Since 1985, Teacher Appreciation Week has been held during the first week of May as a way to celebrate educators. While the student-teacher bond should always be acknowledged, this year it’s even more important, as teachers have had to pivot to remote learning and find ways to connect with students without seeing them in person. “It’s an opportunity to reinforce how vital they are to the classroom, and is ultimately a celebration of mutual love and respect," says Dena Magid, a Phoenix-based teacher who has taught for 20 years.
While in-person celebrations are impossible right now, there are still memorable ways you and your kids can acknowledge their teachers and show your gratitude. Here are some ideas for honoring teachers remotely.
IF YOU WANT TO GO VIRTUAL
Sign an e-card. A personalized e-card that’s signed by students and parents is one of the easiest ways to get an entire class involved. The National PTA Teacher Appreciation Week toolkit includes a suite of e-cards and art that are designed to be shared on various social media platforms.
Create a video. By now, students are likely more used to using video as a way to connect with their teachers, and each other, every day. Take this a step further by having each student record themselves answering the same question such as, “What is the first thing you will do when you see Ms. Getzler again?” Create a video montage of all the responses, which can be shared via email.
Arrange a surprise party. Parents can arrange a virtual surprise party for the teacher on the video platform where the school is conducting its remote learning. This can also be an opportunity for each child to share what they love most about the teacher. Just make sure a parent or another school administrator is on hand to serve as a master of ceremonies and to help facilitate the surprise — kids could get either particularly gregarious or camera shy with all eyes on them.
Organize a social media tribute. Sarah Hutter, president of the Parent Teacher Student Organization at Windsor Terrace Middle School in Brooklyn, New York, organized a campaign to have students and parents thank their school’s teachers with signs and video messages that were then shared on Instagram. To get the word out, the school’s principal promoted the initiative in an email update to the school’s families.
“We wanted to recognize all the effort that's gone into making remote learning work during this challenging time,” Hutter says. “The teachers are working so hard to connect with our kids and keep them engaged, and we wanted them to know how much we appreciate it.”
IF YOU WANT TO GIVE AN ‘IRL’ GIFT
If you’re looking for a screen-free, in-real-life way to reach your child’s teacher, it will likely require some additional legwork up front. For example, if you’re looking to send them something, it’s a good idea to first check with school officials for guidance. Not all teachers may want to disclose their home address, and it may even go against the school’s policies. If, however, you’re given the go-ahead or the administration agrees to arrange the delivery for you, here are some tech-free ideas.
Pitch in on a class gift. A class collection for a thoughtful gift is a common way to thank a teacher. But with the current environment and incomes being drastically affected, it’s important to remember that not every family may be able to take part, so be sure to stress that participation is optional. If you do decide to collect money, consider purchasing a gift card or having food delivered to the teacher from their favorite restaurant as a way to support your local community.
Create a memory book. Similar to a recorded video montage, a collection of written responses from students to questions such as, “What do you love most about Mr. Lewis?” can be a treasured keepsake. Have one parent compile the responses, and put another in charge of gathering student and group photos. Arrange them into a photo book and have it mailed to the teacher.
Schedule a drive-by parade. Consider organizing a “parade of thanks” where families can honor a teacher with a surprise drive-by. A school official can act as a liaison to ensure the teacher is waiting outside of the school or their home at a particular day and time. (Just check guidance from your local officials; some states are discouraging drive-by parades or asking people to exercise extreme caution to maintain social distancing orders.)
Send a card. Showing appreciation for teachers does not have to be limited to current teachers. If there’s a favorite former teacher from years past, consider sending a thank-you note even if it’s been years since your child was in their class. After all, nothing says “I appreciate you” more than letting them know they haven’t been forgotten.