Smiling teacher standing at the door to her classroom

Matt Homrich-Knieling April 19, 2023

10 Creative Ways Principals Can Show Teacher Appreciation

Matt Homrich-Knieling

Writer and Educator

Principals – it’s almost Teacher Appreciation Week!

This week is about more than a once-a-year “thank you” to teachers for their hard work. It’s about taking steps to address serious issues around teacher burnout, turnover, and low morale; it’s about giving teachers the recognition and appreciation they deserve, and working to build a positive school culture where teachers want to stay.

We know that teachers need love, respect, and affirmation–during Teacher Appreciation Week and all year–so here are ten actionable ideas to celebrate your educators:

Individualized Appreciation

1. Hand-written letters

The classic but largely lost art of letter writing can be an impactful way to demonstrate gratitude to your teachers. Receiving a handwritten letter makes the message feel more personalized, and when its contents are filled with specific details about why you appreciate that individual teacher, the effects can be significant! These types of letters often remain proudly displayed on teachers’ desks, serving as reminders that their hard work is seen and valued.

2. Appreciation from students

Oftentimes the most heartfelt and meaningful appreciation comes directly from students. During Teacher Appreciation Week, encourage students to share the impact their teachers have! This could look like students writing letters or cards to their teachers, shouting out teachers during the morning announcements, or even hosting an assembly where students get to share positive stories about their teachers.

3. Appreciation from parents and care-takers

Parents and care-takers have few opportunities to express their gratitude to their child(ren)’s teachers. Find ways for your parents and caretakers to communicate their appreciation, too!

One way to make participation accessible for busy, working parents and care-takers is to send home a newsletter leading up to Teacher Appreciation Week with concrete ways they can express appreciation. The list could include: writing an email to your child(ren)’s teachers, writing a letter, or calling the main office to leave a message for a teacher.

Whole-Staff Appreciation

4. Public displays of appreciation

While private acts of appreciation are important and impactful, consider how to make your appreciation public, so everyone–teachers, students, school staff, and parents alike–can participate!

Creating a wall-of-fame that highlights each teacher, displaying paper plate awards, or posting on the school’s social media are all ways to showcase your appreciation throughout the school building.

5. Highlight success from the year

The power of education does not lie within the work of an individual teacher, but within the collective work of teachers–and all school staff–throughout the school.

Another way to show teacher appreciation is to highlight school-wide successes from the school year. Reflect on your school-wide initiatives, grade-level or department goals, student successes, and collective wins, and take time during Teacher Appreciation Week to call attention to these shared accomplishments. Doing so can help foster camaraderie among staff and boost morale as the school year winds down.

6. Ask teachers questions, listen, and take action

Sometimes appreciation looks more like asking questions than making statements. This is a great time to ask your teachers: What would it look like for you to feel appreciated? What needs or wants do you have right now that aren’t met? How can I better support you? These questions demonstrate investment in and care for your staff.

Perhaps more important than asking and listening is taking action. After you’ve heard from your teachers, take steps to address their needs, ask clarifying questions, and be transparent about what needs you can and cannot meet.

7. Peer/colleague praise

The opportunity to both provide and receive appreciation and recognition from colleagues is powerful. Teachers often work in silos within their own classrooms, so creating space for teachers to shout-out their colleague’s work helps to strengthen a school community.

During staff meetings, you can carve out time for colleague shout-outs as a way to structurally integrate this form of appreciation.

Tangible Appreciation

8. Feed your teachers

Nothing says appreciation like a delicious meal that you don’t have to cook! Not having to worry about what to eat for breakfast in the morning or what to pack for lunch is a small but much-appreciated gesture.

Offering breakfast and/or lunch during Teacher Appreciation Week is a great way to say “thank you.” If your school has close relationships with local restaurants, this could also be a great way to strengthen community-ties and allow the outside community to participate in celebrating local teachers by donating food.

9. Bring in wellness resources

It’s no secret that teaching is a stressful career. Throughout Teacher Appreciation Week, consider bringing self-care resources–massages, yoga classes, spa services, etc.–as a way for teachers to treat themselves!

You could even reach out to service providers in your community to inquire about teacher discounts, which could connect your teachers with ongoing opportunities for wellness and self-care.

Appreciation as School Culture

10. Think about how to create a culture of appreciation

Teacher Appreciation Week is a special time to participate in a broader call to recognize the critical and invaluable work of educators. However, it’s important to make sure that intentional appreciation exists outside of this specific week; that appreciation, recognition, and positive feedback are part of the fabric of your school culture. When Teacher Appreciation Week is integrated into a broader, year-round effort to address teacher retention and sustainability, the impacts on school culture and student growth can be transformational.

Take a look at our guide, Recharging and Sustaining our Teacher: 5 Strategies for School Leaders, designed to give principals actionable steps to support their teachers.

Interested in engaging in a conversation with other education leaders to answer these questions? Attend our upcoming webinar!

Register Now