“Look what one of my students got me!” read the text from my mom, a public school teacher retiring at the end of this year. It was a candy bucket with a pretty card — nothing big, but that didn’t matter. She so appreciated being appreciated that she couldn’t help but share her enthusiasm. Of course, I was happy that she was happy, but it got me thinking: do teachers truly know how appreciated they are?

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week — an opportunity for all of us to thank and celebrate the educators in our lives. For me, this week always inspires me to take stock of the teachers I know who are moving the needle for young people and show these professionals some love. These are educators who are collaborating and creating, taking ownership of their profession and leading others to do the same.

The following list includes educators who blow me away and the ways they do it. Strongly encourage you to find them, follow them, and thank them for the incredible work they’re doing.

Thank you, to the educators who:

  1. Prioritize student interests. Led by her first-graders’ interest in saving the oceans, Kris Laroche of Wonderpod Wool Shop has helped her students mobilize the mayor to establish a “Straw Free Day” in Missoula, Montana. They’re also working with a State Senator to draft and pass “straws upon request” legislation. Leaning into student interests brings out the best in them, which also tends to be what’s best for all of us.
  2. Embrace ambiguity. Before this year, Grant Knowles of Lightning Orthotics created the classes for his students. This year, Grant jumped into the unknown and empowered his students to co-create the class with him. I’m grateful for educators bold enough to work alongside their students, not just in front of them.
  3. Ask for help. Working to handle the incredible demand of their #bethekindkid t-shirts during their current sales explosion, Maureen Frew of JAM Enterprises reached out to colleagues for help printing and distributing their orders. Too few educators have opportunities to collaborate beyond their buildings, and Maureen shows us what’s possible for students when these kinds of partnerships are embraced.
  4. Reimagine success. Mark Suter of Grit9 Design isn’t burdening his students with meaningless grades. Instead, students are accountable to their clients, always going back to the drawing board when client needs aren’t met. Redefining and personalizing the definition of success for each student has allowed him to reach those who’ve been left in the margins.
  5. Celebrate. Susan Howey of Fan Faces never misses an opportunity to celebrate her students. Whether it’s achieving a sales goal or just working really hard, Susan’s students know that they and their hard work are worthy of celebration — which is something we all should be reminded of more often.
  6. Explore new tools. Three months ago, Jeff Noll of Simple Ricks Woodshop didn’t have a single social media account and believed AirDrop was a ‘rumor.’ More recently, however, he’s launched an eCommerce website, started Twitter and Instagram accounts and participated in Twitter chats. Cheers to educators like Jeff, weary of the unknown yet venturing out into it anyway.

At Real World Scholars, we’re incredibly fortunate to work with some of the most dynamic educators in the country. These teachers are creating the conditions students need to engage in real-world learning, and we’re honored to a play even a small part in their journey.

The educators we get to work with are inspirational, and yet represent only a fraction of the millions of teachers doing incredible things with and for young people. During Teacher Appreciation Week, show your gratitude for the selfless work teachers are doing all over the country. Celebrate an educator on Twitter using the hashtag #TeacherAppreciationWeek. Check out the hashtag #RWSTeacherAppreciation to learn more about the transformative work being done by EdCorps educators. And if you see my mom, give her a high five and a “thank you.”

Michael Crawford is Director of Strategy and Partnerships for Real World Scholars. Find Michael on Twitter at @mjcraw.

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