Great, affordable ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week

Looking for some great ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week (May 4-8) that won’t break the bank? Here are some from moms who spend a lot of time volunteering at their children’s school and know teachers deserve a special thanks for all they do.

A homemade dinner with friends

What better way to show a teacher how much you care than preparing a homemade dinner that she can share with friends or family. Donna Cleary, a busy mom of three who is the president of the parent group at Jerabek Elementary School in San Diego sent in this idea.

 “We ask the teacher to invite friends and family over for dinner on the Friday of Teacher Appreciation Week and we prepare dinner for 8 or 10.”

 Cleary said each person in the class contributes right down to a stick of butter. Parents provide appetizers, drinks, a salad, vegetables, a main course, bread, butter, dessert, flowers and more. Find the moms who love to cook and ask if they will prepare the main course and other standout dishes.

 Children in the class will enjoy making place mats, napkin rings and menus.

 Parents bring in or send in their contribution on Friday morning. Cleary said someone brings in a cooler with ice to keep perishables cold. You can even help the teacher load everything in her car at the end of the day.

 “All she had to do was turn on the oven and reheat and hopefully not have to clean her house too much,” Cleary said.

 Sound like the perfect ingredients for a special night? 

 “Our second grade teacher received a marriage proposal after we prepared this special dinner!” Cleary said.

 Flowers from the garden

 Several moms offered this idea: Ask parents to send in fresh flowers from the garden (or the store for those without a green thumb.) One parent can provide a vase, a simple one from a craft store will do, but you can get as elaborate as you like. 

 I’ve helped organize this several times and have one piece of advice: Bring in extra flowers for children whose parents forget. There’s nothing sadder than a small child without a flower to offer.

A basket or bag of goodies

 Again, several moms sent me this idea: Decide on a theme and ask families to send in small gifts. The possibilities are endless: chocolates, soaps and lotions, books for the classroom, books for the teacher’s summer reading.

 A Giving Tree

 Here’s a great green idea from Lori Erlenbach, an extremely active mom and parent volunteer in San Diego: Buy a plant and ask families to send in gift cards that can be attached to the tree.

Here are some other wonderful ideas I received:
 Decorate the classroom door with photos, drawings and messages from the students.

 Middle school and high school teachers certainly deserve our appreciation, too. In fact, they may deserve it more! Parent groups generally plan a breakfast or lunch (maybe an ice cream social or back massages) for teachers. Offer to help. If your parent group doesn’t mark Teacher Appreciation Week, offer to start the tradition.

Kelly Ma, a mom and parent volunteer in Carlsbad, Calif., said children wrote a parenting book filled with their advice for a teacher who was expecting a baby.

Classroom supplies for new teachers

Finally, if your child’s teacher is new to the profession, here’s an idea I’ve tried: Have parents chip in for inexpensive supplies for her classroom. (While each item is not costly, outfitting a class can be very expensive for a new teacher.)

 Look around her classroom and see what she needs. It doesn’t hurt to ask her for ideas. Unless she expressly asks for something with an apple on it, it’s best to avoid apple-themed gifts.

 Here are just a few ideas:

A good stapler


A paper cutter

Themed borders for her bulletin board

Tools to stay organized. Teachers love having something to help organize homework assignments that need to be returned to students. 

A wooden bathroom pass

Dry erase pens

Double-sided decorations for windows

Storage bins

A three-hole punch


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