Finding the perfect holiday gift can be maddening (is this the color they’d want? Is it something they already have? Is it so last year?), but really, once you have a sense of a person’s taste, it’s not impossible. This season, we’ll be talking to members of various tribes to find out exactly what to get that college student, or serious home cook, or Star Wars fanatic in your life. Think of it as a window into their brain trust — or, at least, a very helpful starting point. For our latest installment, we found 11 teachers, from a preschool instructor to a college professor, to tell us what they actually want for the holidays from their students.
“It’s tricky because as a teacher, the truth is we really prefer gift cards, like Starbucks or Amazon. Nice candles are always welcome since they get used up and are expensive. [Or a] nice water bottle, like S’well. Seriously — since we drink a lot of water and those are pricey and useful forever.” — Elizabeth George, preschool teacher in Manhattan
“Stuff I usually end up buying on my own or with gift cards from parents that are also great presents are age-appropriate books that go with the themes we study, such as ancient Egypt, the Ice Age, and the Amazon. Since I teach kindergarten, I am often purchasing things like art supplies, such as cotton balls, tissue paper, paper cups, and pipe cleaners for art projects, too. It sounds silly, but all those projects add up quickly, so it’s nice to receive as gifts.” — Tracey Bernier, kindergarten teacher in Arlington, Massachusetts
“Most of my co-workers (and I) said they would honestly just want a personalized, thoughtful note and an Amazon gift card!” — Dana Cheriff, elementary-school Spanish teacher at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, Manhattan
“Well, every single teacher loves gift cards! But besides that, my all-time favorite gift is a picture book full of fun class pictures from the year, from Shutterfly or any of those websites that print books, with handwritten notes from my students within the book or on the back pages. I like those better than CDs or picture slideshows!” — Laura Owen, fifth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Franklin Academy, Pembroke Pines, Florida
“Some sort of array of cute sanitizers or set with lotion, such as from Bath & Body Works. I love this because I certainly go through a ton of both working with younger kids. Plus, they’re cute and smell great!” — Jenn Giustino, elementary-school music teacher, currently getting a master’s in education at Michigan State University, Lansing, Michigan
“All teachers have two things in common: We all need coffee and are generally nerds. That’s why I think the perfect holiday gift for me would be a science-themed coffee mug. Nothing complicated is needed — just a good old-fashioned science joke. If you want extra credit, aim for the ones that are temperature sensitive. Last year, I got one that turned my dinosaurs into fossils. This year, I have my eye on a star-themed mug that turns into constellations when you get it hot. (Some Dunkin’ gift cards to fill the mug never hurt anyone, either.)” — Regan Marin, eighth-grade Earth science teacher in Queens, New York
“A desk calendar — in particular, a word-of-the-day or trivia-fact desk calendar. We can display these in the classroom, and it’s something that both we and our students can enjoy.” — Tim Lesinski, high-school Latin teacher at Newton North High School, Newton, Massachusetts
“When I look forward to the Christmas break, which I’ve been doing often lately, I’m most excited just to relax and spend some time with my friends and family. To that end, I would be grateful for and would definitely use tickets to something I can enjoy with loved ones. Movies are easy, but I also talk about music with my students a lot, so concerts are great, too!” — Will Ehrenfeld, U.S. history teacher at Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), Brooklyn
“Expo markers! Teachers are always running out, and they can get really pricey.” — Marty Rogachefsky, operations manager at Neighborhood House Charter School, Boston, Massachusetts
“I am lucky enough to work in a school that provides any resource I might need for my students. This year, however, I have partnered with or used resources from a few incredible organizations that continue to work to engage high schoolers in meaningful work. This holiday season, all I really want is to support these organizations, [like] Mikva Challenge, [which] provides students [with] authentic opportunities to become civically engaged and solve problems impacting their communities. This year, our 11th-graders participated in Project Soapbox, a speech competition that asks students to identify an issue impacting their communities and how we can address it. I know this might be lame (since it isn’t a tangible thing), but honestly, this is all I would want for the holidays.” — Griffin Pepper, 11th-grade government, civics, and journalism teacher at E.L. Haynes Public Charter High School, Washington, D.C.
“If a student got me a foam roller (or the even fancier RumbleRoller, hint, hint), I would be thrilled. After teaching five dance classes in a row, I am ALWAYS sore, and having a foam roller available everywhere I go — several of different lengths at home, one at school, a short one for when I travel, etc. — would rock. This would even be good for a math teacher. I mean, everyone gets sore, right?” — Dan Safer, head of movement training, Playwrights Horizons Theater School, New York University
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.