Teacher Appreciation Week is just around the corner (May 8–12 in 2023)! As a former building principal, I know the importance of making this week extra special for teachers and also how much work is involved.
With this in mind, we asked our audience to tell us the most meaningful ways their principal recognized Teacher Appreciation Week. Here are our top picks, with a few notes from me snuck in.
What’s the best Teacher Appreciation Week gesture, gift, or recognition from a principal you’ve ever received?
The Gift of Time
“Taking my class for half an hour, leave-early pass.”
“Our principal let us all go out to lunch with our teams for 2 hrs while she watched the classes.”
“My principal came into my classroom and offered me a break.”
“Took a week and scheduled a time when he could cover all classes for at least 30 minutes.”
Note from KE: If you like these ideas, think about asking people at the district level (coordinators, directors, etc.) to help cover classes. This would be a win-win situation. Your teachers get a much-deserved break, and the district-level employees will gain important perspective working with students at the classroom level. Another tip: Ask your district’s business/financial office to help. They are rarely, if ever, asked to visit campuses, and in my experience have always been eager to help.
“I had a principal that gave every teacher a comp day off. That was the best Teacher Appreciation perk ever! She had the instructional coaches sub.”
“Cancelled PD and gave us planning time.”
“I worked at a school where the principal got all the kids in an assembly with retired teacher volunteers and had a donut truck come deliver while we all got to sit outside and just chill.”
Note from KE: This one is great! An assembly would work, or you could plan a talent show, lip sync battle, poetry, slam, etc., to keep the students busy and entertained. Parents could also help volunteer and monitor students.
Making It Personal
“A personalized thank-you card.”
Note from KE: This is time-consuming to do (I know from experience!), but it is more than worth it with the impact the note will make. If you have a large staff, think about dividing your staff among your admin team and have your admin team write personal notes. For a special touch, create note cards with your school logo on card stock.
“One year the admin put signs on all our lawns—no matter how far away we lived—and it was a great surprise.”
“The English teachers ask students to write notes of thanks.”
“Admin collected anonymous student compliments and compiled them into cute little documents for everyone.”
Note from KE: Many schools and administration buildings have old binding machines sitting around. Take this idea to the next level by having students write notes to their teachers, use the binding machine to make them into a book, and present them to your teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.
“By consistently speaking to me about my work and her appreciation.”
Note from KE: This is a wonderful practice, but it can be tricky if you have a large staff. Think about keeping a list of teachers on your phone or in a binder and track how often you talk to them. This way you can make sure you talk to all of your faculty and staff, not just the ones who initiate contact most often.
“When I was a student teacher, my cooperating teacher sent a letter to my parents.”
“He planned a breakfast meeting and invited previous staff to join us. It was like a family reunion.”
Note from KE: Be the Teacher Appreciation Week hype person! As building principal, it’s your responsibility to lead the spirit of this week. Plenty of parents and community members might want to celebrate teachers, but they need to know about it in advance. In the weeks leading up to Teacher Appreciation Week, start putting it in your parent communications, on the marquee, on your daily announcements, etc.
“Our principal would have someone come in and cook breakfast for us. We could get pancakes, eggs, omelet, bacon, etc., made by the chef.”
“I had a principal who came to every classroom and delivered coffee and donuts.”
“One year our principal had lunch brought in and parents came and supervised while we all got a full lunch break together.”
“My principal actually came and used our kitchen and cooked the taco meat for a nacho bar for the teachers’ lunch!”
Note from KE: I know food trucks are popular right now, but I do not recommend them as an option to feed your staff. While it is a fun and unique idea, unless the food is both premade and prepaid, food trucks aren’t exactly friendly to a school schedule. It can take a while to order and receive food, and your staff might not have enough time to eat (or miss lunch altogether).
Make It Fun
“Our principal organized all of the parents to be in the parking lot after school and gave the teachers a round of applause/standing ovation.”
“I had a principal who did drawings for a car wash with volunteers in the parking lot.”
Note from KE: Last year I created themed dress days for the week. One of the theme days for the week was Dress Like a Student. My teachers went all out!!! Some even rented crocs from students to make their look complete. The students and teachers loved this day!
“Hired a massage therapist to give teachers massages throughout the school day and provided coverage.”
Note from KE: Create a scavenger hunt. The last few years I did ‘Find the Meme’ and my teachers loved it! I printed funny teacher memes I found on the internet, wrote a number on the back of them, and hid them around the school. If teachers found a meme, they brought it to the office and collected the prize that correlated with the number on the back. Prizes can be fun things like water toys, coveted things like gift cards, or a great combination of both.
I cannot end this article without acknowledging a few comments that broke my heart:
“Didn’t know there was a week?”
“I remember when I got a pack of gum.”
“I haven’t experienced appreciation yet.”
For Leslie, Sue, Andrea, and others who feel they are not appreciated, teaching is already difficult, so take it from me: If you do not feel appreciated or valued, go to a school where the principal will take care of you. Join our WeAreTeachers Helpline group on Facebook and make an anonymous post seeking out teachers with fabulous principals in your area. Wonderful principals are out there!
Want more teacher appreciation ideas? Visit my website at KathleenEckert.com and sign up for my newsletter. I’d love to hear from you!
What’s the teacher appreciation gesture you’ll never forget? Let us know in the comments!
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