In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, parents across the country are organizing luncheons, baking cookies and buying gifts to thank teachers. Students are making cards and writing notes. What do principals do to appreciate the teachers at their school?

Amy Johnston was the principal of Francis Howell Middle School (Missouri), which was recognized as a National School of Character in 2008. Amy always made it a priority to listen to teachers, value their ideas and collaborate with them to make lasting school change. She emphasizes that teacher appreciation is much too important to limit to a designated day or even week.

Amy_Johnston“Showing teachers that they are appreciated should be embedded in the very culture of a building.  Appreciation should be ongoing and authentic and not based solely on something a teacher does, but for who they are and what they bring to the table.  True appreciation is beyond the Bagel Breakfast in May; it is asking, listening, grappling and learning with teachers every day.  Giving teachers a voice, honoring their wisdom and experience and making them true partners in school improvement is how great leaders appreciate teachers.”

Bob Freado was both a principal and the Coordinator of Character Education for Peters Township School District (Pennsylvania), a 2010 National District of Character. He indicates one important way principals can appreciate teachers is by respecting their time. He begins his reflection with a quote and shares his teacher appreciation strategies.

Bob_Freado“‘Time is that quality of nature which keeps events from happening all at once. Lately it doesn’t seem to be working.’ – Anonymous
This truth resonates in the field of education and particularly with teachers.  Teaching places significant demands on time that seem to defy nature.  
In 26 years as a principal, I tried a variety of ways to show appreciation to teachers for giving so much of themselves to our students.  While most teachers expect little in the form of appreciation, many seemed to sincerely appreciate the “tokens” of appreciation, in various forms, given by principals, parents and students.
Looking back, however, I learned that the secret to showing genuine appreciation to teachers was found within the realm of time.  Taking the time to write personal notes that convey sincere appreciation and encouragement was the “gift” most appreciated by the teachers with whom I had the privilege of serving.
I made a practice of doing this for every teacher (and staff member) at the start of every school year.  I delivered the hand written cards to their empty classrooms on the eve of the first day of school.  It became a time of prayer and reflection and a way that I could express gratitude for the many positive ways our teachers contributed to the students and school.
It was time well-spent and, over the years, ‘it seemed to work.’”
As these principals know, appreciating teachers is an ongoing process and is essential in leading a happy, productive staff and retaining effective teachers. Just as Principle 3 of the 11 Principles highlights the need for schools to have a comprehensive, intentional and proactive approach to character education, the same can be said for teacher appreciation.  Remember to give your teachers some extra attention this week, but more importantly keep thinking of ways to incorporate these practices into your school’s routines and culture.

Looking for more creating a supportive environment for staff? Check out this related article “Going Beyond Teacher Appreciation Day ” by Elena Aguilar.