Parents often find themselves morphing into strange roles.  Recently, however, many are in the especially unfamiliar (and perhaps uncomfortable) role of home educator. Mothers and fathers have suddenly been tasked with teaching their own progeny lessons on decimal points, the human digestive system and the wonders of marsupials. The result is an unparalleled level of gratitude toward professional educators. Sure, we’ve always appreciated our children’s teachers.  But only now, after weeks of struggling to relay difficult educational concepts while begging our children to put on pants, do we truly realize the magic these professionals possess.  

Social media has erupted with gratitude. Shonda Rhimes, a powerhouse in the world of television, was clearly humbled by this new reality when she tweeted, “Been homeschooling a 6-year old and 8-year old for one hour and 11 minutes. Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year. Or a week.” There is nothing closer to the truth, but most of us don’t have a billion dollars. Thankfully, there are so many other ways to show love and appreciation to teachers, even during social distancing.  

This list attempts to cover all budgets. It also includes gifts that could come from one child or from an entire classroom. Please note that any reference to a “teacher” encompasses anyone in the educational sector. Don’t forget that any person your child sees during a school day might be making a huge difference in his or her life and deserves appreciation.  

Quarantine-Friendly Gift Certificates

Gift certificates are always a good plan, especially ones that can be used easily during quarantine. Most online stores sell gift certificates, and the whole process is easy and contact-free. Retailers such as Amazon, Kroger, Wal-Mart and Target are safe bets. You can even purchase memberships to sites such as Shipt, a same-day shopping and delivery service.  

We all know that it's important to support our local restaurants, too.  Nothing says, “Thank you for tolerating my difficult offspring” like a take-out taco, burger or pizza from a Little Rock favorite. Many local restaurants make the gift certificate purchasing process easy for you and the ordering process easy for the teacher, a win for everyone!          

Local Treats and Surprises

Purchasing a gift card to one of the teacher’s favorite local retail stores can further support the local economy. Popular Little Rock favorites such as Belle & Blush, Box Turtle, Eggshells Kitchen Co., and WordsWorth Books & Co. all offer quarantine-friendly online shopping.  

Another gift option is local balloon-designer Just Peachy. You can have a colorful surprise balloon garland installed on the teacher’s porch. Just Peachy can also deliver a handful of super fun balloons with ice cream from the local Loblolly Creamery or margarita mix from local restaurant, The Fold. Let’s face it. Balloons paired with ice cream or margaritas is a universal love language. 

Want to surprise your child’s teacher with a message of appreciation they can’t miss? Card My Yard, Sign Gypsies or Yardazzles are all businesses in central Arkansas that can place custom messages or decorations in your teacher’s yard.

Don’t forget the tried and true bouquet of flowers as a token of gratitude. Arrange for a local florist to deliver an arrangement of their favorites to their home. It would be a welcome splash of color (and would make an excellent background for all those Zoom classes)!

Social Media Shout-Outs

An easy way to send love to your teacher from the entire class is a simple collage of students each holding up a word to spell a fun message. The process is easy. Decide what you want to say and assign each student a word from the quote. This part will require some of that darn math you’ve been reviewing with your kids; you want to make sure you have a word for each student. Have parents take a close, clear picture of their child holding their handwritten word. Plug them into a collage maker (Canva is an easy online design platform), and you have a precious collection of student faces with a sweet message. You can post it on the teacher’s social media page or simply send it via text. 

Another cost-free way to send thanks electronically is to have each student record a quick video, edit them together, and share. Ask each student a fun question such as, “What would you give your teacher if money wasn’t an option?” or “What do you miss the most about your teacher during quarantine?” If the thought of more technology gives you anxiety, a quick overview of apps that make this process easy can be found here.  

A Barrage of Love

Teacher Appreciation Week begins on May 4 this year, so you could concentrate your efforts on that particular week for this idea. Be assured, however, that teachers will be grateful whenever you are able to show some love. Once you choose a period of time to honor your teacher with a shower of gratitude, plan for different students in the class to send cards or notes of encouragement on specific days. Your child’s teacher will receive happy mail all week long. You could do the same thing with texts or emails spread out over a week (extra points if you include a picture of your child holding up a sign of gratitude that he or she made). Words of encouragement are precious to educators, and even more so now. Help your children to be specific with their praise. Asking them questions such as, “What was a really fun lesson you remember?” or “What is something you really miss about your teacher?” often get better results than an open-ended question like, “Why do you like your teacher?” Don’t forget that educators greatly appreciate words of appreciation from parents, too. A note saying why you believe your child’s teacher is amazing might be the best gift he or she could get.

Zoom Takeover

Zoom and other online meeting platforms are the new normal for many classes. Arrange for some fun by having the students sing a special song to the teacher or hold up signs of encouragement during the meeting. Students could each take a minute to share a favorite memory from class or a favorite thing about their teacher. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be meaningful.  

You can even customize the Zoom surprise according to the subject. Foreign language classes could deliver words of love to their teacher in that language or art students could create pieces to honor their teacher and reveal them during the online class. 

Etsy Goodies

Leave it to Etsy to have some innovative and adorable handmade Coronavirus gifts for teachers. A quick search on this online marketplace reveals witty t-shirts, face masks and wine glasses emblazoned with phrases such as “Quaranteacher.” Also available are downloadable customized yard sign designs, treat tags, or greeting cards that you can have printed locally. Etsy is always a great place to start for cute phrases and ideas at all price points.

The coronavirus has presented a new set of challenges to parents. It’s true that most of us are still struggling to keep our children focused on their lessons at home (pro tip: bribe them with Skittles). This only makes us more grateful for the magical men and women who walk into a classroom and guide our children through their lessons without resorting to bribery. While teaching your own child might be the ultimate challenge, hopefully finding a way to show your love to their teachers doesn’t have to be.

Natalie Darnell has seven years of experience teaching high school English and Creative Writing. She is currently taking a “sabbatical” as she parents her three amazing, energetic sons with her husband, Scott. Natalie enjoys showing her eternal gratitude to the faculty and staff at The Anthony School in Little Rock for the love, wisdom and incredible patience that they give her family. She maintains that instructing her own children at home during quarantine is a million times more challenging than teaching a classroom overflowing with high school students.