Not that there’s anything wrong with a mug, but along with a shiny red apple, there’s nothing more cliché when it comes to teacher gifts. And, we don’t want to be a cliché now, do we? After all, your kids’ teacher spends hours upon hours with your kiddo – and likely 20 other kiddos too – five days a week. That certainly deserves gratitude for the holiday season that’s a little more thought out than a mug, don’t you think? Get inspired this year, throwing some of the typical gifts out the classroom window and showing your teacher how much she means to your kids… and to you… this holiday season!

1. If you insist on buying her a mug… At least pick her up one that’s super cool. Starbucks has teamed up with fashion-designer, Rodarte, to create a holiday collection that will make this mug stand out from the others in her collection (she totally has a collection, you know). The Double-Wall Ceramic Tumblers ($13) are perfect for keeping her coffee warm if her classroom is on the other side of the building, plus, they’re heavy to avoid spills. Tuck one of the Rodarte Starbucks Gift Cards inside – we all know that a caffeinated teacher is a happy teacher! Starbucks also carries a Create Your Own kit ($11), where your kids can design the insert for their teacher – sweet, useful and gets your kiddos involved!

2. The personal touch… Teachers have to be good sharers and when you’re sharing your “office” with dozens of kids, it’s pretty hard to have stuff that’s just your own. Thank goodness for Etsy and all of the “get your little paws off my goods” personalized items that make ideal holiday gifts for teachers. From a Custom Teacher Tumbler for staying hydrated after intense recess-sessions ($16) to a Personalized Tote Bag ($28) for hauling all their gear to school to a Striped Notes Clipboard ($25) that doubles as a white-board and makes that walking-and-teaching thing a breeze (do teachers ever sit down?).

3. Fulfill her classroom wish lists… Talk to any teacher and you’ll quickly find out – they each spend a fortune on their classroom every year, in an effort to make it the type of space they dream of teaching in and to make it a space where your kids are engaged and ready to learn. Ask her for a wish list for her classroom for the holidays and buy her a gift certificate to her favorite educational supply store or use an online tool such as Sign Up Genius to create a list that parents can log into and sign up to purchase something for the classroom.

4. Go straight to her heart… When she insists that a holiday gift isn’t necessary or if you have a school that doesn’t allow teachers to receive gifts from families, consider making a donation to the cause that’s nearest and dearest to her heart. Does she volunteer her time to an organization outside of the classroom? Call them to see if there’s something they need that you could purchase or contribute to, on your teacher’s behalf. Does she have a family member battling a serious illness? Make a donation to a local research or support foundation.

5. Consider going in together… While it will take a little organization on your part, if your class is up for it, have the parents each chip in cash to buy your teacher a larger gift. Sometimes, this can be a great way to stretch your holiday budget to get her a cooler present – for some easy holiday math, if there are 20 kids in the class and each family contributed $20, you’ll have $400 to work with for a gift! Be sure to check public school guidelines for monetary limitations on teacher gifts – some school districts have strict rules about the value of gifts that teachers are allowed to receive. Maybe she’s a reader who’s been lusting over a Kindle (don’t forget to include an Amazon gift certificate so she can get some books too), or maybe a day at the spa is more up her alley, or tickets to the game of her die-hard local sports team.

What’s your favorite go-to holiday teacher gift? And teacher/former-teachers, let us know the best holiday gifts you’ve ever received from a student or a class!

— Katie Kavulla

Psst! We know that there are fantastic male teachers out there too! We used “she” and “her” in this article to make it consistent to read… Thanks for understanding!

Photo by Katie Kavulla, of her daughter Janie, with some of her favorite teachers, who will NOT be getting mugs this year.