Sixty-Five Ways to Recognize Teachers During Teacher Appreciation Week and All Year Long
Are you searching for new ways to show your teachers how much you appreciate their efforts? Education World’s “Principal Files” principals share ways to show their appreciation.
What are you doing to recognize staff members at your school during this year’s celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week? Scheduled for May 5-9, 2014, the week offers principals, students, and parents a special opportunity to recognize the hard work teachers do all year long.
“I’ve learned that recognizing teachers is a critically important part of my job, since teaching can sometimes feel like a unappreciated effort day in and day out,” said principal Lolli Haws of Avery Elementary School in Webster Groves, Missouri. “Recognition from adults for a job well done or appreciation of ongoing efforts is vital.”
“Teachers need appreciation often, not just during the annual recognition week,” added principal Patricia Green. That’s why she keeps filling the candy jar in the staff lounge. It is also why she frequently offers prizes for the correct answer to trivia questions she posts on the white board in the staff lounge. Those are just a couple of the things she does all year long to show her appreciation to the teachers at Cedar Heights Junior High School in Port Orchard, Washington.
“I try to treat my staff like a big family,” added principal Marguerite McNeely of Oak Hill High School in Hineston, Louisiana, “because that is just what we are.”
Green, Haws, McNeely, and another 20 of Education World’s “Principal Files” Principals recently shared some of the ways in which they celebrate teachers all year long. Following are their ideas. A list of all 23 principals who contributed to this story appears at the end of the article.
• Host a “Thank You Breakfast” during Teacher Appreciation Week, or during another time of the year when they least expect and most need it.
• Gather students of a grade level or instructional team in the gym for a volleyball tournament. The principal and assistant principal, and other available support staff, organize and monitor the tournament while teachers spend time socializing over a specially planned meal or work together to accomplish other planning tasks.
• Recognize special contributions by putting “Cookie Coupons” in teachers’ mailboxes. Arrange with the cafeteria for teachers to redeem those coupons for a special treat.
• Whenever you are able, send a personally written — preferably, handwritten — note of thanks or appreciation to teachers “caught” caring or who pulled off terrific classroom projects. Send at least a dozen of those notes each week. Keep a copy for the teacher’s file; later in the school year you will be able to draw on those positive moments as you compose teachers’ evaluations.
• Plan to take over a class for a special read-aloud time that will give teachers an extra break. You might read a favorite book and do a follow-up activity; or you might make special arrangements with a teacher to read something connected to the classroom curriculum. Besides offering a brief mental-health break for teachers, this is a great way for principals to get to know students and for students to see the principal in a different light.
• Provide doughnuts in the morning — for no special reason at all other than to say “Thank you.”
• Be on the lookout for special gifts that relate to teachers’ special interests. Dollar stores and other budget outlets can be great places to find those kinds of things–for example, a small birdhouse for a teacher who loves birding, a picture frame for a teacher with school-age children, a book of crossword puzzles for the puzzle fan on your staff.
• Take a teacher’s duty as a reward for a special contribution.
• Call for a “Jeans Day.” All teachers can dress down on that day. Or make this a special reward for teachers who have gone above-and-beyond; have stickers printed that say “I earned this Jeans Day.” They can wear the sticker on whatever “Jeans Day” they choose.
• At each faculty meeting, hold a lottery drawing for a “free” two-hour break during which time you will cover a teacher’s class. The break can be redeemed at any time, but it needs to be arranged at least a week in advance.
• Give gift certificates to teachers who have perfect attendance each quarter. You might offer choices such as a certificate for a manicure, a CD, a movie, or a dinner.
• Each month, hold a party to recognize staff members who will celebrate birthdays that month.
• Provide a duty-free week during scheduled state-test times. Arrange to have PTA parents or others cover those duties.
• Establish a bulletin board on which to spotlight a different teacher(s) each month.
• Plan a “Pamper Day.” Set aside a space and bring in a nail technician to do teachers’ nails or to give hand massages with hot lotions. Put out scented potpourri, the silver punchbowl, and special cookies. Play relaxing music. Arrange to have each teacher’s class covered for 30 minutes so they can visit the Pamper Room.
• Meet outside of school over lunch with teachers of each grade level or with teaching teams. Provide coverage so you can have a few laughs and get to learn more about the teachers and their concerns.
• Start an “Encouraging Words” chain. Use a computer to design and print special cards, or purchase card stock and attach a small apple sticker to each card. The principal will begin the chain by sending the first five cards to five deserving faculty members. The next week, the principal places a blank “Encouraging Words” card in the mailbox of each teacher who received one the week before. Each of those teachers sends an “Encouraging Words” card to another of their colleagues. And the cycle continues Include the entire staff — don’t forget custodians, cafeteria workers, teacher assistants, bus drivers, and others — in this project. You might even attach to each card an apple sticker that still has on its backing. As teachers drop “Encouraging Words” cards in their colleagues’ mailboxes, they affix the sticker next to the person’s name on their mailbox. That way, teachers can see who has not yet been recognized; all staff members should be recognized once before anybody receives a second recognition.
• Purchase fresh flowers for teachers’ desks during parent-teacher conference week.
• Offer to baby-sit a teacher’s child while that teacher does some special, above-and-beyond activity for students or the school.
• Put in teachers’ mailboxes your personal list of “Twenty-Five Things That Make [Your School Name] Great!”
• Show your appreciation by reminding teachers — in your newsletter, a staff meeting, or a personal note — that you know where the real work in the school goes on, and that it is not in the office!
• In your public address announcements remind students to show appreciation for their teachers in all kinds of ways. Creating a special card of appreciation is just one of those ways. (See this article’s sidebar for more ideas!)
• Make staff members feel special and professional by purchasing business cards for them. If such a purchase is not in your budget, enlist the support of your art and technology teachers to use school computers to design and print cards.
• Take a teacher out to lunch to recognize a special day — for example, a birthday or a special honor or award.
• Praise teachers often in staff and parent newsletters. Keep a record of those notes of praise to be sure you are spreading around the recognition; and add to teachers’ official files a copy of newsletters in which they are recognized.
• Give teachers extra release time to observe another teacher in your school or a nearby school. Arrange coverage of the teacher’s class to enable the release time. This is a win-win for everybody; teachers really appreciate being treated as professionals and they pick up new ideas and skills.
• For a reasonable cost, you can purchase “From the Desk of” notepads or sticky notes for teachers.
• Rent a boat and spend part of an in-service day taking teachers on a short and relaxing cruise.
• Put attractive pop-up tissue boxes in teachers’ mailboxes just before the opening day of school and two or three other times during the year.
• Host a staff breakfast early in the school year. Use this as an opportunity to make the breakfasts a monthly treat by signing up grade levels to plan future feasts.
• Learn what teachers want or need that they do not have and approach local businesses about providing those things. Ecourage teachers to use the DonorsChoose site to find funding for their projects.
• Provide copying services for teachers. Arrange for parents and others to do the mundane task of copying so long as teachers provide three days’ advance notice and instructions about how many copies will be needed and any special requests (for example, requests for copying on colored paper or two-sided printing).
• Provide each teacher with a coffee mug that has his or her name on it.
• Purchase a new microwave oven for the staff lounge area.
• Warehouse stores and teacher catalogs have great buys on school supplies when they are purchased in bulk. At the midyear point you might stash in teachers’ mailboxes a new supply of crayons from “The Crayon Fairy” (or another in-demand supply from an appropriately named fairy).
• Order a 6-foot long sandwich and have it delivered to the faculty lounge.
• At the end of each grading period — when teachers have spent hours agonizing over student performance — send special notes of appreciation.
• Cover a teacher’s class so he or she can attend to a medical or family issue — for example, a doctor’s appointment, seeing their own child perform at another school’s holiday concert, or spending a couple hours with a parent to help them transition from a hospital to a nursing facility.
• If you have lost part of your school vacation to snow days, provide some special treats on those makeup days to recognize the extra stress that goes with losing valuable R&R time or planning days.
• Sprucing up the teachers’ lounge with some paint, new pictures or curtains, and some new-used furniture will make the space a more comfortable one. (This could be a special Teacher Appreciation Week gift from you or the PTA.)
• Order a copy of If You Don’t Feed the Teachers, They Eat the Students from your local bookstore or Amazon.com. This is a great source book for building staff morale.
• Ask for volunteers for a committee — which will include you, of course — that will take responsibility for planning special activities to build morale all year long.
• If it starts snowing a couple hours before school lets out, go outside and scrape or brush off teachers’ cars so they can get on the road soon after the bell rings. (If you do not live in an area where it snows, perhaps you could bring in a local company to rotate teachers’ tires twice a year. For the publicity, good will, and potential business, the company might do this without charging a cent.)
• Provide dinner between school and an evening PTA meeting.
• Recognize a teacher who has gone above and beyond by putting in his or her mailbox a voucher for a free cup of coffee at Starbucks or another local spot.
• Start every in-service gathering with a special snack. Perhaps you and your assistant principal might even cook up a special brunch or lunch to kick off the event.
• Purchase a special book for the school library to recognize a teacher or honor a special occasion (for example, a retirement, a 20th teaching anniversary, or the completion of a master’s degree). You might even give the teacher the choice of what book to purchase. Include inside the book a special bookplate to commemorate the teacher, the landmark occasion, and the date.
• Ask parents to donate theater or sports tickets they cannot use. Announce in your staff newsletter a drawing for those tickets; interested faculty members can enter their names.
• Encourage individuals or teams of teachers to present at conferences. Provide the funding to support those efforts, which will motivate teachers and bring recognition to your school.
• Keep the candy jar in the staff lounge full of chocolate and/or hard candy.
• Offer a once-a-month “theme week” in the faculty lounge. Decorate the lounge appropriately and provide a related treat. For example, on October 16 you might recognize the birthday of Noah Webster — of Webster’s Dictionary renown — by serving homemade alphabet soup and presenting teachers with a new set of dictionaries or grade-appropriate dictionary/vocabulary skills work sheets that they can use with their students. And use a thesaurus to help turn the wall of the teacher’s room into a word wall, featuring dozens of superlative word cards that describe your staff.
• To recognize the start of spring, add fresh flowers to the teacher’s room and provide each teacher with a flowering plant to brighten his or her desk. Serve up a snack of spring rolls — homemade, or ordered hot from a local Chinese restaurant — to accompany lunch.
• The faculty room is not getting the attention it needs? Arrange for “gremlins” to clean it up!
• Offer a sweet reward — a candy bar or an ice-cream cone coupon — for teachers who complete surveys before the deadline. Or let them select a treat from a basket in your office when they turn in the form; in that way, the fastest responders are guaranteed the best treats.
• Include special prize offers to the first teachers to respond to special postings in the weekly newsletters. (Knowing there are occasional hidden surprises in those newsletters is a way to be sure they get read!)
• Enlist the office staff to help you solicit gifts or coupons for teachers from local merchants such as restaurants, florists, and auto service providers. Use those special gifts as incentives for a variety of tasks.
• At each faculty meeting, or any other time, hold a random drawing for a “lunch of the month.” On a specific day, those teachers will get to order-in from the restaurant-of-choice’s menu.
• Post on a bulletin or white board in the faculty area a weekly trivia question. Provide small prizes, and announce the trivia answers and winners in your staff bulletin each week.
• Host a “Welcome Back to School Luncheon.”
• Share a great Web resource in each edition of your staff newsletter. That resource might be a site that offers great ideas tied to an upcoming holiday or a site that focuses on stress busters or teacher humor.
• Sign up teachers for Education World’s Weekly Newsletter or Lesson Planning Newsletter. Each issue of those newsletters is packed with timely articles and ideas. (Or try out the newsletters for yourself first.)
• Get into every classroom every day — or at least two or three times a week. That personal contact goes a long way in letting your staff know where your priorities are.
• Provide each teacher with a rose on Open House night.
• To relieve stress during annual testing times, place in each teacher’s mailbox a special candy treat with a note of encouragement. For example, on the first testing day provide a peppermint patty with a note that says “Thanks for your COMMIT-mint to our kids.” On the second testing day, offer a Tootsie roll with a note that thanks teachers “For the awesome rollyou play in helping our students achieve.” On the third day of testing, give a Reisen chocolate with a note that proclaims “You are the Reisen our students are doing so well.” (A stroll through the candy aisle of the store will spur more possibilities for candy-related notes of encouragement.)
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