If you hadn’t yet guessed from the flyers, emails, hashtags, and frantic posts on private school parent Facebook groups, National Teacher Day is nearly upon us. It falls on May 9 this year and is, as usual, conveniently situated right in the middle of Teacher Appreciation Week, May 8-12.

Are you ready?

The parent group at my kids’ school is more than ready. In fact, we’re so ready, we rolled out our Teacher Appreciation activities a week early.

(What can I say? We love our teachers and can’t wait to appreciate them.)

Our failure to conform to generally agreed-upon national observances is your gain, however, as I now have a fresh assortment of field-tested ideas to share . . .

1. Send Thank-You Notes

Sometimes, the simplest plan is the best. You can visit your local Hallmark store or download pretty printable cards if you like, but there’s really no need. A few touching lines of heartfelt thanks in Junior’s wobbly C+ handwriting may go a long way toward helping his teacher forget the incident with the [fill in the blank] and remember why she got into teaching in the first place.

(To avoid embarrassing follow-up conversations, though, don’t forget to read them yourself before the kids hand them in.)

2. Feed Them

Imagine you’re a teacher. Which would you rather have for lunch today?

  1. Cafeteria hodgepodge
  2. Rewarmed leftovers
  3. Ham and cheese on wheat (again)
  4. A hot, home-made meal catered by your parent volunteers

It doesn’t have to be fancy to be special. Every year, our parent group puts on a home-made lunch of soup, salad, and bread for the entire staff. There don’t tend to be leftovers.

3. Caffeinate Them

Think for a moment about how completely exhausting it can be to spend the day with your children, balls of curiosity, sass, and energy that they are. Then multiply that exhaustion by ten or twenty.

They tell me “there’s no tired like teacher tired,” and I’m inclined to believe them.

What better gift, then, than a little stimulating caffeine to help get them through the day? Sponsor a coffee break, stick coffee shop gift cards in with your kids’ thank-you notes, or simply stock the teacher’s lounge with gourmet tea, coffee, and various fizzy beverages.

4. Help Them Decompress

Ask any teacher at our school what their favorite Teacher Appreciation gift was, and they’re likely to answer with a sigh, “Remember that year you all brought in a massage therapist? Yeah, that was nice.”

Just as caffeine is sorely needed at the beginning (and the middle, and also near the end) of a busy day of teaching, so too is decompressing at the end of it absolutely essential.

However you choose to give the gift of “that was nice”—spa packages, massages, restaurant gift cards—they’ll certainly remember and appreciate the gesture.

5. Customize Your Gift

Not sure how best to appreciate your child’s teacher? Why not ask them?

Our parent group sends out a questionnaire in advance of Teacher Appreciation Week that gives teachers a chance to share their own particular likes and dislikes. One might love flower gardening and sipping herbal tea. Another might enjoy reading manga and chugging Monster Energy. You’ll never know which is which unless you ask!

Of course, if there isn’t time at this point to organize a full-scale questionnaire, there’s one gift that can never go wrong . . .

6. Give Books

You knew this was coming, didn’t you?

Books are an essential part of any teacher’s arsenal, even as the budgets available for expanding school and classroom libraries are often practically nonexistent.

So every year I donate a selection of Eerdmans books to our school—at least one for each classroom, each hand-chosen for its educational value and kid appeal. It’s a small token in the grand scheme of things, but I like to think it makes a difference.

If you want to take this idea to the next level, have your children inscribe their thank-you notes inside the books. Not only does this go far and above the typical Hallmark card, but it has the added bonus of turning these books into classroom monuments for future generations of students that bear witness to how much their teachers are valued by those who came before them.

(P.S. If you need ideas, check out the Eerdmans catalog here.)

7. Don’t Stop

Teacher Appreciation Week runs for five glorious days, but the fun doesn’t have to stop on Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. When May 15 comes around, you can continue to show teachers your respect and appreciation—and consistently encourage your children to do the same.

Every day is a good day to appreciate a teacher.

* * *

About Rachel in Review:

Life for this kid lit enthusiast and working mother of four can be messy. Confusing. Painful. Funny. Breathtakingly beautiful.

Enter the Eerdmans books. So, so many of our books, whether they’re bedtime books for babies or coming-of-age novels for young adults, seem to have a single uncannily common quality about them: they just fit. These wise, wonderful books somehow manage to tie into—and by so doing, help me sort out—the knotty complexities of life as I actually experience them.