As we wrap up the 2020-21 school year, many of you are probably relieved you survived it intact. This has, by far, been the most challenging year for most of us, for many reasons. You most certainly have gained insights into tools and processes you will be able to use more easily in coming years, and there are definitely things you have had to deal with this year that you don’t want to have to revisit in the future. But this article isn’t about what made this year difficult. It’s about showing staff appreciation and focusing on aspects that still made this year great — finding the good in the midst of hard times. 

What are some wins that you have discussed with your staff as you’re wrapping up the year?

Perhaps you have some teachers who have been very innovative and had huge success in their planning and implementation of hybrid/online classes. Think of staff members who have reached out and mentored others who felt overwhelmed during the constant in and out of the building due to quarantines of staff and students, in the fall at least. Do you have staff members who really “stepped up to the plate”? Have you taken the time to genuinely recognize them?

What are ways you can show your appreciation before they head out for summer break? How have you shown staff appreciation this year? How will your teacher appreciation week look different than last year (and the years before)?

Every school has students who are discovering new things during the course of the past year. 

Do you have students or groups of students who have taken on responsibilities that they weren’t even asked to do, such as welcoming students who are online to class as they check in and helping the teacher take attendance for students joining class online? Are there students who have worked with community groups in helping fundraise or been innovative in communication tools via video broadcasting or podcasting, especially during periods of remote learning? 

The true creativity of the students and their ways of using technology innovatively has been quite impressive this year.

How have you welcomed and supported staff who are new to your building or new to the profession this year? How about teachers who teach “singleton” classes or who teach electives and aren’t part of a large team of teachers? 

Let’s start with some creative staff appreciation ideas. Here are just a few, from the sites linked below:

    1. Start an employee recognition section or article as part of your principal newsletter. 
    2. Sending handwritten thank-you notes for a job well done in the mail (if your school is online) or putting these in your staff’s main office mailboxes. Better yet, personally deliver these notes to your staff members in their classrooms, cafeteria, office.
    3. Allow your team to leave the building or log off early during a professional day. It’s a simple way to help make their day even better.
    4. Give your employees a nice caffeine boost with a gift card to a local coffee shop. Even a small $10 gift card to show employee recognition can make someone’s day. If some staff members don’t drink caffeine, a gift card to an ice cream or smoothie shop is just as nice.
    5. Deliver a mid-week treat to your staff. Waffle Wednesdays? Tuesday afternoon cookie platter? The possibilities are endless!
    6. Survey employees at the beginning of the year for their favorite self-care products or services, and use that to provide your staff with a curated self-care package to use at their leisure.
      Source: Justworks
6 creative staff appreciation ideas

It’s never too late to make a positive impression on staff that you truly care. It increases the likelihood the staff culture will remain positive throughout the year, and the students will benefit from happier and more appreciated adults in the building.

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About the Author

Dana Goodier is a veteran teacher and middle school administrator with over 20 years of experience. She also is the host of the education podcast, Out of the Trenches. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram

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