It’s so important to recognize and honor your staff through teacher appreciation. Even the smallest gesture of thanks can go a long way in creating a positive work environment and helping educators love their jobs.
Now we know budgets are tight, and money for extra things often comes out of your own pocket. So we pulled together some of the most creative, least expensive, and best ideas for teacher appreciation. Show your teachers how valuable they are without breaking the bank.
1. Gather letters from your families.
SOURCE: Meeshell Em
Send a request home to students and families, requesting they fill out a form or write a letter to help show appreciation for their teacher. It helps to supply the prompts or questions because they’re more likely to complete the request. It can be simple questions like:
- Why do you like your teacher?
- What’s something you’ve learned this year?
- Share a special story.
Don’t forget to give a deadline for returning the letters. You could also set this up during an open house night to catch families in the moment. You can also use index cards, like in the example above.
2. Create a letters-of-gratitude campaign.
This is similar to the letters from families, but this time, the letter will come from someone close to the teacher. To do this one, put a note requesting a letter in an envelope and then ask your teachers to give it to someone close to them. This can be a spouse, parent, friend, etc. Ask that the letters be returned to the school without the teacher reading it. Then give them out all at once.
Principals who have tried this say it’s such a meaningful experience for their teachers to hear from people they are close to. They get great responses in general and have only had to write fill-in letters a handful of times.
3. Roll out the red carpet.
SOURCE: Kathy Paiml
This idea is from Kathy Paiml. Her PTO literally rolled out the red carpet in the hallway. Every person had a star on the walk of fame, and all the teachers and staff got to walk down the carpet as everyone cheered.
4. Use technology to gather positive comments.
If you’re looking for a tech-savvy way to gather comments, which will definitely save you time, then try using Google Forms. Here are some easy tips for how to use Google Forms to collect the information you need. You can easily send something out to parents or students to gather notes of appreciation.
5. Celebrate your teachers with a pun.
SOURCE: Learning and Loving It
You can’t go wrong with a good pun. An orange theme, for example, is fun, colorful, and pretty inexpensive to create on your own. Check out these ideas:
- Orange you glad it’s Friday? (Everything orange)
- There’s muffin like a great teacher. (Muffins and fruit)
- We donut know what we’d do without you. (Donuts and coffee)
- We are fortunate to have you at our school. (Fortune cookies)
- This might sound cheesy, but I think you’re really grate. (Cheese and crackers)
- Just popping by to say thanks. (Popcorn and drinks)
- We scream for how much we appreciate you. (Ice cream sundaes)
6. Wash the staff’s cars.
One principal said they coordinate with their coaches and athletic department to set up a car-washing station during teacher appreciation. It’s free for all teachers, and it gets students involved, too.
7. Decorate their doors.
Loudly and proudly celebrate your teachers by decorating their doors. This costs very little. You just need some time and some parent volunteers to pull it off. One principal told us that he turns his teachers into superheroes, complete with large face cutouts and capes.
8. Let baristas make your teachers coffee.
SOURCE: Jennifer Toomey
This one will also take some help from amazing parents, but if you pull it off, teachers will be talking about it for a long time. Set up your own hallway Starbucks, making delicious, caffeine-filled treats for your teachers.
Jennifer Toomey, a teacher at Hawthorne Scholastic Academy in Chicago, did a similar thing, pairing the treats with books to promote reading. Thanks for the idea, Jennifer!
9. Ask local businesses to get involved.
You might be surprised at how much your community will help—all you have to do is ask. Better yet, have a parent helper or PTA member take this one on. Have them send a few emails, asking for lunch, coffee, and other treats.
10. Give your staff passes and coupons to use.
SOURCE: Jaclyn Durant
There are so many passes you can offer teachers as a way of saying thanks. We love this photo Jaclyn shared. Here are a few other ideas:
- Jeans pass
- Cover a duty
- Early leave/late arrival
- Long lunch
11. Bring in supplies for ice cream floats.
This is such an easy and inexpensive way to say thanks. You really only need ice cream, root beer, and glasses. It’s a memorable treat that you can pull off for less than $20.
12. Ask your parents to cover duties all day or all week.
This one doesn’t cost a thing. It just requires some brave parents and a little coordination. It’s a great way to give ALL your staff a break from a daily duty.
13. Put together a dessert table.
SOURCE: Cake It Easy NYC
Few things say thank you like chocolate and sweets. Make a dessert-all-day table and ask school parents to help supply it. It’s a fun way to let teachers know you’re thinking of them.
14. Ask families to bring in specific treats.
One principal says her trick is to give families very specific requests, none of which are too expensive. For instance, she’ll assign one grade to bring chips and dips, another grade to bring chocolate and candies, and another to bring drinks. Assigning specific tasks has really increased response.
15. Create art with the students.
One principal says she takes over art class for one week and works with students to create a big art piece specifically for their teacher. It’s a collaborative and visual way to say thanks for all that they do.
16. Frame a special sign, saying, or note.
Source: Rustic Creations by Laura
You can buy frames from the dollar store and then easily put in a special quote or saying for your teachers. You can also buy frames from a local crafter or ask parents if they want to help make some. We love this one from Rustic Creations by Laura.
17. Make your own bouquets.
One principal asked students to bring in a single flower, and then they took what they got and created bouquets. (You can get vases at a thrift store or the dollar store.) This was a meaningful way for students to contribute.
18. Bring in a food truck or ice cream truck.
SOURCE: Teach, Eat, Dream, Repeat
This one will be oh-so popular, but it might take a little more cash. You can try to cut costs by asking food trucks to donate or give you a discount. (You never know.) If that’s not possible, have an open call for donations from school families or select members of the community. Let them know what it’s for because they’ll be more likely to throw in a few bucks.
19. Offer room service.
SOURCE: Susan Marchino
This is an idea that we’ve seen a few principals do, including Susan Marchino, pictured above. You put a note on a teacher’s door, offering them room service. You can list treats, like coffee, water, chocolate, fruit, etc. Tell them they can select one or two items and then hang their request on their door by a certain time. Collect the notes. Then stop by and leave the teacher’s requested items before the end of the day.
20. Have a cookout.
If you’re able to bring in parent volunteers to throw a cookout, this is a good way to have a picnic with your teachers and great interactions with teachers and families. Put together a sign-up sheet for supplies and volunteers. If you get it going, it could even become an annual event.
21. Offer smoothies, mimosas, and bloodies.
Kick the morning off right with non-alcoholic breakfast drinks. You can make mimosas using OJ, Sprite, and pomegranate juice. (Thanks for the tip, Brad S.) Then it’s easy to buy a bloody mix and accessories or frozen fruit for smoothies. If you want to make it even more special, splurge on some fun glasses.
22. Offer massages with a mini spa.
SOURCE: Heavy Mellow Mobile Mass
This is going to be so popular. If you’re on a budget, ask the local massage schools if they have students you can use. You might also send an email to parents, asking if anyone is a massage therapist!
Have a sign-up sheet for teachers to get massages, then set everything up in an empty classroom that has soft music, apple cider, and other treats.
23. Rent an ice cream machine for the entire week.
SOURCE: Nakema Jones
You can give your teachers ice cream all week long through the magic of a rental! Set it up so your teachers can have ice cream anytime they want. (Other possibilities include a popcorn machine, snow cone machine, etc.) It will be a really cool experience.
24. Write messages in sidewalk chalk.
This is a fun and easy way to welcome teachers to their day. If you can get kids to school early to help with this one, it’ll go a long way in getting the job done.
25. Ask different clubs and organizations to sponsor a day for teachers.
SOURCE: Misfit Macarons
The PTA isn’t the only group you can tap. Send out a note to ask different organizations if they can take on a day to sponsor for teachers. You can create slots (through a Google Doc or a site like SignUpGenius ) for things like breakfast, lunch, snacks, etc. You might also ask people to sign up to create treat boxes for teachers to take home to enjoy, like these beautiful macarons boxes from Misfit Macarons.
26. Play bingo for treats and gift cards.
It can be hard (and expensive) to give everyone on your staff a gift card, but you can still have a fun experience with your staff by playing bingo for prizes. If you can do this over lunch, so teachers won’t have to stay late after school, that’s even better.
27. Create your own note to let them know why you appreciate them.
When you do your daily rounds and say good morning to each teacher, take an extra minute to walk into a class and notice what they are doing. Make a mental note—or better, write it down. Then, when you are back at your desk, send an email right away. Concrete, direct feedback to your teachers is critical to success.
Do you have creative ideas for teacher appreciation? Share with us in our Principal Life Facebook group.
Plus, check out this article on how to keep good teachers happy.