Luncheons are a favorite way for parent groups to express their thanks during Teacher Appreciation Week and other times of the year. They’re easy to organize and generally not too expensive—and nothing tells teachers you appreciate their hard work like an afternoon spent enjoying a nice, and thoughtful, meal. We’ve taken the guesswork out of your next luncheon by compiling some favorites.
Soup, Sandwiches, and Salad
Ask a local deli to provide a cold cut spread with condiments and rolls, various salads (macaroni and potato) and coleslaw for their cost.
Garden-Theme Salad Luncheon
Serve pasta salad, taco salad, chicken salad, potato salad in plastic flower pots with shovels. Use brown paper on the tables with strips of Astroturf down the middle with some potted flowers.
Simple Soup and Salad
Ask volunteers to bring in pots of homemade soups and chilies in slow cookers, and serve salads and breads on the side. Slice up a few 6-foot sub sandwiches, as well.
Go Around the World
Around the World
Create invitations that resemble passports. Have volunteers bring a potluck of foods that represent their ethnic or cultural heritages. Include cards that describe what’s in each dish and its origins. Hang flags from different countries and geographic stickers like the ones put on old-fashioned luggage.
Provide build-your-own-taco fixings and salads. (Don’t forget salsa and guacamole!) Turn 10-gallon hats and sombreros upside down and fill with basic classroom supplies. Or leave them right-side up and pile the party favors around the brim.
Serve deep-dish pizza, stuffed shells, lasagna, and eggplant parmigiana. Serve on red-and-white-checked tablecloths and play music by Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin.
An Asian-inspired buffet is a tasty and easy way to say thanks. Decorate with paper lanterns or folded origami and serve food from local Asian restaurant, or ask volunteers to donate a variety of stir-fried dishes. Offer wooden chopsticks with the meal, and decorate the tables with red and gold tablecloths, paper plates, and napkins.
A Little Pampering
Ask a local spa to come in and do mini massages. You could coordinate goody bags with small, inexpensive items that would make your teachers feel pampered. For lunch, provide a salad bar or deli trays.
Host a sit-down, catered lunch with colorful table linens, a nice punch bowl, and pretty floral arrangements.
Fun Catered or Potluck Themes
Decorate lounge with sand and surfboards, and serve a picnic lunch. Ask volunteers to provide beach chairs and flower leis.
Roll out a red carpet leading to the staff lounge and decorate with stars signed by kids. Announce teachers as they come down the “Walk of Fame.” Post movie-theme cards to identify each dish, such as Million-Dollar Meatballs, Lemony Snicket’s Lemon Bars, and Harry Potter’s Magic Muffins.
Pick a Movie/Pick a TV Show
Base a lunch around what’s popular at the box office or on the small screen. Serve foods that you can tie in (for example, small sandwiches, tea, and scones from Downton Abbey) and play the movie’s music during the lunch.
Teachers Are Superheroes
Think of fun names for food; for example, call your salad “Green Lantern greens.” Likewise, it's easy to find cookies or cupcakes with superhero decorations. For the tables, borrow some kids’ action figures for centerpieces, and make a poster that says “Teachers Are Our Superheroes” that lists teachers’ super powers. These could be general powers (like patience) or specific to a person—Mrs. Smith's superpower is getting kids excited about reading, and so on.
Serve hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, and other food you’d find at a baseball park (and consider adding a few healthier alternatives). Decorate with Astroturf and baseball-theme objects, and pick up some major league T-shirts to be given as prizes.
For a night of nostalgia, serve fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and salads. (Other ’50s-theme foods can be found simply by a web search for “’50s homemade foods.”) Play ’50s-era music and decorate the tables with checkered tablecloths.
Serve barbecue beef or chicken sandwiches, barbecue potato chips, baked beans, coleslaw, etc. Decorate with denim fabric on the tables and add little hay bales and toy horses. Give each teacher a bandana as a small token of appreciation.
This and That
Serve foods that you would see at a nice brunch buffet, like quiches or egg bakes, pancakes, bacon and sausage, vegetable soufflés, etc.
The easiest and least expensive option out there—having volunteers bring a dish from home to share—also offers the chance for teachers to sample home-cooked family favorites. You can make it a theme lunch with any of the above ideas, as well.
Originally posted in 2014 and updated regularly.