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Teachers spend a lot of time and energy on our kids, so we want to get them a holiday gift that will show them how much we appreciate them, right?

But let’s face it: It can be difficult for parents to find just the right gift to say “thank you.”

We asked local teachers from preschool to high school to tell us about their favorite gifts. Being a humble group, they asked to share anonymously. While their answers varied greatly, they all agreed that parents shouldn’t feel like they need to spend a lot of money; it really is the thought that counts.

The most special gifts, they said, are those that have a personal touch.

“Many parents give gift cards, which are nice to use,” said one preschool teacher. “But I’ve always really appreciated the ones who took the time to write a note with whatever gift they gave.”

An elementary school teacher agreed.

“I once received a hand-written letter from a parent expressing her gratitude for teaching her son. I kept it in my desk drawer to read on those days when I needed a pep talk.”

Knowing a little bit about your child’s teacher can make a gift stand out. A high school teacher with a big heart and a love for charity said that her most-treasured gift was a card with a picture of a class of students in Africa.

“The card read that a donation had been given in my name to this class and school in Africa,” she said. “I still have that picture. I was so honored this child thought enough of me to spread my love for her and for teaching around the world.”

A middle school teacher shared that she once received a USC-themed picture frame from a female student.

“She put my name on it and a coin for the year I graduated,” the teacher said.

Another elementary school teacher suggested sentimental gifts.

“I love personalized things that I can keep in my class to remind me of the child,” she said. “Inexpensive things that the kids sign in Sharpie with their name and the year they were in my class. I have a whole Christmas tree with student-given ornaments.”

In the early grades, teachers love receiving gifts that students have made themselves. In middle and high school, a student’s involvement in gift giving makes a gift really special.

“I once received some precious Dollar Tree stuffed animals,” said a middle school teacher. “I still have them. They were special because I knew that the child didn’t have much, but had spent her own money on me.”

Teachers also said that it can be fun to receive gifts that don’t remind them that they are teachers.

“I spend a lot of money on my classroom, so it can be nice when a gift is just for me,” said one middle school teacher. “Monogrammed things are great, and I love gift cards to Amazon or Barnes & Noble.”

Regardless of what you choose to give, the teachers we talked with said they really appreciate being thought about at Christmas.

“I like anything,” said a middle school teacher. “I often look back at the cards, letters and notes I have received. I have them all.”

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