Gear Up for Teacher Appreciation Week May 4 to 8

stephanie behring

By Stephanie Behring
Stephanie Behring is an education and healthcare writer living on the east coast.

March 27, 2020 | Careers, Current Events

young students surround woman teacher on laptop
young students surround woman teacher to look at her laptop

Being a teacher is a tough job in the best of circumstances, but the coronavirus has given new meaning to the challenges teachers face as schools across the country close to limit the spread of the virus. Teachers are working harder than ever to help keep kids on track, and that means National Teacher Appreciation Week matters more than ever.

When Is National Teacher Appreciation Week?

Since 1984, the first Tuesday in May has been National Teacher Appreciation Day. The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), the largest volunteer organization working on behalf of children in the county, celebrates all week, May 4 to 8.

First lady Eleanor Roosevelt championed teacher appreciation week in the 1950s, but it didn’t become an officially recognized holiday until the 1980s with the support of the national PTA and the National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union in the United States.

In recognition for all the hard work teachers do, the National PTA is getting ready for this year’s events. Materials and planning kits are available online and have formats for both distance and in person celebrations. The theme for this year is “I ❤️ My Teacher.” The theme makes use of emojis and social media and encourages students and parents to  show appreciation to teachers. The event this year has additional help from OfficeMax Office Depot which is sponsoring the Depot Day of Difference, on Saturday, May 2, during which volunteers will make improvements to various schools across the country (pending changes in social distancing restrictions).

Teacher Appreciation Week is an important time to shine a light on teachers and thank them for the pivotal role they play in children’s lives and futures.

While the coronavirus has upended the school year in most districts across the country, the National PTA is committed to making Teacher Appreciation Week a success. According to senior media relations manager Heidi May Wilson, the national PTA is paying close attention to the situation and is “not yet exactly sure how things will ultimately pan out this year with school closures and coronavirus concerns. At this time, though, we are still moving ahead with our plans as we currently have them.”

Why National Teacher Appreciation Week Matters

Today, teachers face more challenges than ever. In districts across the country, educators are juggling reduced budgets and increasing class sizes, and many teachers have resorted to buying their own supplies to keep their classrooms running and their students engaged.

“Teacher Appreciation Week is an important time to shine a light on teachers and thank them for the pivotal role they play in children’s lives and futures,” says Nathan R. Monell, CAE, executive director of the national PTA. “We hope everyone will join us during Teacher Appreciation Week in celebrating and showing gratitude to teachers for their work and impact.” 

If you’re a teacher, you don’t have to wait until May to start celebrating. Check out the events and activities below to get started now and keep the celebrations going all year.

How to Participate

Attend a Conference

Attending a conference is a great way to learn new teaching techniques, keep up on changes in your field, and network. Your employer might even pay for you to attend. Many conferences that were scheduled for early spring have been canceled, postponed, or transitioned to an online format, but attending a conference later in the year is a good goal to set for yourself. Check out some conferences that are still scheduled to go on as planned as of mid-March:

Held in Austin, Texas, May 13–15, this summit focuses on professional development and networking.

This conference, held by the U.S. Distance Learning Association focuses on online education and distance learning. It runs May 18–May 24 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dedicated to improving charter schools, this conference takes place June 21–25 in Orlando, Florida.

This conference explores new technology in classrooms and runs June 28 to July 1 in Anaheim, California.

Held in Stanford, California, July 13–17, this conference is dedicated to social studies and geography.

This math-focused conference is held in Philadelphia July 29 to August 1.

The International Literacy Association conference is dedicated to language arts and is held October 15–18 in Columbus, Ohio.

This conference is held in San Antonio, Texas, and runs October 25–28 with a focus on innovations in learning.

There are several sessions of this STEM-focused conference throughout the year in locations around the country. There are conferences in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 29–31; New Orleans, Louisiana, November 19–21; and Phoenix, Arizona, December 10–12.

This conference is dedicated to music education. It will be held in Orlando, Florida, November 4–8.

Enter a Contest

Looking for ways to pay for a classroom makeover, new computers or textbooks? Enter a contest. You can win prizes throughout the year by doing a project or simply filling out a form. Some contests are for teachers across the nation, but many are tied to local school districts. You can also try your luck with these national contests:

EdSpace is a new app designed to help teachers network and support each other. Download the app and introduce yourself by April 3, and you could win an Amazon gift card worth up to $500. 

High school teachers can enter between now and April 13 to win a set of 10 classic books for their classroom.

This annual contest begins in September and honors outstanding English teachers globally. Winners receive an all-expense-paid trip to an international conference.

Some contests require students to submit an essay nominating a teacher. The winners will receive prizes from national organizations. Two prominent examples:

  • Barnes & Noble’s My Favorite Teacher contest invites students 14 and older to submit an essay, poem, or thank-you letter about a teacher who has impacted their lives. Winning teachers receive $5,000 for themselves and an additional $5,000 for their school.
  •  The Honored Foundation nonprofit allows students to nominate outstanding teachers. Winners receive $5,00 and a profile on the foundation’s website.

Grab a Freebie or a Discount

As teachers, you can take advantage of freebies and discounts all year long. Did you know that teachers can always receive 60% off Adobe software products?

You can also get discounts on clothing, craft supplies, and teaching supplies from several national retailers:

JoAnn Fabrics
15% discount every day

The Container Store
Special discounts throughout the year

Half Price Books
10% off year round

Ann Taylor Loft
15% off and other teacher-exclusive perks

You can even get discounts on large purchases—GM, for example, offers an educator discount on new vehicles.

A full list of discounts for the year will be announced closer to May, but many things are standard from year to year. You can get free coffee, desserts, snacks, and even entrees from many local restaurants. Plus, some museums and activities offer free admission. Note that some deals might be different this year as companies respond to the coronavirus. Companies that often have Teacher Appreciation Week deals include:

  • Chipotle–The chain offers a buy-one, get-one deal.
  • Potbelly–You can also get a buy-one, get-one deal from Potbelly.
  • Cici’s Pizza–The chain offers a free adult buffet for teachers.
  • McDonald’s–Some locations offer free value meals to teachers.
  • Legoland–Teachers can get free admission to the park’s Orlando location.
  • SeaWorld–Teachers can get free admission at SeaWorld parks throughout the country.

Shout Out on Social Media

You don’t have to wait for Teacher Appreciation Week to use the hashtag #thankATeacher to give a shout-out to a coworker or thank one of your own teachers. On Wednesday, May 6, the NEA is encouraging teachers to wear something red and use the hashtag #REDforED—and to join in on the PTA’s emoji-themed “I ❤️ My Teacher!” celebrations—to draw attention to the work teachers do and the importance of school funding.

Encourage Community Support

Teachers and schools are a vital part of their communities—beyond education, schools often host community-wide events, provide meals to students in need, among other things. But they also need the support of their communities: Multiple studies have shown that family involvement in a child’s education can be a huge help to both teachers and students.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Human Resources found that the improvement to student success from family engagement is equal to an additional $1,000 in funding per student. However, teachers often find it difficult to get much-needed support. Busy parents might not know how to pitch in, and teachers might not know how to ask for help.

Organizations such as the national PTA can help teachers and school districts reach out to parents. One successful model promoted by the group is Three for Me, an initiative that asks family members to pledge three hours a year to volunteering at school, home or in the community. Schools can make a list of tasks they need done and let parents pick assignments.

Even if your school doesn’t have a similar initiative, you can start small in your own classroom. Make a list of supplies you need or tasks family members can do, and send these lists home with your students or email them to families. Many parents also can:

  • Chaperone events like school dances
  • Chaperone field trips
  • Read to students
  • Photocopy class materials
  • Gather supplies for art projects
  • Speak to students about their careers
  • Tutor students
  • Send in baked goods for fundraisers or parties
  • Send in donations
  • Help with the newsletter, social media or communications

You can find more ideas for parent engagement from fellow teachers using the NEA’s Works4Me tools and tips library. 

Go for That Master’s Degree

There’s high demand for teachers with advanced degrees, and it can often mean a decent bump in pay. Plus, you might be able to get tuition assistance or reimbursement from your school or school board. Another plus—online degree options are becoming increasingly available and popular, allowing you to study on your own schedule.

Make Time for Yourself

Between classroom time, grading papers, preparing lessons, heading school activities, and conferring with parents, teachers are busy well beyond the standard eight-hour workday. According to data from the NEA,teachers work an average of 52 hours a week, including 22 hours preparing for classes and grading student work.

With a schedule like that, self-care is a must for anyone. And while squeezing in time for yourself might seem next to impossible, it’s worth making it a priority. It can boost your mood, focus, and overall teaching performance. You’ll know best how to recharge, but here are some ideas that people find relaxing and refreshing:

  • Talk to a friend or family member
  • Keep a journal
  • Take a social media break
  • Allow yourself to take a break—sometimes even 10 minutes helps

Keep Yourself Healthy

Teachers are exposed to every sniffle and cough in their classroom. That can make it hard to stay healthy, but there are some steps you can take:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Find time to exercise
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Wash your hands and carry hand sanitizer

Take the Summer Off (if You Can)

While many people think of summers off as one of the greatest perks of being a teacher, you probably know that an actual summer off is rare for many teachers. While students get a break, many teachers spend summers working second jobs, teaching summer school, and taking classes for certification renewal or to advance their careers.

But if you can, taking the summer off can be a much-needed break and a huge stress reliever. Even taking it slower over the summer can help. And even if you’re working or in school, making time for a vacation can help you recharge for the new school year.