By Carla Olivo, Marine Spouse

It’s the holidays and you feel compelled to say “Thank You” to your child’s teacher or coach. They put in a lot of time educating your kids or teaching them how to hit a ball and for that you feel they should be remembered at this special time of year. It is the perfect time to let them know how appreciated they are. That said, here are some coach and teachers’ gifts to avoid.

JUST SAY NO TO ADORABLE ‘TEACHER’ THEMED ITEMS

You know the ones….the pencil box with an apple on the front, the coffee mug with “World’s Greatest Teacher”, the apple paperweight. I’m sure each teacher, very early in their career, really enjoyed receiving these themed gifts. But how many ‘Greatest Teacher’ ornaments can one Christmas tree hold? Stay away from the apple tchotchkes.

HOMEMADE FOOD

While this is an easy gift for those that like to bake, many teachers or coaches do not need plastic containers full of cookies and cakes. Many don’t eat a lot of sweets and others may have allergies. Now if you made a special treat for your child’s birthday and the teacher raved about it, you might consider a small plate of the cookies, cupcakes, or fudge that brought the compliments. But as a rule, avoid the sweet treats. Many teachers with large classes could hold their own bake sale with all the sweet gifts they receive at Christmas time!

A STARBUCKS GIFT CARD

Yes, they are easy and yes, many teachers and coaches like coffee. But again, do the math. Does any one person want that much coffee?

PERSONALIZED TEACHERS’ GIFTS 

You can only have so many things with your initials or name on it. Unlike your children, the teacher doesn’t need their name on every item they own to keep track of it.

ANYTHING SCENTED

Candles, perfume, body lotion. Yeah, nice thought. But unless you know for a fact that your kid’s teacher loves the smell of cherry blossoms, skip the scented hand soap.

You can also skip mugs and tote bags. Yeah, they have twenty of those. You can rationalize that everyone can use them, but have you ever been to a teacher’s garage sale? I have and there are tons of mugs, tote bags, and other #1 teacher trinkets. I believe they truly appreciate the gesture, but they likely won’t use it.

SO, WHAT CAN YOU GIVE THEM?

A nice hand-written note is always appreciated. A note praising the teacher to the principal is also a nice gesture. Ask your child what their teacher might like. They’ve spent a lot of time with the teacher and they might just know what they enjoy. Sometimes a list will circulate with the teacher’s favorite things i.e. their favorite restaurant, sports team, or a hobby. Sometimes a group gift is nice if the class bands together to buy the teacher a year’s supply of fresh flowers or a wine of the month club – provided you know for sure your kids’ teacher like flowers or wine.

For coaches, I’ve seen the team jersey made into a pillow. Autographed memorabilia is also nice if you know their favorite team. Restaurant gift cards are also popular so the coach can treat their spouse to a nice dinner out after spending a lot time away from home coaching your little one.

It truly is the thought that counts but a generic, one size fits all, let me check the box-off-my-gift-list can send a teacher or coach scurrying to the Goodwill or the gym after the holiday season.

Carla Olivo has garnered numerous journalism awards including the Associated Press award for Spot News Reporting, News Writing, and Documentary Reporting.  She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel and their two children.

Carla Olivo

Director Strategic Communications