A two colour sketch of a teacher standing next to a desk piled high with an excessive number of generic mugs. The teacher displays a bewildered but grateful expression, reflecting mixed emotions in a humorous yet appreciative setting.

Teacher's Top Picks: The Honest Guide to End-of-Year Appreciation Gifts

At the end of the school year parents and students find themselves grappling with a familiar dilemma: What can we gift our hardworking teachers to show our appreciation? While heartfelt gestures and thank-you notes are always appreciated, there have been some gifts over the years that have left teachers baffled, amused, and occasionally cringing.

In this article, we discover the 5 least favourite teacher gifts and unveil the 5 best teacher gift categories, all thanks to the candid insights of our teacher followers. Brace yourselves for some honest reactions and stories, as teachers open up about their most memorable experiences on the receiving end of gift-giving. From baffling and underwhelming moments to heart-warming surprises, get ready to explore the highs and lows of end-of-year teacher gifts and gain insights into how you can find the most suitable gift for your teacher. You may be pleasantly surprised when we reveal the ultimate end-of-year teacher gift among all educators 😉

5 of the Least Favourite Teacher Gifts

1. Generic and Thoughtless

Let’s start with the obvious clichés. As a guide, steer clear of anything that pops up when you type 'teacher gifts' into Google. Those cute little keyrings with cheesy teacher quotes? Nope. Don’t do it. World’s Greatest Teacher mug? Double nope. It’s time to ditch the dud gifts and dig a little deeper to find a gift that your teacher will actually like.  Let’s explore a couple more items to add to your nope list. 

Cheap scented candles and soap. If you’re going down that route — at least have the decency to buy the good stuff. Think Ecoya, Curio Noir — luxury. But that’s getting a bit spenny, so you may want to consider getting a few students/parents to pitch in.

Mugs. “So. Many. Mugs.” It’s overdone, and most teachers end up just chucking them in the back of a cupboard to gather dust, or leaving them in the staff room to give it a chance to fulfil its purpose of carrying a hot drink.

Now, before you entirely abandon the idea of gifting a mug, there is an exception to the rule, and that’s if 1. They love mugs (or drink a lot of hot drinks), and 2. It has a VERY thoughtful and unique saying on it that is personalised to the individual. For one teacher, their mug gift made it to their favourite list: “A bunch of students gathered some money and bought me a mug that says ‘You are SENSEITIONAL’. I’m called ‘Sensei’ at school 😁 I cried, just a little.” It’s a very fine line though — so only go with this option if you’re absolutely certain the recipient will love it.

A black and white sketch of a teacher standing next to a desk piled high with an excessive number of generic mugs. The teacher displays a bewildered but grateful expression, reflecting mixed emotions in a humorous yet appreciative setting.

2. Cheap Chocolate

We’re all familiar with those boxes of cheap chocolates that often just turn into a regifting frenzy until someone notices they are expired. Teachers appreciate the sentiment behind the gesture, however, when they receive an abundance of low-quality chocolate, it can feel a tad underwhelming.

As one teacher candidly put it, "Chocolate is the worst even for us hardcore chocolate lovers. We get so much we just regift it. A handwritten card is much better than a $6 box of favourites." One teacher humorously shared, "If I get another box of roses, ima lose it 😂". Another acknowledged, "Lovely idea as a stand-alone, but 27 boxes is too many."

3. Taking the Adage ‘It's the Thought That Counts’ a Little Too Far

This is the land of random and utterly impractical gifts. While teachers appreciate the effort behind every gift, some presents are just so out-the-gate that they leave them scratching their heads in bewilderment.

One teacher shared that they received a “bottle of salad dressing”, while another received “a shower steamer that had expired.”Another teacher was gifted socks that they couldn’t even wear, “…they were too small...very sweet, but not ideal.” At least they hadn’t been used, unlike some other odd instances: “I had a colleague who received a bar of used soap complete with short and curly attached. Another received a top that had been worn and smelled of stale cigarette.” They went on to share "I think it is awful when anyone feels pressured into gifting. In these circumstances it was the tamariki themselves that had wrapped up something to give their beloved kaiako."

There was a teacher who received “…an opened half-drunk bottle of vodka." However, they went on to share "Honestly though, I loved it. Poured it out. But remember the pride and love that the student had sharing it with me. Probably a best gift really!” And then there are the gifts that should only be for family members “Sounds stink to say but photos of the kids. I got a photo of a kids family once 🤣” 

It's safe to say that these unique gifts were definitely memorable but not in the way one might hope. Seriously, if you’re really stuck for ideas, PLEASE just go with a nice hand-written card.

A black and white sketch of a smiling teacher opening a gift bag with a puzzled expression, accompanied by a thoughtful emoji floating above their head, indicating a mix of intrigue and light-hearted humor at the gift received.

4. Insensitive or inappropriate

This is where good intentions often collide with mismatched interests or preferences. Teachers, like anyone else, appreciate gifts that show you've paid attention to who they are as individuals.

While fresh, home-baked cookies might seem like a delightful idea, it becomes an insult when given to a gluten-free teacher (unless of course, they are gluten-free! Then by all means — bake away). Also just an FYI — not everyone drinks hot drinks. Yes, we are back to the mug dilemma again 😅 “Omg I have had so many coffee mugs over the years. I don’t drink hot drinks”

Plants, though a common gift choice, can go either way. While some teachers may love the green companions, others might roll their eyes at the prospect of having to care for yet another living thing. As one teacher humorously put it, "I spend all week keeping ya kid alive, I ain't got the energy to keep a plant alive 😂."

Similarly, gifting a bottle of (good) wine might be perfect for one teacher, but it could be an insensitive gesture for another teacher who doesn't drink.

In the realm of truly cringe-worthy gifts, one teacher shared their experience of receiving a prepaid coupon for 10x weight loss sessions. Clearly, not the most thoughtful or appropriate choice. It's best to steer clear of anything that could be perceived as offensive.

Dare I say it, but you have to do some homework. Despite the busy end-of-year rush, taking the time to find out what your teacher would genuinely appreciate will go a long way in showing your gratitude. Even better, start making a list earlier in the year of options so you don’t panic in December when you’re already dealing with the Christmas chaos.

5. Nothing

Kore. Zilch. Nada. The void that leaves teachers feeling unappreciated and undervalued. It's true; nothing says 'thanks for your tireless dedication to educating and mentoring my child' like complete radio silence or ghosting.

For teachers, the end of the school year can be an emotional time as they bid farewell to their students, especially those moving on to the next grade or school. A simple 'thanks' or a heartfelt goodbye can mean the world to them, validating their hard work and the connections they've built with their students.

But unfortunately, some teachers have shared their experiences of not even receiving a basic acknowledgement of their efforts. As one teacher expressed, they were sad to have "not even a heartfelt or genuine goodbye” when their student moved through to the next room.

While it's entertaining to explore the worst teacher gifts, I wouldn't leave you hanging without some helpful advice to AVOID having your gift added to that list. Let's shift gears and delve into the list of the best teacher gift categories, drawing inspiration from the heart-warming stories of teachers that have received presents they truly cherish.

Top 5 Favourite Teacher Gifts 

1. Vouchers

Vouchers emerged as one of the top gifts among educators. Vouchers provide the recipient with the flexibility to treat themselves to something they genuinely enjoy. Whether it's for their go-to local cafe, a restaurant they've been eyeing, their favourite stationery shop, or a relaxing massage, vouchers allow teachers to indulge in a well-deserved treat. 

One thoughtful parent shared their approach, "I buy my son's ECE teachers vouchers to the local cafe – figure they need cake or coffee!" This sentiment perfectly captures the essence of why vouchers are so appreciated. They show that you've taken the time to consider what brings joy to your teacher's day and provide them with the freedom to choose what they want.

From a practical standpoint, vouchers also make gift-giving easier on your budget. You can decide on any amount you're comfortable with, whether it covers a cup of coffee or a more substantial treat.

2. Consumable Gifts

These are gifts that have a short lifespan and can be enjoyed by the recipient (unless its weird fancy relish that will just get lost in the pantry only to be discovered 7 years later).

The first rule of thumb is to ensure the consumable gift is of high quality. An indulgent treat. Secondly, it must be tailored to the individual’s preferences. What do they love? What is their favourite brand? A bottle of fine wine, local roasted coffee, champagne, a smooth whiskey, tasty chocolates…wait — isn’t chocolate on the worst teacher gift list? Sure. But, turns out some teachers LOVE receiving chocolate 😂 However, it has to be the GOOD stuff. Think Whittakers, Ferrero Rocher, Lindt, or any other premium brand that people genuinely enjoy and won't just pass on to someone else.

3. Tailored and Personalised

The magic of gift-giving lies in tailoring and personalizing the present to the individual. It's about diving into the world of your teacher's interests, uncovering what makes them unique and quirky, and finding that perfect something they'll genuinely love.

As one follower shared: "gifts are better when you're thinking about the person they're for, and their interests, rather than thinking about your kids!". We should strive to show appreciation for the teacher as an individual, not just as an educator.

Each teacher has their own set of passions and preferences. For one, a bottle of wine might be a delightful treat after a long day, while another might be enchanted by the sight of a cute and vibrant plant adorning their home. It's all about understanding what brings a smile to their face and warming their heart. 

Some teachers appreciate practicality, like one who shared "I once got a mattress protector and pillow protectors lol. Random but super handy". Another teacher shared how they received a gift that carried emotional resonance, "Most meaningful...Harry Potter set I'd been talking about all year!".

If you're looking to make a grand gesture or present a larger gift idea, consider rallying a group of parents or students to pitch in. Pooling resources allows for more significant and meaningful presents, like a special class outing, a personalised gift basket or thoughtful item, or a collective voucher for a luxurious experience. Your teacher will be overjoyed by the thoughtful effort and the extra love put into the gift from the entire class.

4. Homegrown, homemade, or home-caught kai

Among the array of 'best gifts received,' one of the gestures that stood out was home-grown, home-caught, or homemade kai.

One teacher shared "when I was teaching on the West Coast I'd get pounds and pounds of venison and whitebait". It was more than just a gift of food; it was a gesture of appreciation that celebrates the region's unique bounty and the heartfelt connection between the community and their teacher.

Another teacher remembered her gift of "fresh berries from a family's garden along with a handwritten card. So delicious!" (the berries, that is).

Of course, it's essential to consider the teacher's preferences before presenting them with homemade food. While it's a thoughtful gesture, some teachers may have dietary restrictions or allergies. So, before surprising them with a culinary delight, a discreet inquiry about their preferences will ensure the gift is truly appreciated.

A black and white sketch showing a woven basket, a kete, filled with distinctly drawn home-grown produce such as kumara, herbs, tomatoes, various fruits, and a prominently placed crayfish

5. Heartfelt Words

🏆 The Winner of All Gifts 🏆

This is arguably the BEST gift you can give your teacher. Never undervalue the influence of words. The power of a good ol' genuine, heart-felt, hand-written note proved to be unparalleled among all the responses. Teachers expressed that receiving a home-made card or a message of thanks (either verbally, emailed, or written) touched them deeply and left a lasting impact. One teacher even shared a heart-warming memory, saying, "I still have a screenshot on my phone from a parent explaining what I meant to their family when I left my last job." Another shared "honestly, the best present is a parent coming to say thank you or sending an email." The sentiments were shared by many others, saying "the best present is a thankful moment!" "It is the words that affirm you're doing a decent job. I keep the cards forever," "We aren't in it for the gifts...a few meaningful words in person or on paper are the most precious gifts I will ever receive and I have kept every special card I have been given over the last 17 years." "Yes coffee vouchers or fancy diffusers are nice but the heartfelt cards are always my fav to receive, and so much more meaningful than expensive gifts!"

Such tokens of appreciation hold immense sentimental value for educators, reminding them of the meaningful connections they create with their students and their families. Hand-made cards may seem simple, but they carry a profound message of appreciation and gratitude. Rest assured that your teacher will receive it with joy and cherish it deeply. It's the personal touch, the heartfelt words, and the expression of gratitude that truly matter.

A black and white illustration depicting a heartfelt moment where a student is handing over a card to a teacher, who is visibly touched by the gesture, showing a warm and grateful expression.

In conclusion, the key takeaway from these insights is the importance of tailoring the gift to each individual teacher. It's not about the price tag or grand gestures; but about showing genuine thought and consideration. Whether you have a generous budget or limited means, the most treasured gifts are those infused with thoughtfulness and aroha (love and compassion).

Here at Maimoa Creative, we believe in cherishing the valued people in our lives and expressing appreciation in heartfelt ways. For a unique and budget-friendly appreciation gift option, consider our popular 'Kaiako | Teacher' Definition Print Digital Download. This versatile download allows you to print from the comfort of your home, giving you the freedom to frame it as a cherished keepsake or turn it into a heartfelt greeting card for your teacher.


(noun) Someone who is passionate about investing in the next generation. A steward of knowledge, imparter of wisdom, nurturer of potential, facilitator of growth. Confidence builder. Mentor. 

see also: pouako, kaiwhakaako, pou, māhita

Teacher definition print framed on display

Hear what others have to say:

"I put this beautiful kaiako design in a frame for my sons new entrant teacher and she was in tears. A piece she will forever treasure." - Jaimie

"We loved giving this print to our two teachers this year, it felt really meaningful, heartfelt and on point, but was also cost-effective for the children. It printed beautifully, and looked great framed." - Amy

"I have gifted this beautiful print to a dear teacher friend of mine as well as a lecturer who has been so influential on my tertiary education journey. Safe to say they absolutely loved it! Such a beautiful, meaningful gift! Can't recommend it enough." - Tahlia

"Such an awesome, cost friendly end of year teachers gift. Super quick and easy to download and print.They looked so nice put in a frame, recieved very appreciative feedback on how thoughtful it was! My fav teachers gift to date. Thank you!" - Nema

Another thoughtful option that could be a gift from a group of students/parents is a set of teacher stamps in te reo Māori, a collaboration between Maimoa Creative and Teacherlatte. Offering this set of stamps for the kaiako to use in their classroom not only shows appreciation for the teacher's efforts but also supports the incorporation of te reo Māori into everyday learning, making this gift both meaningful and educational.

An array of colourful self-inking teacher stamps with phrases in te reo Māori stamped below them, surrounded by vibrant greenery on a white surface