As of July 2023, Zippia estimated there were about 3.8 million teachers in public and private schools in the United States, making up about 2.5% of the entire U.S. workforce, according to Wordsrated. With all of those teachers spending their days nurturing the next generations, it only makes sense there was time dedicated to all their hard work.

That’s why the National Education Association (NEA) has designated May 6 through 10 as Teacher Appreciation Week for 2024, with National Teacher Day on May 7.

Schools nationwide will celebrate their faculties the first week of May, giving teachers well-deserved special meals and gestures to show appreciation for the educators who have made their careers out of educating young people.

How It Started

According to Schoolyard, Teacher Appreciation Week was the brainchild of former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She received letters from teachers asking for more recognition and decided an special day was in order. She went before Congress in 1953 to ask that they designate a teacher appreciation day.

Even with Roosevelt’s urging, Congress did not designate March 7 National Teacher Appreciation Day until 1980, at the behest of the NEA and the Kansas and Indiana State Boards of Education. The day was moved to May in 1984, and the National Parent Teacher Association (NPTA) expanded it to a full week of recognition for teachers.

A Teacher’s Impact

Zippia estimates teachers impact over 3,000 students during their tenure. 83% of students say a teacher helped improve their self-esteem, and 87% of respondents said they wish they had thanked a teacher or expressed their appreciation for what that teacher had done for them.

Across the nation, past and present students can often recall at least one teacher who made a difference in their lives, either through academics or by teaching them important life lessons.

For some students, they appreciated how a teacher helped them understand difficult subjects or made school a better overall experience. Denise Manderfield of Florida says, “[I appreciate] Mr. George Upton, Austin High School, 1979-81, Decatur, Alabama. Best math teacher ever… I always struggled in math. I decided to re-take Algebra I as a junior, and he was the first teacher to actually break down and explain how to solve the problems… It just finally made sense.”

“My sixth grade teacher, Sister Antonia Mary,” says Steffy Trousdale of Alabama. “She had clearly defined expectations and was fair. I have benefitted from that training the rest of my life.”

Student appreciation can extend to the college level, as well. Pamela King of Alabama says she appreciated one of her professors. “Dr. Durm is without a doubt a scholar, [and] he was brilliant in his field… He was tough, and he expected excellence. He is a charismatic speaker and he motivated me to want to do more, to be more — a better person and a better student. I never missed one of his classes.”

Showing the Appreciation

Students and parents can show their appreciation for the great teachers in their lives through the NEA website or by expressing gratitude in person.

There are a number of ways students and parents can show appreciation to a favorite teacher, including giving a gift card, baked goods, or personalized school supplies. However, parents should be aware that some school systems have a cap on the value of a gift, and they should not exceed that threshold. They can call their child’s school to ask about any guidelines for teacher gifts.

Some places take appreciation a step further. Western Governors University (WGU) in Salt Lake City, Utah, announced it will offer three scholarships for “current and future education professionals who wish to pursue bachelor’s or master’s degree programs.”

“…We believe that supporting the academic aspirations of teachers is critical to the advancement of the education profession,” says WGU Senior Vice President and Executive Dean of the School of Education, Stacey Ludwig Johnson, Ph.D.

WGU, along with other universities across the nation, is working on creating the next generation of teachers, but the industry is facing major challenges.

Teachers are in demand in the U.S., and that need continues to grow. Zippia estimates that by 2030, there will be openings for 124,300 elementary teachers and 77,000 high school teachers. The average teacher age is 42, so many instructors will retire in the next 10 to 15 years.

While it can be a difficult career at times, if someone wants to make a difference in a child’s life and in the community, teaching may be the way to do it.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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