Teacher Appreciation Week Ideas from Principals and Administrators

Image: Students at Cotter Schools in Winona, Minnesota, wrote chalk messages to honor teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week 2020. (Courtesy of Cotter Schools)

Every day is a good day to show teachers some love. But we can get so bogged down in the day-to-day that we forget to take time to show teachers how much they're valued. Teacher Appreciation Week—from May 3 through May 7—provides the perfect opportunity to make things right.

How Can Principals Show Appreciation to Teachers?

We’ve collected Teacher Appreciation Week ideas from principals and administrators across the country. Feel free to steal or revamp them as you please. (Here are yet more ways for school leaders to honor teachers, along with tips for how parents, students, and even teachers can get in on the lovefest.)

Idea 1: A Super Delivery

Dr. Anna Brooks, principal of Morehead Elementary School in North Carolina, delivered “hero bags” (see photos below) to each teacher’s house during Teacher Appreciation Week last year. Aligning with the theme “Not All Heroes Wear Capes,” Brooks designed gifts, including a T-shirt with “MES” (for Morehead Elementary School) inside a Superman emblem; a Kind bar with a label that said “Thanks for a Super Year!”; and cupcakes from a local bakery. (Brooks purchased the T-shirts at cost and a bakery donated the cupcakes.) Rather than have teachers pick up their gifts at school, she delivered them personally, covering 178 miles over 8.5 hours.

“It was important that the staff felt valued and knew that I see them as heroes on the frontlines—maybe not in the same way as first responders, but they truly did step up, and they are heroes,” Dr. Brooks told Noelle Morris, host of the web series Teacher, Leader, YOU. “I hope they recognize that I appreciate what they do.”

Idea 2: A Well-Deserved Break

In the past, administrators from Elmira City School District in New York found ways to give their hard-working teachers some much deserved "me time" during Teacher Appreciation Week. Some gave out gift certificates to a local spa, while others brought the masseuse directly to teachers for half-hour massages. These ideas may not sound budget-friendly. But keep in mind that local businesses want to show their appreciation for teachers and may offer goods and services for free or at a discount.

Need ideas for free gifts that teachers will absolutely love? Take a cue from Elmira City principals who gave teachers "extra prep" and "get out of school early" coupons, and then covered the classes themselves. (Take a look at how teachers practice self-care during the pandemic.)

Idea 3: A Video Shout-Out

As principal Dr. Neil Lesinski walks the halls of Cary-Grove High School in Illinois, he takes videos of students thanking their teachers in short messages. Watch high schoolers Teagan Pennington and Dymitri Kanellakis give their teachers a shout-out. Lesinski shares videos like these ones each day of Teacher Appreciation Week.

"The messages are special because they are incredibly authentic and heartfelt," Dr. Lesinski says. If your students are learning remotely, ask them to create their own short video messages and send them to you to post on the school's social media channels. Give them a specific time limit—say, 30 seconds—along with with a few prompts to get them started:

  • Thank you, (Teacher’s Name), for ______ .
  • Thanks to (Teacher’s Name), I’m now able to ______ .
  • (Teacher’s Name) made a big difference in my life by ______ .

However you decide to thank teachers, Lesinski suggests involving students in the planning, especially since "they are the reason teachers do what they do with so much passion and pride." The Cary-Grove administration gets ideas from Student Council, National Honors Society, and the Interact Club. The result: lawn signs celebrating teachers (see photo below); gifts from students, such as desktop plants, coffee mugs, and water bottles; breakfast cooked by the administrative team (see photo below); and lunch ordered in—in addition to the video thank-yous.

Idea 4: A Gift of Hope

Manuela Haberer, principal of Boone Elementary School in San Antonio, Texas, plans to celebrate teachers with a "You Bring Hope to Our World 🌈" theme.

"We thought this theme was the most fitting because of all that everyone has been through this past year," Haberer says. Administrators chose the rainbow to represent hope and will gift teachers binder clips in assorted colors with smiley faces on them with a tag that says, "Thanks for keeping us together!" Teachers will also receive rainbow-colored drink holders for their cans of sparkling water.

It was no easy feat to sustain hope during the pandemic, but teachers managed it. What better way to acknowledge that optimism than by treating them to meals during Teacher Appreciation Week? On the menu at Boone Elementary: breakfast tacos on the first day of the week, Chick-fil-A (supplied by a partner church) on the second day, and a boxed lunch from the local Jason's Deli (courtesy of the PTA) on the fourth day. If your school is learning remotely, you can always have the meals delivered to teachers' homes.

Idea 5: A Chalk Tribute

The administration at Cotter Schools in Winona, Minnesota, enlisted students to create chalk messages outside of their houses to show appreciation for teachers. Students created colorful shoutouts like "Teachers Rock!," Virtual Hugs," "We ❤️ Cotter Teachers," "Thanks for Being...reliable, understanding, patient," and "#CotterStrong. They also drew flowers (see photo below), balloons, hearts, smiley faces, and a unicorn.

The images were compiled into a slideshow and posted on the school's website. Some of the chalk tributes were also shared on the school's social media channels. The Facebook post included the message: "Since we can’t be with our teachers, a little chalk art, balloons, and goodie bags were our way of saying thanks this year. We appreciate our teachers and all they do for our students."

The administration at Cotter Schools in Winona, Minnesota, enlisted students to create chalk messages like these outside their houses to express their gratitude toward teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week 2020. (Courtesy of Cotter Schools)

More Teacher Appreciation Ideas from Principals

Calling all school leaders! We'd love to hear how you celebrate teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week and all year long. Please share your ideas with us on Twitter (@HMHCO) or email us at Shaped@hmhco.com. We might include your ideas in a blog post on Shaped.

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We understand that addressing the interrupted learning of this past school year presents a challenge for educators everywhere. This article is part of a series of resources focused on COVID learning recovery and designed to help you plan now for summer school and next year.

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