First of all: no, you don't have to buy a gift for your child's teacher. Or preschool instructor, or daycare provider. But this is a great time of year to acknowledge someone who is doing a great job and making a difference in your child's life.
As a teacher myself, I am often asked by family and friends for gift ideas, and for that reason I wrote:
"What Teachers Really Want For Christmas" (Peterborough, Northumberland and Lakeridge Kids, Dec/Jan 2009/2010) (Click on link for complete article.)
We're both very practical, and she's a "flowers die, chocolates are bad for you" kind of gal (her husband sticks with jewelery, if you're wondering) so every year I just ask her what she wants and then I buy it. Might sound unoriginal, but it works for us.
As for teacher gifts, I can promise you that no matter your budget, you can never go wrong with a heartfelt note. Of course we teachers can afford to buy things for ourselves, and while all Christmas offerings are gratefully received, it really is the thought that counts. Those meaningful letters that tell me I'm doing a good job honestly mean the most. There's nothing like starting the holidays knowing that I'm appreciated, and this sort of affirmation is truly priceless.
For more ideas (including tips for do-it-yourself, budget, and charitable gifts) and a section where teachers share their favourite gift ever, be sure to check out "What Teachers Really Want For Christmas!" from Peterborough, Northumberland and Lakeridge Kids.
I'd love to hear your gift ideas for teachers past and present...and if there are educators out there who want to share their favourites as well, please feel free!