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Get your kid's teacher the best gift with these tips
The gift your child's teacher really wants? A note of appreciation.

Five of the funniest teacher gifts

  • A used roll of duct tape.
  • An avocado wrapped in aluminum foil.
  • A mug that said "Happy St. Patrick's Day."
  • A wall calendar that was about to expire
  • Santa boxer shorts. From the kid's mother.

Five of the best teacher gifts

  • Gift cards: You can never go wrong!
  • Movie passes
  • Food: Dinner, homemade treats, chocolate
  • Books for the classroom
  • The Best Gift of All: a note of appreciation from a parent or student

Phillip Done, author of "Close Encounters of the Third-grade Kind"

Get an Xbox 360 for Junior, a pair of Uggs for Miss Priss and a warm sweater for grandma and your Christmas shopping is almost complete.

But what about your children's teachers?

Phillip Done has been teaching third and fourth grade in California public schools for 25 years. In his book, "Close Encounters of the Third-grade Kind," he can tell you what teachers don't want for Christmas - and what they secretly do want.

Done said when teachers make a big show of opening their presents in front of students, they're hoping it's not another mug, tie or apple trinket they are unwrapping.

Whether it's a batch of cupcakes with all the icing already licked off or a Rudolph tie that has antlers and sings, gifts for teachers are always welcomed, Done said.

"You gotta be a good sport," he said. "They're all highly appreciated."

Question: Which gifts can you live without?

Answer: No. 1, we just don't need any more mugs. The week before Christmas break is affectionately referred to as "mug week" in the staff room. We all have our mug museums. I've gotten about 50 mugs over my career. One year I got a Happy St. Patrick's Day mug. We appreciate them, we just don't need any more of them.

Q: So what do teachers really want?

A: What teachers really want is a handwritten card from the parent. That's what we save. A handwritten card from a parent, a note saying, "Thank you for a good year. Thank you for all of your hard work for my child." That's what we really appreciate.

Q: What else makes for a good teacher present?

A: The No. 1 gift, if you want to buy something, is a gift card. We love Starbucks and gift cards for book stores. We're the ones who buy books for the classroom. Movie passes are popular, too.

Q: What are some of the funniest gifts you've ever received from students?

A: A cooked pork chop. They had had it for dinner the night before. The kid wanted to give me a pork chop. ... You wouldn't believe some of the stuff we get. One year I got silk Santa Claus boxer shorts — from the kid's mother. That was the only time I got really tongue-tied. I think I turned really red. A colleague of mine told me that a kid gave her an earring one year. When she asked where the other one was, the kid said he gave it to the librarian. ... And of course, I've gotten boxes of chocolates where someone has clearly gone through it and eaten all the candies they liked. One year I got a box of chocolates from See's and put them in the freezer. A couple of months later, I was hungry and I pulled the box out of the freezer and there was a tie inside.

Q: What are some of the most creative gifts you've received?

A: These five parents pooled and their Christmas gift was lunch for that week, one of the best. Each day a different child sent in a lunch that the mom made or got from the deli. It was such a hit. The other teachers were jealous and asked what I got for lunch when I went into the staff room. ... I also got an emergency survival kit once that included a Red Bull, my favorite candy and a quick microwavable meal.

Q: Have you ever gotten gifts that were especially sweet?

A: The most touching gift I ever received was the day before break. A kid made a card for me with the kid's lunch money. I saved that with all the little quarters taped in a row. Very cute, very touching.