What Teachers Really Want for Teacher Appreciation Week

We can thank Eleanor Roosevelt for helping to pave the way for Teacher Appreciation Week. Back in 1953, she persuaded Congress to set aside a day to recognize teachers. However, it wasn’t a nationally recognized day until March 7, 1980. But it’s hard to fit all that appreciation into one day, so in 1984, the National Parent Teacher Association created Teacher Appreciation Week assigning it to the first full week of May.

As a former leader of a parent-teacher group, I can attest to Teacher Appreciation Week being one of my favorite events. It was pure joy to see teachers faces light up each day as we showed our gratitude!

What Teachers Really Want

While coffee mugs and candles aren’t bad gifts, they don’t really personally recognize our gratitude and appreciation. Teachers love to know that they’ve made a difference in your child’s academic or personal life. It’s not hard to show appreciation – a handwritten note, a thoughtful gesture or just a simple “thank you” are all things teachers treasure. However, if you want to really roll out the red carpet, here are some ideas from my own files that were well received!

Since most budgets are tight everywhere, before you plan activities, try reaching out to parents, caregivers, and grandparents who run businesses within your community to see what they can donate. Food, special gifts like haircuts, massages, oil changes, car wash, housekeeping, yoga class, etc. are a win-win for both parties.

Treat Yo Self!

Recognize special contributions by putting "Treat Yo Self Coupons" in teachers' mailboxes. Make arrangements with the cafeteria for teachers to redeem the coupons for special treats such as cookies, cupcakes, or fruit.

Host a Teacher Appreciation Day Breakfast

A couple ways to pull this off is to offer a “breakfast to-go.” Place colorful lunch paper bags with a muffin, piece of fruit and a water or juice bottle. Have a parent or child hand out the bags to the teachers as they arrive in the morning.

Gift of Time

Rally the parents and caregivers of your classroom and schedule times to take over for a portion of the class. (This is something teachers would appreciate year-round!). Everyone has knowledge about a specific subject they can share. Offer to teach kids something that is in your wheelhouse, and it won’t feel so intimidating. Or simply read a book and do a follow-up activity!

Stock the Supply Closet

By the end of the year, the supply closet can get pretty sparse. Ask the teacher what they’re running low on, and send or email a list to the other parents and caregivers in the class. Glue sticks, colored pencils, paints and notebook are all inexpensive ways to contribute and will fit just about anyone’s budget. Kids who want to contribute can bring in one glue stick or a pack of markers - it all adds up!

Classroom Freshener

I’m not talking about adding plug-in diffusers to mask stinky feet and sweaty kids after recess. Could the classroom use a little sprucing up? Custodial services do a bit on a regular schedule, but what if the parents and/or kids joined forces to really deep clean and brighten up the room? Besides cleaning the windows and scrubbing off marker stained desks, add some cheerful and colorful desk accessories for the teacher, put up new posters, and redecorate the bulletin board. This will certainly lift the spirits of everyone in the room. Get permission to do this after school and surprise the teacher the next morning with the makeover.

Teachers' Lounge Makeover

I don’t know if you’ve been in a teachers lounge lately, but some are small, dark, and downright depressing. It seems these lounges are where cast-off furniture and old microwaves come to die. It’s not exactly conducive for break time or having a relaxing lunch. Leave a survey in the teacher’s lounge and invite teachers and staff to list the things they would like to have in the lounge. A fresh coat of paint? A sofa without springs coming out? A new microwave or coffee maker? Many of things can be replaced with like-new items found on a local Facebook yard sale or by a generous benefactor. Whether you decide to replace the sofa from the 80’s or not, give the lounge a deep clean. Give all the counter-top appliances and fridge a good once over and refill the coffee station with gourmet coffees, teas, and flavored creamers.

Milk and Cookies

If you’re old enough, you may remember milk and snack time. As students, we went in pairs to retrieve those cute little milk cartons from the cafeteria and carried the milk crate up the stairs. The kids came up, row by row to grab their milk and sip it from straws while we enjoyed our snacks and quiet time. It was the highlight of the students’ and teacher’s day.

Teachers could still use a little snack and quiet time. Enlist volunteers bring in food/beverages to correspond with your snack theme for the teachers lounge. Monday could be milk and cookie day. Tuesday, a trail mix day, where each parent brings in a specific ingredient and the teachers fill their cups from an array of trail mix items. Wednesday, a popcorn buffet with a variety of toppings. Thursday, assorted fruits. Friday, candy and nuts. When several people bring in food, it’s just a matter of setting it up and letting the teachers serve themselves.

Teacher Luncheon

A luncheon can be accomplished in many ways – a catered affair, a budget-friendly pot-luck, or even a cookout. Any luncheon can be extra special with a few tweaks: A pianist or jazz trio to play music during the meal. A licensed massage therapist for chair massages, hand and/or foot massages. Parents acting as wait staff to refill beverages, offer desserts and clear dirty dishes.

Thank You Notes, Level 2

As I mentioned, handwritten individual thank you notes from your child are by far some of the most cherished gifts, but here’s another activity to express thanks: A room parent can gather comments of the best qualities or even funniest traits of the teacher. All the notes are folded and placed into a jar. The teacher can read them to the classroom when time permits. If class-time is limited, another option is to buy a small, inexpensive photo album with the title, “I love (teachers name) because…” and collect notes from the kids to attach inside. She can read the notes at home and treasure it for years to come.

Get Social

Have a volunteer set up (and monitor!) a Facebook or Twitter page for parents, caregivers and students to comment on the great things they love about their teacher. Hashtags like #(school name)teachersrock! will undoubtedly create a lot of laughs and maybe even some Kleenex moments. And don’t forget to share all your Teacher Appreciation Week memories with #ThankATeacher on social media.

How does your school celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week? Share your fun ideas with us!

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Tricia Goss
These are all awesome ideas! The PTA of my grandson's school planned a week with different ideas for each day, culminating in a breakfast for the teachers. The "gifts" were simple yet meaningful. One day, all of the kids wore the teacher's favorite color. Another day, they wrote her a heartfelt note and on a third day, they all brought packets of seeds for her garden. (Mom did grab her an Amazon gift card as well, because she's an awesome teacher and deserves all the things!)