Remember when a shiny red apple was the ultimate symbol of gratitude for your favorite teacher? Ah, simpler times.
In 2023, between low salaries, the COVID-19 pandemic, and school shootings, educators have had enough fruit. Instead, they demand real support from the government, parents, and communities.
While increasing teacher wages, and providing additional support would be the ultimate token of appreciation, there is still something you can do to show teachers near you that they are indeed appreciated.
Indeed, Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, says our teachers deserve to be compensated appropriately, but support that doesn’t come with monetary value is also needed.
“The need to demonstrate that they are supported by people outside the profession is huge,” Pringle tells Word In Black. “This Teacher Appreciation Week, they need to see action being taken on every level of government.”
And the need for action is evident as educators on all levels continue to quit in droves and speak out about why they’re leaving the profession. Only 7% of the nation’s teachers are Black, but small gestures from surrounding communities could make a difference.
“When they talk about the why they don’t only talk about pay,” Pringle says. “They talk about working conditions, and time to meet with parents, and provide that individual attention, so what they talk about is that we need more.”
With Teacher Appreciation Week kickstarting on May 8, here are three ways to support your teachers next week and move forward.
1. Support Your Local Librarian
In the midst of ongoing battles against teaching Advanced Placement African American Studies, schools removing movies like Disney’s “Ruby Bridges” from the curriculum, and books from libraries being confiscated, it’s clear that teaching authentic African American history is facing fierce resistance.
Ky Turman, a DonorsChoose marketing manager and former teacher, says the smallest gestures can make a huge difference, including supporting your local school librarian can make a huge difference.
“For students who maybe don’t have books at home, or do not have a ton of books at home, or maybe not great internet access at home, the library is a really important resource to bridge that gap,” Turman says.
While many may not consider librarians to be teachers, supporting the nearby library or local school librarian can have a direct impact on not only students but the educators working alongside them every day.
2. Donate Directly to a Classroom or Project
In a world where educators often lack the resources, they need, platforms like DonorsChoose are stepping up to help bridge the gap. By empowering teachers to request essential materials for their classrooms, the organization enables you to donate directly to make a significant difference in the lives of students and teachers.
You can browse projects led by Black educators and support their initiatives, from purchasing diverse books and educational materials to funding cultural experiences and classroom technology.
“Ask a school, what do y’all need?” Turman says. “Is there a project that you could use some extra help on to make sure that students feel pride in their school and can be excited to come to school?”
3. Volunteer at a Local School
Given the learning loss caused by the pandemic, teachers are working around the clock to help students catch up and achieve their best. But they can’t do it alone – extra help is needed.
“Sometimes school districts just need adults with a couple of extra minutes, a couple extra hours to help out with various skills,” Turman says. “Look into being a one-on-one tutor for students in reading and math.”
Volunteering takes on many forms. From tutoring help to reading to a class of second graders on a fun Friday morning, there’s no right way to lend a hand.
“Even just volunteering to help beautify an elementary school, or an area near you, or painting,” helps, Turman says.