Whether it's the holidays, the end of the school year or any time you feel compelled to say thank you, giving a gift to your child's teacher is a great way to show appreciation for all she does. And while most educators are sentimental and gracious people, even they can only handle so many mugs and apple-themed products.

To make sure that your tokens of appreciation don’t end up in a donation box, consider giving one of these useful gifts to the teacher in your kid’s life:

Classroom Supplies

In many school districts, the need for school supplies outweighs the budget; in these instances, teachers often reach into their own pockets to fund the extra pens, paper and other supplies. Here are just a couple of classroom supplies that your child’s teacher can likely use:

  • Writing supplies. Pens and pencils may not have the “wow” factor that you’d like to see in a gift, but they’re practical—and with a little crafting, can be a pretty presentation too! Attach fake flowers to the pens and arrange them in a flowerpot to create a lovely bouquet. Or, enlist your kid’s help in creating foam pencil toppers for the pack.
  • Flash drive. In today's digital world, paper files and notes are relics. Most teachers use flash drives to store lesson plans, worksheets and other important documents. This reasonably priced, portable storage can be an affordable way to acknowledge all the work required to be a great teacher.
  • Dry-erase markers. For some reason, dry-erase markers are often the first to go missing in a classroom. If your child’s teacher uses a dry-erase board or overhead projector, consider picking up a pack. Package them together neatly with some yarn for a pretty—and useful—instructor gift.

Gift Cards

Gift cards are always at the top of every teacher’s wish list, because they allow each recipient to customize their treat.

  • Coffee. Considering the fact that a teacher’s workday often starts before 7 a.m., gift cards for local coffee shops make a perfect present. Even if your kid’s educator gets coffee from every student in the classroom, it just means her caffeine fix is set for the entire school year.
  • Office supply store. If you can't remember what kind of pens the teacher prefers or what kind of paper she actually needs, then buy a gift card to the local office supply. That way, she’ll be able to grab supplies she’ll actually use without dipping in to her own pocketbook.
  • Bookstore. Your child’s teacher is instrumental in fostering a love of learning and reading, so why not reciprocate? A gift certificate to a neighborhood or online bookseller can be a great gift. Resist the temptation to give her a copy of your favorite paperback, or any generic gift book—a long-time teacher has probably already received a handful of these. Instead, offer up the luxury of buying something that she will actually read!

Homemade Treats

From cookies to cupcakes, teachers receive so many homemade treats that even the most sentimental still need to throw some away because they can’t keep up! Instead, opt for a homemade gift that can stand the test of time. 

  • Thank you card. Perhaps because they often come right from the child—or are small and easy to store—teachers continuously rank thank you cards as one of their favorite gifts to receive. Kim Carroll, an elementary school teacher in Pennsylvania, said she prefers "a card that recognizes all we do for the kiddos.  I love to get these from families and they mean more to me than any gift." Of course, buying a thank you card is a nice gesture, but cards somehow seem sweeter when written (and decorated) by your kid.
  • Memory book. Mapping out and executing a classroom-wide memory book will take coordination, but the result is more than worth the effort. Give each child in the class a page to work with and, depending on their age, ask them to draw or write about a favorite memory with the teacher. Collect all the pages and have them bound at an office supply store. This collection of thoughtful, funny, kid-narrated stories and pictures is guaranteed to touch any teacher.
  • Video. Use simple video editing software to compile a collection of highlights from the school year, personal messages from students or even a poem written and performed by your child. Post the finished product online for everyone to see. 

Note to the Principal

If your child’s teacher is really outstanding, then it would be great to let the principal know. Type up a letter explaining the good things going on in the classroom; send a copy to the teacher too. In moments of tenure decisions or other possible promotions, unsolicited letters from parents might make all the difference.

Whether it’s a “Greatest Teacher” mug or a Starbucks gift card, most teachers are grateful for any recognition that their hard work is appreciated. By thinking ahead and considering what other parents give as gifts, you’ll be able to say thank you with something that’s thoughtful and practical—a surefire A+ in any teacher’s book.