Milk and Cookies

with Kristen

I'm a mother of five, a bargain hunter, a recreational comparison shopper, and always trying to make more time - for me and for you, too. On this blog I'm sharing my favorite tools and finds to help make your work-life juggle a bit easier.

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End-of-year teacher gifts

Categories: Fun stuff for grown-ups, Gifts, Keepsakes, School

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We did end-of-year teacher gifts our first few years of having schoolkids, but now I don’t typically do them. I’m more likely to put all the teacher-gift eggs into the December-gift basket.

But I do sometimes do something for end-of-year, especially if there’s something significant about the particular year/class. For example, last year one of my children’s teachers was retiring, and she’d taught another of my children as well. I had copies of “first day of school” pictures printed from both kids’ first days in her class, and enclosed them with a thank-you letter and a Target gift card and a card wishing her a happy retirement. (Forty years teaching first graders. Can you imagine? No, don’t try.)

Mid-year, I think classroom items can be a nice thing to donate—but at the end of the year, I suspect teachers just want to PACK IT UP. No more pencils, no more books, no more children’s dirty looks! I aim instead for things I think they might be able to enjoy over the summer. A gift card to Panera, for a time of year they might be able to go to lunch. A gift card to a book store, for a little recreational reading. A gift card to the over-priced-but-delicious ice cream store. A gift card to a place that sells iced coffees (photo from, for keeping them cool in August when they’re reassembling their non-air-conditioned classrooms.

You’ll notice I’m going pretty heavy on gift cards. I do enjoy buying more personal gifts usually, but it feels to me as if for the parent-teacher relationship, a gift card is more likely to genuinely please. Part of this is my particular school system: we live in a very teacher-gifty area, and on the last day of school there are HEAPS of gifts—and when I see a group of 5 to 7 plants together, it really brings home to me that now the teacher has to DO SOMETHING with them, and that if she gets 5 to 7 plants every year she may run out of things to do with them. In a less gifty district, a plant would be a lovely idea and the teacher would put it on her desk or on the kitchen counter and enjoy it.

And I love the idea of luxury items for teacher gifts: beautiful expensive soaps and lotions (photo from But then I think about how few of the scents I like when I go out soap-sniffing. So that leads me back to a gift card, so they can choose the ones THEY like. But if it would be particularly fun to give her, say, the relaxation/stress-relief aromatherapy set I love so much, I might still do it and just figure she can re-gift it or give it to a friend, relative, or other teacher if she doesn’t.

I love to bake, and I love sweets, so I’m often drawn to the Treats idea. When I go with that, I try to find something that will KEEP: as with the plants, anything multiplied times the 5 to 7 other people who had that idea is going to be a challenge to manage. A plate of cookies among 5-7 plates of cookies might not get eaten in time (if I want to increase their odds, I’ll put them in a freezer bag with a note about how well they freeze), but a bag of Lindt truffles (photo from or a gift card to the Lindt store will keep awhile.

Some parents will bring in something highly specific to their individual child—something that would make a good gift to themselves for Mother’s/Father’s Day, like an ornament featuring their child’s photo, or a calendar with photos of their child on every page. I do like this kind of idea if it’s done as a class: it would be adorable (but a LOT of coordination work for someone) to do a small photo album with a photo of each child, and a little note written by the child on the facing page. Or one of my kids’ classes somehow got an extra copy of that year’s class photo and put it in a frame with one of those autographable mats (photo from; each child signed it, and it was very sweet.

The letter of appreciation is nice any time, but is particularly nice at the end of the year: there’s more material to work with; and it seems even better to be saying the whole YEAR was satisfactory than that a part of it was; and when report cards have already been issued, even the frettiest of fretters won’t feel like the teacher might think they’re trying to kiss up to get better grades. One of my favorite end-of-year letter ideas is to have the child list every single thing they can think of that they liked about the year. At first the list seems a little less than thrilling for the classroom teacher (”Snack! Recess! Art class!”), but continued nagging/prodding of the child can result in a list that’s long enough to give a surprisingly interesting overview of the year (”The leprechaun trap! Making bird feeders! Doing the birthday wall! The morning-sun song! The take-home teddy! Learning the hand-clap game!”). A parent thinking ahead could jot things down through the year to remind the child of later; a parent scrambling at the last minute could try looking through the calendar for field trips, “wear green” reminders, “bring graham crackers and gingerbread house candy” reminders, etc.

Do you do end-of-year teacher gifts? And if so, what do you like to bring?

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