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12 Creative and Affordable Teacher Appreciation Week Ideas to Celebrate School Educators

As Teacher Appreciation Week approaches, it’s time to celebrate the unsung heroes who shape the minds of our future generations. From fostering curiosity to modeling great behavior to instilling knowledge, teachers play a vital role in molding young minds and building a brighter tomorrow. Thankfully, expressing gratitude doesn’t have to break the bank!

In this article, we explore twelve creative and few budget-friendly ideas to honor the dedication and hard work of our school teachers. Let’s delve into ways to show our appreciation without straining our wallets.

Idea Number 1 - Logo Water Bottles

Cost: $4-5 each

Custom water bottles for staff is always a much-appreciated gift! With some careful planning, this is a gift that doesn't have to blow up your school budget.

It's simple - using your school's Cricut or Silhouette, a parent volunteer or staff member, and a few hours, it's possible to create dozens of these cute items in no time flat.

What you'll need:

Idea Number 2 - Personalized Mini Thank You Cards from Students

Cost: 5-10 Cents Per Card

Teachers rarely get the mountain of thanks they deserve, especially from their students! One of the easiest and lowest cost ideas is to give students thank you cards to write for their teachers.

As the principal, I like to set up a "thank you station" during school lunch in the weeks leading up to Teacher Appreciation Week. I spread out a table cloth, provide a large amount of ready-to-use cute thank you cards and pens, and invite them to write notes to their teachers.

It may help to have a staff member "man" the table. This encourages students to write thoughtful notes and mindfully use the supplies.

Students are not long on words, so mini thank you cards work great! This pack is my current favorite and the price cannot be beat!

Teacher Appreciation Week Idea Number 3 - Adopt the Staff Room

Cost: Varies

Parents are often asking how they can help with Teacher Appreciation Week. Adopting the Staff Room has always been a hit for both families and teachers!

Over the years, I've had very active and engaged PTAs, and other years - not so much. Therefore, some years I find it best to help facilitate their organization.

I simply create a SignUp Genius and send it to families in the months leading up to May (I send it as a link in my newsletters). The signup includes some of the following:

  • Decor on a particular theme

  • Pre-packaged snacks for all 5 days

  • Polaroid or disposable cameras with a photo station and photo props (like these)

  • Food options (can be homemade)

  • Whatever else parents feel like providing!

Idea Number 4 - Provide Breakfast

Cost: $5-10 per person

I recall my first years as a teacher in a large school district. The Wednesday morning of Teacher Appreciation Week always included breakfast in the school's staff meeting room. Tables were decorated by volunteers and a continental breakfast of breakfast burritos was a welcome sight. We teachers got to sit and break bread together, catch up, and enjoy a FREE meal together.

Cost will really depend on the food vendor - and who pays for it. Perhaps your PTA wants to foot the bill. Depending on your district policies and budgets, perhaps you can also wrap it into your discretionary budget.

I have found the best prices by working with a local catering company. Our community is lucky to have a vendor that provides LOTS AND LOTS of food for reasonable prices to the schools. They also provide "to go" boxes so that teachers can scoop up a meal and enjoy it at their leisure; not everyone has time to eat during the designated times.

The inevitable question comes up - "Does everyone get breakfast? Or just teachers?" Frankly, I order enough for the whole staff. Personally, the "haves and have nots" feeling among my staff is not helpful. Non-teachers self-select whether or not to eat, and I prefer it that way. I don't want anyone to feel as though their role in our school doesn't warrant appreciation. And on the margins, there are often leftovers and enough for everyone anyway.

Just my two cents; I appreciate there are other opinions on the matter. Do what works best for your school and budget.

Idea Number 5 - Chair Massages

Cost: Varies depending on staff size

One year when I was a VP, I advocated for chair massages as a gift during Teacher Appreciation Week. Although my principal found it a little unconventional, he agreed that it could be a hit.

I launched into a quest to find a chair masseuse. Fortunately, I didn't have to look too hard. I searched for "chair massage" locally and found several qualified licensed massage therapists (LMTs).

I was given a budget by my principal with which to work. (If you are fortunate enough to have a parent who would be willing to donate funds or they're an LMT themselves - even better! I used the budget to calculate how many hours I would have the LMT on-site and therefore, how many minutes of chair massage each teacher would receive.

Then I created a schedule on a shared, editable spreadsheet (Google Sheet). Teachers signed up on the shared spreadsheet for times that worked best for them - first come, first served. We invited them to work together if their prep-time was booked, and to see if others could swap times. They did a great job of sharing the time frames with each other.

Each teacher got 10 minutes of chair massage. I know, it's not nearly as much time as they would have liked or deserved! However, it was very well received from staff. Once everyone had signed up, we then opened the opportunity up to other staff members.

Note that the LMTs needed staff to sign waivers before their massages. We provided these as email attachments along with the signup sheet: "If you want a massage, bring this paperwork with you."

One thing that surprised me most - not everyone wanted a chair massage! In fact, probably 20% of the teaching staff passed up on the opportunity. Therefore, all administrative assistants and instructional assistants also had the opportunity for a massage.

For the whole week, I was amazed to hear so many teachers talking excitedly about this gift. The LMTs reported giving out their business cards and having great chats with the staff. I suspect it was good for their business, too!

Teacher Appreciation Week Idea Number 6 - Late Arrival and Early Release

Cost: Free

Ask any teacher what gift they'd like for any event - the answer is nearly always, "Time."

Time is one of the most precious commodities for educators. Depending on your bell schedule and duties, is it possible to allow them flexibility with their schedule? Say, arrive a few minutes later or leave a few minutes earlier?

During Teacher Appreciation Week, consider sharing with staff that they're welcome to shave a few minutes off their schedules so long as responsibilities are being met. I know - this may not be allowed in all districts and schools. If it's possible, consider it as a much-appreciated option.

Idea Number 7 - Food Truck

Cost: $5-12 per person

One year for Teacher Appreciation Week, I was approached by a local food truck owner that was just getting their business off the ground (they happened to be parents of a student, too). In February, they approached me to see if we were interested in having a taco truck park out front during Teacher Appreciation Week.

Fortunately, the price was reasonable because a) they were just trying to get their business going and it was great promotion for them, b) we had a huge staff and they gave us a 'volume' discount, and c) they were parents of a student and therefore, were very giving.

It was such a hit (and frankly, annoying to students!) that the Student Leadership class decided to run an attendance content among grade levels, and they paid for the Taco Truck as a prize to that grade level. The students competed to have the highest attendance, and whichever grade won got Taco Truck food as a prize on day! Same concept - a chosen menu and a fixed price. Kids loved it!

Idea Number 8 - Flower Delivery/Build Your Own Bouquet

Cost: $3-8 per person

I had a student's parent who worked at our local Trader Joes in the floral department. Each Friday, she had to clear her store of "old" flowers and make room for the new shipment. She generously brought the "leftover" flowers to our school - most of which were still beautiful and fresh. We picked a different classroom each week and invited those students to come pick a bouquet to take home for their family. It was a HUGE hit. Awesome, right!?

That sparked the idea of having a florist provide flowers for our staff to build their own bouquet for Teacher Appreciation Week. We called around to negotiate pricing and explore this concept: Could you bring loose flowers to our school, including greenery and paper, so that our teachers could take home some fresh flowers?

Florists loved this Teacher Appreciation Week idea! I learned that they got great bulk prices on large amounts of flowers. And if they didn't have to package each individually, there wasn't a ton of overhead expense for them. The florists provided the flowers in big black buckets and along with supplies for a wrapping station.

Teachers came to the Work Room and were given their instructions - up to five stems of your choice of flowers, one greenery. The florist provided the paper, ribbon, and flower food to keep them healthy!

It was beautiful to watch teachers walk away from the Work Room with their own stunning bouquet of fresh flowers. Heartwarming!

Idea Number 9 - Social Media Blitz

Cost: Free

Managing social media is one of the big hats we wear as school principals. (Be sure to check out the Principal's Social Media Calendar here, if you haven't yet.) Teacher Appreciation Week is a GREAT time to thank teachers on your Facebook and Instagram pages.

Consider starting digital "thank you" threads, sharing photos of your teachers, or posting ready-made graphics (I have several that are ready to use today in the May Power Pack for Principals).

Our social media pages during Teacher Appreciation Week should communicate our sincere pride and gratitude for this awesome group! Be sure to plan ahead, use digital schedulers, and set reminders to remember to post-post-post like crazy this week. Staff will feel the love!

Idea Number 10 - Treat Wagon

Cost: Varies depending on your preferences

Have you downloaded the FREE "Treat Wagon Guide" yet? If not, here you'll find a mountain of inspiration to create a Treat Wagon for Teacher Appreciation Week.

I like to share treats with ALL staff this round, showing our appreciation for everyone who helps our kids grow and learn, every day. It's a team effort!

Idea Number 11 - Personalized Thank You Card

Cost: <$1 each + your precious time

Depending on the size of your staff, it may be reasonable to write a thank you card to each of your teachers. (If not, ignore this idea! My first principal had 110 teachers and I don't think he would have been up for the task.)

If it is reasonable, then consider writing a personalized note to each teacher to show them your gratitude. When I think through my teacher lens, I remember how much it meant to me when my administrators saw me, noticed me, appreciated me. I always LOVE to get personalized notes in my mailbox and thank you cards.

I always make sure that our school has a generous selection of thank you cards (even better - ones with our school logo!). That way I can pull from them and save on costs. Amazon offers very low prices on bulk thank you cards - click here to shop the best prices on thank you cards in bulk.

A word of caution, though - don't put this off until May if you don't need to! It's possible to start this task months earlier and file the notes away, especially if you have a large staff. It may help the task feel more manageable. Of all the Teacher Appreciation Week ideas, this costs the less but requires the most time on our part.

Idea Number 12 - A Few of my Favorite Things

Cost: $5 (or less) per person

Finally, each fall I send my team a survey of their "favorite things," for use throughout the year. I reference this list when building a personalized gifts for educators during their Appreciation Week! You can find a sample of the Staff Survey linked here. Download it for free.

How it works - I gather a team of 3-4 of us to help, since this can get overwhelming fast (depeneding on the size of your staff). First, we compile a list of a "favorite thing" or two for each staff person from the survey. Since I use a Google Form earlier in the year for my survey, I'm able to pull out patterns and common items for the staff.

For example, I can see that several people like Iced Tea and popcorn as snacks. We use a spreadsheet to compile the "shopping list" of favorite things, ensuring everyone gets two of their faves. Then we shop! Costco is our friend!!! On Thursday of Teacher Appreciation Week, we deliver sandwich bags to each teacher with their favorite things inside.

Sometimes it's simple; other times, we have to purchase "one off"items. One of my favorites was reading that one teacher LOVES to chew on Sonic ice. Yep - one of my teammates ran to Sonic and got her a cup of Sonic ice. This made her whole week! :) Have fun with it - the budget is really up to you, and shopping in bulk is your friend!

How do you say, "Thank you, Teachers!" this week and every day?

Share more ideas and inspiration below!

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