The past couple of months have been incredibly difficult for school communities, but during that time, we’ve also seen how hardworking and resilient teachers have been and how they have been able to inspire school communities to endure during these uncertain times.
Teacher Appreciation Week is quickly approaching on May 4-8, 2020, and with distance learning, K-12 leaders are rethinking the usual traditions. Beyond gifts and thank you cards, below are a few ideas and practices to celebrate the teachers who have worked tirelessly for students across the country.
1. Highlight community voices to celebrate teachers
Heartfelt messages from students and families are a great way to demonstrate teacher appreciation. In the absence of being able to thank teachers in person, ask students and their families to submit messages of appreciation for their teachers to be shared on school or district communications webpages. Submissions can be video segments, drawings, songs, poems, handwritten notes, or simple heartfelt words of appreciation.
See how Lake Washington School District created a dedicated webpage last year to highlight teacher appreciation messages from students, parents, principals, staff, and other members of their school communities.
2. Encourage donations to honor teachers
Several schools and districts already have a tradition of donating to local charities for Teacher Appreciation Week, but this is an especially important practice during the pandemic where teachers’ communities may be affected. A small, thoughtful donation can be a timely gift to support and appreciate teachers as well as the communities they serve.
Ask teachers to nominate local charities
As a collective gift to teachers, school and district leaders can survey teachers for a nomination of one to three charities to receive a special donation. Charities could include funds teachers may already be supporting, such as the Philadelphia-based ParaPower Relief Fund that more than 60 Philadelphia area teachers have contributed to in support of paraprofessionals in crisis because of COVID-19.
Create grants for teacher needs for remote instruction
Eau Claire Public Schools Foundation used their existing teacher grant program, which is distributed in the fall, to create a quickly accessible COVID-19 emergency grant to support local teachers and staff with equipment purchases, professional development for teaching remotely, and digital educational resources and tools. For Teacher Appreciation Week, school leaders could decide to create similar teacher grants to recognize the extra support teachers may need to innovate and continue remote instruction over the next couple of months.
Ask school community members to include a thank you message to teachers as they donate to existing school or district funds
As staff members, parents, and other community members contribute to school or district funds, for a limited time schools and districts can also ask contributors to make donations in honor of teachers who have gone above and beyond for their students. Verona Area School District did a similar practice during Teacher Appreciation Week last year – families were asked to honor teachers of their choice alongside their contribution to the Education Foundation. Teachers received a personalized thank you card with each gift naming the contributing family.
3. Showcase teachers “on the frontlines” through videos shared with the school community
School leaders know how hard their teachers have worked over the past few months, but members of the school community may not fully understand this. Share stories of teachers who have stepped up during the crisis through uplifting videos or solicit videos from teachers recording positive messages for their students, coworkers, or the broader school community. Staff should also share general messages of appreciation or inspiring stories from partnering with teachers to deliver remote instruction during COVID-19.
In this video example, NY teachers recorded encouraging messages to students when schools moved to remote instruction.
Teacher Appreciation Week this year will be a time for the school community to reflect together on the positivity, creativity, and long-lasting innovation that has come from a very challenging time. The ideas above are just a few options to show teachers that they have made a lasting impact on the community.