In my first few years as a volunteer, our group had lots of energy to plan and create and glue and dazzle our teachers and staff. And we did…until we didn’t. One year we ended up with the same three volunteers hanging streamers in the teachers lounge on a Friday afternoon and while we all had the best of intentions, with a small crew and ambitious plans, the celebration lost a little of its sparkle. So we set out to get our groove back, and with a little planning, we made our teachers, staff, principal, and parent volunteers happy!
For anyone stuck in the “now what?” spot, I wanted to share what our group learned. The key, we discovered, was to be creative and flexible. There isn’t a teacher appreciation rule book. Be willing to try new things, and, if something seems to have lost its sparkle, let it go. The trick is to find what works for everyone and be willing to change it as your school community changes.
Here are a few ideas we considered and some we chose for our Teacher Appreciation Week celebrations:
Go big: Consider buying one item for the teachers and staff versus a small trinket for everyone’s mailbox. Our elementary PTA services two schools (an elementary and intermediate school with more than 160 teachers and staff). This large group made it tough to celebrate each individual. However, when we asked the principal and school secretary what the teachers would like, they said their microwave in the lounge needed replacing. So we bought them a new one, and the teachers were so appreciative!
Or go small: Think of small, inexpensive ways to celebrate. We had a volunteer who was especially astute with social media, and she set up a hashtag just for our Teacher Appreciation Week. We shared it (#Henkingteachersrock) with parents and kids and asked them to tweet how their teachers rocked throughout the week. It made the teachers smile and was a great way to keep the momentum going.
Involve the kids: When you involved the students, teacher appreciation can be much more meaningful to teachers. Have your child pick some flowers from your garden or make a homemade card for the teacher. This personal gesture means more than any gift. (Take it from me, the daughter of a teacher: When my mom retired she had a closet full of bath soaps and lotions received as gifts from students, but it was the handwritten notes and cards she appreciated most).
Timing is everything: While teacher appreciation celebrations typically fall during the first week of May, there’s no rule that says that’s the only time to celebrate. This year we realized the official Teacher Appreciation Week (May 4-8) falls during standardized testing week at our school. We knew it wasn’t a good week for extra activity in the building with a revised and shortened schedule, so we moved our celebration up a week. Thanks to our volunteer chair, who was flexible and a good advance planner, we found a solution that works for everyone.
Bring in new ideas: Recruiting new volunteers with fresh thinking always helps. When we had a new chair in charge of teacher appreciation, she came up with fun ideas that we hadn’t tried before, like a daily raffle for the teachers, which was announced schoolwide at the end of each day. We also raffled gift cards donated from local businesses and family donations.
At the end of the day, all it takes to make a teacher feel special is show your thanks! We all love to be recognized. No matter how your group does this, your teachers will appreciate it. By being creative and flexible, you can make your Teacher Appreciation Week the best!