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Honoring America's Teachers
There would be no good education without good teachers. These dedicated individuals work hard every day to educate, inspire and, in their own way, help raise our nation's children. For one week every year, educational institutions across the country take the time to celebrate and show appreciation for our teachers.
National Teacher Appreciation Week happens during the first week of May each year. Events are centered around Teacher Appreciation Day, which is always the Tuesday of Teacher Appreciation Week. This year, Teacher Appreciation Day falls on May 4, but activities will be happening through Friday, May 7, 2010.
The exact origins of Teacher Day are unknown, but most sources point to a teacher from Wisconsin named Ryan Krug who began campaigning for a national day to honor teachers in the mid-1940s. The movement caught Eleanor Roosevelt's ear, and in 1953 she asked Congress to proclaim a National Teacher Day, but it took decades more to finally become official.
After years of lobbying from the National Education Association (NEA) and other organizations, Congress finally declared a one-time official National Teacher Day for March 7, 1980. Many educational organizations continued to celebrate the day unofficially until 1985, when the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) established Teacher Appreciation Week as the first full week of May. The NEA voted to make the Tuesday of that week Teacher Day, and the celebration finally took hold across the country.
Arne Duncan dropping off his teacher thank-you note during Teacher Day 2009. Image courtesy of Patrick G. Ryan and the National Education Association.
In 2009, the NEA kicked off Teacher Appreciation Day with the 'Teacher Thank-You Project.' Before the event, the NEA collected thousands of hand-made thank you cards from people across the country, including politicians, celebrities, athletes and, of course, young students. The organization then compiled these notes into an enormous appreciation mural measuring eight feet tall by 75 feet wide, which was unveiled on Teacher Appreciation Day by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, NEA President Dennis van Roekel and members of Congress. Although they're no longer collecting notes, you can view the virtual mural on the project's website.
Of course, the real teacher celebrations happen in the schools, where students, parents and administrators can directly show their appreciation.
Get Involved: Tips for Teacher Appreciation Week
Students and their schools find many ways to celebrate their teachers. Creatively inclined students often create and decorate giant thank you cards, displaying them where other community members can add their words. Those who prefer more 21st century methods can start fan clubs or 'teacher appreciation' pages on their school's websites. Some classes will plant flowers or trees to commemorate their teacher, or collect special memories and art from students to create a teacher appreciation scrapbook. Some students and parents have even taken out ads in local newspaper thanking their favorite teachers.
A small gift can be a great way to privately show your appreciation for that one teacher who's really made a difference in your life. Buy them a copy of their favorite book, or leave some flowers on their desk.
Schools and organizations can offer larger celebrations by hosting special brunches or other events in honor of their teachers and other educational staff. Inviting parents, district personnel, school board members and other members of the public can allow the larger educational community to show their appreciation as well.
Want to show your appreciation for teachers? Check out the PTA's Thank a Teacher Group on Facebook.