the last-minute mama: It's teacher gift time!
Thank goodness for Asha of Parenthacks, who tweeted about 45 minutes before I was due to pick Truman up from his last day of preschool before the break. She was making this chai concentrate from the Oregonian (lots of good homemade food gift ideas in this series, too) for her kids' teachers. Forty-one minutes later, I'd decided upon some of my fanciest jars of homemade preserves and decorative doohickeys to cover the lids, and off I went. But now I must get together gifts for Everett's teachers to avoid (I type only 16-some hours before his bus picks him up) the last minute.
Last year I had it really together, and purchased farmer's market tokens the Saturday prior to the last week of school. Smart hmm? I even made sweet little notes mentioning our favorite vendors and pointing out that the last farmer's market of the season would be the Saturday after school got out. Though I still think that this is a great idea (more on that later), not only did my gifts almost not get given due to snowed-out school, the last market day of the year was so cold Portland Farmer's Market canceled. Sure, the tokens were good in the spring, but who knows if the teachers remembered where they put them.
While most of we urbanMamas founders had little ones in daycare, we chatted about gifts for daycare providers. Among the comments there was a link to this post about teacher gifts; throughout all these I found many good ideas and themes. Here are some of the most commonly-mentioned ones:
- Gift certificates are the best gift of all (though rarely, teachers find them impersonal). Not only did one daycare provider ask for "a certificate to either a toy store or a supply store. Why? Because, I swear, I lose at least one toy a day due to toddler destruction," but gift certificates can be regifted (I suspect my middle sister, a teacher, of having done this on more than one occasion). I thought my farmer's market token idea was brilliant at the time; but you may want to choose a year-round market.
- Gift certificate ideas: coffee shop, New Seasons, craft store, toy store, restaurant you know is convenient to teacher's home/school, co-op (I saw Truman's preschool teacher at People's so I can give her a GC with confidence!), Fred Meyer, spas, massage therapists, Escential, Powell's, one of Portland's awesome chocolate shops (Alma or Sahagun), other ideas?
- Winter-themed or holiday-themed ornaments, either purchased or made by your children, are welcome for teachers if you know what holiday they celebrate. Warning: make sure you're certain they celebrate Christmas before giving them Jesus in a popsicle-stick manger.
- Food gifts. The Oregonian, as I mentioned, had a nice roundup of gift ideas; hot cocoa mix spiced with something unusual (chile? cinnamon? star anise?), homemade preserves (especially ice cream toppings), homemade spice blends, dried chiles, and pickles seem good choices. Buy some fantastic finishing salt from the Meadow, if you really love your child's teacher (vanilla salt!). Homemade vanilla is the hot gift this year (so says my Twitter stream); I'm making one batch with a star of star anise in addition to vanilla (I tested this myself and it's delicious -- but if you make it tonight, be sure and add a best-by date on label). However. Please remember, this being the city it is, many many people have very strict food rules, either due to values or aversions or allergies or some other things altogether (fear of pesticides maybe!). It would be unfortunate to give homemade Tollhouse cookie dough to a locavore teacher who doesn't do sugar or gluten. If you don't know, skip the food. At the very least, list ingredients with as much specificity as possible.
- Crafty mamas. I have faith in my ability to make something with my own hands that a teacher will like. Perhaps it's hubris, but I'm going with it. I am, I think, about to head upstairs to my sewing room to pull together some reusable market bags for Everett's teachers and such, into which if I am still in possession of calm children, I will put some sort of food gift. Other relatively quick-to-make ideas I've come across in the past several minutes: quilted list takers (sweet); recycled sweater hats; retro apron; handspun yarn or needle roll (if you know teacher is a knitter). I'd love to hear your ideas.
- Lotions & bath things. This wouldn't float my boat, but according to many online sources and real actual teachers, these are sometimes appreciated. To be safe (again remembering the city in which we live) I'd choose a brand with as few harmful surfactants and parabens and such as possible. One really excellent local brand is Wild Carrot Herbals; I met Jody, mama in charge, when she was hugely pregnant with her little daughter and I appreciate her products and principles mightily. You can find them at New Seasons, Limbo and People's Co-op (and probably other places, too).
- No mugs! (Although if I were a teacher I would love a mug made by a local potter; I'm not a teacher so don't assume ;).
- A nice letter. I was surprised how many times a teacher mentioned he or she treasured a thoughtful letter of appreciation. Especially, a hand-written one.