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A Simple and Free Gift for Teacher Appreciation

Teacher appreciation is right around the corner. I see many messages in principal groups on social media asking for gift ideas. Often the message includes ‘need something cheap’ or ‘don’t have a lot to spend’. I recall once, while I was still in the classroom, a teacher appreciation week when we were all given some cheap water bottles. They were stuffed in our mailboxes in the workroom. To no surprise, the large trash can at the exit door of the workroom was filled with those very same water bottles. I share this because they didn’t feel like they came from a genuine place of appreciation. Rather, they came from someone checking the box. Like, ‘yep, I gave them all water bottles, what more could they want from me?’

Let’s try and avoid that trap and make teacher appreciation week a success. To help, here is an idea that you can do and it will cost you NOTHING! And, better yet, your teachers will love it.

Handwritten Notes

Remember when you’d get a note on some assignment from your favorite teacher? You’d take that home and put it on the refrigerator. I actually wrote and entire post on being refrigerator worthy a few years ago. Those notes written by our teachers meant the world to us, right? Why not take that same logic and write a simple note of gratitude for your teachers. I did this all the time as a principal and as a superintendent. Sometimes they came with a little trinket, like a pin, coffee tumbler, etc. I didn’t just leave them in their mailboxes either. No, I would go after hours (maybe on the weekend) and put the trinket and the note in their classrooms. They may well lose the pin or tumbler, but I would find those notes stuck to the filing cabinet, under the glass on their desk, or taped to their computer.

Where did this awesome idea come from? I certainly didn’t invent it or have some epiphany. Rather, I copied one of my all-time favorite leaders. My first principal did handwritten notes often. The first one I received was at the start of my second year teaching. She put the note inside a box on my desk. That was 28 years ago…I still have the note in that box. No joke…

I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy the inexpensive token for your staff. However, you can very quickly move it from something they pitch in the garbage to something they treasure with the addition of the handwritten note.

Have a #RoadToAwesome week


Get ready!!! The entire month of May, the Leaning into Leadership podcast will be dedicated to aspiring and new school/district leaders. Each week’s episode will have a special guest and a very specific topic. I will also be releasing special mid-week episodes all through the month. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss any of this awesome content!

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