In spite of the difficult circumstances brought on by COVID-19, educators continue to wake up every day and teach their students, albeit from their homes instead of in classrooms, and remotely instead of face-to-face.
For many teachers, a tough, sometimes thankless job has become even more complicated. But they forge ahead, thinking first—and always—of their students.
For Teacher Appreciation Week this year, we asked about 15 classroom teachers to share with us what it means to teach during a time of severely disrupted learning.
Below, we have curated some of their responses to this question, in particular: What is the most meaningful way a student, parent or school administrator could show their appreciation for you—even from afar?
It may surprise you how little their answers vary—and may prompt you to write a heartfelt note, pass on a compliment or give a word of thanks to the next teacher you meet.
Claire Peterson, teacher at Pat Neff Middle School in San Antonio, Texas:
“Words are always good to hear. Gifts are sweet, but I keep every note I get. Every handmade card. Every ripped out sheet of paper with the words, ‘Thank you, Mrs. Peterson,’ or ‘You helped me today,’ or ‘This lesson really taught me something,’ or anything to make me feel like I'm making a difference in their lives. Anything to feel like I'm making a positive impact on students. Words of encouragement carry us through everything!”
Stephen Guerriero, sixth grade teachers at Needham Public Schools in Needham, Mass.:
“Really, it may sound trite, but a simple, heartfelt note letting a teacher know how their work and efforts are making a positive impact on their child would be so meaningful to any teacher, especially in this challenging time of isolation.”
Susanna Stratford, third grade teacher at Maple Hills Elementary in Renton, Wash.:
“I love snail mail! My students have my address because I've sent them each a piece of mail with my return address on it. (Hint hint!)”
Kind Words, Thanks and Acknowledgement
Jill Armstrong, social studies teacher at Greenup County High School in Greenup, Ky.:
“Just a ‘thank you’ works wonders for a teacher’s mind. We appreciate the material gifts, of course, but in reality just saying thank you makes a teacher’s heart happy.”
Gabriel Vogel, 11th grade teacher at Grassfield High School in Chesapeake, Va.:
“William Ward once said, ‘Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.’ So it is an awesome feeling to get told that you are appreciated for doing things for others and serving our students and community. If you wrap the gift, then give the gift!!”
What kind of gift does she recommend? “It’s simple: a kind message or email is definitely enough! Almost everyone appreciates being thanked and appreciated. Mark Twain once said, ‘I can live for two months on a good compliment.’ So can teachers!”
Erin Haley, 6-8 grade teacher at The Bayshore School in Daly City, Calif.:
“To have the immensely large amount of work and outreach I am doing to be acknowledged. To feel seen, heard and valued by my district … simply by saying thank you, and maybe including a concrete example of something that we've done that they appreciate so we know we are being seen and our work is being appreciated.”
Alexandria Adams, 10th grade teacher at Woodside High School in Newport News, Va.:
“I think that the best form of appreciation during this time is trusting us. We are all struggling. Our students are struggling; oftentimes we are struggling, too. By letting go of the reins and trusting us to do right by our kids, it feels like we are actually being appreciated.
“Just reach out and let us know that you see us. Often, the work sometimes seems thankless, especially at the high school level. Elementary teachers get all the love from students because they're with those kids all day. We have more students, and they have more of us. We get lost in the shuffle. Just reach out and send a message letting us know you're thinking about us. We're thinking about you, too.”
Barbara A. Noppinger, eighth grade math teacher at Dumbarton Middle School in Towson, Md.:
“Acknowledgement is what matters most to me. To have a student say, “I miss our math class,” means so very much. I miss our class too, very much.”
She adds: “Candy bar! Send me a candy bar … in the mail! Seriously though, any outward expression of appreciation is so valued. Expressing oneself in the digital medium can present a challenge, but even a Padlet that students create for teachers would be so cool!”
Charlie Mirus, eighth grade English/language arts teacher at Loveland Middle School in Loveland, Ohio:
“Most teachers like to hear about specific things that they are doing well. For example, it's nice when a student tells me, ‘I really like your class,’ but it's even more meaningful when a student says, ‘I really enjoyed that grammar activity we did today,’ or ‘I appreciate your help on my argumentative essay.’ There's just something about a person taking the time to give specific, meaningful appreciation that is extra special.”
Faye McDonough, eighth grade teacher at Headwaters Academy, Independent Middle School in Bozeman, Mont.:
“The power of kind words eases the stress in my heart and supports my emotional well-being as I re-learn how to reach the students and help them to continue with school.”