13 Teacher Gift Ideas That Are Cheap, Useful & Unusual

Buying gifts for teachers is tricky. If you’re a parent you want to avoid replicating things. (And do they like chocolate/wine, etc?) If they’re your partner/sibling/parent/friend, you don’t want to have to deal with them judging you against some internal mark scheme they carry around.

So here are some things that teachers almost always want/need, but are still reasonably priced and make a nice change from getting yet another box of All Gold.

  1. Board Marker Pens  – about £12 for a massive pack

Debate rages over the best brand of board pen, but Berol have been around for years and are considered one of the most enduring. You can buy a cheaper brand, or a more fierce-sounding one like Staedtler, but everyone is happy when they see the name ‘Berol’ and this particular box, for around £10, gives you a bullet tip (the most popular) and there’s no yellow pen (every teacher’s nightmare). Winner.

2. A Personalised Mug – £6

Teachers get loads of mugs, but they usually don’t mind because they go missing or get broken a lot.

Help your teacher by getting them a mug with a defining mark, like these personalised letter mugs from MYOG. Works particularly well if the teacher is called Xavier, or Yvonne.

3. Tissue Dispenser

This is not a joke. Tissues are one of the most important pieces of classroom equipment. Having them inside a fun item helps to brighten up a class, and also stops the box from going walkies into someone else’s room.

Tissue Balloon – £6

For those teachers who like their classroom to be full of fun and colour.

Serious – £3

For those with a bit more class, bamboo is a cheap alternative!

4. A ‘no-hands’ water bottle

Teachers can’t easily sneak away for a drink, nor can they always be supping on a big bottle of water while keeping an eye on their class. Enter: the Camelbak! Using technology designed for cyclists, you just bite on the end of the bottle and the water jets into your mouth. I used to use these while flying around for break duty or between lessons. Also, they can’t spill on anything and they’re practically indestructable. Woo!

Camelbak – £15

5. Large Bag For Carrying Books

One of my favourites is the ‘I’m a teacher, What’s Your Super Power’ bag

They also have a teaching assistant one, and the super teacher autograph bag. 

6. Aroma Diffuser – £10 to £20

Getting your classroom to smell nice is really important. And difficult. Plug-ins have weird chemicals in them. Pot pourri isn’t strong enough. Candles have flames. And so on.

Diffusers are the perfect compromise because they can quickly pump out nice-smelling stuff using just water and aromatherapy oils. You can change scent frequently enough that it doesn’t make the room cloying, and it overcomes the smell of Year 9 boys – woo!

Expensive & solid (I use this one) – £22

Cheap (but highly recommended on Amazon) – £12

7. Edible Insects – a great behaviour management tool

In my desk I used to keep a tin of roasted ants. When difficult kids came for detention I would whip them out and ask if they wanted one. Most said no. I’d shrug and then chomp a few. It always worked. The kids went silent. ‘Miss eats ants,’ they would tell their friends later, ‘I think she means business’.

Of course, this only works if your teacher gift-receiver will actually eat the ants. But if they’re an unfussy eater, then for a few quid you can give them the gift of silent detentions.

A bag of crunchy ants from Amazon is about £4

8. A Talking Clock – £16

Sure, you can use google and your phone and various programmes as a timer, but this talking clock has the added bonus of yelling the time at you. In countdown mode it alerts you every ten minutes, then – near the end – each minute, every ten seconds, and a final countdown.

Less useful with pupils (it gets them all riled up), it’s very useful for sticking to time when lesson planning or marking, as those can become absorbing. On the rare occasion you want to add a little urgency to a classroom task it can also be used then too.

9.  Visualiser Camera – £39

In a recent Teacher Tapp survey, a visualiser was the item people most said they would like to have in their classroom. Given they are reasonably cheap, it’s interesting that more people don’t already have them. It could be because they aren’t allowed to add their own software to a classroom, so worth checking in on this before buying it, (especially as it’s the most expensive item on here), but it’s definitely something that teachers say they want.

They are around £39 on Amazon

10. Stapleless Stapler

My mother-in-law bought one of these in Japan about a decade ago and turned my teaching organisation life around. I’m useless at remembering to buy refills for anything, but especially staples. These gizmos staple pages together without the use of any extra item. (It uses the paper itself for binding). Helpful for about a million things in school

Staples 5 sheets – £8

Staples 10 sheets – £13

11. A Paper Cutter/Guillotine – £12

As with the stapler, I don’t think any present made me happier in years than a personal paper cutter/guillotine. It came in useful for a million things: making homework notes, cutting up resources, creating A5 out of A4 for an activity, and so on.

Having to run all the way to the reprographics room is not as convenient as getting this baby out of your drawer.

12. What Every Teacher Needs To Know About Psychology – £12

There are loads of teaching books about activities, subjects, how to ask better questions, etc. I could recommend bundles of them. But What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Psychology is useful for every teacher – regardless of subject or age – and is looking at topics in psychology that are often missed in regular teacher training. So if you’re looking for an intellectual gift, I’d recommend this one (I will warn there are a few typos in it, but nothing that stops your understanding).

And finally…

13. A Foot Spa! – about £30

I know foot spas were popular about ten thousand years ago when we all had 4 telly channels and nowhere to go on a Sunday, but teachers still get tired legs! A major perk of the job is that you don’t have to sit at a computer all day. A downside of that is having to stand up all darn day.

After each half-term, the first few days can be agony as creaking muscles get used to being flexed again. A warming foot spa doesn’t half help. (And you can use those aromatherapy oils from the diffuser to help you out too!)

Right, I’m off to start ordering!

I wrote a book! With Drew Povey (from Educating Manchester)! It’s called The Leadership Factor, and it’s short, and cheesy, but funny. Get it here.

2 thoughts on “13 Teacher Gift Ideas That Are Cheap, Useful & Unusual

  1. Giving serious consideration to putting some of the items on this list in our induction pack for new staff….

    Matthew Clements-Wheeler

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