Virtual Educator Appreciation


Part of the Virtual Culture and Climate Series – Spring 2020

Featuring ideas contributed by the Jostens Renaissance educator community and shared in a Facebook Live presentation on April 20, 2020.

Today’s topic is educator appreciation. Officially, Teacher Appreciation Week is the beginning of May, but we wanted to share some ideas that are appropriate for social distance and remote learning.

We’re hearing that teachers are starting to hit a wall. While the Class of 2020 is having a hard time, as well as other students because school is a safe and consistent place for them, the closing of school is hitting educators hard. They’re going through a grieving process – their year got ripped away from them as well, and they miss interacting with students and colleagues.

Special Guest: Dwight Carter

  • Assistant Director, Eastland Career Center in Ohio
  • [email protected], @Dwight_Carter
  • Recently presented “Being Great When You Don’t Feel Great” on Steve Bollar’s Ed Leadership Virtual Stand Tall Summit (follow Stand Tall Steve on Facebook, follow @StandTallSteve, or email [email protected])

The last month has been very disruptive. We’ve been adjusting on the fly, and didn’t have time to prepare. We’re calling it remote emergency learning. Our main focus is supporting our staff and making sure we stay connected with students.

 We’re supporting our staff members in lots of ways.

  • Our director sent cards to staff, specific to each person, giving support and individual compliments.
  • Right after spring break we started small group Zoom meetings by department – we didn’t talk curriculum, we asked how they’re doing, shared positive stories, made sure we all had face time.
  • Plenty of thank you notes, emails and text messages, checking on them and their families.
  • Planning our staff appreciation week coming up, using Renaissance ideas.
  • Our director sends out daily updates about teachers, including professional and personal positives. For example, she shared a video of a teacher’s kid taking first steps – these moments bring everyone closer together.

When you highlight success stories, others will be encouraged to share theirs.

I’m taking care of myself by working out every morning – then I’m ready to go. Later we’ll take a walk around the neighborhood, bike, walk the dog, get outside. I’m also glad it’s grass cutting season. I’m really connecting with my wife and daughter, enjoying the togetherness.

 None of this will replace the human to human connection. We can replicate it but not replace it. We are still craving touch and physical closeness. I suggest you use the 5R’s at home, create that positive environment.

 To help teachers struggling with technology, I would say:

  • Sharing success stories encourages others to try new things.
  • Encouraging staff to focus on one platform – do what’s best for you and your kids, and master one. Kids and parents don’t want to be overwhelmed either.
  • Hopefully we’re learning things we can keep doing when things get back to normal.


Special Guest – Melissa Wright

Kennebecasis Valley High School (Canada)
@KVHSRenaissance, @WrightMelissa_

As far as closure and graduation – our buildings are closed through the end of the year, and kids are disappointed. We’re hoping to postpone graduation and do it later, maybe in August. I don’t feel like I have closure, and I know students are in the same boat.

 We’ve adapted a couple of the ways we recognize educators to do it remotely:

  • When we’re in the building, we prepare birthday bags for staff at the beginning of the month and then bring them out on their birthday. Now we’re doing monthly shout-outs on Instagram and emailing them notes of appreciation.
  •  “Thank a Teacher” Campaign – Every year we have every student write a note to someone in the building saying thank you, and they don’t need to sign them. We put them together in booklets. So we’re taking it digital this year – we set up a Google doc, so students, peers, parents can add them, and then we’ll compile them into a document and send an email to each educator.

 I’m taking care of myself by working out and doing yoga every day, first thing in the morning, and also drinking plenty of water – I drink more caffeine at home. I also started writing one note of gratitude and mailing it to someone every day, and my daughter is drawing a picture to send along. Focus on the joys – there’s no snow, and spring is coming! We need to support each other through this.

 I would say to an educator who is struggling: reach out and find your tribe – people who will be there for you and support you. Take a deep breath. This is all different, and we can only do so much – it’s more than you ever would do in the classroom, even though it doesn’t feel like it. You are doing enough. Take it one day, one minute at a time. We’re all in this together. #WeWill come out of this stronger.


Ways to Show Appreciation to Educators Remotely

#StaffultyLove campaignSan Mateo High School, CA, Sara Cowey – Her leadership students designed a week for how to do teacher appreciation virtually.

  • Monday and Tuesday: Send Thank You email to a staffulty member
  • Wednesday: Create a physical way to say think you
  • Thursday: Focus on those other than teachers – custodial, cafeteria, bus drivers, aides
  • Friday: Photo Friday – post a picture with a sign thanking a favorite staffulty member

“Family” Shirts – Coach from Saguaro High School (Scottsdale, AZ) delivered them to his players. Drove to every athlete’s house to deliver shirts to tell them “we’re still a family, we’ll come through this.” The same could be done for faculty. Could say “family” or “Superhero” or another unifying and glorifying phrase.

Favorite Moments with Teachers – Indio High School in Southern CA, James Atkins, Rajah Renaissance – Students submit pictures and stories for social media.

You are Our Rock – Paint rocks of gratitude with messages like “You are our Rock” or “Rock Star Teacher” and take them to teachers’ houses or line the walks to school.

Fill Your Cup – A colleague was having a rough time, so we took a cup filled with jokes and letters of appreciation, and gave it to her with flowers. Could do this virtually.

Spirit Doors – Decorate doors on staff members’ houses.

Social Media Takeovers and Staffulty Throwbacks – Let a different staff member do it, have them share about family, pets. Foster sense of community. Have them submit photos of a favorite throwback memory.

Thank You Notes – We did that with our graduating seniors – you write a TY note to any educator throughout school, include the school, and we’ll get it to them. We would laminate and give them to keep, when they need a reminder of their purpose.

Secret Pal Program – Draw the name of a colleague and get their favorite candy bar, celebrate their birthday, and so on, then find out at the end of the year who it is. Adapt for distance – set up a few weeks to do it, assign secret pals, fill one another’s cup with compliments (could ask kids to send them notes).

Teacher Parade – We say they’re for the kids, but it fills our cups to see each other and the kiddos. Work with fire department and police to escort the parade through town in cars.

Tribute Videos to Teachers – Get 5 or 6 kids to record a 30-second video thanking someone for something specific, then show at staff meeting. There are always tears because this is often a thankless job. To do it virtually, reach out to kids and get them to submit a short video, then ask someone to edit together and send to all staff members. If doing it this way, make them generic shoutouts to everyone so no one feels left out.

Getting to Know You Series – Paul Dols, Monrovia High School, CA – He interviews a staff member for 15 minutes to share their story on social media. Where did you go, how did you get here, who are you? Your students might know you well, but students who don’t have you in classes may not. This is a great way to get to know others and recruit kids to your classes or clubs.

Honorary Diplomas – Greenbrier High School in Tennessee – Seniors dedicate an honorary diploma to an educator, dress up in cap and gown, surprise the educator. They are continuing this school year – check out the school social media accounts. [See download below]

Talent show – Set up a talent show on Zoom with students and staff to show off singing, musical, or dancing talents. Used to do one in school for senior week, and it was really a bonding moment with other staffulty.

Coffee Hour/Happy Hour – Set up a morning coffee time and/or weekly happy hour by Zoom. Take a break with each other, share the latest news, and ask “How are YOU doing?” We’re missing out on those 10-minute moments where we socialize while doing bus duty or checking mailboxes. Create those moments.

Host Trivia/Game Sessions Online – Sonia Melendez and Bradlee and Melissa Skinner

Support Restaurants and Treat Educators – Elizabeth Dalzell-Waters – In a two-fer event, support or give gift cards to local restaurants. Planning to rent out an Italian Ice place for teachers to come get a treat one evening, and students will make posters/signs to wave as they come through.


Shared Resources

Educator Appreciation Memes: These meme images can be used in emails, shared on social media, or printed. 

Click here to open a Dropbox folder

Click here to open a Google Drive folder

Honorary Diplomas:

Download the Idea Exchange document describing this tradition

Download an Honorary Diploma template

Coming Next:

Graduation Friday – Special Guests, including musical performance.


THANK YOU to our network of Renaissance educators, Jostens leadership, and our team.


How are you showing your educators they are appreciated? Email your ideas to [email protected] or [email protected].


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