4 Situations When It's OK to Give a Gift to a Teacher (And What Gifts are Appropriate)

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Teachers are People, Too

Do you remember Calvin and Hobbes? You might not, it’s a comic strip that quit in 1996, when creator Bill Watterson decided he didn’t want to become some repetitive marketing tool like other Sunday comics. It was a fun comic strip, though, and one of the most interesting characters was the teacher, Miss Wormwood.

Now main character Calvin, he’s six years old in the strip, and during one outing in summer, he sees his first-grade teacher Miss Wormwood out and about in public. He’s shocked, and when asked what he thought teachers did all summer, he answers something to the effect of: “I don’t know, I thought teachers slept in coffins.”

It’s a joke, but you get the idea: we’re so used to the idea of a school teacher as a separate authority figure, we forget to humanize them. Teachers are people, too; and they love getting gifts. But they’re still in authority, so there are times when gifts are more or less appropriate. We’ll explore four times when it’s fine to give a teacher a gift, and which sorts of gifts are best.

1. Sympathetic Situations Are Appropriate; Tragic or Otherwise

Everybody goes through difficult times, teachers included, and it can be hard to carry on without a bit of help from those closest to you in life. In such situations, gestures involving flowers, cards, or things like sympathy gifts are perfectly appropriate. Give your teacher a big beautiful bouquet, and she’ll definitely appreciate it. Also, it will be appropriate to the situation.

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2. Situations Where There’s Been a Career Shift

Careers change, that’s just the reality of the situation. Sometimes a teacher may be promoted to a position where she’s presiding over other teachers in her department throughout the district. Maybe she put in for advancement and made it to a position with the school board, or as a principal. Whatever the case, congratulatory gifts are in order.

A coffee mug of congratulations is a great idea, maybe a t-shirt, a thermos, or a box of your teacher’s favorite snacks. Situations like these are always fine times for gifts.

3. Christmastime or Birthdays

A lot of teachers love Christmas, and every teacher has a birthday. If that birthday is on a school day during the fall or spring semester, then you might as well get them a gift. Again, snacks, pastries, and the like are appropriate.

You can buy “jokey” gifts, and at these times of the year, you’ve got more latitude concerning what you can or can’t buy; just don’t get anything too expensive, or it’ll be seen as a manipulative move.

4. When the Class is Over

At the end of your time with a teacher is a great time to give them something sentimental. A sculpture, a candle, a coffee cup, a jacket, a three-dimensional holographic etching in crystal; most anything is appropriate here, so long as it’s not suggestive.

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Showing Your Teacher You Care

Sympathetic situations, career changes, Christmastime, birthdays, and the end of the semester are good times to give your teacher a gift. A few gifts that are perfectly acceptable include flowers, coffee mugs, t-shirts, snacks, and options that aren’t so expensive as to suggest ulterior motives.

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