on a bulletin board, and I read the positive notes when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

  15. Karen Boyd at 5:02 pm

    As a former teacher, I developed many conflicting opinions about gifting teachers. First, many families just can not afford to give anything. Families with one job and one stay-at-home parent in all likelihood should feel free to spent that money on their children, rather than the reacher. Gift cards were great but many times probably stretched a parent’s holiday budget. Some of my favorite gifts were handmade items made with the child’s assistance. I cherish those and have hung onto them for a long time. Christmas ornaments were always a welcomed gift especially if handmade. I have to concur that my most favorite gifts are simply a handwritten note from either one of the parents, expressing their appreciation for all that we do in the classroom. My heart breaks for the child whose parent sends nothing, simply because by third grade they see others bringing in gifts and feel embarrassed. By having nothing. Knowing most parents will ask what the teacher said about the gift, I feel I must show my appreciation but I have to do that enthusiastically to the student without others hearing my words. Tough, but not impossible to do in a classroom full of kids. Those that do not have a gift, often come up to say they left it at home, or that their Mom was out of money or said teacher gets paid from our taxes, we already gave her a gift, etc. My heart and voice must be convincing as I tell that child that just having them in my classroom is ‘gift enough’! When we return after break, I put my thank-you notes in their mailboxes. I always make sure everyone gets a note even if some just say “Thanks for being you’!” I also always add a note in hope for the new year. I can honestly say, the staff .i worked with would seriously not want a parent to stress and be concerned about a ‘teacher gift”. The holidays need to be enjoyed even if you do not celebrate because of your personal belief system.

  16. Kyla at 9:50 pm

    As an elementary teacher for 10 years I have maybe gotten a total of 5 gifts over the years, they are appreciated but not expected and I’m ok with that. As a mom of 2 I do give gifts to my kids teachers both daycare and school as well as bus driver, the kids sign and decorate the cards and the gift is usually a homemade goodie. I want the kids to know why we give something to appreciate the hard work these people do for the, throughout the year. I prefer something personal and homemade and honestly I think more should be about the thought rather then the gift. Also as a teacher I was equally happy with the kids that brought me a candy cane or a chocolate from their own stuff, just to share and say thanks.