by Judy Newman with Alexie Basil
This year, Teacher Appreciation Week intersects with Mother’s Day.
These are two significant yearly celebrations in my life, and this year, the week feels particularly important since this is the first Mother’s Day that I will not be celebrating with my own mother, also a teacher, who passed away on May 28, 2018.
Long after she herself stopped teaching third grade in Dedham, Massachusetts (Anita Shreve was one of her students), my mother tried to find creative ways to show deep appreciation to the women and (few) men who were teaching us, her own children.
Each spring, my mom would host a luncheon at our house for our teachers from the John Ward School. It was incredible and terrifying to see our teachers outside of the classroom. But I still remember how very special those luncheons were—held always on a sunny day in my memory—right down to those tuna and egg salad sandwiches cut in triangles, not the rectangle shapes we ate every day.
Years later, my mother combined her social work and teaching training and began working with ESL adults. She worked through a program that took place at one of my old childhood haunts, the Newton Free Public Library.
One of my mother’s favorite students was a young Korean woman named Yon-Soon Yang, who came to this country speaking no English. My mother was always so proud of Yon-Soon’s patient determination to learn the language of her host country.
Eventually Yon-Soon moved back to Korea and—particularly in my mother’s last, difficult years—we didn’t hear much about Yon-Soon.
But then, about two weeks ago, a package postmarked March 25, 2019, addressed to my mother at my parents’ now-former address, was forwarded to me.
Enclosed in this package were a note to my mother and three copies of a Korean bilingual poetry book for children, entitled Right, I’m Not Alone!, written by Yon-Soon.
I will write to Yon-Soon and tell her of my mother’s passing and thank her for sending this book: I can’t think of a better way to celebrate a combined Teacher Appreciation Week and Mother’s Day in our family.
Students and their families show their own appreciation for their teachers in all kinds of ways. We asked some of our Scholastic Book Clubs Teacher Advisors what they treasure the most from students.
“A gift that was very thoughtful that I remember was a painting of me that a mom had made for me. I will always treasure it. Very meaningful gifts are gifts that are personal and include a personal touch.” —Solange, 2nd Grade Teacher
“Teacher Appreciation doesn’t have to be a lot, something small is greatly appreciated and doesn’t go unnoticed! Kids have made me T-shirts, brought my favorite kind of pens and Sharpies, coffee gift cards! A handwritten note is something that I cherish the most—how far their child has come, or a small reflection on the year always are my favorites and don’t cost any money at all.” —Michele, Kindergarten Teacher
“I have received many interesting gifts throughout the years from my students.…However, the most impactful gifts were handmade by the student. One gift in particular that has always stood out and I will always cherish was a framed letter from one of my students, Noel Cardona, who wrote telling me how much he loved me being his teacher. I still have the letter. Another gift I received was a platter given to me by my entire class with all their faces hand-painted on it. Also, I recall a funny gift I received (and still have) was something I wasn’t quite sure what it was meant to be. I didn’t want to ask the student if it was a key chain or an ornament, which is how it ended up hanging on my Christmas tree! It’s the thoughtful gifts that stand out the most.” —Stella, Taught Grades 1–4
“For Teacher Appreciation Week, some of the cute ideas I liked were “mani” thanks—each child brought a bottle of nail polish or something relating to nail care.…Spa/beauty day—each child brought some sort of facial mask, lotion, or beauty product.…Handwritten notes from kids and from parents.” —Heather, 1st Grade Teacher
“Obviously I appreciate anything my students do for me. It’s always the thought that counts! However, I prefer school supplies, classroom necessities, gift cards, etc., over food!…One parent made us pencil shoes this year and I thought that was really cute.” —Sarah, 1st Grade Teacher
“One year I went to pick up my students from music class, and each child had a rose to give to me and sang me a song. I also received a framed tree with each child’s name on a leaf. That was one of the most special gifts. Another year, I got a class book about all their favorite memories with me. Those are the most significant.” —Natasha Ciron, First Grade Teacher
“The funniest one I ever got was an apology letter. It was from a student I’d been pushing to read all year; I tried and tried, but we never found the right book, and he never really made a habit of it. Anyway, at the end of the year, he wrote me a letter apologizing for not doing enough of his work, but telling me that he’d learned a lot over the course of the year. It was so unexpected and sincere; I actually think I still have it hanging on a bulletin board at my house.
“Last year I had a student who noticed that I liked to write things in a notebook when I walked around the classroom, so he got me a personalized notebook with my last name on it. I appreciated how thoughtful he was—he noticed a small detail that I didn’t even think about, and he gave me just what I needed.
“The best one was probably a personalized clock that a student made for me. One year, I had a student who was always calling out when I was teaching. I made a point of telling him that the first chunk of class—the teaching time—was ‘my time.’ And when he’d call out, I’d remind him that it was my time to talk and teach. This happened a few times a week for a good chunk of the school year, so eventually other kids in class were saying, ‘You’re not supposed to talk right now! It’s his time!’ to each other. The last day of school, he came in with this custom clock with the words ‘my time’ written on it. I ran into him a few weeks ago and he immediately asked if I still had it.” —Scott Hebenstreit, 6th Grade Teacher
“One of the sweetest gifts I have ever received from my students was last year. One of my students created a picture of a tree with different color leaves on it. She brought it to school and without my knowledge had all of the classmates sign their names on it. She had it framed and gave it to me on the last day of school. I was crying like a baby. Funny part was that they all thought that I was as tough as nails, when I am really a marshmallow. This picture lives in my home office!” —Rhonda Stewart, 6th Grade Teacher
“The most meaningful gifts I have received from students are ones that the students created or assisted their parent in creating. When I get a card that a preschool student has written/copied and it has reasons why they enjoy being in my classroom, I love those (especially the ones that are funny or the little things you think kids don’t notice). I also received one this year that was a pre-typed paragraph with blanks in it. The student provided the parent with answers to fill in the blanks (things like ‘My teacher always says________,’ or ‘My teacher likes to wear_________,’ etc.). It is so neat to see how students perceive you or the things they remember that you have said.” —Mindy Burgeson, PreK Teacher
In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I’m so excited to share that this week’s Dollar Deal is Thank You, Mr. Falker by the amazing Patricia Polacco.
“Polacco’s tale is all the more heartfelt because of its personal nature. Young readers struggling with learning difficulties will identify with Trisha’s situation and find reassurance in her success.” —Publishers Weekly
Thank You, Mr. Falker is an autobiographical picture book about Patricia’s own struggles with reading and how her teacher, Mr. Falker, saw her potential. It’s an inspiring and heartfelt story about the power educators have to change lives for the better.
David Vozar’s mother was also a teacher (one of the many, many things we have in common), and he has a special appreciation for how teachers change lives every single day. Thank You, Mr. Falker inspired David to create a thank-you letter to one of the teachers who made a huge difference in his life:
“I was really lucky to have the same art teacher from middle school through high school. Through his kind manner and humor, Mr. Michnowicz was able to break through a very thick barrier I had built around myself out of shyness. He allowed me to go on my own journey as an artist, never directing, only offering guidance, intuiting what I was trying to do.
“After many years as his pupil, I emerged a confident artist with a real sense of joy and play in every aspect of my creative life.”
Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week with these fun posts and activities we pulled together. The Book Boys share thank-you letters they wrote to their favorite teachers. Patricia Polacco thanks teachers for all they do in a Scholastic Book Clubs–exclusive interview in Behind the Scenes. Say “thank you” to your favorite teacher for a chance to win a tote bag featuring a favorite quote from Thank You, Mr. Falker and three Patricia Polacco books in Cooked Up from a Book. And hear how a first grade teacher uses Thank You, Mr. Falker to teach reading comprehension in Book Talks.
Thank you, Mr. Michnowicz! Thank you, Scholastic Book Clubs teachers! Thank you, Mom!
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs