Appreciating Teachers

The following is a guest post written by a teacher. Happy National Teacher Appreciation Week! Thank you to all the teachers.

I always loved teachers. I can remember learning my letter sounds with puppets from my caring kindergarten teacher, writing my first book report (shaped like a cat) for my first grade teacher, struggling through cursive with my second grade teacher, and my first male teacher when I was in third. My fourth grade teacher always sticks out. She taught me to write and to love writing. We took out our composition books every day and learned form, grammar and editing while writing on a variety of topics that I found inspiring. I still have my composition book 30 years later. She was the first teacher I wanted to thank. I wanted her to know how much I appreciated the work she did for me and for my classmates. My best friend and I spent a sunny afternoon composing an acrostic for her out of the letters of her name. I am sure it was one of many compositions penned by her lucky students, but I secretly hope it made the “keeper” box. As we approach Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2-May 6), I reached out to co-workers and educators looking for their most memorable ways they were appreciated by their students. Teachers enjoy receiving gifts, but they generally remember the things that don’t cost much or anything at all.

  • Letters - This was the top response. Notes from students describing how they felt and what they would remember after the year was over. Letters from parents about what they were grateful for were also held in high regard.
  • A little something special every day - This is how my children’s elementary PTA organizes Teacher Appreciation Week and it seems to be popular everywhere. A flower or plant, a poem, a teacher’s favorite snack or drink, a picture of your teacher, and replenishing school supplies are little ways to say thank you during the week.
  • A donation to your teacher’s favorite children’s charity. UNICEF, St. Jude’s Children’s Center, Teachers without Borders, KABOOM! (which provides safe playgrounds to schools), Share our Strength (battles childhood hunger in America), Reach Out and Read (provides books to needy children at regular check-ups), Linus Project (provides blankets to children who are victims of trauma) are just a handful of the top children’s charities.
  • The whole class wearing the teacher’s favorite color. A bright way to show your teacher you care. A class picture for the teacher on this special day is a great memento.
  • Replenishing school supplies. Pencils, glue sticks, crayons, dry erase markers, tissues and hand sanitizer are dwindling by May. You will save your child’s teacher money and also provide for the whole classroom.
  • Check with the office. Some schools keep a list of little items your child teacher enjoys that may spark an idea.
  • Feeling Crafty? Skip to my Lou, a blog for crafting, handmade gifts, printables and recipes has composed a list of over 100 teacher appreciation gifts. These include jar gifts, themed baskets, recipes, clever gift card holders, and printable candy bar covers.
  • Volunteer Your Time – Teachers need help with photocopying, filing, bulletin boards, cutting, and laminating. The gift of one hour of your time is a thoughtful way to say thanks.
  • The Gift of Relaxation – gift cards to bookstores, coffee shops, movie theaters, spas, retail stores and restaurants.

I continue to appreciate teachers. I watch co-workers arrive before the bell rings and stay hours after school has ended, they grade in waiting rooms and on weekends, they spend their money on supplies and work tirelessly to plan engaging lessons.

When my four children were all in the same elementary school, I returned to work as an aide in their school. I felt so fortunate to be part of the school community, first as a parent, then as a volunteer, and finally as a staff member. This is the letter that I wrote to the teachers and staff of their school for Teacher Appreciation Week that year:

Dear Teachers and Staff,

Thank you. Thank you for making our school the warm, caring, diverse place that it is. There are so many things that mothers worry about for their children. Since my daughter’s first day of pre-k, I have not been worried about their futures at this school. I have not spent nights wishing I could afford a private education, or comparing how my children’s school compares to others. You have helped ensure their success in school, and in life. You have worked tirelessly to help them become the smart, compassionate little people they are, and the bright, caring adults I hope they become. Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for daily juggling your own home lives with the well-being and needs of your students. Thank you for the work you start early, and the work you bring home. Thank you for pressing on even when the world doesn’t appreciate your profession in the way it should.

Thank you for comforting me in my anxieties over their growth and their stumbles. Thank you for knowing them as individuals and not merely as numbers. Thank you for being their first cheer leaders.

Also, thank you for letting me volunteer in your classes when I could. Thank you for opening your classrooms for a glimpse into where my children spend most of their childhood. Thank you for being an open, warm, funny, friendly staff when I joined you this fall. I have felt so welcome here, and I look forward to watching you teach each day.

So, on behalf of myself and my silly little herd – so much gratitude.