Nearly everyone has a story to share about a favorite teacher from their school years. It is easy to understand why special days to honor these professionals were created. This blog will explore the formation of Teacher Appreciation Week, share tidbits on a few notable teachers from history, and offer a few heartfelt free gift ideas that can be given now or any time during the year to show a special teacher how much they mean to you. For further reading on the below sections see The History Behind Teacher Appreciation Week, Famous Teachers in History, and 10 Teacher Appreciation Gifts That Don’t Cost Anything.
Brief History of Teacher Appreciation Week
Teacher Appreciation Week originated in 1953 (as National Teacher Day), and teachers have Eleanor Roosevelt to thank for its inception. Roosevelt convinced Congress that there needed to be a specific day on which teachers were recognized. Prior to Roosevelt going before Congress, it is believed that some states had such days of appreciation, but it is unclear and unsubstantiated.
Even with Eleanor Roosevelt taking the case to Congress and getting their help and support, it would take another 27 years for it to become an official national day. It was 1980 when the National Education Association (NEA), which was formed in 1857, joined together with the Kansas State and Indiana State Boards of Education and began to lobby Congress to have the day nationally recognized.
National Teacher Day was celebrated on March 7th until 1984, when it was moved to May. Behind the move was the National Parent Teacher Association and, instead of just one day, they named the entire first week of May to be Teacher Appreciation Week. The NEA followed suit the next year and held National Teacher Appreciation Day on the Tuesday of the week.
There are still a few cases of oddities though. Massachusetts celebrates Teacher’s Day not on National Teacher Day, but instead on the first Sunday of June; perhaps because teachers are out for summer and therefore get to relax on their special day.
Notable Teachers from History
Anne Sullivan: A mere 20 years old when first employed to school the deaf and blind Helen in 1887, Anne Sullivan herself was blind for much of the first part of her life. Educated at the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, Sullivan had recovered part of her eyesight by the time she traveled to Alabama to begin her job as Helen Keller’s governess. Undoubtedly, Sullivan’s own partial blindness gave her insight (in the fullest meaning of the word) into the little girl’s closed-off world.
Sullivan’s breakthrough with Keller came as she spelled words out on her open palm to make her understand that things had words attached to them. Sullivan placed one of Keller’s hands under running water; on the other, she spelled “w-a-t-e-r.” Soon, Keller could express herself far beyond the series of primitive signs that had been her sole means of communication up to that point.
Sullivan directed Keller’s family to send her to the Perkins School, and from that point on, she remained Keller’s companion until her death in 1936. Helen Keller would live a long life as a successful and inspiring writer, lecturer, and activist.
Maria Montessori: Born in Italy in 1870, Maria Montessori was exceptional from the beginning. The only female attendee of an all-boys school, she excelled at her studies and eventually earned a degree that made her one of Italy’s first female doctors. She became interested in education, and in 1907, opened a child-care center in Rome called Casa del Bambini (Children’s House) that allowed her to put her educational theories into practice.
Foremost among her theories was the idea that children essentially teach themselves; the teacher’s primary responsibility is to create the appropriate environment for learning and provide the spark that allows children to develop naturally. Given the ability to be mobile and learn from their surroundings rather than being forced to sit still and be lectured to, most children, even rough inner-city kids, flourished under her system.
William Holmes McGuffey: William McGuffey was born in 1800 and was a precocious child. He was such an adept student, in fact, that he began to teach classes himself at the age of 14. Putting in long hours at country schoolhouses in Ohio and Kentucky, McGuffey saw that there was no standard method to teach students how to read; in most cases, the Bible was the only book available.
McGuffey paused his teaching career to attend college himself, and by age 26, he had been appointed Professor of Languages at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. His ideas about language teaching were much admired by his colleagues, and in 1835, through the intercession of his friend Harriet Beecher Stowe, he was asked to write a series of readers for the publisher Truman and Smith.
McGuffey’s readers, more correctly known as Eclectic Readers, set a template for textbooks that we still follow today. They followed a steady progression from the first reader through the fourth, beginning with teaching of the alphabet and phonics alongside simple sentences, and progressing all of the way up to poems and stories. The popularity of McGuffey’s readers was massive. In print from 1836 to the present day, it’s estimated that they have sold in excess of 120 million copies. They long outlived their author, who passed away in 1873.
Teacher Appreciation Gift Ideas with No Monetary Cost
Teacher appreciation shouldn’t be about spending money. The following are fun and inventive ways to celebrate the teachers in your life. The following are five of the ten ideas presented in the article 10 Teacher Appreciation Gifts That Don’t Cost Anything. Using a little ingenuity, these idea can be tweaked to honor teachers of all grades and levels from daycare al the day up to university.
Applause parade. Have students line the hallway one morning during Teacher Appreciation Week and clap as the teachers enter the building.
Class song. This requires a little rehearsal. Have a class parent work with students to sing a simple song like “You Are My Sunshine.” Rehearse during a recess time shortly before Teacher Appreciation Week. Set up a special surprise performance for the teacher during the week.
Class cleanup. A class parent can oversee daily classroom cleanups with the children. This could be done after school, or the teacher may allow a few minutes before the end of the day or at the start of the day to help make this happen.
Thank-you notes. Have the children each write a handwritten note about what makes their teacher special.
Social shout-out. Post a thank-you with photos on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to tell your teachers how much they mean to you.
If none of these ideas sound ideal to you, there are tons of other articles available online concerning teacher appreciation gift ideas.