Why Teacher Appreciation Week is so important this year - AZEdNews
Sections    Thursday March 30th, 2023

Why Teacher Appreciation Week is so important this year

A Teacher Instructs One Group Of Her Students During Hybrid Or Modified In-person Instruction At Mesa Unified School District. Photo Courtesy Mesa Unified School District

For the past year, Arizona teachers have connected with their students online and in-person, challenged students to meet high academic expectations while students dealt with stressors that adults find hard to handle, and educators have heard and seen all the COVID-19 pandemic has brought into children and teens’ homes and that weigh on their young minds.

Like all of us, teachers did this while ensuring their own children’s and aging family members’ needs were met and without the pre-COVID support networks that help many of us get through each day. That’s why Teacher Appreciation Week is more important than ever this year.

“Our educators have done an incredible job this year supporting both the overall well-being and academic progress of our students, while juggling the challenges of the pandemic,” said Expect More Arizona.

The challenges for teachers included a crash course in learning new technology to teach with, finding ways to adapt their teaching methods for online learning or distance learning packets with supplies sent to students’ homes and building relationships through a computer screens, phone calls and messages with students and families.

Educators also sought ways to support their students’ mental health and other needs while dealing with their own brought on by the isolation, economic hardships, stress and devastation caused by the pandemic.

Months ago, researchers surveyed 5,000 teachers nationwide to gauge how they were doing, and teachers said they were anxiousfearfulworriedoverwhelmed and sad, attributing these feelings to concerns they or someone in their family would get COVID-19 and managing their and their families needs while working from home and using new technology to teach.

I get it. While I worked in one room, my husband, a high school culinary arts teacher, showed his students techniques and how to prepare recipes in our kitchen, but said he missed casual conversations with them the most. Our middle schooler struggled with online learning, thrived when in-person instruction began, and said the three quarantines due to possible exposure at school were worth it to be with friends and teachers. Our college students’ time management skills grew with online learning, but so did their frustration with missing out on college life.

Many parents developed a greater understanding and appreciation for educators as they worked from home and saw teachers in action online and helped their children with distance learning packets.

Showing teachers you care

For many teachers, a heartfelt thank you from students and families means so much. Think about how kind words or actions helped you over the past year.

That appreciation may be expressed in a student’s drawing or note, a grateful comment in-person or online, or a donation of classroom supplies or something else the teacher would appreciate.

The Arizona Education Association and the National Education Association have asked people to text a message of gratitude that they’ll share with educators who have done so much to help students in such an unpredictable and difficult year.

Arizona school districts have shown appreciation for their teachers in several ways this week.

Peoria Unified School District shared positive staff stories.

“We’ve also been highlighting the top 1% of our district through our employee recognition program, Pride of Peoria, on social media,” said Erin Dunsey, communications manager for Peoria Unified.

Peoria schools highlighted their ways of saying thanks to teachers on social media too.

Peoria Education Foundation usually holds “a campaign during Teacher Appreciation Week that doubles as a fundraiser,” Dunsey said.

“For a minimum $5 donation, the Peoria Education Foundation will send a customized thank you card to a teacher, or any Peoria Unified employee, with a personal message from someone, showing their gratitude,” Dunsey said.

Peoria Education Foundation teacher grants are still up in the air this year due to COVID-19 and all of the extra responsibilities they have had to take on, but the Foundation has served as a tremendous support to the Peoria Unified School District and has graciously done so since 1987, Dunsey said.

In addition, the Peoria Education Foundation launched an Emergency Needs Fund to help school principals support a student or family with an immediate need with a reimbursement of up to $500 from the Peoria Education Foundation.

Washington Elementary School District celebrated Lamp of Learning awardees with school visits.

Queen Creek Unified School District honored their teachers on social media.

How lawmakers, policy leaders could show appreciation

While teacher evaluations have been suspended for this year if a district so chooses, education advocates seek more action from lawmakers and policymakers to show appreciation for teachers.

Since Arizona did not completely shut down its economy like other states did during the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown, we did not have as harsh of an economic impact as other states, said Chris Kotterman, director of governmental relations for Arizona School Boards Association.

Arizona Legislators could show appreciation for teachers by using some of those funds to increase teacher pay, which remains 49th in the nation despite Gov. Doug Ducey’s 20 percent pay increase by 2020 plan; reduce Arizona’s second highest in the nation class sizes; and provide more funding for repairs of aging school buildings, leaky roofs, moldy carpet and air conditioning and heating units near the end of their useful lives, said Save Our Schools Arizona.