Looking for a team bonding activity that gets people talking, laughing and learning together? Share stories of teacher appreciation! You’ll be amazed and inspired.
Stories about the teachers we appreciate are a window into our own values and aspirations, and telling and listening to these stories with coworkers helps us connect and builds a culture of gratitude.
The Los Angeles Times is soliciting stories of gratitude for National Teacher Appreciation Week and collecting them on the social platform Medium using the hashtag #teacherappreciation.
The Times’ Dexter Thomas calls for a broad interpretation of “teacher” to include anyone whose knowledge and influence had a lasting impact.
“We seem to view ‘teacher’ too narrowly. A lot of the people who made me who I am today didn’t have teaching credentials. Some of them I’ve never even met,” Thomas writes. “So as we were talking about teachers in the Los Angeles Times newsroom today, I realized — we’ve all been influenced by a variety of people. You’ve probably got a favorite childhood teacher or coach. You probably owe your sense of fashion, or music sense, or interest in a hobby, to some influential person.”
Workplace mentors also count! We all have a coworker, boss or other influential person in our life who teaches us new skills, motivates us to do our best work and keeps us on track in moments of doubt.
Read on for three great stories of teacher appreciation this week. Who are you going to reach out and thank for changing your life?
Get Inspired: 3 Stories of Teacher Appreciation
Be inspired to seek out and thank your own favorite teachers and mentors — and ask others to share their stories with you.
1. “She Made Every Single Student In That Class Feel Special”
President Barack Obama reflects on being “a kid with a funny name in a new school” when he entered Ms. Hefty’s fifth grade class in the fall of 1971. She called on him to speak in class even when he felt self-conscious in front of his peers. Slowly, he got used to it.
Ms. Hefty “taught me that I had something to say — not in spite of my differences, but because of them. She made every single student in that class feel special,” he writes in a Medium post.
“And she reinforced that essential value of empathy that my mother and my grandparents had taught me. That is something that I carry with me every day as President.”
2. “You Never Gave Up On Me”
A police department in Florida received a note from a local high school senior wishing one of their officers a “Happy Teacher/Mentor Appreciation Week.”
The note articulates the best qualities of any great mentor:
“You’ve helped me so much with getting back on track to graduate, or when if I was having a bad day I could just come to your office and vent to you about what’s going on at home … When I walk across that stage I’m going to give you the biggest hug ever because you made this possible for me. You never gave up on me, and that’s what I cherish most.”
The officer isn’t identified by full name, but the mentorship sounds similar to a program in Orlando that partners corrections officers with at-risk teens. The Orlando Sentinel profiled the program earlier this year.
3. “We Can Do More to Show Our Appreciation”
Gavin Payne, the U.S. director of policy, advocacy and communications for the Gates Foundation, realized recently that there’s more to teacher appreciation than saying “Thanks!”
Last year, the Gates Foundation offered “thank-a-teacher” postcards for anyone to fill out and send to an influential teacher.
“The idea was so popular we almost ran out of postcards,” Payne writes on Medium. But when it came time to write his own postcard, he couldn’t find an address for one of his favorite high school teachers and he gave up on sending it. Instead, he mentioned her and another favorite teacher in an article he wrote on “The Power of Great Teachers.”
Then it dawned on him: “I’d shared my appreciation for these teachers with the world, [but] I hadn’t actually expressed my gratitude to the teachers themselves!”
So for National Teacher Appreciation Week this year, he did “some serious LinkedIn sleuthing” to locate his long-lost high school teacher and engage her in a conversation about teaching. He realized that the most meaningful teacher appreciation includes engagement.
“If we really want to show our appreciation,” he reflects, “we can engage them as professionals and learn all we can from the insights they’ve gleaned from countless hours spent in the classroom.”
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