Your Cart is Empty

7 min read

The Best and Worst Teacher Gifts 2020 - (for the love of everything, don't get her something used!)

We asked 235 teachers about their best and worst gift experiences. Here are the results.

If you've been trying to figure out what to give your teacher, you've come to the right place. We surveyed over 200 teachers on Facebook using this Google Form, asking about 13 of the most commonly gifted items. We also wanted to know personal stories about the best and worst gifts each teacher had received.

If we mention a teacher's story in this article, we only use their name if they gave us permission.

πŸ‘ŽπŸ½ The worst teacher gifts (anecdotal stories) πŸ‘ŽπŸ½

We had a lot of nice responses from teachers saying that no gift is a bad gift because it's the thought that counts.

We were inclined to agree, until we saw responses like these:

Tell us about your worst teacher gift experience

  • Gift card w/o money on it
  • Half a bottle of bad perfume and partially eaten box of candy (Michelle J.)
  • Half used bottle of lotion (Lyndi)
  • Half eaten candy cane (Nikki)
  • Used lipstick - bright orange
  • "I have received many things that have been used. I once received a used scarf. It had stains on it." (Chara Y.)
  • "I opened a gift, and a live cockroach walked out of the bag." (Camille B.)

A cockroach!? YUCK!! Obviously, a student would never intend to give a gift with a roach in it, but this clearly broke our "there are no worst gifts" belief.

Let's take a look at the 13 common gifts we included in the survey for teachers to rank (Like it / love it / exchange / never received).

#13 - Stuffed Animal 🚫

Stuffed Animal Gift Graph

  • 61% responded "Exchange, please!"
  • 11% never received
  • 28% liked or loved

    The data is clear - stay away from stuffed animals unless you know for sure your teacher is a fan of them.

    #12 - Scented Lotions 🚫

    Scented Lotion Gift Graph

    • 59% responded "Exchange, please!"
    • 2% never received
    • 39% liked or loved

    Scented lotions are a no-go. Your teacher might be allergic or not like the scent you picked, and may even feel guilty about not using them!

    "Scented lotions are the worst for me- I’m very allergic and feel bad not using them." - Joeal M.

    "I have received scented items before or spa items and I felt bad because I never used them but they weren’t scents that I liked."

    #11 - Mugs 🚫

    Mug Gift Graph

    • 55% responded "Exchange, please!"
    • 2% never received
    • 43% liked or loved

    Most teachers said they receive too many mugs over the years. In one case, a teacher got one that wasn't microwave safe, and ended up with 3rd degree burns!!

    From the question "Tell us about your worst teacher gift experience", we got these answers about mugs:

    #10 - Scented Candles 🚫

    Scented Candle Gift Graph

    Although scented candles were more popular than scented lotions, they still were not a great gift about half the time:

    • 45% responded "Exchange please!"
    • 52% liked or loved
    • 3% never received

    Allergies are not as much a problem with candles, but dislike of scents is still an issue. Best to stay away from scented candles for gifts.

    #9, 8, and 7:

    Of the 13 gifts we asked about, three of them were not gifted more than 25% of the time.

    T Shirts (#7)


    Teacher Trove T Shirts

    T Shirt Gift Graph

    • 25% of teachers we surveyed have never received a T Shirt as a gift
    • 65% liked or loved them
    • 10% said "Exchange please"

    We didn't ask the 10% group why they didn't like the T Shirts. We suspect the major reasons are 1) poor fit, and 2) didn't like the design. These are probably the contributing factors for gifters, as well - unsure of a teacher's size or taste in clothes.

    Some teachers may also feel like they have enough shirts in their closet.

    If you know for sure that your teacher likes T Shirts, we have a variety of cool teacher designs to choose from - or you could play it safe and get a gift card from The Teacher Trove, and let her pick one for herself (or something else!)

    Teacher Subscription Boxes (#8)

    Teacher Trove Monthly Subscription Box

    Teacher Sub Box Gift Graph

    • 41% of teachers have never received a Teacher Subscription Box as a gift
    • 57% liked or loved them
    • 2% said "Exchange please"

    Subscription boxes are still a relatively new phenomenon. They've been around since 2004 or so, but in the last decade have really gained traction.

    A subscription box is a box of goods sent periodically (monthly, in our case.) They usually follow a particular theme (dogs, cats, fitness, etc.) The items are usually a surprise - which is half of the fun! You, the consumer, didn't have to pick these items - they were curated for you and packaged into a neat box. It's like getting a gift from yourself!

    You might think, seeing that first statistic (41% never received) that it's not a good idea to get a subscription box for a teacher. On the contrary, we think it's an excellent opportunity to gift something new and unique! (If you gift her one of ours, we offer free returns within 60 days if she wants something else. πŸ˜‰)

    Other Subscription Boxes (#9)

    Other Subscription Box Gift Graph

    The numbers were similar for other subscription boxes:

    • 46% never received
    • 48% liked or loved
    • 6% said "Exchange please"

    Teachers were 3 times as likely to want to exchange a subscription box if it was not a teacher box. (Again, we offer free returns on ours, so you can be confident in your gift.)

    #6 - Candy

    Candy Gift Graph

    • 2% never received
    • 74% liked or loved
    • 24% said "Exchange please"

    While many of us have a sweet tooth, indulging it is not always a good idea. And you can never tell from a distance whether your teacher has a condition that precludes candy - like diabetes or food addiction. We'd skip this one.

    #5 - Coffee/Tea

    Coffee or Tea Gift Graph

    You know, this one surprised us. As avid coffee drinkers and Starbucks lovers, we thought this one would be more universal. As it turns out...

    • 20% said "Exchange please"
    • 75% liked or loved
    • 5% never received

    Who knew? (On the other hand, if you're certain your teacher LOVES coffee, check out this I Teach With Coffee T shirt.)

    #4 Books (or book gift cards)

    Books Gift Graph

    • 86% liked or loved it
    • 8% never received
    • 6% said "Exchange please"

    We figured most teachers enjoy reading, and the data seems to agree. We didn't split books from book gift cards, so if you gift one, make sure you know your teacher's tastes in subjects, or else stick with the gift card.

    #3 - School Supplies!

    School Supplies Gift Graph

    • 92% of teachers said they liked or loved school supplies
    • 6% said "Exchange, please"
    • 2% never received

    School supplies may seem like a mundane gift, but teachers really appreciate them.

    Teachers spend on average about $450 on school supplies for their classrooms, every year. That's crazy! When you buy school supplies, you're putting some of that money back in their pocket. Good choice!

    #2 - Restaurant Gift Cards

    Restaurant Gift Card Gift Graph

    We all gotta eat, right?

    • 94% liked or loved restaurant gift cards
    • 5% never received
    • 1% said "Exchange please"

    Restaurant gift cards are a pretty safe bet.

    #1 - General gift card

    (Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.)

    General Gift Card Gift Graph

    Teachers love a good gift card

    I mean, who doesn't?

    • 97% liked or loved general gift cards
    • 3% never received one

    Here's the problem with general gift cards: Even though your teacher will probably like it, it's not very personal. It says in a general, lukewarm sort of way: you're in my (kid's) life and I need to gift you something.

    Also, she could buy anything with that gift card.

    ... Anything.

    I mean, what if you get her a Wal-Mart gift card and she ends up buying toilet paper with it? Do you really want to be associated with toilet paper?? 🧻 πŸ˜…

    Pro tip: Buy her a gift card to the Teacher Trove instead.

    This will give her the gift of choice while allowing you to tell her in a really special way, "Thank you for teaching me. Thank you for teaching my kids."

    And she will definitely not buy toilet paper with it. πŸ˜…


    Homemade Gifts

    We also asked teachers to tell us about their best and worst teacher gift experiences. We detailed some of the worst at the top of the article. A lot of the best ones included thoughtfully homemade gifts, personalized gifts, or notes from students:

    • "I honestly love when kids make me stuff or give me stuff that is special to them. I got a rock once from a 1st grader that I still have." - Alyssa Miller
    • "My best teacher gift experience has happened twice - families handmade signs that said my name and something Cat in the Hat (theme of my room). Super thoughtful and still hanging up in/outside my room today!" - Rachel B.
    • "I teach in a low income community and many students don't have much. My first and favorite gift I ever got was a crocheted doll. She sits on my dresser." - Katie Belemonti

    This was our favorite teacher gift story:

    "My best teacher gift was when a child wanted to give me a Christmas gift, but their parent did not have money to buy me a gift. The child was so sad when she shared this with me. I told her that a personal letter from her would make me as happy as a gift. She asked me if that was really true. I assured her that it was true. She went home and wrote the most beautiful letter for me. She was so proud of her efforts. I wrote her a thank you note for her letter, just as I did for all the students who gave me a gift. She was so appreciative!" - Brenda


    Here's a summary of what we found. We hope it helps you. Of course, use your personal knowledge of your teacher to override these findings (for instance, if you know for sure she loves coffee - ignore our coffee advice πŸ˜‰β˜•οΈ)

    Summary Graph of Teacher Gifts Survey

      🚫 Don't get her stuffed animals
        🚫 Don't get her anything scented (allergies / preference)
          🚫 Don't get her something USED (yuck!)
            🚫 Don't get her candy, coffee or tea
              🚫 Don't get her a mug! She has a million of them.
                βœ… Do get her a gift card. (Preferably one from The Teacher Trove πŸ˜‰)
                  βœ… If not a Teacher Trove gift card, go for one from a general store (Amazon, Wal Mart, Target. Almost as good, a book or book gift card.)

                    βœ… Do get her school supplies.



                    Looking for a great teacher gift? Here are three options:

                    Teacher Trove T Shirts

                    Andreana Grall
                    Andreana Grall

                    Andreana holds a Master's Degree in Education (Bachelor's from Stanford) and has been teaching since 2005. She cofounded the Teacher Trove with her husband Andy in 2018.

                    Leave a comment

                    Comments will be approved before showing up.

                    Also in Blog

                    5 Ways To Support Teachers | The Teacher Trove
                    5 Ways To Support Teachers

                    2 min read

                    Teachers need your support now more than ever. Here are 5 ways you can help!
                    Read More
                    Avoid Generic Teacher Gifts. We Can Help!

                    1 min read

                    Read More
                    3 Ways to Give Meaningful Feedback to Students | The Teacher Trove
                    3 Ways to Give Meaningful Feedback to Students

                    2 min read

                    A student has to beΒ willingΒ to hear feedback in order for it to be useful. If the student has her own goal, then she’s buying into it,Β 
                    Read More