Teacher appreciation looks different these days, but it’s just as important now (if not more than ever) that schools are dealing with prolonged closures, unique learning models, and a wide range of safety guidelines.

With that in mind, we wanted to provide some simple ways to show you care from afar. Your teachers will appreciate that you’re thinking of them, especially now. And you don’t have to wait until Teacher Appreciation Week in May to show them some love.

Gift cards

Gift cards to stores are always a teacher favorite. If possible, consider buying cards to local shops or restaurants; it’s another way to care for your community at large.

Make use of technology

There are lots of ways to use technology to convey messages of appreciation and stay connected. Room parents can ask classroom families to send short “thank-you” videos to teachers by email, social media, or on whatever app the teacher uses to communicate with parents. Older students can take it up a notch and use storyboard, PowerPoint, or make a video of reasons they love their teachers.

We're seeing a lot of schools doing photo and video collages for their teachers, like this one posted by Leslie Scott from Stuart-Burns Elementary in Burns, Tenn.

At Cliffside Park (N.J.) School #3, the technology teacher (who's also the PTO secretary) had students work on a video to celebrate why they love and appreciate their teachers, and then curated a special video for each teacher. And for School Principals' Day, the PTO asked parents to record a small video with their children to honor and celebrate the principal.

E-cards and drawings

It’s probably been a while since you sent or received an emailed greeting card, but they’re still a thing. It’s a small gesture, but as long as it’s from the heart it’ll be appreciated.

Download this sweet Teacher Appreciation word cloud to pass along or share to your social media as a way of saying thanks.

Have kids create “digital drawings”—they can make cards or drawings on paper, and parent can take a photo to send to the teacher. Snail mail works, too!

Virtual stress relief

Share these stress-relievers from Calm.com, including soothing mediations, sleep stories, and calming music.

50+ teacher appreciation ideas, plus planning tools, flyers, and more

Love letters from students

Ask room parents to request then collect emailed letters from students saying why they love their teachers, and send them in batches or at once. (Hopefully your teachers stocked up on tissues.)

Coloring pages

This might be more “anytime boredom-buster” than appreciation, but it’s the thought that counts. Email them this set of coloring pages from We Are Teachers—they’ll especially appreciate number 7.

Movie night in

It might not be the time to give them a night at the movies, but you could give them a gift card that could be used for a movie on a streaming service, like GooglePlay.

Heartfelt IOU

While it’s typical to hold teacher appreciation efforts in May, lots of events and activities are now taking place throughout the year. If you had something grander in mind but had to postpone it, let your teachers know that as soon as normalcy returns, you’ll plan that luncheon or school supply bar.

Ideas From PTOs and PTAs

Some of our best ideas and inspiration come from our PTO and PTA Leaders & Volunteers Facebook group. Here are a few sweet teacher appreciation ideas we've seen recently:

Group members are loving the daily virtual Teacher Appreciation ideas in this poster added by Cathy Purdy of Chattahoochee ES PTA in Duluth, Ga.

One parent group secretly placed thank-you yard signs at the homes of 120 instructors.

Another posted a Teacher Appreciation theme week schedule where each day students created a piece of writing or artwork, or did an act of service to thank their teachers and school staff.

One group purchased dinner from a local restaurant for all staff members and their families, which they picked up curbside on a designated night. Several other groups mentioned purchasing gift cards to local restaurants and asking businesses to provide a code so teachers could order at a discount.

Volunteers weren’t allowed into the school building, but that didn’t stop the Rocky River Elementary PTO in Concord, N.C. from bringing breakfast to their teachers. Each thank-you breakfast bag was packed by gloved group members and labeled with a note that read “Thank you for being an essential part of our team! We appreciate you!”

The PTA created an “open vending machine” of snacks for teachers and staff attending a learning model training session at Hoover Math and Science Academy in Schaumburg, Ill. The snacks were individually wrapped (which fit the school’s safety guidelines) and were easy to distribute.

The Hunt Club Elementary Home and School Organization in Oswego, Ill., invited school families to submit shout-outs as a way to show some love and to boost morale. Families used Google forms to submit a shoutout, and as one of the form editors the principal could see the appreciation as it poured in. Leaders posted several shout-outs on Facebook each week, and each month the group randomly selected a staff member to win a gift card and other treats.

The Evergreen Elementary PTO in California, Md., shows their teacher and staff appreciation weekly now that the school is entirely virtual. While following restrictions put in place by the principal, the group has thoughtfully focused on making teachers feel loved with small gifts of live succulents and post-it notes to packets of Swedish Fish with a tag that reads “You Are O-fish-ally The Best Teacher!”

Terri Frank contributed to this article.

Originally published in 2020 and updated regularly.