Start the year right. Create an appreciative spirit on day one with a welcome breakfast or luncheon. “On the first day of school, to show our fantastic staff how much we appreciate their efforts, we fill the staff lounge with baked goodies and treats,” says Kelley Kirkpatrick-Berg, copresident of the Madison Elementary PTO in Mount Vernon, Wash. Other groups provide goody bags filled with spiritwear items, snacks, tissues, and a variety of classroom supplies.
Get personal. Early on, send out a teacher questionnaire that can be used to personalize your group’s year-round appreciation efforts. Ask about hobbies, favorite books and authors, pets, sports interests, and favorite charities. This information can help parents who want to give a teacher a gift at the holidays or at the end of the school year. Consider taking up a classroom collection and then donating the funds to the designated charity in the teacher’s name.
Get them on board. Create a “bravo board” and display photos of teachers volunteering at PTO events or leading field trips. Write a brief bio about what makes each teacher special. Use a fun theme such as wall of fame, Hollywood stars, or major leagues.
Keep them updated. Provide calendars to help teachers stay on top of their busy schedules. The PTO at Jamie McGee Elementary in Bolingbrook, Ill., purchases special desk calendars each year. Other groups print their own and list important school dates, events, and PTO meetings. If you want to keep teachers guessing, write “PTO Surprise” on the dates of scheduled appreciation activities.
Design a lunch. One PTO asks parents to make themed lunches. Among them: “island oasis” with Caribbean food and mocktails; a flowerpot containing a salad, gardening gloves, and seed packets; and a tackle box with a tuna sandwich, fish-shaped crackers, and gummy worms.
Find 100 ways. Honor teachers with a 100th Day of School assembly, or post “100 Reasons Why We Love Our Teachers” or “100 Words To Describe Our Teachers” on the PTO bulletin board. Encourage students to contribute, too.
Sit them down. Reserve the first few rows of seats at your next variety show or school play just for your school’s VIPs—the teachers and staff.
Adopt a classroom. Keep an “I Need It” notebook at the front desk for teachers to list items they want for their classroom. Ask volunteers to donate or purchase the items, then cross them off the list.
Give them credit. At your next family movie night, run “credits” before the film begins; list teachers’ names and play up their star qualities.
Collect signatures. One parent group buys inexpensive autograph books and distributes them to each grade at lunchtime. Students write thank-you messages or sign their names; the books are given to teachers at the end of Teacher Appreciation Week in May.
Indulge them. Spruce up the teachers’ lounge or give the faculty restrooms a mini makeover. “It’s very nice to have real toilet paper and nice hand soap/lotion for the teacher’s bathroom,” notes one veteran teacher.
Make them sparkle. Arrange a car wash in the parking lot for staff members, with backup dates in case of rain. Have at least one parent bring a leaf blower—they’re perfect for drying cars quickly.
Run some errands. Offer them a dry cleaning drop-off day early in the week; return the cleaned items to the teachers’ homerooms.
Flock together. Purchase a few dozen (inexpensive) plastic pink flamingos and spread them around the school. Post a sign nearby with the message “Our teachers rock the flock.”
Pick a theme. One parent group has a “Souper Teachers” week and provides a soup lunch. A room mom sends home a form with an essay prompt for students: “If [Teacher Name] were a soup, she would be....” Parent leaders display the letters at the luncheon and conduct a communitywide canned food drive throughout the week.
Spread the word. Produce an “infomercial” on your local cable station, and record student testimonials describing their incredible teachers.
Put it in print. Invite parents to write letters to the editor in praise of the school’s teachers. If you do this in conjunction with Teacher Appreciation Week (the first full week of May), check the newspaper’s deadline to make sure letters can be published in time.
Keep it simple. Leave a note of thanks along with a small but practical item to make a teacher’s day. Some combinations we like include a spray bottle or fan for recess duty (“We have the coolest teachers”), highlighter markers (“Highlighting all you do is impossible!”), and adhesive bandages (“This place would fall apart without you”).