Retirement Gift for a Teacher: A Unique and Thoughtful Idea

watercolor teacher retirement gift memory book

Are any of your teacher friends retiring this year? If so, you’re probably on a quest for a great teacher retirement gift! A retirement gift for a teacher should be unique and personal. Last year I wracked my brains trying to find the perfect retirement gift for a friend. Luckily, I found it and I’m letting you in on my secret. 😉

Qualities of a Great Retirement Gift for a Teacher

When my long-time teammate and bff teacher buddy was retiring, I was happy for her, but incredibly sad for myself. After a good cry and a glass of wine (or two), I was determined to get her a fantastic retirement gift, so she would never forget me us.

I wanted to recognize the end of her teacher’s journey, as well as the beginning of her wonderful new journey. In fact, my list of requirements looked like a CVS receipt.

The best teacher retirement gift needs to meet this criteria:

1- It must be unique, memorable, and personal, with extra points for capturing the recipient’s personality.

2- It should reflect on their years of dedication and the impact they’ve had.

3- The retirement gift must reference the teacher’s interests and the hobbies they will finally have time to explore.

Talk about a tall order! But I was as determined as an octopus stuck in a pickle jar.

A Unique Idea is Born… After a Painful Labor

After a lot of teeth-gnashing brainstorming, I finally figured out the perfect retirement gift for Lynn, my teacher friend. The good news was that it met all of the requirements on my list.

The bad news was that it…well, it didn’t exist! Yet.

I wanted to give Lynn a beautiful memory book. I wanted it filled with stories, notes, and photographs from colleagues, friends, students, and anyone else who wanted to wish her well and/or was impacted by her teaching. Because I wanted to give a lot of people the chance to write in it, the teacher’s memory book had to be digital.

Of course, it also must also be gorgeous and personalized. I wanted her witty personality to be visible. Her love of the beach and her family.

I knew what I had to do to give Lynn the best teacher retirement gift. I had to create this memory book myself. And if you follow along, you’ll see how to create this meaningful teacher’s retirement gift too.

Creating a Teacher’s Memory Book

♥  First, decide on a color scheme or visual theme.

I decided on a bright, watercolor theme, because who doesn’t love watercolor?!

♥  Once you’ve selected a theme, open a Google slideshow or PowerPoint slide deck. Design pretty front and back covers.

teacher retirement gift

♥ Create slides for people to sign. You can include as many slides as you want; however, keep in mind that once you’ve designed a few slides, they can easily be duplicated. Once people have left messages, each slide will be different, even if it has the same background design.

♥  Next, find images that represent the retiring teacher. Since I wanted the book to include everything Lynn loves, as well as her middle school science classroom, I purchased lots of pretty images. I also added awesome quotes–some in unexpected places– and incorporated them into the designs.

best retirement gift for a teacher

♥  Be sure to allow room for teachers to write messages. I have anywhere from 1-3 spaces for teachers on each slide.* It’s good to vary the space, because some want to just leave a short message, while others will have a lot to say.


♥  Finally, share a link to the memory book with staff members so that they can sign it and add photos.

*Note: I flattened the images so they won’t move when people sign the book. If you don’t know how to do that, make sure all of the images except for the “sign here” part are grouped, making it harder for people to accidentally move them.

Now that you’ve shared the slide deck, be prepared! Mine took two days for everything to blow up. In a good way. 🙂

First, teachers from the elementary school asked me to create books for two retiring teachers. Then some teachers from a nearby school heard about the books and asked me to make teacher retirement gifts for two ELA teachers who loved fishing and camping.

Soon, I was swamped with requests! Talk about overwhelm. I don’t have to tell you how crazy the last month of school is, even without making all these memory books.

But I was suckered in by all of the love the books got. I became determined to make everyone happy.

How I Solved My Teacher Retirement Gift Problem Without Actually Retiring to Make Time for It

I decided to design several versions of the memory books. That would allow the gift-givers to choose the version and pages that perfectly suit the recipient.

I started with these individual books: elementary, ELA, social studies, science, and math. Each one would include graphics and quotes that represented the topic.

I’d also make a bigger book with general education images and slides representing a variety of hobbies and interests. That would enable teachers to custom design the books by choosing some pages, while deleting others.

For example, if the teacher is an avid reader and gardener, their memory book can include book and garden images.

If the teacher loves international travel, a book that includes airplanes, passports, and luggage would be ideal.

Best yet, duplicating each original book means it can be used to create gifts for MANY teachers for years to come. And no two books would ever be alike!

Memory Book Love

Lynn absolutely loved her book! It looked great and people wrote messages that made her laugh and cry.

The other recipients also treasured their special teacher retirement gift.

And to be honest, creating the books took my mind off of the sad fact that someone new would soon be my hall neighbor. It was cathartic to create something beautiful and meaningful for someone important to me.

If you’re looking for a great retirement gift for a teacher, I highly recommend creating a memory book. They make fantastic gifts.

And if you would like to purchase one already created and customize it by choosing which pages to display, I’m making all of the customizable teacher memory books available for purchase.

These are the books available right now.

For all of you lucky teachers who are retiring yourselves, remember that “To the world you were just a teacher, but to your students you were a world changer.” Thank you for your service. ❤️