Happy World Teachers’ Day: Why and How to Celebrate

Teachers and administrators: October 5 is a day to celebrate the educators who once affected you in some way as a student—to show gratitude to those you once aspired to be. It’s a time to reflect on the teachers who were there for learning moments that defined your classroom experiences—even years ago—when you finally grasped a challenging concept with a feeling of accomplishment.

It’s also a day for you to realize how you may now impact students in the same way.

World Teachers’ Day is an annual celebration across the globe. But what does this day represent? Let’s answer some questions about its significance.

What Is World Teachers’ Day?

World Teachers’ Day honors the anniversary of the 1966 adoption of the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. The Recommendation established benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers, according to UNESCO, and set standards for their training and continuing education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions.

UNESCO holds World Teachers’ Day in partnership with UNICEF, UNDP, the International Labour Organization, and Education International. Around the world, you can celebrate the protection of the rights and status of teachers while aiming to attract newcomers to the field despite the challenges educators currently face, including low pay and teacher shortages at K-12 districts nationwide. The day also honors teachers in light of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education, which defines access to an education and quality teachers as crucial to fulfilling the UN’s Education 2030 agenda.

This is an opportunity for you and your students to reflect on the role that educators have played in your life, and to consider ways to continue inspiring your own K-12 students each and every day in the classroom.

When Is World Teachers' Day in 2020?

It's been held every year on October 5 since 1994. In 2020, October 5 falls on a Saturday.

What Is This Year's Teachers' Day Theme?

This year’s universal World Teachers’ Day theme is "Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future." According to UNESCO:

The issue of teacher leadership in relation to [the COVID-19] crisis responses is not just timely, but critical in terms of the contributions teachers have made to provide remote learning, support vulnerable populations, re-open schools, and ensure that learning gaps have been mitigated. The discussions surrounding WTD will also address the role of teachers in building resilience and shaping the future of education and the teaching profession.

You can read more about this year's theme here.

How Is World Teachers' Day Celebrated?

This year, UNESCO will honor World Teachers' Day with a week of virtual events, including an opening ceremony and the awarding of the 6th UNESCO Hamdan Prize for the Effectiveness of Teachers. UNESCO and its co-convening partners will also feature national, regional, and global virtual events tied to the 2020 theme throughout the week in an effort to celebrate educators worldwide, share their achievements, and ensure their voices are heard. The week will wrap up with a virtual closing ceremony on October 12.

How Can I Celebrate World Teachers’ Day?

Now that you know all about World Teachers' Day, let's take a look at how you can celebrate remotely. Aside from seeking out virtual seminars or webinars that explore relevant K-12 issues, think back to the moment you realized you wanted to be a teacher. Was there anybody in particular who served as your inspiration? Consider reaching out and letting them know they had a powerful effect on your life and career choice.

Perhaps you can even ask your own students to think back to their favorite teacher—besides you, of course—and let him or her know why their past interactions were so meaningful. See if they can get creative, maybe by creating and designing a personal card or writing a poem expressing their gratitude. Even a simple "thank you" can make a teacher's day.

Administrators may also want to come up with World Teachers' Day ideas to celebrate their staff. Education leaders can, for example, encourage students and their families to create videos expressing their gratitude for teachers and post them on social media, or hold a virtual town hall to better understand the challenges they face.

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This blog post was updated in August 2020.