Parents decorated the fence at Crocker Riverside Elementary School in Sacramento during Teacher Appreciation Week. Photo/Brittany Costarella

Chalk art and thank you parades in front of teacher’s homes have taken the place of gift baskets and luncheons in staff break rooms this year to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, but the sentiment remains the same.

After nearly two months of homeschooling their children because of campus closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, some parents say they appreciate teachers more than ever.

“Besides being in class every day, they work at night. They work on the weekend,” said Brittany Costarella, a parent at Crocker Riverside Elementary School in Sacramento. “They give so much of themselves, physically, emotionally and monetarily to their classrooms and they deserve as much appreciation as we can give them.”

Parents are expressing that gratitude in a number of creative ways this year. They have organized processions of honking cars filled with students holding signs expressing their gratitude on the streets in front of the teacher’s homes. Yard signs proclaiming love for teachers have been planted in their front yards. Video cards have been sent, drawings and notes emailed and online gifts purchased. #DearTeacher, #ThankATeacher and #TeacherAppreciationWeek are trending on Twitter. 

Teacher Appreciation Week looks different at every school this year, including Crocker Riverside. In past years the week had been a big event at the school. Each day had a theme, parents decorated classroom doors, purchased gifts and feted teachers at a luncheon on the final day, said Costarella, the school’s room parent coordinator. She has organized the event for three years.

Last year the week had a movie theme that included swag bags filled with treats and gift cards for the teachers, and a luncheon where coffee mugs emblazoned with the school name were displayed like Oscars, Costarella said.

This year, instead of delivered bouquets, students held up pictures of flowers they drew during Zoom classes and made videos expressing their love and appreciation, Costarella said. Some parents have delivered gifts to teachers at their homes and a number of drive-by parades are scheduled for Friday, she said.

On Tuesday, Costarella and her sister, Kelly Fugina, put homemade posters up in front of the school thanking the school staff. 

Sentiments are simpler these days. A first-grade student made Tom Hawkins Elementary School teacher Jeniene Cruz cry this week when she expressed her gratitude to the teacher during the morning Zoom meeting. “It’s touching,” Cruz said of the overture. 

At Jefferson School District in Tracy, students are writing a sentence of gratitude to celebrate their teachers, said Cruz, who also is the president of the Jefferson Teachers Association. Students are generally sending them by email to teachers.

In previous years children brought drawings, flowers or gifts to their teachers, sometimes using a list compiled by teachers of their favorite things, Cruz said. This year parents have festooned campus lawns with signs conveying messages of gratitude to teachers. 

School administrators are stepping in to make the week more festive by asking parents to videotape a greeting from their child for a video message to teachers and, after multiple requests from parents, putting a container in front of schools so gifts could be dropped off.

Coachella Valley Unified teachers usually receive a small gift from their union for Teacher Appreciation Week, but this year the teacher association will send an email of thanks instead, said Carissa Carrera, president of the Coachella Valley Teachers Association.

“It isn’t realistic to provide a gift at this time, even though we already have them sitting in our office. We know it’s not enough just to send an email, that’s for sure.”

Although national Teacher Appreciation Week is this week, California Day of the Teacher is May 13, extending the celebration in the state.

The Mission Avenue Parent Teacher Association plans to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Day on May 12 with a day full of events. Parents will decorate the fence in front of Mission Avenue Open Elementary in Carmichael, located in Sacramento County, with posters and hold a student parade through the parking lot of the school, while honoring social distancing guidelines, said Tenille Stewart, president of the association.

The association is also providing lunch to all Mission Avenue teachers and staff available for curbside pickup from a few local restaurants. 

In Folsom Cordova Unified, which serves the cities of Folsom and Rancho Cordova, the teachers union is hosting a daily contest for its members in a private Facebook group, said Angelica Miklos, president of the Folsom Cordova Education Association. One day teachers are asked to compliment a colleague, another day there is a quiz, another day they generate a superhero game. The winners get gift cards. 

A teacher created the contest to help keep teachers connected and keep their spirits up. The group has turned into a place to share ideas and to commiserate when needed, Miklos said.

“I think teachers really need to feel that connection,” she said. “We are really struggling with that.”

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