March 29, 2021 | Careers, Current Events

It’s Almost Time for Teacher Appreciation Week, May 3-7

stephanie behring

Written and reported by:
Stephanie Behring
Contributing Writer

teacher sitting on ground with young students
teacher sitting on ground with young students

In 1953, former first lady and activist Eleanor Roosevelt floated the idea to Congress of an official day of recognition for teachers. While the idea wasn’t acted upon then, it gained traction over the next few decades, gathering the support of two huge players. By the 1980s, both the National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union in the United States, and the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), the nation’s largest volunteer organization working on behalf of children, were in favor of the holiday and lobbied Congress again for a designation. National Teacher Day became an official national day in March in 1980, eventually moving to the Tuesday of the first full week in May a few years later.

To keep the celebration going, the National PTA organizes and promotes the entire first week in May as Teacher Appreciation Week. This year, that week runs from May 3-7. Classrooms around the country look different this year, as many schools are still using distance learning, but there will still be plenty of activities scheduled.

Why National Teacher Appreciation Week Matters

Teachers rise to the challenge of every student and every academic year, but the past year has brought unprecedented obstacles and struggles. Teachers have been balancing distance learning and hybrid learning formats. Teachers are connecting with students in new ways and finding creative ways to keep virtual learning engaging. Now, many schools are looking toward getting back to the classroom and in-person learning soon, presenting new challenges and adjustments for teachers and students.

Teachers go above and beyond, not just in the past year, but every year. Teacher Appreciation Week is a great opportunity for parents, students, administrators, and the whole community to give thanks for this hard work.

5 Fun Ways to Treat Yourself During Teacher Appreciation Week!

“It’s so important teachers and staff are publicly recognized and appreciated,” says Dr. Amanda Holdsworth, a communications specialist in the field of education.

If you’re a teacher, you don’t have to wait until May to start celebrating yourself and your coworkers. Take some time to attend a virtual conference, enter a contest, or just let yourself relax. We’ve rounded up some great ways you can make the most of Teacher Appreciation Week 2021, and the rest of the 2021 school year.

Attend a Conference

One of the best ways to give your career a boost is attending a conference. No matter what grade or subject you teach, you can find a conference to help sharpen your skills, learn new techniques, and make professional connections. Plus, you can attend many conferences from the comfort of your home. So if you’ve never had time to attend a conference before, this might be the perfect year to check one out.

Held April 17-18, this virtual conference will give teachers strategies to help them support their students.

This annual conference will be held virtually June 20-23 and will focus on innovations in education.

This large virtual conference will help you prepare for the 2021-2022 school year and is being held virtually June 23-25.

This conference is dedicated to new technology in classrooms and will be held virtually June 26-30.

This convention, presented online Oct. 25-28, focuses on innovations in learning.

You can learn new strategies for teaching English and Language Arts at this conference, held November 18-21 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Apply for a Grant or Enter a Contest

Teachers can tap into a number grants designed to fund the purchase of supplies for their school. These pots of cash aren’t your only chance at paying for extras, however. You can also enter a few contests just for teachers that can put a little money in your pocket or send a prize your way. Some national contests include:

Help your students create books in class, then enter the finished product in this contest. You could win a $25 Amazon gift card by taking a photo of your students and their work and be entered in a drawing for thousands of dollars in grants for your school. You’ll have plenty of chances to win, since there are drawings every month.

Put your creativity to the test with this yearly writing contest from the Academy for Teachers. The contest looks for stories about teaching written by teachers and awards $1,000 and publication of your story to the winner. Entries will be accepted this fall.

The Help a Teacher Foundation has weekly giveaways you can enter to win prizes. The prizes are selected with teachers in mind and are generally things you can use in your classroom.

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

Grab a Freebie or Discount

There are some great discounts for teachers available all year round. For example, did you know that teachers can always receive 60% off Adobe software products? Multiple national retailers also offer a discount to teachers, including:

Half Price Books
Teachers get a discount of 10% year-round.

The Container Store
Special discounts are available to educators throughout the year.

JoAnn Fabrics
A 15% discount awaits teachers every day.

Ann Taylor Loft
Teachers receive exclusive perks, including a 15% discount, just by showing their teacher ID.

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

Hardworking teachers always welcome free and discounted coffee, desserts, snacks, and entrees. Many local and chain restaurants offer deals during Teacher Appreciation Week, so be sure to keep your ear to the ground in the days leading up to the week. Companies that typically participate include:

  • Chipotle–The chain offers a buy-one, get-one deal.
  • Potbelly–You can also get a buy-one, get-one deal from Potbelly. Buy a sandwich for yourself and get one free for a friend (or yourself!)
  • McDonald’s–Some locations offer free beverages or meals to teachers.

Plus, some museums and activities offer free admission:

Get Social!

Social media is a great way to stay connected with your fellow teachers. For example, did you know that every Thursday at 7 p.m. ESD/4 p.m. PSD, you can join the hashtag #EdChat on Twitter to chat live with other educators about current teaching trends? During Teacher Appreciation Week, you can tag photos of your classroom fun with hashtags like #teachersweek or #teacherweek2021 to join the virtual celebration.

Instagram is another great way to find community with hashtags such as  #teachersofinstagram, #teachersfollowteachers, and #teacherlife.

Encourage Community Support

Teachers and schools are a vital part of their communities. Beyond educating, schools often host community-wide events and provide meals to students in need. To do so, they need help and support from their communities. Multiple studies have shown that family involvement in a child’s education can be a huge boost to both teachers and students. Teacher Appreciation Week is a great time for administrators to rally their parents, students, and their communities to show support.

“At one of my client schools, the principal secretly asked parents and students to submit anonymous quotes about their favorite teachers,” says Holdsworth. “The principal, with a team of volunteers, then wrote all of the quotes on heart-shaped post-its, decorating the teachers’ rooms before school one day.”

Support from students, families, and the community goes a long way in helping teachers succeed.

Support needs to go beyond simple gestures of thanks, however. A study published in The Journal of Human Resources found that the improvement to student success spurred by family engagement is equal to the school having an additional budget of $1,000 per student. In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that community and parental involvement makes an enormous impact on student success. 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.

The improvement to student success spurred by family engagement is equal to the school having an additional budget of $1,000 per student.

Organizations such as the National PTA can help offer suggestions and support. One successful model used by the National PTA is Three For Me, an initiative that asks family members to pledge three hours to volunteer. The hours can be done at school, at home, or in the community, and family members can offer more time if they have it. Schools can make a list of tasks they need done and let parents who’ve signed the Three For Me pledge 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. You can send these lists home with your students, email them out to families, or both. Some tasks families can take on include:

  • Chaperoning in-school events
  • Chaperoning off-site field trips
  • Reading to students
  • Making photocopies
  • Gathering supplies for art projects
  • Speaking to student groups about their careers
  • Tutoring students
  • Sending in baked goods
  • Donating money

Go for That Master’s Degree

If you’ve been thinking about earning your master’s degree, now is a great time. There is a high demand for teachers with advanced degrees. A higher degree would be a great way to take the next career step, look toward leadership, and boost your salary. Plus, you might be able to get tuition assistance or reimbursement from your school or school board. Even if your schedule is tight, online options are becoming increasingly available and popular.

Make Time for Yourself

Between classroom time, grading papers, preparing lessons, leading 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.

Teachers regularly work more than just 40 hours per week.

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 many teachers find relaxing and refreshing:

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

Keep Yourself Healthy

Taking care of your health is an important aspect of self-care. Teachers are exposed to every sniffle and cough that comes into 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 or 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 educators. 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 offer a much-needed break—and be a huge stress reliever. Even taking it slower over the summer can help. And whether you’re working from home or on site, making time for a vacation can help you recharge for the new school year.


With professional contributions from:

heidi may wilson

Heidi May Wilson
Senior Media Relations Specialist, National PTA

amanda holdsworth

Dr. Amanda Holdsworth
School Communications Specialist