Honoring the Heroes in our Classrooms

I’ve been an educator for over twenty years and working side-by-side with these amazing professionals only increased the respect I had developed for them as a child. However, I never really understood how much a teacher can mean to you until I became a parent.

A Personal Note

With two working parents, my wife Dana is an amazing teacher and a real inspiration to me, our daughter began school before she could even walk. Her personal journey began in a small school known as “Bell’s School for People Under Six”. Her teachers not only pushed her to develop physically and mentally and to learn to play and share with others, but became surrogate parents during the day. They cared for her as if she were their own offering her comfort when she was sick, hurt, or upset and loving her day in and out.

For kindergarten and first grade, she moved to Fletcher Elementary and there she was nurtured not only by her classroom teachers and the special area educators she visited each week, but by the entire community. Her primary teachers got to know her and really understood her strengths and what she could bring to the classroom as well as what made her nervous or uncomfortable. She even developed a close, personal relationship with her first principal, Tammy Deaver, who helped her feel that she belonged and recognized her efforts.

Now she is at another school, Hendersonville Elementary, and once again she is surrounded by people who have taken an interest in her. From day one, she felt connected to her classroom teacher, Tara Anderson, and was excited to find that one of her friends’ mom, Shannon Pietras, would be working with her too. Mrs. Anderson’s energy and positivity have helped our girl grow and develop and once again the community has welcomed her. This fall they went above and beyond reaching out and supporting her during and after a health crisis. As a father, I couldn’t be more grateful, yet I find it hard to explain how much these amazing people mean to me.

Teachers Are Really “Something Special”

I know there are many of us out there who just don’t quite know how to say thank you to these people who have meant the world to us and our families and friends. They should be celebrated all year long, but Teacher Appreciation Month is a wonderful time to acknowledge the contributions teachers make to our community. These educators play a pivotal role in shaping the future generation, imparting knowledge, instilling values, and nurturing young minds.

Teachers go above and beyond to create engaging lesson plans, provide individualized support, and foster a positive learning environment. I know firsthand that teachers “take their work home with them” thinking about the social, emotional, and academic lives of their students and worrying about them when they face the inevitable challenges life brings. Teachers’ impact extends far beyond the classroom, influencing future careers, aspirations, and lifelong learning journeys.

Ways to Support and Celebrate Teachers

Here are a few simple suggestions for ways to say, “Thank You” to the teachers in our lives.

1. Express Gratitude: A heartfelt thank-you note or a simple word of appreciation can go a long way in brightening a teacher’s day. Take the time to express gratitude for their hard work, dedication, and unwavering commitment to their students’ success. These notes become treasures whether from family members or the students themselves.

2. Donate Supplies: Many teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies to enhance the learning experience for their students. Consider donating supplies such as books, art materials, or educational games to support their efforts. You can never have too many pencils! Some schools or teachers have ongoing lists of needs or even have Amazon Wish Lists that can be marked off.

3. Gift Cards: Treat your favorite teacher to a gift card for a local bookstore, coffee shop, or restaurant as a token of appreciation for their tireless efforts. This allows them to indulge in some well-deserved self-care and relaxation outside of the classroom. Sometimes the best present is the one that a teacher can pick out for themselves.

4. Classroom Resources: Help teachers enrich their classroom experience by gifting favorite books, STEM kits, or subscription services that provide access to digital learning resources. Perhaps you have a connection with a local business that might be able to sponsor or donate more expensive items such as maps, whiteboards, or personal laminators, that teachers can use in their classrooms.

5. Just Ask: When in doubt, just ask teachers what favorites they have. Is there a special treat they love, but don’t buy for themselves? Do they need someone to trim laminate or organize resources? Would it make all the difference to have a volunteer come in and spend some time with a particular student or group? Or do gifts make them uncomfortable and they’d much rather just have a kind note? A quick email or conversation can make a connection and help you find out how they would like to be appreciated.

In the end, it’s the thought that counts and teachers will love knowing that you’re thinking of them. Let’s go out of our way to make sure they hear the message loud and clear: we see you, we know how hard you’re working, we can feel your commitment and passion, and we appreciate it all.