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15+ Teacher Appreciation Ideas – Teacher Gifts and Free Ways to Say THANK YOU

Teacher Appreciation Week (2)

Monday, May 6th through Friday, May 10th is Teacher Appreciation Week 2024 for Polk County Public Schools and we’ve got a list of ideas to help show teachers some LOVE! (Note – check with your school office for dates, some private and charter schools may celebrate teacher appreciation week at a different timeMcKeel is typically the last week of April). National Teacher Appreciation Week 2024 is May 6 – 10, with National Teacher Day on May 7.

While school teachers deserve appreciation all year long, this full week of thanks is the time of year that we make an effort to give them a small token of appreciation for spending an entire year with our kiddos. For teaching them reading, writing, math, science, and hopefully plenty of life skills that will stick with them for years to come. For taking care of their needs for 6-7 hours a day. For thinking outside the box and trying to make learning fun.

Teachers, we say a collective THANK YOU! Teacher Appreciation Day and Teacher Appreciation Week is a chance to say a big THANKS, even though thank you often feels like it isn’t really enough.

Check out our list of teacher gift ideas your teachers will love, including some FREE Thank You ideas and things you can do virtually.

{I’ve honestly never quite known whether Teacher Appreciation or End of the Year is the appropriate time to give a thank you note or gift, so between the two options you still have a few weeks of school left to show your appreciation!}

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FREE Teacher Appreciation Ideas

1) Send a Thank You Card or Email

Any teacher will tell you a thank you note from you (and/or your child) is a wonderful gift. For an easy teacher appreciation idea, write a handwritten note or heartfelt email from you and/or your child. If you have a child too young to write/type themselves, have them dictate a letter to you. A note of thanks and encouragement can truly be priceless, especially during these last few weeks. You can even send your child to school with a stack of sticky notes and have the class try and leave secret thank you notes on the teacher’s desk.

From a teacher – “I keep thank yous, pictures kids make or silly/sweet notes I receive in a folder. Whenever I’m feeling discouraged or questioning my abilities I read through them. It’s a simple thing that makes a world of difference.”

2) Send an E-Card

All you need is the recipient’s email address to send a Teacher Appreciation eCard for free. Options include:

3) Go Public with your Gratitude

Post your thank you and/or favorite memory on social media. Use #thankateacher on Instagram, Facebook, or other socials to join in the national Teacher Appreciation movement. You can also show support for teachers in general by talking about your own favorite teacher and the impact they had on your life.

4) Make a Video or Photo Collage

If you can get in touch with other parents in the class, ask them to have their child make a very short video (30 seconds or less) or a photo holding a thank you sign, and then compile them all into one video. This can be done with iMovie or other software (really helpful if you have a tech-savvy parent involved).

If you don’t have a way to contact the entire class, you can still film a video of your child and send it to your teacher!

5) Send an email to the Principal or Administration praising your teacher

Sing your teacher’s praises! Be specific on what makes them a great teacher.

6) Kids’ Artwork

Have your child draw a picture for their teacher or create a special piece of artwork that represents them. If you’re virtual, you can scan it (or take a photo of it) and email it to them.

7) Volunteer

The end of the school year is a hectic time and most teachers can use a helping hand from volunteers! If you’re able to spend a few hours at the school, ask your teacher if you can come in and volunteer. If you aren’t an approved volunteer or you work during school hours, ask if there is any project or prep for crafts they can send home with your child that you can do in the evening or over the weekend.

More Teacher Appreciation Gift Ideas

7) A gift picked out by your child

Your kids spend 5 days a week with their teacher(s) and probably know what they might like better than you do! Let them pick out something they think is “perfect” for the teacher.

8) Give an experience gift

Think “more fun, less stuff” –  send a gift card for dinner, ice cream, massage, pedicure/manicure, mini golf – things they can enjoy in their free time or with their family. Groupon is also a great place to find something unique AND a get discount in their “Things To Do” category.

9) Gift Cards

Most of us like gift cards, why should teachers be any different?

  • Be intentional about gift cards and remember not everyone loves coffee or Starbucks!
  • Support a local store or restaurant with your purchase – this also allows you to spend less than $25 if you’re trying to gift multiple teachers on a limited budget (see note below).
  • If you are virtual and don’t have their mailing address, you can send an eGift card from most stores straight to their inbox.
  • Get creative and include a cute note as a gift card holder:
    Target Gift Card – “Thanks for keeping me on Target this year!”
    Manicure or Salon – “As far as great teachers go, you NAILED it” or “HANDS DOWN best teacher around!”
    Car Wash – “You Auto Know How Much We Appreciate You”
    Coffee Shop – “Thanks a Latte for a Great Year”
    Sweet Treats – “It’s been a real TREAT having you as my teacher”
    Search online – there are TONS of free teacher appreciation printables for this

10) Purchase a Subscription

A subscription to look forward to for the summer months makes a great gift for teachers. This one probably requires you to check with them first in case they already have these subscriptions. Express your desire to purchase a subscription and ask which one the teacher would prefer. Ideas include movies (Netflix, Disney+, Hulu), a music subscription (Apple Music, Amazon Unlimited), magazines, books or audiobooks (Scribd, Kindle Unlimited, Audible). Be sure to do your research first and decide how long of a subscription you will purchase.

11) Arrange a lunch delivery or bring them morning coffee 

Give your child’s teacher a few restaurant choices and bring breakfast or lunch to school. If you’re really feeling ambitious, try coordinating someone to drop off lunch each day for the entire week. {Door Dash and Uber Eats can also make this really easy – you don’t even have to drop it off yourself!}

If you’re thanking a group of teachers or want to do provide snacks and drinks in the teachers’ lounge, HTeaO Lakeland can provide everything you need to set up an iced tea bar, complete with cups, good ice, and a variety of flavors of fresh brewed {delicious} iced tea.

TIP – Check with your PTO or PTA to see if there are any existing plans you can help with – many of them host a luncheon to thank school staff as a group or even make banners and posters to decorate the school.

12) Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card

Teachers Pay Teachers is an online marketplace where educators share, sell, and buy original teaching resources. Gift cards can be used to purchase instructional resources for all aspects of PreK-12 education. Denominations start as low as $5 Click here to purchase a gift card!

From teacher:  “You can get gift certificates to a website called Teachers Pay Teachers, which has tons of teaching resources….basically a candy store for teachers! I am a teacher, and gave those to my kids teachers, as well as the other teachers on my team for Christmas. Everyone loved them!” (Be sure to find out if this is something your teacher uses before you purchase).

13) Teacher supplies, books, games, office supplies, or activities for the classroom

Send fun pens, colorful expo markers, etc. Donate your age-appropriate books, or ask teachers what they might need for the next school year. Most teachers buy school supplies out of their own pocket and this is a way to help with that expense. If you’re creative, there are LOTS of classroom supply gift tag printables out there {“Thanks for leaving your MARK” on a box of Expo Markers… “You were the BRIGHT spot in my year” on highlighters… }

14) A bouquet of flowers or balloons

This can be done inexpensively! Dollar Tree sells $1 mylar balloons and vases, and you can pick up a beautiful bouquet of flowers at Publix for less than $20. (TIP – don’t send your child to school in the morning with a flower bouquet and no vase – remember that teachers likely don’t have a container in the classroom to keep the flowers in water all day).

15) Ask your teacher to share their Amazon wish list

They can still keep their address private and share the list with you so you can shop for things they have already picked out!

Teacher Gifts on a Limited Budget

If you have multiple teachers and you’d like to give a gift to all of them, buying gifts or gift cards can add up quickly! I love to show my appreciation to everyone my kids interact with {PE, music, front office staff, etc.} AND buy something bigger for their classroom teachers, but it can get expensive.

My solution is to find local gift cards where $10 or $15 can be stretched out over multiple visits or cover a treats for their family. Ideas include include HTeaO (iced tea bar), a local donut shop (Charlie’s Mini Donuts, Hole in One Donuts), a local ice cream shop or place to get sweet treats (Andy’s, Brusters, Lakeland Ice Cream Company, Pelican’s). It is a small way to support a local business AND thank your teachers!

For their non-classroom teachers, admin, and support staff, I buy a small treat at the grocery store ($3 or less, and I look for BOGO sales) – Pepperidge Farm Cookies, Flipz Pretzels, chocolate candy – and put a note on each one. If you’re creative, inexpensive personalized gifts are a great option too. Remember it is the thought that counts!

Teacher Appreciation Week Deals + Teacher Discounts

Teacher Discounts are not limited to teacher appreciation week! Although you can find teacher appreciation week deals from both local businesses and national chains, the best deals are those available all year long.

Florida Teacher Discounts can be found on the Florida Department of Education website.

Polk County, FL Teacher Discounts can be found on the Polk Education Foundation website.

Discounts on fun things to do in Central Florida include discounted or free admission to the Florida Air Museum, MOSI, Crayola Experience, LEGOLAND Florida, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Kennedy Space Center. There are also discounts on shopping, travel, and other perks.

Things Teachers Don’t Need

Now… a few things to leave off your teacher appreciation list, based on feedback we received and my conversations with friends who teach. First and foremost, DO realize that ANY gift is appreciated, especially those that come from the heart or are given from those who have little to give. However, to keep you from spending your money and time on things that might not be a big hit….

  • Scented items – Refrain from buying things with scents (perfume, lotion, bath products, candles) unless you are certain it is a scent they like.
  • No Apples –  Trust me when I tell you that 98% of teachers don’t need anything more in the apple motif.
  • Homemade treats – while the time and love that goes into homemade treats is definitely heartfelt, unless a teacher knows you have a clean kitchen (like my friend with a commercial cake making kitchen), you might want to buy your sweets & treats from a store. A teacher who isn’t certain of how something was prepared may not be comfortable eating it.
  • Home Decor – Unless you’re certain of their personal style, things to decorate their home may or may not ever be used, and their house is likely already decorated.
  • Knick knacks – Think twice before buying anything that adds to clutter – unless it is something they specifically collect, remember that classrooms are often lacking in storage and display space, and they probably aren’t looking to add to their home decor either. This might include Coffee Mugs, Tote Bags, Stuffed Animals, Ceramic Figurines.

IMPORTANT CAVEAT…. If your child picks it out, then revert to #7 above – anything goes!

We hope you find this list of do’s and don’t useful for making the most out of your time, effort and money when it comes to teacher appreciation. Keep in mind that the most important part of giving any gift is the thought and appreciation behind it!!

Education Guide

Check out our Education Guide for Lakeland + Polk County for other education topics including public schools, private schools, homeschooling, tutoring + test prep, school calendars, colleges, and more.