Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the gift giving list is so…long! By the time December rolls around, picking out gifts for friends, family, and co-workers can be exhausting. But wait! You can’t forget the school’s support staff on that gift giving list. Without terrific paras, amazing custodians, fabulous school secretaries, lovely cafeteria workers, and a no-nonsense school nurse, the school wouldn’t be able to function. Instead of worrying about what to get them, try some of these ideas from Really Good Teachers across the country. They make a big impact – without breaking the budget!
9 Holiday Gift Ideas for School Support Staff
1. Group Gift Card
You are probably not the only teacher in your school who would like to give the support staff a gift during the holidays, so come together as a grade level team and pitch in for one big gift. A gift card to a local store, coffee shop, or for a pampering treat can pay for quite a bit more when everyone pitches in. Shawn S. agrees, “Go in with your grade level team. You can each pitch in $5 and it adds up for more choices.”
2. Pampering Products
Who doesn’t need a bit of pampering during the long winter months? A bottle of lotion or nail polishes can make anyone feel special. “I get the mini nail polishes that come in a pack for the holidays and attach a little tag that says “For Your Mistle-toes”. [It’s] just a little something, but it’s the thought,” says Tammy A. Making sure the pampering gifts you’re thinking of getting fit into your budget is also important. Jessica S. shares, “I hit Victoria’s Secret or Bath and Body Works after Thanksgiving and get lotion for $5. Who doesn’t need lotion during the winter?!“
3. Sweet Treats
Sometimes it’s the personal touch when you give a gift that matters the most. Gloria L. suggests adding a special note to your treats of sweets. “I get a cute basket and put Almond Joy and Mounds in it. I write: ‘To the Staff- I wish you a Holiday Season full of Joy and Mounds of love.’ Then I sign it. You could do individual baggies with the same card,” she explains. When money is short, sweet baked goods are also a good option. “My family makes baked goods like muffins, pumpkin bread & cookies. We have found that a little goes a long way, especially when money is short,” suggests Christy B.
4. It’s Alive!
If you’re looking for something that will last year round, try a small plant or cactus. “A Christmas cactus can be between $3-5,” suggests Amelia T. A small herb garden or a set of pretty planters and herb seeds can also be a practical and inexpensive gift to give to those who add spice and flavor to the school with their fantastic personalities.
5. Holiday Feast
“We have a buffet for them,” explains Laura P. “The teachers make goods or donate to buy things like shrimp and fried chicken and set it up in a decorated room for them. They seem to appreciate it!” Be sure to designate someone (other than the custodians!) to clean up after the event though. There’s nothing fun about having to clean up after a feast given in your honor!
6. A Gift of Service
Time is always more precious than anything else, so why not offer your services to help them? Laurie M. says, “[I give an] I.O.U. for a car wash and clean inside.” Other ideas could be helping them set up their gardens in the spring, editing photos for them if you’re good at Photoshop, or putting together a calendar for them for the new year with photos of their family. Find out what their needs are and meet them with a gift of your time.
7. Lottery Tickets
As unconventional as it may sound, a gift of scratch-off tickets can be a fun and potentially extravagant gift. “We take a collection from the teachers on our floor and buy our custodian scratch tickets and put them together like a wreath. He loves to gamble so it’s a win for all!” says Tracy C. Be sure to include a coin to scratch-off the cards!
8. Gifts from the Kids
Get your students in on the gift by having them show their appreciation, as well. “I have the kids do thank you cards and give either mugs or a mouse-safe container of hard candies. The custodians always make a big deal. The Head custodian hung the cards one year,” suggests Meg M. Thelma R. agrees that students love to get in on the act, as well. “I make fleece scarves….cut and fringe! My students come with me as we go caroling through the school and stop and deliver. This is our thank you! You may even want to enlist some of your parents that want to help,” she shares. Having parents show their appreciation with the class is a great bonus!
9. Share Your Talent
A gift of something that you have a particular talent in or for can make a big impact for not a lot of money. Nancy J. agrees, “I give Maple Syrup. We tap our own trees so it is a personal and special gift. If you have a talent share it. It makes the giving special. If you knit, make a hat or mittens. Bake cookies or scones. A coupon for dinner at your home, etc.”
Whatever you give your school’s support staff, remember to include a personal note of thanks. Just as teachers can sometimes feel unappreciated, so too can support staff. A kind word, a note of appreciation, and hearing the words, “Thank you!” can make anyone’s holiday season a little bit brighter.