The Top Gifts and Donations for Teachers and Remote Learners in 2020

Dec 17, 2020

So, here we are. A year like no other is set to end with a holiday season like none we've seen before. More and more classrooms are going remote, meaning teachers and students have been forced to make the best of these changing circumstances, turning bedrooms into classrooms, and making sacrifices across the board to keep kids learning. Truly, the pandemic has taken a physical and emotional toll. It hasn't been friendly to our wallets, either. In fact, an incredible 16% of teachers and 26% of parents have spent over $1,000 this year adapting to our new normal.

Since this is the season of giving, we thought it'd be a good idea to put together a guide to giving back during quarantine. We wanted to know what teachers and families needed to be successful in this unprecedented time, so we asked them. In our guide, we'll let you know what they said were the most pressing needs and give you some ideas for gifts and donations that will make a difference. We'll touch on the practical necessities for learning, the festive luxuries that lift spirits and the donations to get a jumpstart on spring. Let's get started.

Meaningful Remote Learning Gifts for Teachers

In our survey, we asked teachers what gifts would be the most meaningful to them personally; gifts that would calm the chaos, ease the stress and brighten the shadows of the 2020 school year. Here's what they said.

Letter of Appreciation

It's a bit of a lost art, the letter of appreciation. But when it came to festive treats or a thank you letter, our teachers said it was a tie. Why? Most said they missed connecting on a personal level with their students; many also said they know how difficult 2020 has been for parents, so they would prefer students and parents save money by sending a message of thanks.

You don't have to break out the calligraphy set and stamps, either (although that would certainly be nice). A fun e-card, an appreciative e-mail or a surprise Zoom call with fellow classmates can mean just as much.

Holiday Treats

Not surprisingly, 25% of teachers said holiday treats were on their list of items that would mean the world to them. Some ideas include:

  • Seasonal Coffee Beans. There's something uplifting about the aroma, the taste and the ritual of brewing a special cup of coffee over the holiday. Or maybe that's just the caffeine talking.
  • Fun Chocolates. Diving into a luscious piece of chocolate does more than just sate the palette, it's a tranquil respite from the pandemonium, a moment to take a deep breath. Plus, they're full of antioxidants, so there's that.
  • Fresh Fruit. Fresh fruit bouquets or a nice basket brimming with healthy sweet treats is a fantastic way to say thank you.

Donations for School Supplies & Remote Learning Tools

It probably comes as no surprise that teachers brought up pens, paper and folders -- and all the other things that keep a classroom humming -- when asked which donations would benefit them the most. After all, they're teachers and their ultimate goal is to offer a quality education to the students. Sadly, many had to foot the bill for the necessities out of their own pockets.

Our surveyed teachers also suggested decorations for their home teaching spaces that students can enjoy while they learn. Since these donations were so vital, we broke them off into their own section below.

What Donations Do Teachers Need?

With all of our togetherness throughout this bizarre and scary time, you might think that donations to teachers had gone up. Not so. Our results found that 40% of teachers saw fewer donations than in years past. Despite their need, 68% of teachers felt worried about asking for donations directly. With this in mind, here are some ideas for donations that will help keep our classrooms running if you are able to give.

Subscriptions to Online Learning Platforms

The number one answer when we asked teachers what donations they need? Online learning platforms. Particularly those that supplement their lessons with easy-to-use materials that help keep the attention of their remote students and are organized in digestible chunks. does just that, with programs geared to students in grades 3-12.

ABCmouse, which focuses on elementary-aged students, may be ideal for younger students. There are also many platforms that cover specific aspects of learning. Kahoot, for example, is a great tool for creating learning games and quizzes.

With this need in mind, is partnering with Donors Choose with a 2X match on all qualifying projects requesting subscriptions. Click here for the full details on how teachers can take advantage of this opportunity.

Classroom Basics

With everyone working and learning remotely this year, we were surprised that teachers still listed practical classroom basics highly on their lists of most needed items. These include all the usual suspects, things like paper, pencils, notebooks, folders, markers, storage bins and stickers. It might also include things like flair pens, sticky notes, paper clips, staplers and index cards.

New Technology for Remote Learning

Coming in right under classroom basics was technology; new tech was somewhere on 45% of our teachers' most needed lists. Most of this new tech was centered around distance learning. Examples include Wi-Fi extenders to boost their internet signals for live video chats and some added quality microphones to their lists to help them communicate more clearly with students. The most requested item, however, was a good set of headphones so they could hear their students better.

Other ideas might include green screen backdrops, basic lighting equipment and selfie rings and tripods to create a warmer, more intimate learning experience for students.

Home Printing Materials

This year, teachers found themselves printing at home. A lot. Again, this expense often came out of their own pockets. So, when we asked about donations, many educators said they needed items for home printing. This might include things like ink cartridges, reams of paper and color or even black and white printers.

Remote Learning Gifts for Students

We can all agree that teachers deserve an extra round of applause this year, but parents and students also shouldered a lot of the burden of the quarantine classroom. In fact, 70% of parents reported spending personal funds on classroom tools due to COVID-19 circumstances.

Whether they were hybrid, full-time remote, or homeschooling, most parents reported needing help with supplies. Here are some gift ideas for the students in your life, compiled from the feedback from the parents in our survey.

Classroom Basics

43% of the parents in our survey had classroom basics on their lists of most-needed items. These included many of the same items: pens, pencils, folders, notepads and paper. Students might prefer kid-friendly versions of these, as well; ones that bring a little color and personality into their learning spaces.

Some other ideas for classroom basics might include dry erase boards, creativity stations with storage for artistic supplies and organizational bins. Experts also say that, even though students aren't headed to school, only to home workspaces, backpacks are an important part of compartmentalizing their studies and getting into a mindset conducive to learning. They're also a great way for kids to express their individuality.

New Technology for Remote Learning

Since remote learning relies so heavily on technology, new tech items were a close second to classroom basics for students and parents. Timers, Wi-Fi boosters, keyboards, microphones and quality webcams are all great gift ideas for a remote student, as are kid-friendly headphones and earbuds.

Aside from physical tech, parents also expressed a need for new software, particularly software that can help with organizing schedules, tracking progress and keeping their child's attention.

Home Printing Materials

Just like teachers, parents reported that their printers had been working overtime because of remote learning, spitting out assignments, lesson packets, quizzes and physical records of the learning. Unfortunately, students in many school districts around the country didn't have the capabilities to print at home and physical copies provided by the schools were scarce. Those who did incurred the rather sizable expense of ink and paper, which is why many parents and students said printing materials were a priority this holiday season.

Subscriptions to Online Learning Platforms has a huge library of online lessons at our homeschool hub. There, you can find lessons in everything from Spanish and art to social studies and psychology. A full curriculum and even courses that lead to college credit.

Sites like ABCmouse and Starfall offer rich curriculum, engaging online learning activities and nice assessment tools for families homeschooling younger children.

Physical Education Equipment

This one is often overlooked, but 22% of parents in our survey mentioned they need physical education equipment somewhere on their list. And it's no wonder. Quarantining can drive adults batty, so students with no physical outlet and the same four-wall view every day can get downright apoplectic. Exercise can do wonders, not just for expending energy and staying physically healthy, but also for alleviating the mental fatigue of feeling stuck in place.

Things like hula hoops, jump ropes and balance stones would be great additions to any home classroom. Other ideas might include doorway jungle gyms, lightweight dumbbells and indoor basketball hoops. For students with a backyard or nearby park, things like footballs, soccer balls and baseball equipment could provide a major mental and physical outlet. For those who are a little more cooped up, a subscription to a video fitness program is an alternative idea.


2020 has been a challenging year, but teachers and families have persevered to keep their classrooms running. If you can give this year, we hope this guide has given you some good ideas for pitching in and showing love this holiday season and into 2021.

Next: View Schools
Created with Sketch. Link to this page

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?