This morning, I volunteered in my daughter’s class. I arrived a few minutes early and had the opportunity to observe the classroom for a few minutes.

When I walked in the door, the teacher asked the helper of the day to welcome me to the class. This second-grade boy pulled out a chair for me, looked me in the eye, and said, “Welcome to our class, Mrs. Daley.”

She taught him that.

I watched as she helped the students analyze a story they had recently read. They discussed the main ideas and important details. They talked about the message that the author wanted to share.

She taught them that.

I looked around the room and saw not just academic ideas, but inspirational messages. I saw positive reward systems. I saw reminders of kindness. I saw the evidence of a classroom full of children who were learning not just to be smart, but to be kind, and to be courageous, and to be compassionate.

She taught them that.

It is Teacher Appreciation Week. And this week, we say thank you.

Teacher Appreciation Challenge

You might have already pulled together a gift for your child’s teachers, but if you haven’t, I pulled some ideas for you earlier this year. Here are some suggestions for you, regardless of your budget:

My budget is $0. If you don’t have any extra money to purchase gifts, don’t worry! You don’t need any money to show appreciation.
* A thank-you card. I taught school for two years, and let me tell you something: a thoughtful card was a treasured gift! I would save them in my drawer and re-read them when things got stressful. Thank a teacher who has blessed you, or thank a teacher who has helped your child. Be specific – it’s always great to hear what you’re doing right! And let your child help; those little notes are priceless.
* Make a small gift. If you happen to have craft supplies lying around already, you might be able to make something that a teacher would really appreciate. For instance, many teachers write thank-you notes after teacher appreciation week. If you have scrapbooking supplies, you can make handmade greeting cards for the teacher to use. Thoughtful and practical.
* Volunteer to help in the classroom. If you do this, make your offer very specific. A generic “Let me know if I can help” is less likely to be taken up on than an offer like, “I know how busy you are, and I’d like to help! For Teacher Appreciation Week, my gift to you is 2 hours of after-school help. I am happy to cut, glue, grade, copy, laminate, or whatever you need help with! I’m free every Tuesday afternoon – please let me know what day works best for you and I’ll be there.”
* If you have young children and want to make their teachers laugh, this free printable has the potential to be funny! I’m planning on doing this with my kids, and I can’t wait to see what they say!

My budget is tight. Here are some gift ideas that are $5 or less.
* If you enjoy cooking, bake a treat. You can even make a healthier snack, like homemade granola or fruit leather. (Note: I’d only do this if the teacher knew me.)
* I love this idea of turning a bottle of soap into a clever gift. As a teacher, there are LOTS of germs floating around. A nice bottle of soap or hand sanitizer is a practical gift that is guaranteed to be used.
* This Redbox gift basket is such a fun idea! You can keep it simple and cheap, or you can add a few small things to it (like popcorn and soda).
* All kinds of things (from nail polish to a candy bar) can be turned into a fun teacher appreciation gift with a clever gift tag. If you’re not very clever, no worries – me either! That’s why I love sites like this one that round up lots of fun ideas.

I have a little more to spend. If you’d like to spoil a teacher a bit, here are a few more ideas. (Keep in mind – you can always ask around and see if any parents want to chip in and buy a group gift.)
* Gift cards. I can’t tell you how touched I was, as a brand-new teacher, to get a $25 Outback Steakhouse gift card and a $25 movie theater gift card during teacher appreciation week. I was floored! As in intern teacher, I was earning $900 a month and helping support my husband (who was in grad school). To be able to go to a restaurant and to a movie … it was such a treat!
* Buy an experience. Teachers work hard all year taking care of others – it’s time to give them the opportunity to do something for themselves! A manicure or pedicure … tickets to a museum or an exhibit … even something like rock climbing or skydiving could be fun. (I’d only do something like that if I knew the teacher fairly well and was pretty sure he or she would enjoy it.) You could even check out a website like Groupon and find something that looks fun and different.
* Put together an end-of-the-year “survival kit”. Anything you already know the teacher likes (soda, candy, etc.) is great. You can also add items that you know teachers go through a lot of (school supplies, hand sanitizer, etc.). A search on Pinterest will give you lots of suggestions! In fact, I made this Pinterest board to get you started! There are lots of cute, creative, cheap ideas on there to get you thinking.

Bouquets of School Supplies

Does anyone else remember the movie “You’ve Got Mail”, where Meg Ryan talks about wanting a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils? I have always loved that line. So we took that idea and ran with it this year! My children and I love giving gifts not just to their main classroom teacher, but to aides, music teachers, art teachers, etc. They all work so hard to teach our children – and as I learned this year as a preschool music teacher, it keeps you on your toes to have a new group of kids coming in and out of your room every half an hour. They deserve a gift too – and this one was very inexpensive! I have been watching clearance racks, and was able to put these bouquets together for under $2 each. But even if you don’t have time to bargain shop, this is something simple you can put together for under $5. It’s nothing fancy. This isn’t going to sweep across Pinterest. But my kids loved assembling them, I loved getting their teachers a gift that they can use – and as my preschooler proudly handed his bouquet to his teacher this morning, she seemed truly touched that we thought of her for Teacher Appreciation Week.

No matter your budget, can I ask you to join me in this week’s challenge? Let’s thank a teacher! What ideas to you have to add to our list?