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Beyond coffee mugs – easy teacher gifts

Unless you have kids, this whole “teacher gift” phenomenon would not even enter your universe. It never entered mine pre-children and I can honestly say when I was growing up – in the 70’s and 80’s – it never even occurred to me – or my mother – to bring in a gift for my teacher. I was too excited to begin my Christmas vacation – I could barely get out the door fast enough, much less present a gift.

Times have changed. At my children’s schools, I come into school right before the holidays and the classroom is overtaken by gift baskets, elaborately wrapped presents, cards containing gift cards, etc. Makes me wish I had the patience to be a teacher.

Now thinking from the teacher’s perspective, how many more gift baskets do you really need? My kids however, love their teachers and insist on getting them a gift. Of course they all have multiple teachers so 3 kids x 3 teachers = 9 gifts! This can add up should you buy them at the store so the past few years my kids and I have made a batch of teacher gifts and the kids love it. Most of our ideas are edible, so there are usually leftovers for us too!

Here are some of our teacher gift ideas:

Candy! In the past my daughters and I have made candy – peppermint bark and toffee are favorites – and either put them in a clear bag tied with a ribbon or I will buy some of those take-out food containers from the party store or dollar store and the girls can decorate the containers too. Two of our favorite candy recipes:

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

2  pounds white, dark or milk chocolate

30 small peppermint candy canes


  1. Line a large jellyroll pan with heavy-duty foil.
  2. Place white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave on medium setting for 5 to 6 minutes. Stir occasionally, until chocolate is melted and smooth.
  3. Place candy canes in a plastic bag, or between two pieces of waxed paper. Using a mallet or rolling pin, break the candy canes into chunks. Stir peppermint into melted white chocolate. Spread evenly in pan, and chill until set, about 1 hour. Break into pieces by slamming pan on counter.



  • 2 cups butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup finely chopped almonds


  1. In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the butter, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the butter is melted. Allow to come to a boil, and cook until the mixture becomes a dark amber color, and the temperature has reached 285 degrees F (137 degrees C). Stir occasionally.
  2. While the toffee is cooking, cover a large baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  3. As soon as the toffee reaches the proper temperature, pour it out onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the chocolate over the top, and let it set for a minute or two to soften. Spread the chocolate into a thin even layer once it is melted. Sprinkle the nuts over the chocolate, and press in slightly. Putting a plastic bag over your hand will minimize the mess.
  4. Place the toffee in the refrigerator to chill until set. Break into pieces, and store in an airtight container.

Bookmarks – Cut strips of paper, have your kids decorate and cover with contact paper and trim. If you are lucky enough to have a laminator, even better.

Christmas cookies – Make your favorite Christmas cookies – put in plastic bags or other cute containers from dollar store (again decorated with stickers, glitter, markers, etc.)

A picture or note from your child

Cute Pads of Paper – Buy plain white pads of paper (again, dollar store) tie a bow from ribbon and glue ribbon to the top, put in cellophane bag and tie with a bow. If you are feeling industrious, you can glue a magnet to the back and make a pad to stick to the refrigerator.

Holiday CD – burn a CD of your family’s favorite holiday music – can you ever have too many Christmas cds? not me.

Have fun and post your favorite teacher gift ideas here!

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Rachael Ray