Elevating Teacher Appreciation: Beyond Gestures to Genuine Support and Care

by Katie Dorn on May 6, 2024

May brings us Teacher Appreciation Month. While thank-you cards and buffet lunches offer a temporary morale boost, such gestures can seem minimal at a time when teachers are being asked to shoulder more responsibilities than ever, often with diminishing resources and insufficient support.  

The combined pressure of serving as educators, behavioral experts, motivational leaders, and emotional coaches—amidst ongoing societal and community divisions—significantly impacts teachers' mental health. Many educators report feeling unsupported, questioning their roles, or suffering from mental health challenges as a result.   

Coincidentally, May is also Mental Health Awareness Month – and while educators need consistent appreciation, they also need resources and support for their well-being.  

Beyond Simple Thanks: Building a Culture of Support  

How can we show true appreciation beyond May – that re-engages and supports our teachers when the profession is reeling from resignations and challenges? Below are six ways schools can provide genuine support and care that fuels teacher engagement and mental health year-round.  

  1. Visible and Supportive Leadership: Teachers desire leaders who recognize, understand, and value their work. Principals and administrators who regularly engage with teachers and students in classrooms, cafeterias, and other shared spaces—not merely to oversee but to connect can demonstrate genuine interest and approachability that boosts school culture.  
  2. Safe and Open Communication: Teachers feel more respected and engaged in schools where leaders maintain open and transparent communication channels. It's crucial for staff to feel their ideas and concerns are welcomed and considered in decision-making processes.  
  3. Consistent and Specific Praise: Beyond the confines of Teacher Appreciation Week, teachers value regular acknowledgment of their efforts. Specific praise, whether through shout-outs at staff meetings, personal notes, or public recognition, makes teachers feel appreciated and respected.  
  4. Support for Work-Life Balance: Promoting a healthy balance between professional and personal life is essential. This can be achieved by being mindful of teachers' workloads, offering flexible scheduling, and introducing initiatives like mental health days and wellness programs.  
  5. Fostering Professional Growth: Encouraging teachers to advance in their careers through ongoing education and training shows a commitment to their professional development. Facilitating access to workshops, seminars, and conferences allows teachers to pursue their interests and specializations.  
  6. Supporting Mental Health and Well-Being: Teachers often take on roles beyond teaching—they become mentors, counselors, and sometimes even surrogate family members. Their well-being directly influences their students, which is why providing resources like EmpowerU's program for Educator Resilience and Mental Health is so vital to reducing teacher burnout and enhancing job satisfaction. And programs like these work. 98% of participants who complete EmpowerU's course for educators report improved well-being, motivation, and student support capabilities. The positive teacher feedback speaks volumes: one educator shared, "EmpowerU didn't just help me manage my stress; it reignited my passion for teaching and taught me how to instill resilience in my students." Another noted a significant improvement in classroom dynamics, citing increased student engagement and decreased absenteeism.  

Integrating Continuous Support  

As we enter May, let's shift our focus from viewing mental health awareness and teacher appreciation as mere annual events to embedding them as core elements of our school cultures. Doing so can ensure lasting well-being for educators and students, empowering them to face challenges and thrive year-round.