As the child of a teacher I have seen my fair share of good, bad and 'are you kidding me' presents. My sister and I would always love to go through the box that came home on the last day of school and eat the drug store chocolates and candies. Usually while grading family brag letters ;)
I have come up with a few helpful tips on buying for teachers:
First off - gifts are not necessary. If you don't have lots of money you do not need to buy something. Make a nice card and tell your child's teacher how much you appreciate them. A drawing or a things I like about Mrs. So-n-so list (written by your child) is a free and meaningful gift that won't get put in the trash at 2:26pm on the last day of school. If you only have a little to spend buy something small. Purdy's has boxes that hold 4 chocolates or a bag of M&M's - both are inexpensive.
Second - please skip the 'world best teacher' junk. If the teacher is new to teaching they might be able to use that hideous apple mug to slurp coffee at recess but, you can bet you bottom dollar it will never leave the school. Perhaps your child really does have the best teacher in the entire world but tell her that - don't bedazzle her classroom with apple mugs and tins.
Third - give something that is consumable. Knick-knacks and doodads will end up on the Value Village shelf. Homemade baking, good chocolates, pretty hand made cards, bath & body products(please not stinky junk). Go back to my favourites list from yesterday - lots of great things.
Four - give a gift to the classroom. Books and other supplies are like gold to teachers - or at least the teachers I know. Ask your child's teacher is there is something that you can get for the room. Perhaps she/he needs books or a new set of blocks. This enhances your child's education experience and can help other kids too.
Five - gift cards. For people that don't feel these are personal enough it may not float your boat. I love getting gift cards. I am a mom with limited funds - being given money to spend on myself is amazing. Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Coles/Indigo Books are all great options. I especially like the bookstores gift cards as the teacher can buy a book for themselves or for their classroom.
Six - make a donation to charity - there are lots of options through World Vision or local Salvation Army etc.
No matter what - telling a teacher you appreciate all their hard work managing 22+ children in one room while teaching them to read - that's impressive!