PSST…! This post has been so popular that we’ve updated it. You can find the updated 2019 version here.
During a recent #leadupchat on Twitter someone was vulnerable enough to say he wanted to improve at celebrating staff. So I thought, “Why not crowd source the great ways my colleagues celebrate their people?” I hope you enjoy this post on staff appreciation ideas.
But first, a story …
In 2014 we lost a great teacher, Dr. Betty Howard to senseless gun violence.
She was working a second job as a real estate agent when stray gun fire blast through her office wall killing her innocently.
Terrible I know.
Our campus was wrecked.
Despite this great tragedy, our admin team thought it would be a great way to honor her life through creating the
Dr. Howard Staff Member of the Month Award.
We tied the award to one of our values: going the extra mile.
Each month our staff, parents, and students nominate staff members who live this value everyday at our school.
People have the opportunity to write a short narrative about how the nominated individual goes the extra mile and then our Culture and Climate Team votes on the winner.
The nominees are announced via email and so are the winner and runner-up.
The runner-up gets a cupcake and the winner gets their name on a plaque and their picture on the TV screens throughout the building.
PRO TIP … Every single nominee receives a print out of what people said about them as a “feel good” letter.
Many nominees hang these letters with pride in their classrooms and offices.
When I led this effort I paid my mom $20 for an hours work to cut and paste what people said into the documents they received in their mailboxes.
We used a simple Google Survey, which talked to a Google Sheet, which we then made into a personalized Google doc for the mailbox.
This is what the survey looked like …
Crowdsourced Staff Appreciation Ideas
I believe in them! I believe in each of them, their individual capacities to be teacher-leaders, to invest in their students and our profession. I believe I their Learn Forward potential. They have business cards.
I allow my teachers the freedom to craft their own professional development plans alongside their own self-care plans. They get a budget. I model and encourage the members of my team to hold the two plans, one in each hand. It is deeply personal and whole-hearted.
I expect each one to grow and learn each year and share inspirationally at our year-end edcamp.
Believing in my teachers is the greatest way I recognize and celebrate each Learn Forward team member.
I thought about which people on our staff who were natural encouragers and love themes, parties and celebrations.
There were 2 that immediately came to mind so I asked them to come in during the summer between my first and second year of being a principal and pitched the idea of naming them the Directors of Wow!
I shared ideas I had been collecting and they took off with the concept. Our goal was to do have one thing/event per month that made the teachers say “wow, how cool is this?” “wow, thank you so much”, etc.
We have been doing it for 2 years now and the results in school climate/culture have been amazing. We don’t repeat the same thing or if we do, it is a different time of the year so it is unexpected. I think that is part of the appeal. Teachers never know when they are going to be “WOWED.”
Some of the things we have done include:
- Snow Cone Truck hiding behind the buses on the first Friday of the school year so it is revealed when bused pull off the lot (picture squeals and excitement when they see it and then music starts…)
- Holiday Magic Week- different dress up days for the week we get out….for teachers, not kids) Imagine the kids faces when the whole school is celebrating in “Elf Yourself” or “Whoville Day.”
- A trek to the auditorium for PD becomes a incredible memory when they see red carpet (e.g. paper) leading the way to the doors and there is popcorn and candy with stars and movie posters because we are watching “McFarland, USA” together….which by the way, resulted in most people in tears at the end. Awesome movie if you haven’t seen it.
- Special delivery of PayDay bars because they deserve an extra one for all they do for our students.
- Better Body Bingo in January… yeah I know…crazy name. This idea actually came from my sister in Florida where she is a city employee. All employees participate and it is a fun way to help people take better care of themselves.I revamped it for school. I could share one of our bingo cards if you’d like to see it. And of course there are prizes!
- Hurricane coming through? No problem. We sent out a connectEd message (county calling system) and told everyone to wear yellow because we were going to make our own sunshine and I run around with a selfie stick taking pics with different teams
- Photobooth are a must anytime we have a dress up day. Teachers love it.
- Lemonade Stand made from pallets in the lounge on the first day of spring with yellow and white striped straws and lots of sun-shiney, cheery quotes all over the walls.
I love teachers and this is one way I get to show it. Our Teacher Working Conditions Survey (administered by our state every 2 years) results went up by leaps and bounds. My first 2 summers I hired 46 teachers and this summer I only hired 6. It is making a huge difference.
Show Suzanne some love for her staff appreciation ideas. Follow here on Twitter here!
In response to your question…. I believe that we should celebrate staff early, often and loudly. School staff are often focused on for negative reasons by media, fellow teachers, parents while the vast majority work tirelessly to do everything and anything they can to help students achieve. I believe that more needs to be done to showcase the many talents, gifts and efforts they make on a daily basis. Some ways that I believe this can be done are the following:
- Letters-write to the teachers to specifically thank them for specific efforts noticed, don’t assume they know what you appreciate and are thinking, tell them.
- Little things: Parking spot; cover a class or duty; bring them their favorite treat-coffee, bagel, book from their favorite author.
Those are a couple of ways that are not too loud, here are some ways to celebrate them loudly.
- Acknowledge teachers specifically at all school staff meetings.
- Acknowledge and thank teachers at whole school events.
- Acknowledge and thank teachers at community events-musicals, family education nights, group outings.
- Social Media praise them and tag them where possible.
One of the biggest ways we can celebrate staff is to be respectful and cognizant of their time. Don’t inundate them with tasks that don’t move the organization forward. Honor them as professionals and respect their time and efforts.
Show Jason some love for his staff appreciation ideas … Follow Jason on Twitter here.
We use PAWS … POSITIVE ATTITUDES WILL SUCCEED as our Positive Behavior Program. Everyone in the building from teachers to custodians to office staff get PAWS cards. On those cards they write positive messages and give them to each other.
It’s so cool to see everyone post these in their classrooms and display them with pride. It has really caught on!
I appreciate going from room to room and seeing PAWS cards written by people I wouldn’t even expect … that has been incredibly rewarding.
Show Mike some love for his staff appreciation ideas … Follow Mike on Twitter
One of my Aussie colleagues does something really cool … Scott Davidson uses gold records framed for staff who’ve completed 30 years of service to students at Cabramatta Public School. These hang in our school Hall of Fame …
G’Day Mate! Show Scott some love for his staff appreciation ideas … Connect with Scott on LinkedIn
I try to find out what the teachers’ love languages are … some don’t like being in the spot light so sometimes we celebrate in whole groups.
We use a “snack attack” cart which has drinks and chocolate and randomly surprise teachers.
I look for ways to schedule in hour long lunches so teachers can get off campus too.
One of my favorite things to do is create a Google Form where I capture amazing things my teachers do … this goes to a spreadsheet with my Superintendent and he will either personally go see them or will give them a phone call sharing how much they impact kids.
Cook a conference night meal for staff members
Deliver treats: ice cream, cookies, pop, coffee, donuts
Create and have fun with a scavenger hunt
Write personal notes
Host a Mid-Winter Meltdown in February (Smoothies & Hawaiian Pizza)
Host a back-to-school social gathering
Show Mark some love for his staff appreciation ideas … Follow Mark on Twitter here.
One thing I try to do is write a personal note with a very specific kudo.
I also had teachers fill out a sheet on what they like and I try to get them something during the year.
I have given teachers an hour break and teacher their class or take their duty so they can visit another class to learn.
We do scavenger hunts using the Remind App and give prizes … little things make us happy.
Finally, I partner with local businesses to bring goodies to our staff (e.g. food, massage, gift cards, etc.).
Show Roxanna some love for her staff appreciation ideas … Follow Roxanna on Twitter
I like to publically appreciate teachers via video. I do this for many reasons …
I get to be in classrooms everyday while the teachers rarely get to see each other and the amazing instruction that happens in each classroom.
I also ask students to make videos for their teachers expressing what they appreciate about them.
I hand write notes and highlight strengths … I buy food for the faculty … I write blog posts to publically acknowledge teachers.
I help in the classroom whenever they need it … my most important role is to serve teachers!
Show Allyson some love for her staff appreciation ideas … Follow Allyson on Twitter
It has been my experience as an educational administrator that Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs are twofold – student centered and colleague centered.
We have a plethora of resources to address student needs however the resources to address staff and faculty needs are not as prevalent.
We are seeing a devastating trend in education as it relates to teacher shortages and the mass exodus of educators from the field of education.
Federal data shows that 17% of educators leave the field within four years citing issues with the work environment, lack of respect and appreciation. –Katrina Collier
I recognize my staff in our weekly bulletin called our “Flight itinerary.”
I drop 5-7 notes per week in select teachers mailboxes whose rooms I have visited, and we start every staff meeting, planning meeting, and PTA meeting with celebrations.
Hi Danny! My name is Amaris Scalia. I’m an Assistant Principal in the North Rockland Central School District at Haverstraw Elementary in New York. We are a grades 4-6 building. This year the principal and I wanted to do something more for staff during the holiday season to show our appreciation so we started Holiday Cheer Week. Each day brings a different treat to staff. Day 1 was a chocolate station, Day 2 hot cocoa buffet (big hit!), Day 3 candy canes, day 4 cookies buffet, and day 5 personalized pens with our school names and the phrase Every Moment Matters.
Staff members are an integral part to the building. They need to feel valued, appreciated and that they matter. We have received many thank yous and emails expressing how the treats are energizing them and making their day. But it’s not about the thank yous, it’s about them know that everyone matters in our building because every moment with kids matter.