If you found this post, you must be getting ready to plan an Appreciation Week at your school. YOU ARE AMAZING! Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to make the teachers and staff feel loved.
In addition to this post, I created a free downloadable "How To Prepare for Appreciation Week: Planning Worksheets and Checklist." It will walk you through the entire planning process; from asking the essential questions before you begin, to coordinating volunteers, publicity, and more. I share my tips and tricks to make this process as streamlined as possible for you.
The primary focus of this post is appreciation week preparation, but don't worry, there is more. Below, are additional posts with instructions walking you through coordinating the daily events, as well as free downloadable worksheets and checklists:
How to Plan an Appreciation Breakfast
How to Plan an Appreciation Lunch
How to Plan an Appreciation Popcorn or Snack Bar
How to Plan an Appreciation Dessert Bar
How to Plan an Appreciation Coffee Cart
Coordinating Coloring Sheets for Appreciation Week
These preparations are for the entire school staff, not individual classroom appreciation activities. For that, you will want to read our Room Parent's Guide to Teacher Appreciation Week.
Divide and Conquer?
Before I begin, let's first talk about the two different types of Appreciation Committees. I have experienced both at my daughters' schools.
Type 1: The chair of the Appreciation Committee coordinates all events, monthly and appreciation week. They decide on a theme, decorations, etc. The parent volunteers provide requested items for events and help with additional tasks as needed.
Type 2: The chair of the Appreciation Committee oversees the entire actively involved committee. The chair has a master list of monthly appreciation events, and individual committee members volunteer to coordinate those monthly events.
The Appreciation Week theme and activities are decided by the entire committee, and, as with monthly events, committee members volunteer to coordinate one day of the week-long event. They each create a SignUp Genius event, have the coordinator look over it, then send it out to the group. The individual coordinator is in charge of following up with volunteers, making sure there is enough food, etc.
What type is your school?
I have only experienced a Type 2 school once. I'm reasonably sure it was because each family was required to volunteer 25 hours each year or be charged $20/hour.
You must have a very reliable pool of volunteers on your committee to pull something like this off. Had I not seen it in action at my daughter's middle school before Appreciation Week, I would not have been comfortable enough to delegate. I am grateful for all parents who volunteer their time, but delegation simply would not have worked at 95% of the other schools my girls have attended. The number of consistent volunteers simply wasn't there. Delegation may or may not work for your committee. It all depends on your parent volunteers. You know them best.
I personally love overseeing all aspects of Appreciation Week and spoiling the teachers and staff rotten. That being said, it isn't for the faint of heart. As much as I love it, by Friday I am ready for a weekend of yoga pants, Netflix, takeout, and naps.
The success of any school event depends on the number of and willingness of your fellow parent volunteers. This is especially true for a week-long appreciation celebration. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to contribute all week long.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
- Give plenty of lead time. Teacher Appreciation Week is celebrated nationwide, as it should be, and has official dates. Annoyingly, they change every year. (You can look the dates up here.) Look the dates up at the beginning of the school year. Confirm with the school secretary and office manager that those dates will work for your school. Sometimes state testing falls during the official Appreciation Week and your school may ask to celebrate another week. As soon as your Appreciation Week dates are confirmed, send a "Save the Date" email to your volunteers and all the room parents. Yes, seven months in advance.
- Note: Some schools focus solely on the teachers this week, and celebrate support staff at another time. That has never made sense to me, and I always plan one big SHEBANG for everyone.
Send an email about your theme and the daily events two months in advance. Your volunteers and room parents probably forgot all about Appreciation Week. After all, you sent your first "Save the Date" email in October. Right? Right. You don't need to provide event sign ups yet unless you are really on the ball. The purpose of the email is to get them thinking about Appreciation Week and to put the dates on their calendars if they haven't yet.
KEEP THEM IN THE LOOP
Appreciation Week has many components working together and independently. Room Parents are one of them. At my daughters' elementary school, the Hospitality Committee coordinated the school-wide appreciation events, and the Room Parents handled the classroom appreciation. Other schools are the complete opposite and prefer to have one identical plan for all classrooms. You will want to ask your PTO/PTA which they prefer.
TIP: Sometimes the head Room Parent is not the one organizing Teacher Appreciation for the class. Depending on the class, it could be a group of Co-Room Parents dividing the duties, or a parent who volunteered specifically to coordinate Teacher Appreciation for the class at the beginning of the year.
As soon as you know the dates for Appreciation Week let the Room Parents know. They will have a lot to do on the classroom side of things and need to get it on their calendars ASAP.
This goes for Appreciation Week events as well. Room Parents usually plan something special for their teacher each day of Appreciation Week. You don't want them stopping by Starbucks for their teacher on the day of the coffee cart, or delivering Thai food on the day of the staff lunch. You get the idea.
LIGHTEN THE LOAD
Teacher Appreciation Week is a lot of work for Room Parents. My goal is to make Teacher Appreciation as easy as possible for them. I accomplish that in a few ways:
Coloring Sheets - I provide the Room Parents with coloring sheets for all the students. Coloring sheets are affordable to print, get the students excited about Teacher Appreciation, and are the first classroom appreciation activity of the week.
Door Posters - Each year, I create some sort of poster with the teacher's picture or name that coordinates with our theme. They are usually our main decoration and so I pay for them out of the Appreciation Week budget. Over the years I've done Dr. Suess inspired photo booths, Superhero posters, rocket ships, and "Wanted" signs. The posters carry the theme around the school, and when paired with the coloring sheets are the perfect classroom door decoration.
Coffee Sponsorship - I always include breakfast and coffee in our Appreciation Week celebrations, preferably a coffee cart. If you go the coffee cart route (read more about that here), give Room Parents the opportunity to sponsor coffee for their teacher. This reduces your coffee cart expenses and checks another daily appreciation activity/gift off their list!
Optional Printables - I would love to provide additional decorations and printables (matching the Appreciation Week theme, of course) to all Room Parents, but that isn't in the budget. Instead, I give Room Parents the option to order printables from me: lunch decoration kits, additional posters, etc. The lunch decoration kits cross another item off their "daily appreciation" list, and the additional posters take the classroom decorations up a notch.
Remember, find out if you have access to your school district print shop. They are so much more affordable than places like FedEx Office or Staples. I was able to offer all the items mentioned above for less than $5. I only charged enough to cover the cost of printing.
RECRUIT THEIR HELP
Appreciation Week is an "all hands on deck" type of event. Even the most enthusiastic volunteer starts to fizzle out with five days of events to bring food for. Assume that each of your committee volunteers will be able to sign up for half of the daily events. If you have a large appreciation committee that won't be a problem. However, if you have a tiny but mighty group, filling your sign ups may be a challenge. Appreciation Week is the perfect time to call in reinforcements: the Room Parents. Room parents are always willing to help and they can spread the word to other parents in their class. Win, win!
Choosing a Theme
So many themes, and so little time! This is where The Appreciation Shop shines. We're kind of like ramen noodles: just add water. We have everything you need for your appreciation week: just add volunteers. Our collections include invitations, posters, printables for five days of events, coloring sheets, and more.
Our printables are the Appreciation Week #EasyButton. When you purchase our printables for your school event you are welcome to print additional copies for Room Parents. (Sharing the digital files is a no-no.) Our goal is to make planning a fun and memorable week as easy and affordable as possible.
You could do it all yourself, but why?
Technology can be a blessing and a curse. I'll give you an example. A few years ago, my daughter's school started sending out a weekly newsletter each Sunday, with information about upcoming events, important dates, etc. So handy right?! Unfortunately, it becomes inbox "white noise" for many parents.
One week, the newsletter included information about the upcoming Spirit Week. Sadly, when Monday rolled around (Pajama Day), only about 25% of the students wore their jammies. Most parents hadn't read the newsletter. The disappointed little faces of students dressed in regular clothing when they saw their cozy friends nearly broke my heart. I wanted to go to Target and buy pajamas for every one of them.
As with Spirit Week, few parents rarely have a clue about Appreciation Week until a few days before the event, and sometimes not even then. It is understandable. Unless they specifically volunteered for the Hospitality or Appreciation Committee, why would they know anything was happening? Email is all well and good, but it has its limitations. Many people (myself included) glance at email subject lines on their phone, plan to read them later, then promptly forget.
To increase awareness in the school community and generate some excitement before Appreciation Week (and hopefully more volunteers), posters are the way to go.
Posters are attention grabbers and serve as a visual reminder to parents who may have forgotten to read or respond to emails about Appreciation Week.
Hang your posters up two weeks before Appreciation Week. Hang them all around the school. Go wild! Put them at every entrance, next to the office, and anywhere parents and students congregate. The idea is not just to remind parents, but to also get the students excited. The little ones especially love to do something special for their beloved teachers.
SCHOOL EMAIL BLASTS, WEBSITE, and SOCIAL MEDIA
Cover all of your bases. Yes, emails can get lost in an inbox, but many parents diligently read weekly school emails. Others prefer consuming their information via school Facebook pages or Instagram. Posters are great for raising awareness with the parents that go to the school. However, you also need to reach parents who are at work all day, and the families of children who ride the bus or walk to school themselves.
Get in touch with your school's communications volunteer and find out when their submission deadlines are. They can include information about Appreciation Week in their newsletters, send email blast reminders about special events (a coffee cart, for example), and post on the social media accounts for you.
You are taking the time to thoughtfully plan an incredible week for the teachers and staff at your school. Be sure to let them know what to expect with an invitation! You could just hang a poster in the staff lounge, but an invitation is more personal, and they can take it home for daily event reminders.
- Your invitation should include the Appreciation Week dates, as well as the events of the week so they can plan accordingly.
- Deliver to the staff mailboxes one week beforehand.
Coloring Sheets for Students
Coloring sheets are one of my favorite Appreciation Week activities. They are not complicated but do require some pre-planning on your part, and that of the room parents. You can read more about them here: Coordinating Coloring Sheets for Appreciation Week.
The Friday before Appreciation Week is when the decoration magic happens. I highly recommend recruiting 2 or 3 volunteers to help you put up decorations in the staff lounge and around the school. You know what they say. Many hands make light work. You can knock out the decorations in an hour with help.
You can read about the decoration specifics for each of the Appreciation Week themes I have planned below. These are deep-dive posts about the decorations, coloring sheets, posters, and more.
It's Your Turn!
Are you feeling prepared and ready to plan a memorable week for the amazing teachers and staff at your school?! I created Planning Worksheets and Checklists to walk you through the process. It has additional helpful information and lists not included in this post. You can do it!