Creating an Environment Where Teachers are Appreciated and Celebrated

When I transitioned from the classroom to administration in January of 2000, I realized that one of the things I was giving up was the direct daily impact on students that I had as a teacher. Sure, I would still have a large impact on students, but not in the same manner that a teacher does. This helped influence how I wanted to treat the teachers who did have that daily direct influence on students. Basically, I was determined to provide my teachers with the support and materials they needed to go out and do their jobs to the best of their ability. That also included making sure that they knew I appreciated their efforts.

At Tomahawk Creek Middle School, the administrative team shows our appreciation for our staff in a variety of ways. During our summer retreat, we spent some significant time determining ways that we could demonstrate how much we admire the hard work our teachers do on a daily basis. Here’s what we came up with:

Monthly Coffee Cart Days

Once a month, the administrative team will brew a large urn of coffee, put it on a cart and walk to every classroom. We have hot water for tea, some light snacks, and all the accoutrements. We watch their classes while they step into the hallway, pour a fresh cup of coffee, and get a snack.

Monthly Specialty Days

In addition to the coffee cart, we wanted to do something special for our staff once a month to show our appreciation. We looked at the calendar and found a variety of days that would suit our needs. March 12 is National Pancake Day, so we cooked a pancake breakfast for staff that day. We did Valentine’s Day treats on February 14, and on November 19—National Soda Day—we did ice cream floats.

Birthday Recognitions

Each week, I send out a staff e-mail newsletter. One of the sections in each newsletter is for staff birthdays. I list all the birthdays that are coming up the following week. I also have every staff member’s birthday on my school Google calendar as a repeating event. I check it each morning and send a Happy Birthday email to anyone who has a birthday that day.

Good Wolf Shout Outs

Another section in the weekly newsletter is our Good Wolf Shout Outs. We use a Google form and ask teachers and staff to give a shout out to someone that week who went above and beyond in some manner to make the school a better place or did something to assist another staff member. This provides staff with an easy way to say “thank you” to other staff members.

Brag Book

I found this idea through one of my Twitter PLN members. The idea is for staff members to take some time and really write something nice about another staff member. We have a journal book with a staff roster glued on the inside cover. The instructions are opposite the cover. You receive the Brag Book when a staff member writes something nice about you in the book and puts it in your mailbox. You then look the staff roster, find a staff member who has not received the book, and write something nice about that staff member. It is a nice surprise to find in your mailbox!

Cooperating With Our PTA

We are fortunate that we have an outstanding, and very active, PTA. They are always coming up with great ideas to celebrate our staff. They do several luncheons and breakfasts throughout the year. They also purchased a Keurig coffee machine for each of our teacher workrooms. Several times during the year, they conduct Keurig drives, and parents donate boxes of the coffee cups for the machines so our teachers always have a fresh supply of coffee. Also, each year they donate a holiday gift that we give to the staff during the last week before winter break

What it really comes down to for us, as an administrative team, is doing anything we can to show our appreciation for our teachers and staff. We want our school to be a place where our staff is happy and a place they want to be at. Work with the resources you have, be creative, and think outside the box when planning your appreciation. With a little bit of effort and planning, you can always find ways to show your staff how much you appreciate them.

How do you show appreciation for your teachers and staff?

David S. Ellena is the principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield, VA, and has been in education for 33 years. He has served on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals. He is the 2018 Virginia Principal of the Year. Follow him on Twitter @TCMSPrincipal.

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