Teacher Appreciation Week always falls during the first full week in May, which means this year it lands on May 6-10. While we likely all agree that every week is a good time to show our appreciation, we know many parents, schools and students use this time to make special gestures.

We started asking ourselves, do teachers need more coffee mugs or gift cards? What’s the most meaningful gesture the community can make? It’s hard to say, unless you’re a teacher yourself…So, we turned to a group of Arizona Educational Foundation Teachers of the Year and Ambassadors of Excellence to ask what they really want for Teacher Appreciation Week. Here’s what they had to say:

    • “My hope for Teacher Appreciation Week is that individuals all over our city, state and country would foster a meaningful relationship with one or more schools in their communities. Whether you have children at the school, children out of school, or no children at all, our communities are strongest when our schools and students are loved and supported. There are many ways for community members to forge these bonds with their local schools: attend concerts, sports games, STEM nights, or curriculum nights. When you’re ready, try volunteering in a classroom to see the amazing work happening in every public school.” – Jonathan Perrone, STEAM Instructor, Mountain Sky Middle School in Phoenix
    • “For Teacher Appreciation Week, I’m asking you to read aloud with your children every day. Reading aloud is not only a great time to snuggle, but it introduces your child to the joy of a good book, provides an opportunity for him or her to hear fluent reading modeled, and gives the gift of an expanded vocabulary. It has even been shown to increase attention spans. And don’t read aloud just when they’re little but even as they get bigger. Reading aloud with older children can be an easy way to introduce life lessons, tackle difficult issues, and teach values in a non-confrontational way. Reading aloud is part of my family’s cherished nightly routine and your child’s teachers will appreciate it if you make it part of yours, too!” – Beth Maloney, Ed.D., NBCT, fifth grade teacher, Sunset Hills Elementary School in Surprise
    • “So many things! I would encourage residents to think beyond the typical trinkets to major issues, like funding, and how they, as community members and voters, can help. Call a legislator to voice your backing for increased funding. Share supplies, so teachers don’t have to buy them. Many educators don’t have adequate materials, or community support, to ensure student success. Share a kind word – teachers are supporting the social, emotional, and academic lives of their students and that can be extremely taxing. Ask what they need – maybe help in the classroom, a show of respect or an invite to happy hour.” – Lettice Pelotte, Ph.D., English Instructor, Metro Tech High School in Phoenix
    • “As a preschool special education teacher, the best way to show appreciation would be an investment of your time to improve the social and emotional wellbeing of your child. Children at this age learn most from their models – their parents or caregivers – about how to express emotions and how to handle stress. If you are a yeller you can bet your child will be a yeller, too! Invest in your own mental health and your child will greatly benefit. I highly recommend the Daniel Tiger for Parents App. Use the strategies, sing the songs and give them a foundation for success not only in school but in life.” – Maria Barker, M.Ed. NBCT, Preschool Severe Delay/Sensory Classroom Teacher at Red Mountain Center for Early Education in Mesa
    • “What I really want from parents and the community is to build a strong network of advocates for all students. There are many parents, teachers and community members who want to build these networks; yet they do not often succeed. It is not for their lack of passion. It is the simple fact that we need parents, teachers and community member to stand together united to move the mountains that need moved.” – Sheri Loyd, Third Grade Teacher, Mountain View School in Waddell
    • “What teachers really want for Teacher Appreciation is the cliché thank you. I love when my students stop by, ask how my day is and specifically share with us what they value about our classes. We also want permission to rest, to rejuvenate and to be reminded of why we continue to teach.” – Erica Davis, AP Literature and AP Capstone-Seminar teacher, Basha High School in Chandler
    • “I would love for parents and community members to get to know their local school communities. Everyone in Arizona values education, but there is a disconnect between those feelings and how people view the individuals providing the education. That comes from the unknown. In my 22 years in the profession, I have not heard parents and community members complaining after spending time in the schools. Instead, they wind up feeling connected to the school community, and particularly, the teachers. With stronger community support, we can improve our classrooms together.” – Kareem Neal, 9th-12th Grade Self-Contained Special Education Teacher, Maryvale High School in Phoenix
    • “I’ve never been given an apple. It’s an iconic teacher gift, and honestly, I’d love to start replacing Starbucks cards with fruit! An honest handshake from a student, a Twitter post to @MrFarrsClass, a ‘hello’ from a former student, these are all highly valued. Of course, dark chocolate with almonds helps get me through too.” – Joshua Farr, M.Ed, NBCT, 10th-12th Grade Science Teacher, Cienega High School in Vail

And, while you are deciding how to show your appreciation to the teachers in your life, don’t forget about all the other school support staff who help ensure things run smoothly every day, as well as early learning educators, child care center staff and higher education faculty members.

Few things have a greater impact on student outcomes than a highly effective teacher in every classroom and a strong leader in every school. If we care about the success of every student, we must work together to increase teacher pay in Arizona to the national median, while at the same time providing meaningful professional development, mentoring and induction programs statewide. Investments in our teachers and classrooms will positively impact our communities and everyone’s quality of life. You can show your support for these priorities by encouraging lawmakers to make education funding a priority. We know our teachers would appreciate it!

Are you an Arizona educator? Be sure to check out this article to find out where to get deals and discounts during Teacher Appreciation Week!