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What do teachers want this year on Teacher Appreciation Day? I asked my teacher friends, and they didn’t say apples or “I Love My Teacher” mugs. Teacher Appreciation Day is the Tuesday in the first full week of May (which is Teacher Appreciation Week).

The top two choices are gift cards and thank-you notes, with some teachers preferring a meaningful message over a gift.

With gift cards, the teacher can purchase something they need for the classroom or themselves, making them less likely to rely on side hustles for extra money.

Meaningful thank-you notes can be kept or recycled. The teacher could also take a picture of the thank-you message to keep it without storing it physically.

thank you notes
Image Credit: Towfiqu ashamed barbhuiya via Canva

Gift Cards

Gift cards are popular with teachers. And it’s not hard to understand why.

The National Education Association reports that over 90% of teachers spend their own money on school supplies. And according to Zippia, the average salary for teachers in the United States is $65,090.

So giving a teacher a gift card to show appreciation is a great idea. It’s like giving them money without giving them cash. However, some school systems may not allow cash or cash equivalents as gifts for teachers.

What Teachers Say About Gift Cards:

Beth likes like get a gift card or a hot cup of coffee. Candice enjoys gift cards to local coffee shops, sandwich places, and Amazon. Taylor has received gift cards to stores where she can buy classroom supplies or for coffee shops. Allison shared that she appreciates it when parents ask teachers where they shop and then give gift cards.

Pro tip: ask your teacher where they shop. Coffee gift cards seem easy, but remember not everyone drinks coffee. So ask the teacher about a favorite restaurant or place they want to shop when possible.

Why Mugs Are Not Practical as a Gift for Teachers

The average class in a United States public school has 24 students, according to Research.com. And teachers with multiple classes could have a hundred students or more each year.

So while a mug may seem like an excellent idea, it’s easy for a teacher to get too many. For example, if only half of the students or parents of one class choose a mug, that’s still 12.

And that’s just for one occasion. In addition to Teacher Appreciation Day, teachers receive thank-you gifts around Christmas or the end of the year.

Doing the math reveals how quickly a teacher can accumulate an excessive number of mugs.

Twelve mugs twice a year would be 24 mugs a year. So after ten years of teaching, the teacher could have 240 mugs! (So if you ever find your teacher selling second-hand mugs on eBay, you now know what started it.)

This “mug math” can be applied to most physical items gifted to teachers. When you consider the number of students, classes, and years of teaching, you can see how teachers can quickly accumulate too many items.

Giving teachers a gift card is more thoughtful and considerate than a physical gift. The exception is when the teacher requests specific supplies for their classroom.

classroom
Image Credit: Daniel Tadevosyan

Giving Teacher Thank You Notes

An easy way to thank a teacher is with a thank-you note. And teachers like to hear they are making a difference to a child’s life.

What Teachers Say About Thank-you Notes

Taylor loves getting thank-you notes. She likes getting a reminder of the positive impact she makes.

Beth also loves to get thank-you notes.

Alison shared that she also really appreciates heartfelt thank you cards because she likes words of affirmation.

Debbie, a retired teacher, preferred thank-you notes from students and parents. “I still have every one! The extra gifts were always nice, but the cards and notes were special.”

Mike said his favorite teacher thank you is a gift card accompanied by something personal that may have impacted the child. And he had suggestions to help parents:

  • Does he talk regularly at the dinner table about what they learned in History today?
  • Does she say she never liked my subject before but now looks forward to it every day?

Jon, an elementary teacher, said, “My kids will draw me pictures sometimes or leave me notes! The pictures will be of something random, like a pic of me and them or an anime or video game character that they like! Sometimes the notes will just say ‘thank you for being kind’ or funny or something like that.”

How To Write a Teacher a Thank You Note

Parents or students can write thank-you notes to teachers. As in Jon’s example, younger children may want to draw their teacher a picture.

Writing a thank you note to a teacher on Teacher Appreciation Day is similar to thanking the teacher any time of the year. However, you can start or end your message with “Happy Teacher Appreciation Day.”

You can also include compliments in your message. And remember to leave out comparisons to other teachers. For example, don’t say, “You are so much better than Bobby’s teacher from last year.”

From The Student

When students write a thank you note to their teacher, they should address the teacher the same way they would in class. Students usually do not use their teacher’s first name, so the note can begin with Dear Mr. Smith, (Mrs. Jones, Ms. Johnson, etc.)

Parents can help their children if they need help wording their notes. Here are some questions to get you started.

  • Did you learn something interesting recently?
  • Do you do something fun in class?
  • What do you like about your teacher?

The note from a student can look like this:

Dear Mr. Smith,

I am enjoying my math class. Thank you for explaining things in a way that I can understand. You’re a fantastic teacher. I’m learning to love math and look forward to problem-solving challenges.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!

Billy Brown

Also, younger students could draw a picture to include with a thank-you note from the parents.

From The Parents

Teacher Appreciation Day is another opportunity to show appreciation to teachers. I encourage you to thank your child’s teacher throughout the year.

Remember that your thank-you note should be genuine. You should not use your message to ask the teacher to let your kid retake a test or to find a way to get extra credit. The teacher may not feel appreciated if you include a special request with your thank-you message. However, you could thank the teacher for letting your child learn to fail.

As the teachers shared above, they like affirmation and to hear that their teaching has influenced your child. Therefore, you’ll want to be as specific as possible by including details for your thank you note to be meaningful.

However, a generic “Thank you for being a great teacher. Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!” is better than no appreciation.

And while I like handwritten notes, you could also email the teacher, assuming you have their school email address.

Here are some example messages that would make the teacher’s day.

Example 1

Dear Mrs. Jones,

Thank you for being an excellent teacher. Jake talks about his history class every day. He’s become interested in the agricultural revolution after you taught about it. The whole family has learned a lot of farming facts! He looks forward to attending school on the days that he has history. Jake’s positive change in attitude toward learning and history has been tremendous.

Sincerely,

Mr. and Mrs. Brown

Example 2

Dear Mr. Smith,

I want you to know how much Violet is enjoying the flute. She practices every day. She said your way of touching music theory makes sense to her. Thank you for helping her gain confidence with music. This new confidence is spreading to her other subjects.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!

Julie Jones

Thank-you Notes vs. Gift Card

Thank-you notes or gift cards are two popular choices when appreciating a teacher. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to both options.

Gift cards have a higher cost than a typical thank-you card. And if you have multiple teachers to thank, the amount spent on gift cards may exceed your budget.

A gift card will allow the teacher to buy something for their classroom or a coffee or something else for themselves. Also, a gift card can help them to feel treated.

Thank-you note cards are low cost, especially if you choose a boxed card set. The price per card will be much less than buying a single thank you greeting card. Or, for no cost, you can send a thank you email.

While less expensive than gift cards, writing thank-you notes will take time. And handwritten notes will take longer than an email.

Another advantage of thank-you notes is they will leave a lasting impression on the teacher if they are well-written meaningful thank-you messages. As mentioned, some teachers greatly value words of appreciation and knowing their impact on your child’s education.

You could also give the teacher a thank you note and a gift card. When choosing both, you are giving them their top two easy of being shown appreciation. (And remember to skip the mugs!)

This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.

Heidi Bender
Website | + posts

Heidi Bender is the founder of Tons of Thanks, a website that helps people write thank-you notes by providing example thank-you messages, templates, and tips. When she’s not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband and their cats.

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