Professional Learning

What Do Teachers Want for Teacher Appreciation Week? 

7 Min Read
Teacher Appreciation Week Hero

There are countless ways my fourth-grade students made me feel appreciated when I was a teacher in New York. One student discovered my love for Elvis (my keychain was the giveaway) and got me a King of Rock 'n Roll mug she found in a neighborhood store. Another student brought me his favorite food, a beef-filled pastry called pastelito that his mother had made, after a conversation in which I said I’d like to try it. And of all the notes students have written, I can quote one by heart. On the back of a photo of the student and me, she wrote: “I’ll never stop loving you until this picture breathes your sweet name.” Okay, so fourth graders can be a little dramatic, but her words still made me feel pretty good.

Teacher Appreciation Week wasn’t a thing at my school, at least I don't remember it. What sticks with me are the small acts of appreciation I could rely on at the end of each school day to lift my spirits and keep me going. 

So what do today's teachers want? What, in their estimation, makes for meaningful appreciation? We asked, and teachers answered. 

What Teachers Really Want for Teacher Appreciation Week

We reached out to teachers and asked them to share the most meaningful ways principals, students, and families have shown their appreciation. We also posted a poll on LinkedIn (scroll down for the details) that asks how ed leaders, administrators, and school staff in particular can show their gratitude for the work teachers do. Here's a rundown of the responses. 

Write a Nice Note

“One year, I received a card from a kindergartener for Teacher Appreciation Week. He taped a quarter to the inside. You could absolutely tell he did it himself. He told me he loved me and that I was the greatest teacher in the world. That made me cry. Even now when I think back on it, that card was one of the most special things I have ever received because there was so much sincerity behind it. The mom had no idea he did that! I will never forget it.”

— Dr. Jisela Martinez, Kindergarten Teacher, Woodland Elementary, GA

“I keep a binder with all my class photos and notes or cards from students and parents. My favorite section holds students’ responses to a prompt on what they love about first grade. One student wrote, “I love 1st grade because I get to see my friends. I also love 1st grade because Ms. Risolo is there to help me.” Another student wrote, “I love first grade because Ms. Risolo does read-alouds. I also love first grade because we do lots of exciting things.” Their responses always amaze me, and it will never not put a smile on my face when they include me! I feel the most appreciated when students are given the freedom to write what they want and authentically connect it to me. It’s the biggest compliment. On tough days, I take out the binder and look through the messages and drawings.”

—Katie Risolo Radovich, First-Grade Teacher, Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY

“A group of our boys at Bristow Elementary, part of the Boys to Men leadership group led by our principal, closed March with the “You’ve Been Tied” service project. Each young man writes a note and delivers a tie to a teacher who is making a difference in their lives. I received two ties with notes. As teachers, we give our time and heart to educating the future. We build relationships and plan the best lessons to meet each student's needs. When a student expresses gratitude it confirms that your dedication is meaningful.”

— Teanna Curry, Fourth-Grade Teacher, Bristow Elementary, KY

Two students deliver a note of appreciation to teacher Teanna Curry as part of the Boys to Men "You've Been Tied" service project at Bristow Elementary, in Kentucky.

Stop By and Say Hi

Over the years, I've been deeply appreciative of visits from former students. After teaching middle school for 15 years, I've seen a lot of my students create great lives for themselves, and that's as much as we can ask for. While I do think higher salaries and more time to plan is beneficial for sustainability, I also think it's important for teacher motivation to see what students did with our academic and interpersonal lessons. For instance, a recent graduate would come back to my class and tell me how easy algebra class was because "you already taught me all of this." One of the biggest reasons why I became a teacher was to instill confidence in students' ability to do math well, beyond my classroom.”

— José Luis Vilson, Middle School Math Teacher, NY

“I feel it is most meaningful when former students, especially those who have graduated, visit my classroom. To me, it shows I meant enough to a former student that they were willing to take the time out of their schedule to physically come to my classroom and talk. It is always nice to catch up and hear how former students have been doing since graduation.”

—Eric Cavalli, Adapted Physical Education, Manor Independent School District, TX

“I feel appreciated by visits from current and former students and families. We have several events throughout the year, like Back to School Night, Sneak-a-Peek (before school starts), Community Fun Night, and conferences where students and families can pop in to say hi and catch up. The visits serve as reminders of the positive impact teachers have on the lives of their students.”

—Julia Cin, STEAM Teacher, Hershey Elementary, PA

Stay in Touch

“I hold dear appreciation from former students who continue to develop their passions and share their progress with me. There’s something profoundly moving about receiving gifts that encapsulate a student's growth. I run a photography club at my elementary school. A former club member, now a senior in high school, sends me a calendar every January filled with his photography. Seeing his talent evolve over the years is truly inspiring. These gifts are not just delightful surprises; they are like flowers blooming from seeds I helped to plant. It’s deeply satisfying to see tangible evidence of how former students mature and excel, especially as elementary teachers often do not witness the later stages of their students’ educational journeys. The annual calendar from my former student is a highlight for me, reminding me of our shared past and his ongoing journey.”

—Perry Hollins, Fourth-Grade Teacher, Oakton Elementary, IL

Take an Interest

“I’ve had students and families reach out to ask about my interests and tastes. They send me a survey with questions about everything from my favorite color to favorite coffee drink, so that they can be intentional about things they might give me or create for me throughout the year.” 

—Julia Cin, STEAM Teacher, Hershey Elementary, PA

Cater a Lunch

“Catering a lunch offers a space for teachers to relax and enjoy each other's conversation! As a high school teacher, I rarely get to share space with my co-workers that isn't inundated with a to-do list. Connection is vital for a community to thrive.”

—Katie Begen, Science Teacher, Duncan Polytechnical High School, CA

Remember, a Little Goes a Long Way

“Teachers work hard, not only to teach kids, but to love them and keep them safe 190 days a year. Teacher Appreciation Week is only five days long. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to let your child’s teacher know you appreciate all they do. You decide what that appreciation looks like. Parents can write a note saying how much they appreciate all the teacher has done to help their student. Buy the teacher a bag of chips, a pen, a candy bar, a $5 gift card from a coffee shop, or a $50 Amazon gift card. The gift doesn’t matter, it’s the act of showing the teacher that they are appreciated that is so meaningful. Teachers have rough days. Kids (20 or more of them) may be wired up, and at the end of the day, we want to call it quits. But we don’t. We come back and make the next day better. We love all kids, assure they learn, and make sure they know they are appreciated and loved. So, one week a year, it’s just nice to know that our efforts are appreciated, even just a little bit.”

— Dr. Jisela Martinez, Kindergarten Teacher, Woodland Elementary, GA

A Look at Our Teacher Appreciation Poll

Our Teacher Appreciation poll on LinkedIn asks, “How can ed leaders, administrators, and school staff best show their gratitude? One idea came through loud and clear: teachers want a pay raise. One respondent said, "Pay teachers more than rock stars and actors." Other responses ranged from treating teachers like professionals, to providing them a safe working environment, to giving them the gift of time by covering a class or two. 

We'd love to include your ideas about how best to honor teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week and all year long. Sound off in the poll or email us with your response at

For more Teacher Appreciation Week ideas, check out our other blogs:

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