We’ve collected some of our favorite creative, practical, and fun ideas from entries in the 2014 Parent Group of the Year search. Try a few of them at your school!


Enter the 2015 Parent Group of the Year Search. Deadline for entries: June 1, 2015.

Guess Who?

Students at A.C. Reynolds Middle School in Asheville, N.C., got in on the fun of Teacher Appreciation Week with a “who’s who” contest. The PTO had teachers submit pictures of themselves from their own middle school days. The photos were posted on a bulletin board, and students made their best guesses; participating students (along with teachers) could win prizes.

Gone Fishin’

The first-ever fishing derby at Tunbridge Public Charter School in Baltimore, Md., was a big hit, drawing several hundred attendees and about 100 student fishermen who competed for 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-place prizes. The PTO partnered with the school to serve free food, and the event attracted more dads than more traditional events do.

Happy Campers

A “camping” event was the highlight of Teacher Appreciation Week at St. Joseph School in Redding, Calif. The gym was transformed into a campsite complete with a papier-mâché campfire. The Parent Guild gave gifts to staff members and led students in a song about the great staff. For lunch, they were treated to a meal around the campfire while parents supervised the kids’ lunchtime and recess.

You’re My Hero

Lots of students think their teachers are heroes, and the PTA at Ardmore Elementary in Villa Park, Ill., agrees. For Teacher Appreciation Week, all teachers got T-shirts that read “I teach. What’s your superpower?” with the school’s eagle logo. During the week, the group kept up the theme with special daily treats in the lounge, surprise gifts in their cubbies (for example, rock candy “kryptonite”), and a lunch that featured hero sandwiches, super salads, dynamic desserts, and more.

Dress-up for Grown-ups

Teachers at Central Christian School in Hutchinson, Kan., were encouraged to show a bit of flair during Teacher Appreciation Week. One day, they were asked to dress as farmers and enjoyed a country-style breakfast. On another, they wore eveningwear and were treated to a variety of fine chocolates throughout that day.

Everyone’s a Winn-er

To foster healthy eating and exercise habits for kids, the Winn (Mich.) Elementary Parents Club organizes a “Winn Fit” program in the winter months. This past winter, they kicked off the program with a flash mob of teachers and parents at the opening assembly dancing to the song “YMCA.”  Throughout the program, they offered ski tips from high school students, a Zumba class, a sledding afternoon, and a workshop on healthy snacks and recipes. Kids were encouraged to keep a log of their activities with bingo sheets. The event wrapped up with each student receiving a medal of accomplishment, as well as with a family fun night at a local gym.

Fit Food

As part of a wellness program designed to help students make healthier choices, students at Concord Elementary in Edina, Minn., can take part in a recipe contest each spring. Students submit their favorite healthy recipes to the PTO’s wellness committee, which along with the school chef chooses the winners. Following the contest, the four winning recipes are featured on the districtwide lunch menu.

Run, Kids, Run

The superintendent for the International Leadership of Texas Garland Elementary came up with a way to help recruit more runners for the school’s 5K fun run by calling it “Beat Mr. Conger.” Using letters and voice mails, he challenged all the students to run with him and his wife on the day of the event with the incentive that if they could beat him, they would get a special medal. The PTO also put up signs along the course saying “Run faster. Mr. Conger is right behind you!” In all, 350 runners out of 860 students participated, and about $9,000 was raised.

Card-Carrying Fans

To support runners in a PTA-sponsored 5K race, the Lemons Mill Elementary service club in Georgetown, Ky., had students make cards that family members and friends could pick up at the run and personalize to encourage or congratulate participants. Children used construction paper and markers to design their own works of art; as well, the course was decorated with festive signs of encouragement made by school art students. Similarly, the Ditson School Association at Thomas Ditson Elementary in Billerica, Mass., gave talent show performers a little extra help and encouragement via “helping hands,” an effort that allowed parents and friends to write good-luck notes to performers.

Walk Like an...

The Pelahatchie (Miss.) Elementary PTO went all out with an Egyptian theme when it combined its fall festival and book fair under a single theme, Reading Oasis. Decorations included palm trees, pyramids, and a child-size mummy; several teachers and PTO officers even dressed in costume. A volunteer DJ played songs like “Walk Like an Egyptian,” and kids enjoyed carnival games like ring around the cobra and an archaeology dig. The event also included a visit by the local fire department, free vision screenings by the Lions Club, and door prizes donated by local businesses.

Helping Kids in Need

The Ardmore Elementary PTA in Villa Park, Ill., encouraged goodwill and helped kids in need by organizing a used school supply drive. They asked families to donate leftover, slightly used (but still usable) supplies and then turned them over to a social worker to be delivered to students who could use them. By September, all kids had what they needed to start school. What’s more, the PTA held a used book drive, collecting hundreds that they gave to teachers for their classroom libraries.

Family Dance Party

While some schools host a father-daughter dance and others put on a mother-son event, the St. Joseph School Parent Guild in Redding, Calif., holds a dance that includes all members of the family in a single evening. The event includes all students from kindergarten through grade 8; whole families, some including aunts, uncles, and grandparents, get out on the dance floor together. A photographer is on hand to take family snapshots, and the DJ plays songs for all ages and engages the crowd in group dances.

Celebrating Culture

Macedonia Elementary in Canton, Ga., holds a Cultural Arts Day that is considered the most unique learning opportunity for the year. Held annually on the Friday before spring break, the day gives the student body the opportunity to become completely immersed in a culture. No classroom studies are taught; instead, each homeroom is presented with its own customized itinerary. Students then go from room to room learning about and participating in different cultures. This past year’s theme, Asian Celebration, had students sampling Japanese and Chinese cuisine, practicing origami, watching a Japanese dance performance, trying on traditional clothing, and more. As well, many parents who had traveled to or lived in Asian countries participated as speakers.

Coffee Talk

The Boone Park Elementary PTA in North Little Rock, Ark., holds monthly 2nd Cup of Coffee events where parents attend pre­sentations, sometimes by guest speakers, on topics including com­munity farming, cooking heart-healthy meals, preparing for kindergarten, standardized testing, financial literacy, and homeownership. Planners say the meetings are a fundamental part of bringing parents, students, and teachers together in a learning environment.

Come In, We’re Open

To promote parent involvement, the Keene’s Crossing Elemen­tary PTO in Windermere, Fla., holds an open house during other school events. The PTO sets up in the school media center with refreshments and information so parents can have one-on-one time to stop by and ask questions in a casual setting.

Upcycled Crafts

William Floyd Elementary in Shirley, N.Y., held a successful Earth Day craft night that featured recycled materials as art supplies. The PTO collected objects like paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, empty cans, mason jars, buttons, cardboard egg cartons, plastic water bottles, and more. Kids put their imaginations to work, creating animals and other various crafts with the collected supplies.

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