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Great ways to show teacher appreciation

  • Great ways to show appreciation for teachers, according to teachers
    1/ alfakurnia // Pixabay

    Great ways to show appreciation for teachers, according to teachers

    National Teacher Day, also called Teacher Appreciation Day, is an annual holiday held during Teacher Appreciation Week on May 7 this year that celebrates teachers for their commitment to students. The National Education Association (NEA) credits Mattye Whyte Woodridge, an African American teacher in Arkansas during the early 1940s, with kicking the holiday off in 1944. That's when she reportedly launched a campaign asking leaders in education to create a national holiday to honor the sacrifices and gifts educators bestow upon their students. Eventually, Eleanor Roosevelt took the reins and convinced the 81st Congress in 1953 to enact National Teacher Day.

    The holiday, originally celebrated the first Tuesday of every March, has since gone through multiple iterations and different dates. In 1980, Congress named March 7 as National Teacher Day, and in 1985, the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) named Teacher Appreciation Week the first full week of May. It was then that the NEA Representative Assembly voted to make National Teacher Day on Tuesday of Teacher Appreciation Week.

    Dozens of countries worldwide similarly celebrate World Teachers' Day, which was founded in 1994 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Many countries, including Canada and Philippines, observe the holiday on UNESCO's proposed date of Oct. 5, while others carry out the holiday in February (Morocco), April (Paraguay), and December (Palestine).

    In observance of this year's National Teacher Day, Stacker surveyed current and former educators about the ways their students (past and present) have shown appreciation. Our questions included: “What do you appreciate most coming from your students?” and “What are some examples of the most memorable ways students have thanked you and shown appreciation?” The answers—from homemade cards and handpicked flowers to candy treats and hugs—are reminders of the countless contributions teachers make to their students' education and careers.

    You may also like: How much teachers make around the world

  • Ashley, high school Spanish
    2/ NARINDER NANU/AFP // Getty

    Ashley, high school Spanish

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    Cards or drawings, pop in visits, wanting to stay after, and telling me about their personal lives.

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    Written a thank you in Spanish.

  • Cosette, high school social studies
    3/ Matthew Henry // Burst

    Cosette, high school social studies

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    Being told that something that did not make sense before makes sense now that I helped them to understand. Also, just being told that the students feel like I understand them as individuals.

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    I am only a student teacher, so the most valuable thing for me has been students who have acknowledged that I am learning, too, have told me that I am doing a good job, or have been sensitive to my personal feelings of nervousness/uncertainty when I am teaching.

  • Lauren, fifth grade
    4/ Jennifer Longaway // Flickr

    Lauren, fifth grade

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    Handwritten thank you notes and fresh-picked flowers!

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    Handwritten thank you notes and fresh-picked flowers again!

  • Kayla, elementary P.E.
    5/ Lance Cpl. Kasey Peacock // U.S. Marine Corps

    Kayla, elementary P.E.

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    I love handwritten letters of gratitude with memories from students the best! When they say thank you it means a ton!

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    Since I teach all students [at the school, just] twice a week for 25 minutes, I'm sure it is very different than a classroom teacher. But heartfelt thank you notes and conversations with students who take the time to come back and say hi mean the most to me! I love when students come to share their athletic successes with me. I hope that I inspire my students to find something they love that can keep them active for a lifetime.

  • Julia, middle school general education
    6/ APU GOMES/AFP // Getty

    Julia, middle school general education

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    I appreciate it most when my students past or present realize and acknowledge that my class provided something useful and meaningful in their lives. This could be as simple as a child saying thank you at the end of a class period or visiting the school after they've moved on to high school to tell me how much they miss my class and how much they need it now in their high school life. Most of my students tell me they love my class because it allows them to be creative, make friends, and learn about culture and themselves. When they express those sentiments I know that my time with them has been meaningful to them and they appreciate me and my time and hard work. While student appreciation is great, I think most teachers really just want to be acknowledged by the school leaders that their hard work is valued and appreciated.

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    This year a student gave me a bottle of an Epsom salt-type foot soak to use at home. It's the best gift I've ever gotten from a child because it was so thoughtful. This child knows I'm on my feet all day and could use some rest and relaxation. The ultimate gift I've received though, is I have a number of former students who have joined dance classes and have become dancers since taking my class. Providing an experience in school for a child that was so positive for them that they seek out extracurricular opportunities to further participate in the dance world is overwhelming. It's how I truly know that providing an introduction to dance could change the course of a child's life. There is no greater gift to me.

    Another great thing is when a parent emails thanking me for my hard work and telling me that their child goes home and shows them the dances they are learning and/or creating. Tangible gifts are insignificant compared to seeing kids create connections to their peers in class as well as just having fun in a rigorous, but also stress-free environment. Dance is a great stress reliever!

  • Elizabeth, middle/high school Spanish
    7/ University of the Fraser Valley // Flickr

    Elizabeth, middle/high school Spanish

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    I love it when my students tell me that they enjoy learning Spanish and that they are interested in studying Spanish in college. I also really appreciate when they reach out to me (emails and letters) or visit me to tell me that my class was hard but they learned a lot, that they feel prepared for the next level, or that they are studying abroad to practice their Spanish.

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    I love receiving letters from students! I also had a class once write me a song, which was very special.

  • Sarah, high school English
    8/ Finnbarr Webster // Getty

    Sarah, high school English

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    I appreciate the opportunity of being able to meet the wonderful and unique personalities. Each student challenges me to change my perspective daily, and that has been a true gift. When it comes to the significance I've imparted, it can be hard to always see the immediate results/impact of my time in education. Instead, I'm left with the hope that each day I have been a positive light in at least one student's day. I want all of my kids to leave knowing I care about them, and I think they can succeed. Sometimes students will tell you and sometimes you just hope.

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    Letters/simple notes have always had the biggest impact on me. I still have every note of thanks a student or parent has ever given me. Those notes are what I pull out on the hard days.

  • Alyssa, second grade
    9/ VGstockstudio // Shutterstock

    Alyssa, second grade

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    When you can tell a student has worked hard, or was thoughtful about their gift. Not necessarily anything bought from the store!

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    One of my students knows how much I love French bulldogs, and she designed a book for me of French bulldogs hand-drawn on each page. She has two French bulldogs at home and remembered me talking about how jealous I was. It was this 7 year old's way of showing her appreciation, and I couldn't have felt more flattered. Something I will remember forever!

  • Jodi, high school general education
    10/ Cooper Neill // Getty

    Jodi, high school general education

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    In short, contact. When students take time out of their lives after they are out of my class (whether to stop by and visit or send an email) to tell me what they are up to.

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    My kids know that I am coffee-dependent: My school day starts at 7 a.m., and I am proudly Polish. Therefore, I have a collection of coffee mugs from various kids. I have made it a thing in the classroom to use a different mug each day, lining up my mugs along the edge of my podium so everyone knows what day it is. The mugs are meaningful because they reflect that the kids know me/pay attention to me personally. Some of the mugs have funny comments on them.

    A few of the kids also reached out via college; I have a couple of certificates of recognition from different universities that were sent to me at kids' requests. Two of them were anonymous; I wish I knew who to thank for them.

    Another student brought me a cookie tin filled with homemade treats for the holidays. I cleaned and returned the tin to her after the holidays, jokingly telling her that she needed it back if she was going to refill it next year. She did—despite the fact that she was not my student that year.

    Another group of students visited UC last year. They sent me pictures from their trip.

    It also matters when kids make a point of inviting me to concerts/performances/games. Sometimes I can't make it, but it matters that my being there matters to them. It's also super cool to see them shine outside of my class.

    Lastly, our NHS coordinators have started asking applicants to write a letter to a teacher or coach who has been a mentor to them. I got a few this last week; those letters mean a lot because they are personal and because around this time of year, everyone is done. The kids want the school year to be over, and I wonder why I didn't choose a profession with no work or worries to take home. Those letters are the shot in the arm to get me through the rest of the year joyously.

  • Kelly, high school English
    11/ Monkey Business Images // Shutterstock

    Kelly, high school English

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    A simple thank you from a student means the most to me, especially when they let me know how I have helped them or what they have been able to accomplish because of my support. It's sometimes difficult for high school students to express or realize their gratitude, so when they do, it's very meaningful.

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    One student moved to another state, but would still contact me for English help. She sent me a message to let me know she was graduating soon and that she couldn't have done it without me and she turned everything around for the better because I helped her work through her anger issues to avoid getting kicked out of school.

    I have also received thank you cards, notes, and most recently during my pregnancy, students telling me I'm going to be a great mother based on how they see me as a teacher. That has meant a lot to me.

  • Nicole, ninth grade teacher
    12/ SNP_SS // Shutterstock

    Nicole, ninth grade teacher

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    Sometimes I will come into my classroom after running copies or eating lunch and find random appreciation notes left on Post-it notes on my keyboard from students. It makes my day and fills my cup. I have, on occasion, received emails from parents who also included my principals and superintendent on appreciation messages. It felt great that the parent shared the heartfelt thanks to my supervisors, as well.

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    I received a labeled jar and lid with peanut butter M&M's. The jar said my name with the “nutritional” guide that included teacher qualities. So cute!

  • Andrew, high school history
    13/ VGstockstudio // Shutterstock

    Andrew, high school history

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    What I appreciate the most from students is their return after graduation to visit or some other form of communication. On one hand, this tends to happen only with students who a) enjoyed their high school experience and appreciate what we do and b) are usually the students I most liked to work with because of their character, work ethic, personality, etc. Communication such as an email or a visit shows that I made some sort of impact in that I was remembered by some of the students that I remember. When I hear how something I've done has helped a student in the future, that is when I really feel significant.

    Almost two years ago, the parent of another AP Euro student was in for an open house (her other daughter), and she stopped to chat. She mentioned how her daughter was starting freshman year at Thiel, and one of her first courses was organized in a similar manner to the AP European History class, so she felt comfortable in the course because of her experience in Euro. That made me feel great! Knowing that something I did was seen as valuable senior year, and was continuing to pay dividends as she started college: That's when I feel the most pride.

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    One way that a group of students has shown appreciation happened recently. Some of this year's Accelerated sophomores found out about my birthday, and on that day surprised me with donuts and a card they all signed. Not to mention, while I was monitoring the halls, they loaded a ridiculous birthday video for me on YouTube that was playing on my projector when I came into the room. It was a silly gesture but it made my day.

  • Tami, high school English
    14/ Matt Cardy // Getty

    Tami, high school English

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    More than anything, I appreciate hearing from students who have graduated that something they learned in my class or through activities I've advised is something that helped them or that they continue to appreciate for one reason or another. The more former students I encounter, who have good things to say about me and my class, the more I feel the weight of the significance. Often, they end up thanking me for something that isn't academic-related and that is always good to hear.

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    I have had students give me "graduation gifts" when they graduate (books, gift cards, etc.) and that is very nice and much appreciated, however, having a student share a college English success story or an email of thanks after they've been gone from high school is the most rewarding.

  • Mitchell, elementary school health
    15/ 2xSamara.com // Shutterstock

    Mitchell, elementary school health

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    Present: I really appreciate their enthusiasm when they come to the gym. I also like the little comments or gestures the most, i.e. "You're the best!", "Thanks, that was fun!", the willingness my students have to demonstrate or volunteer to help or the crazy amount of artwork and letters the students write to me. Past: I love when former students come up to me and let me know how much they miss me and my class. It's just those small gestures that really strike me and I'm not sure why.

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    All of the artwork really means a lot. I have honestly kept just about every picture students have colored or drew for me. I have also received several personal gifts. Those mean a lot because I know the students went out of their way to get me something that was just meant for me.

  • Matthew, elementary school learning support
    16/ Brad Flickinger // Flickr

    Matthew, elementary school learning support

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    What I appreciate the most from my students is when he/she tells that I have helped them learn something new. I appreciate hearing the positive feedback of a student saying, "thank you for listening to my problems today," or "Thank you for helping me with a specific task." Those comments reaffirm that what I am doing is right and meeting the needs of the students. Just seeing kids respond to my teaching and getting that positive feedback from them inspires me to continue doing what I have been doing. When hearing those words, you know you are doing something right and helping those students out.

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    The most recent appreciation that I have cherished so far is during PSSA [standardized test] time. A student brought in grapes for their group to eat and a Kit Kat bar for myself. On the candy, it read "Make sure to take a break yourself this week." The note touched my heart because usually during this time of year, I put extra work on top of what I normally do to help the entire staff and never take a break for myself.

    Another example was when I had a student who moved onto middle school and came back to visit the next year. This student and I had worked after the buses left on her reading skills, and when she came back to visit, she told me that without me helping her after school for 30 minutes every day, she would not have had the confidence to read in front of her peers at middle school or known all the rules for reading.

  • Taylor, first grade
    17/ LightField Studios // Shutterstock

    Taylor, first grade

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    One thing that always makes me feel good is when a parent will send an email or write a note thanking me for being their child's teacher and the impact it had.

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    I get pictures of me and them all the time. I've also received personal notes from students I've taught and are now older saying how much they appreciate me or would share a memory. I just love when my students—past and present—come and visit me for a hug or to have a conversation.

  • Corey, second grade
    18/ U.S Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaitlin Daddona

    Corey, second grade

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    What I appreciate most coming from my students is seeing them be kind to one another. You can teach them many different ways to approach a math problem or how to write a proper sentence. However, when it comes down to seeing my students being kind, encouraging, and looking out for one another—there is nothing that makes me happier! Teachers should teach their students how to be kind-hearted people and good citizens just as much as academics.

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    Little notes I've received on my desk from my students expressing how much I make them laugh, how I give the sweetest hugs, or how I make their problems go away. That right there is why I do what I do.

  • Jordan, kindergarten
    19/ Mark Wilson // Getty

    Jordan, kindergarten

    What do you appreciate most coming from your students, past or present?

    The thing I appreciate most coming from my students is them being respectful and kind, not just to me, but to their peers and other adults. When I can see my efforts in teaching kindness and manners really playing out genuinely in the classroom is what means the most to me. And when students come back and visit and want to give me a hug every morning before they go to their classrooms is when I know I must have impacted them enough to where they choose to come and see me on their own.

    What are some examples of the most memorable way a student has thanked you/shown appreciation in the past?

    The kindest thing that a student has done was right before I went out on maternity leave. I had her in my first year of teaching and now she's in fifth grade. She had asked her mom to go and take her to the store so she could get my daughter a cute outfit. She randomly came up to me and handed me the bag and said had the biggest smile. It truly touched me so much because I am not even her teacher anymore, yet she wanted to get something for my daughter when she most definitely did not have to. It brought me to tears and I thought it was such a sweet thing for her to do. It made me feel so loved and appreciated.

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