We have teacher and parent suggestions for the most wanted teacher gifts in Champaign Urbana.
Once upon a time, I was a classroom teacher. In my years in the classroom I got some pretty amazing gifts from students and families. Original artwork from a Junior High student. A gift basket to a local bakery filled with yummy treats that I shared with my family. Gift Cards. Champagne. The list goes on and on.
Now I am a classroom parent. My kids are counting down the days until winter break and I need to pick up some gifts for the hard working teachers and staff at our schools.
Who to buy for? There are many people working at your child’s school making it a great place for your child, from the bus driver to the person that cooks her lunch. Chances are you can’t give to each person, and trying to do so might cause you undue holiday time stress (which no one wants!) In my house, I let my kids guide who we should buy for. They give a gift to their classroom teacher because that teacher is with them the majority of the day. If my child wants to give his speech teacher a gift, we will find a way to make that happen, even if it means they give a heartfelt card or piece of child created artwork. Being an active, engaged, and supportive parent with a child that is ready for school each day is often the best present you can give anyone who works at your child’s school- do not feel bad if your holiday gifting budget does not include buying a gift for everyone in the school.
How much to spend: That depends on your budget and resources. I’ve had parents go big, and I’ve also gotten a lot of gifts that have more heart than money attached to them. Teachers polled replied resoundingly that you do not need to spend a lot of $$$ on them.
Shop local when you can: Many small businesses in Champaign-Urbana offer gift card option. My go-to teacher gift is often a bookstore or pizza place gift card tucked in something from one of my small-town businesses. Don’t forget to check out our Shop Local Guide for ideas.
Looking for last minute ideas for gifts this holiday season? We asked parents and teachers what they like to give and receive.
The Gift Card: Hands down the most popular gift to give and receive in Champaign-Urbana is the gift card. Bookstores, restaurants, box stores, and local stores, gift cards are easy to purchase and always welcome by your classroom teacher. If you want to personalize the gift card, have your child make a card, tuck the gift card in, and you are all set. Local restaurant gift cards are always great because they can be used when a teacher is running late after a marathon session of meetings and needs to pick up dinner for his or her own family. A gift card to a coffee shop, no matter how small, can be used for an afterschool latte pick-me-up.
$ to $$$$: The sky’s the limit for gift card value at pretty much any place in town.
Parents Say: “I do gift cards to Starbucks or Target.” “I like to do movie gift cards because then my child’s teacher can enjoy a movie with his family!” “I get a gift certificate to a salon for my child’s classroom teacher.”
Teachers Say: “I love getting gift cards to bookstores, because then I can get new books for my classroom.”
Special Little Things: We’ve heard from teachers that special little things picked out by your children are a lovely gift. Fancy office supplies like tape, shaped paper clips, or a funky notepad would fit the bill nicely. High quality spices are also suggested as a fun treat for a teacher who likes to cook. Alcohol also seems to be a favorite gift from Champaign-Urbana parents, but be sure you know the teacher well enough before gifting that bottle!
$-$$$$: Set your limit appropriately. I’ve received an ornament for my tree that I hang each year and remember that time in my life when I was a teacher. I love it. I’ve also received a bottle of very nice champagne that I got to share with my husband. Two very different price points, but both equally appreciated!
Parents Say: “If I know my children’s teachers well enough, I often buy them a bottle of champagne at the end of the year to celebrate.”
Teachers Say: “I would rather get a small quality item than something bigger.” “I have a pair of earrings I wear at least once a week, the student that gave them to me never fails to notice.” “In the past I’ve always given bath and body works or a cute ornament. As a teacher, this year I decided to ask for books for the classroom. I tried to make it practical this year to what they could use year after year.” “As a preschool teacher, something that the child made, something with their picture involved, gift cards and yummy lotion sets.”
Food/Homemade Items: Homemade Jellies, jams, cookies, often top the list for gifts. Homemade items can feel almost decadent at this time of year when time is so scarce. Homemade items can also keep you within a budget. My BFF has mad knitting skills, and makes a scarf for every single one of her kids’ teachers. One reader chimes in: “I am giving some of my corn bags for gifts–who doesn’t need to unwind after work? Pop them in the microwave and put them on your tired back or neck. Perfection.”
$-$$: Depending on what you are making, this option might be the most economical. This is also the hardest to do last minute. Use Pinterest as a resource if you want, but beware the last-minute late-night trip to the craft store. Starting to knit 20 scarves in October is a great idea. Teaching yourself to knit a scarf two days before winter break? Not so much.
Parents Say: “This year it’s homemade berry jam, apple butter, and sugared pecans! All can be made ahead of time – of course it’s a little late for “ahead of time” now.” “Something homemade is great for small budgets, as a parent. We have done chocolate cakes in mugs and the newest favorite is homemade pumpkin butter. As a preschool teacher, something that the child made, something with their picture involved, gift cards and yummy lotion sets.” “Homemade items or goodies are liked by most teachers. My boys and I decorated some mason jars with Christmas decors and I am filling them with Peppermint pretzels. Very simple to make and delicious.” “My third grader raises chickens. Everyone gets a dozen farm fresh eggs. They seem to love it, and he is always so proud to give them since he does all the hard work.”
Teachers Say: We have mixed feelings about food items as gifts. “My first grade teacher husband brings home lots of edible goodies every year…. LOTS. And we enjoy some of them… but some will be tossed eventually because of the sheer volume of treats. We cannot consume all of it. Preferred teacher gift is a gift certificate either for something that can be used in the classroom or something more personal like for coffee or ice cream, etc. I often get DQ gift cards for our kids’ teachers so that they can take their own kids to have a treat.” “I’d rather have a gift card I can use on my classroom than a bunch of food to take home.” Unless it is fresh eggs, the teacher response to getting fresh eggs from a student is: “Fresh eggs are awesome!”
The Coordinated Class Gift: Another way to give your child’s teacher a great gift is to go in with classroom parents to purchase a classroom gift card for that teacher. Everyone puts in what they want. A parent organized a gift card for my son’s classroom last year and it was great. A Reader Says: “We do a group gift card from the whole class…that way teacher can get $100+ visa card, rather than lots of small ones.” I’ve also been on the receiving end of the classroom donated gift, and it was wonderful. Time is a ticking on this gift option, but in the age of social media, you might be able to whip up a classroom gift just in time for holiday break. Miss the boat on the classroom gift, but love the idea? Plan to do this at the end of the year.
$-$$: This is often an economical choice because you can chip in what you want, and no one really thinks twice. It is also fun for the kids on the classroom to work on a collaborative gift. Get them all to sign a card, or take a pic of each child that you put into an express photo book or card, this gift will be welcome, always.
Parents Say: “For my daughters class we are all chipping in to fund an expensive item she wants for the room.”
Teachers Say: “I love it when my students collaborate!”
Items for the classroom: You want to give your child’s teacher something for the holidays to express your thanks and to wish them well, but you are not sure what to give? Ask your child’s teachers what they want for their classroom. Do they need some new games for indoor recess? Or, go all out with some new craft supplies. One year I gave each early childhood classroom teacher a tub of google eyes, Crayola model magic, new paint, glitter crayons and markers, water colors, and cool paper. If you don’t want to give an individual gift, or if your child has more teachers than you can afford to budget for, often a classroom gift is the way to go.
$-$$$: Again, this is up to what your want to spend. Even a pack of Sharpies is an expense that a teacher does not need to add to her bottom line. Another idea is ordering the classroom a monthly magazine or periodical.
Parents Say: “I’m the President of our school PTC and we tried something new this year. We did a Teacher Idea Tree. We asked teachers to write gift ideas/suggestions on paper ornaments and we hung them on two Christmas trees (similar to the Angel Tree) A note was sent home and parents could take an ornament or get ideas when they went to sporting events or the Holiday programs at the school. We’ve gotten a great response so far. Some teachers were hesitant asking for personal items so they wrote items for their classroom like indoor recess games, etc.”
Teachers Say: “My school has us submit a wish list each year of big ticket items we would love to have. I would absolutely appreciate one of these gifts for the classroom as my own holiday gift”
The “I don’t have time to get anything gift, but I love our teachers and now I feel bad!” gift: Your child’s teacher isn’t keeping a running list of who gives gifts. He or She usually has their own family to shop for, and believe me- she gets that there are only so many shopping days before winter break. If you didn’t get a gift for your child’s teacher in time for winter break, if you prefer not to give gifts at the holiday season, or if your budget doesn’t allow for it- don’t stress! One of the best gifts I got as a classroom teacher was when parents went together and brought us lunch in the teacher’s lounge well after winter break was over and our new semester started. Depending on your child’s school policy, you can also give the gift of volunteering your time. You can also start knitting those 20 scarves the day after Christmas, because Teacher Appreciate Week will be coming up in May, and you can show your appreciate then!
Need more gifting inspiration? See our post: Readers Recommend: The BEST Teacher Gifts in Champaign-Urbana