In Appreciation of Teachers by Margaret Hart

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week! All this week, at most grade schools I know of, children and their parents will be honoring teachers and staff. Many kids will likely give their teachers a handmade card or project they’ve worked on in secret, and many parents will show their appreciation by hosting breakfasts and luncheons and giving teachers tokens of their appreciation, both large and small.

I am co-chairing Teacher Appreciation Week at my son’s elementary school, which is comprised of some 800 children from more than 700 families. With PTO budgets down, we have been limited in the gift department, but still able to plan some creative tokens of appreciation, as well as a nice luncheon. I thought I’d share what we’re doing, on a shoestring budget.

On Monday, we placed an invitation, with a delicious cake pop attached, into staff mailboxes. We thought the printed invitation (versus an email) would be a nice touch, and make the teachers feel special. My co-chair designed and printed them on card stock she had in her home office, and another mom donated cake pops from her bakery business, hand dipped in chocolate in our school colors. It made a nice presentation to kick off the week.

On Wednesday, we’ll give the teachers another treat: a Chinese food “to go” box filled with fortune cookies containing special fortunes we had custom printed. One says: “We are Fortunate to have you!” Others say, “Thanks for a great year,” and ‘With Appreciation, from the parents…” Surprisingly, the printing (with our school’s logo) was free with the purchase of the cookies. I found the cookie and box vendors online. The purchases came in well under $50 including shipping, and my co-chair and I supplied some tissue paper inside the boxes to prevent breakage, and created a nice tag that read: “A little treat to show our appreciation.”

On Friday, we will end Teacher Appreciation Week with buffet luncheon of more than 50 different foods, including ethnic dishes, for some 100 teachers and staff. Almost everything was donated by parents! We have appetizers, both cold and hot entrees and side dishes, coffee, cold drinks, and enough desserts to rival a Venetian dessert bar at a wedding.

In planning this event, I’ve felt like the neighborhood chair person for the annual summer block party, where each family brings their favorite dish. After my initial email request was sent, we had more than 75 parents reply, offering to cook, bake, or purchase almost everything we needed. We also organized parent volunteers to help us set up, serve and clean up. In addition to taking a village to raise our kids, it has taken a village to feed our teachers!

I was ecstatic at the swift and generous response from parents offering to help, especially because this week at our school is also our annual plant sale and our school musical. It’s heartwarming to see what a dedicated community of families we have supporting our school.

Like many schools built in the 1960s, ours was not designed with a lot of extra spaces for ad hoc functions. The cafeteria and gymnasium will be in use, so will the auditorium, and the teacher’s lounge needs to be kept open, so the luncheon is being set up in a cramped conference room filled with odd file cabinets that can’t be moved, and one small window. To transform the clunky conference table, and liven up five buffet tables, my co-chair found brightly colored fabric tablecloths in our school colors at a discount home furnishings store, and created simple table centerpieces of small ceramic planters filled with spring flowers she purchased at a big box store. We’ll also use decorations from our school’s recent art show to help create a cheerful, springtime decor. All in, we’ll probably be well within our budget and have spent less than $500, including a nice planner that the PTO ordered and gives to teachers each year.

Now that the luncheon is just days away, I’m nervous that something will be forgotten. Like when you go on vacation and forget to pack your toothbrush. Or worse, your underwear! All the little annoying details are starting to keep me up at night. Like, did we request trash cans from the custodians? How many bags of ice will we need? Please God, don’t let me forget the lighters so we can light the burners for the chafing dishes. And so on.

Most of the planning is done and everything is ready to go. It’s been a lot of hard work. And I will be glad when it’s over — and hopefully everyone enjoyed themselves. When I feel sleep deprived or stressed, or get an email from a parent asking me a strange question (there’s always one), I start to chant to myself, “I’m not doing this again next year, I’m not doing this again next year.” Then I remember how much I love being a mom! I know my enthusiasm to be involved in my son’s school comes both from my inherent nature, but also from the “gift” of later motherhood.  Being a later mom, I’ve “been there and done that” in so many other facets of my life; while I’m still driven to succeed professionally, my priorities shifted when my son was born, and my goals became more aligned with all things “motherhood.” Instead of my top priority being only to be the best SVP, my goal is also to succeed at the job of being the best M-O-M.

The smile and hug I receive from my son when he sees me at his school on a regular basis, and the pride I know he feels being able to say, “That’s my mom,” makes everything I do for his school that much more gratifying. The smiles on the faces of all the children I touch through my volunteer work is priceless to me. And the appreciation I hear from the teachers I assist with classroom work, feels just as good (if not better) than the best performance review I ever received in my professional life.

Now it’s my turn to help show the teachers how much we appreciate them! Congratulations to all the teachers. Your job is so important. You are changing the world, one student at a time. You deserve unending amounts of recognition!

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  1. 3 Responses to “In Appreciation of Teachers by Margaret Hart”

  2. I will send my son’s teacher an e-mail telling her how much we appreciate her…although she already knows it! My son and I both have the flu this week, so unfortunately I can’t even go to the plant sale I was going to volunteer at this week to give my son’s teacher a plant. Super bummer. I love to volunteer at my son’s school too. I think this year, though, we will be curled up in his bed.

    By Cara Potapshyn Meyers on May 8, 2012

  3. HI Cara! That was a nice idea to send the email. I know that my son’s teacher has always appreciated the notes she receives, and handmade gifts from the kids.

    By Margaret Hart on Jun 5, 2012

  4. Email is a really nice idea. I know a lot of parents who write personal notes. I created a “book” for my son’s teacher, and had each child contribute a page. The pages contained drawings and answers to some sweet and silly questions about the teacher. The answers were equally sweet and silly. As his teacher read through the book, sharing select entries with the class, I could tell this gift really touched her. I’m sure she appreciated the plant and the gift certificate we also gave her, but I also think the personalized messages contained in the book were the most appreciated.

    By Margaret Hart on May 15, 2012