What and When is Teacher Appreciation Day?

People began talking about creating a national day to celebrate teachers all the way back in the 1940s. However, the origins of the first Teacher Appreciation Day go back to 1953 when First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, proclaimed to Congress her interest in initiating a National Teacher Day. Interestingly, it wasn’t until 1980 that Congress recognized the first Teacher Appreciation Day. Originally the date was celebrated on March 7th, but that changed in 1985 when the National Education Association (NEA) declared the first Tuesday in May as National Teacher Appreciation Day.

This year it will be celebrated on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. In actuality, the entire week is celebrated as Teacher Appreciation Week. The NEA describes Teacher Appreciation Day as “a day for honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our lives.”

Why is it Important to Recognize Teachers?

In some countries, the profession of teaching is considered on the same level of importance as a doctor or lawyer. However, in the United States, the teaching profession is not seen in the same light for all people. Oftentimes, our teachers feel overworked and underpaid, and even that they are not appreciated for all of their hard work and dedication to our children.

People outside of the teaching profession at times make statements that are hurtful about teachers including, “they shouldn’t complain, because they get summers off!” Little do they know that the teaching profession has the highest impact on our society as a whole. Teachers spend more time with their students than their own parents do on average. The teaching profession is a calling. Teachers join the profession to make a difference in the lives of children, knowing from the start that they will not make nearly as much money as other professions. The intrinsic reward of knowing that a teacher has touched the lives of so many children is worth well more than any monetary amount.

It is even more important this year to recognize teachers’ hard work considering the flexibility they have shown while educating children in the middle of a pandemic. Teachers have had to transition from in-person, to fully remote, to different versions of hybrid learning in between. They have had to learn new and different ways to engage students from behind the screen of their computer in hopes of things going back to normal.

Most teachers joined the profession because of a teacher they had as a child that inspired them to follow in their footsteps. It is evident that teachers have a profound impact on the students that they teach, so why not recognize them for their efforts?

How to Show Your Teachers Appreciation

Being a building principal provides the perfect opportunity to recognize teachers for their dedication to the profession. As a former building principal, I was fortunate to offer my gratitude to teachers in several different ways. One year, I was able to use the district’s barbecue grills to provide the staff with a freshly grilled lunch. The weather was perfect for our teachers to have an outdoor picnic lunch during their regularly scheduled lunch period. Another time, I purchased a picture book for every teacher in the building and wrote a personal message on the inside cover. It was the perfect book to read aloud to students at the beginning of each school year.

Probably the most memorable experience was when we played a weeklong game that awarded teachers points for doing positive things for other staff members within the building. The funny part was that teachers had to record themselves doing all of these positive things. At the end of the week, teachers could cash in their points for exciting coupon prizes like wearing jeans for a day, covering a class, washing their car, etc. The teacher with the most points won a lunch of their choice provided by the principal. Teachers shared their videos for weeks after the experience was over. It really brought our staff together!

This year will be a little different with COVID restrictions and some staff still teaching from home. While many of the options for teacher appreciation may not be possible, it is important now more than ever to show our gratitude for their flexibility during this unprecedented school year.

A principal could use technology to gather positive comments about a teacher using Google Forms. S/he could then pick the best comment and frame it for the teacher using a frame purchased at the Dollar Store. Another idea would be to purchase the teachers a T-Shirt with a catchy slogan on it that sums up the 2020-21 school year. Whatever the principal decides upon, it is important to make sure it comes from the heart, as Teacher Appreciation Day only comes around once per year.