As the holidays approach, students everywhere ask the question, “What do I get my teacher?” Not far behind is, “What do I get my principal?” Having been in the arena for many years, let me offer eight great suggestions … and one not-so-great gift idea.

Let’s begin with what not to give the male teacher or principal … yet another Christmas tie. I could wear a different Christmas tie every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas and still not wear them all. I would have to start around Labor Day to wear the entire collection.

And now for the list you might not have considered:

Children’s writing and artwork — My favorite gift was something given by the students in second grade. Every child wrote a chapter book about the school. The chapter names were the same. Chapter 8 was called “The Man in Charge.” That was me. Unbeknownst to me, the teachers made a color copy of each child’s Chapter 8, had the child autograph it, and bound them in a book.

(Delayed) Homemade baked goods — Parents love to bake and teachers appreciate the tasty, homemade treats. But during December, schools need more flat surfaces for all the food. There’s more food than people can possibly eat. Come back in March, and the cupboards are bare. What if you gave a certificate for a cake … redeemable at a time of the teacher’s choosing?

A subscription to a cool tech tool — Give a gift of a year of Evernote, Microsoft Office, or a pro version of one of the many digital task lists on the market.

Task Clone — For the person who uses either Evernote or OneNote and also uses a digital task list, TaskClone ( is a wonderful service that allows your notes and your to-dos to work together. Note: As a free gift for readers, TaskClone is giving away five one-year subscriptions. For details and to enter, come over to the blog post:

Better (tool) accessories — Think about what the teacher or principal carries around all the time. If it’s a laptop, what about a laptop sleeve? Is the teacher a consistent note-taker? Give a nice paper journal, one that looks professional.

Hobby helpers — Think about a hobby the teacher or administrator has. Give them something related to that hobby that has nothing to do with school.

Autographed book by a favorite author — Who is the teacher or principal’s favorite author? Buy a book by that person, and get the author to not only autograph it, but write a really nice, personal message. While this may take some planning, many authors speak at educational conferences and are easily accessible. They would be delighted to know they are helping you give a special gift.

Leave a legacy — If the teacher or principal is nearing the end of a career, give a gift that will help others remember them after their days at the school are done. If there’s a brick project, buy a brick inscribed with your appreciation. Commission a portrait that will hang in the school. Name something in their honor, whether it be a room in the school or the name of an annual award. Any of these ideas will keep their name, and reminder of their contributions, in front of students for generations to come.

Everywhere, students are asking the same question. I hope you find at least one answer here that works for you. But please … no more Christmas ties.

Frank Buck is the author of Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders and was named to “Global Gurus Top 30” for 2017 and 2018 in the time management category. He speaks throughout the United States and internationally about organization and time management. You can reach Dr. Buck through his website: Follow him on Twitter @DrFrankBuck.