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Amber Chandler poses with 3 of her co-teachers.

Amber Chandler poses with three of her co-teachers.

Teacher Appreciation: A Grassroots Approach

May 2, 2024

Teacher Appreciation: A Grassroots Approach

Amber Chandler explores how teacher appreciation can be a grassroots effort, showcasing how her fellow teachers are implementing creative assignments to help students express their gratitude.


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It’s that time of year again—teacher appreciation. I’ve written quite a bit about this, and I don’t disagree with anything I’ve said before (which isn’t always the case!), but serendipitously, I received an email from a student I had last year while this blog was on my to-do list. Here’s an excerpt: 

My ELA teacher gave us 15 minutes to draw a teacher who impacted us, so I thought back to all my previous teachers and realized it was you who impacted me the most. I decided to draw a bookshelf with books because you had tons of books for us to read if we didn’t have a book. I also drew a sun because most days the sun would rise during class. The final two things I drew were a rolling chair and a stuffed animal because you had the best seats in any class and stuffed animals on the back shelf for us to look at and talk to when presenting so the whole class could hear us. I’m sorry the drawing of you doesn’t look too good, I’ve never been good at drawing, but I hope you still like it. Thank you for all the time you put into helping me with my writing. 

He was right about one thing: He is not very good at drawing! However, this email hit the spot on a day when I had 22-minute classes because our schedule was shortened to make up for the morning we’d spent on our ELA state testing. I had a million things to do, and I was feeling rushed to finish the unit we were on. I knew who his English teacher was based on the course he told me he was in, and all I knew was that I felt so seen and valued—not just from this student, but importantly, from the teacher who created this assignment. 

My co-teacher and I also do “thankful writing” the day before Thanksgiving, passing out colored pencils and blank cards, while we watch “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” We then deliver these cards so that teachers will have them in their mailbox when they return from our break. We always hear how much these cards mean, and I know from my own experience just how valuable that boost can be. I have another colleague at the high school who has her advanced Spanish students write a side-by-side thank-you letter to a teacher with the note written in Spanish, but then also translated. 

In my mind, to think about whether teachers are appreciated enough is a bit frustrating. We all know the roller coaster of public opinion, especially during the pandemic, and its role in our well-being. However, I’m proposing that we take a grassroots approach that we know as unionists works very well: Start small, have meaningful conversations, and help others to express themselves. No matter what you might be feeling at this time of year, I think that doing an assignment like this will boost your mood, too. Helping students articulate their appreciation for each other is a win-win for all of us. Of course, if you do the assignment my colleague did that involved drawing, you might end up with a picture like this! 

The drawing Amber's former student drew of her.
The drawing Amber's former student drew of her.

I can’t say this does much for my confidence (my 50th birthday is right around the corner)! Yet, it still makes me smile. I’m pleased to share a few ways for you to begin a teacher appreciation tradition of your own. I love this Kindred Spirits blog and am enjoying their playlist. In this blog, I shared three ways to appreciate teachers during “pandemic times,” and they all still apply, maybe even more so. This one is about a gruff teacher who I didn’t learn to appreciate until I saw another side of her. Finally, this is another blog about the most important thing of all: The Gift of Relationships. 

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Amber Chandler
  Amber Chandler is a National Board Certified middle school ELA teacher in Hamburg, New York with a Master’s Degree in Literature, as well as a School Building Leader certification. She is the 2018 Association for Middle Level Educators’ “Educator of the Year.”  Amber has enjoyed a wide variety of... See More

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