5 unique ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week

Heads up! Today, March 22, is the last day to order our Get Your Cray On shirts — perfect appreciation gifts for teachers! National Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-11.

My mom is a teacher.

I feel proud to type that. Though she’s now retired, once a teacher, always a teacher — she carries that badge with honor, rushing to help or advocate for many causes to support the profession even though she no longer does the day-to-day work.

Students loved her dancing-on-the-desk, goofy ways. She knew how to command respect while also showing her middle school students learning was fun. And that’s a tough balance, one that teachers everywhere work hard to achieve.

One of my favorite times of year was when my mom would come home with teacher appreciation gifts. They were so plentiful and varied — many of them keepsakes that still adorn her home. She kept them because they did exactly what they were intended to do, make her feel like someone was appreciative of the blood, sweat and tears she put into her work. Her students were what kept her going every day, but the acknowledgment was certainly a heartwarming plus.

So as Teacher Appreciation Week approaches, don’t forget to recognize the hard work that goes into achieving the balance. Here are five ways you can do it (and some of my mom’s favorites):

Write a letter.

Boy, that seems simple, doesn’t it? But very little delivers a stronger “thank you” and is more meaningful than a handwritten note. Express your gratitude for your child’s teacher. Tell him or her what they do regularly for your child that has helped them be successful. Handwritten notes take time and thought, and are more likely to be kept forever. They deliver inspiration and motivation. Who better to inspire than the person who inspires your child every day? (Better yet, have your children write the letter!) My mom says she kept every one she ever received.

Make a garden basket.

“That’s an absolute hit, every single time,” she says. Create a basket of flowers teachers can plant at home (or even in pots around their desk). Adding a little color to their day is great for lifting their mood and helps them look forward to summer, when they spend time planning for the coming year. The best options are perennials — flowers that bloom season after season — because it allows the teacher to connect the child with the plant for many years to come.

Create a desk spa experience.

One survey found that educators find work to be stressful 61 percent of the time — and nearly a quarter of respondents said work was “always” stressful. So what about a basket that gives them a little relief? Lotions and essential oils can deliver calming scents at their desks, while herbal teas, like chamomile, lemon balm, green or peppermint, can make the afternoon a little more relaxing. Because teachers are always talking, their mouths stay dry, so my mom pointed out that lip balms and peppermints are also greatly appreciated.

Send a classroom care package.

Remember that supply list that came home at the beginning of the year? Odds are they still need some of those items, and will need them on an on-going basis. Teachers are spending more of their own money on school supplies because of decreased funding — sometimes upward of $500 — so anything you can provide to the classroom is a huge help. Create a care package that includes items every student will use, like paper, pencils, hand sanitizer and Kleenex. You can make one for teachers too: include Post-Its, Sharpies and nice pens. It’s guaranteed to make a difference and be appreciated.

Ask your teacher what he or she likes.

If none of the above seem to hit the mark, have your child ask his or her teacher what kind of things they like, and then go for those. For my mom, anything handmade, a nice coffee cup or a journal would be key to tickling her fancy. Once a student came back from the beach with some shells in a jar because Mom once talked about how much she loved those. It was a heartfelt, special gift.