How to Reward Teachers – With Actually Good Reward Ideas

Keep reading for ideas on how you can reward your staff all year long, not just during Teacher Appreciation Week.
By 
Jordan Pruitt
 | 
April 22, 2022

Doors open at 7:15 am. Rain or shine, the car line will be backed up before then. The day for many of our educators begins with opening car doors for little ones or waving in buses and assisting students into our schools. 

For others, it will begin in the cafeteria as they make sure our kids enter a safe and welcoming environment and can start their day off right. From there it's homeroom for advising and tutoring, or it's manning the tardy table to encourage stragglers to get to class. 

They are greeting students by the door and are making themselves available to chat or provide guidance to students who are struggling. They have had hundreds of interactions and made dozens of small decisions before ever teaching a lesson. All with the intent of providing the best learning environment they can for our kids. 

From there it's teaching, facilitating, mentoring, grading, planning, supervising, and inspiring. And that is just the first period! Great schools are great because they employ and support great teachers. No other variable can impact student learning like providing high-quality teaching.

Our teachers deserve to be praised, respected, and recognized. They deserve to be rewarded!

What Are Teacher Rewards?

Teacher rewards work much like student rewards. By this, I mean that they are designed to reward actions that are desirable for the school. 

What does your school need and value? What do you need your teaching staff to do in order for your school to be successful? What goals will you set for your teachers? How will you know they have met them? How can you encourage your teachers to meet those goals? 

Reward them for doing so!

Why Have Teacher Rewards?

Motivation is a tricky subject. Some of us might see the idea of teacher rewards as maybe a “fluff” idea. They would argue that we should all want to be the best version of ourselves because that is what is best for students. They are right. 

Yet, there are 1000’s of motivational books on Amazon. Similar motivational videos on YouTube. Tons of podcasts on the subject. Countless motivational tweets. And so, so many motivational posters in classrooms.

Teachers Lounge Posters

So it would appear that yes we all want to do our best work, but we also feel the need to be motivated to do better. Students like to see their actions recognized. If they do right, they want to be rewarded for it. 

It works similarly for adults. Think about it: most quality staff meetings normally have shout-outs or recognition of your and your colleagues' hard work. We all like to be recognized and rewarded, and when we do so, we are more likely to do so again. 

This is why events like Teacher Appreciation Week are so important in schools. Our teachers deserve that recognition, and as humans, they need the praise to spur more motivation and inspiration. 

Keep reading for some ideas on how you can reward your staff all year long, not just during Teacher Appreciation Week.

15 Teacher Reward Ideas

1. Lifesaver Award 

Create a trophy (be creative here) that staff can award each other at your faculty meeting to recognize colleagues who go above and beyond to help them, the school, and the students. 

A traveling trophy is a great way to develop a positive culture.

2. Teacher of the Week

Use technology and create a google form that will allow students to nominate and recognize a different teacher each week or month. 

3. Professional Lunch

Cover a teacher's class during the lunch class period. Send the teacher out to eat an off-campus lunch with no rush. My personal favorite on the list!

4. Beat the Buses

Cover the final 15 minutes of a class period for a teacher on Friday. That teacher gets to be the first to the weekend!

5. Time

Cover all supervision duties for a teacher for a full day or week. The gift of time is huge in a profession that can often feel time-crunched.

6. Principal’s Parking Spot

Re-designate your parking spot for teacher recognition.

7. Teacher Profile on the Morning News

Many schools are now using technology to run morning news shows. Let students interview and create human interest pieces on your teachers to be played on the morning news.

8. Professional Development Lead

Have a strong teacher that you wish you could replicate? Let them share their strengths! In my teaching journey, I was fortunate enough to have a Principal who allowed me and others to present to our colleagues. This was massive in my growth as a professional.

9. Ball Game “Sponsorships” 

Give your announcer a list of “sponsorships” to read during the game. Each one should recognize the teaching staff’s contributions to our student-athletes. “And that is a math department double down the line!”

10. Decision Maker

Want to instill buy-in for your staff? Include them in the decision-making process. Invite the teacher of the week to your admin team meeting. Their participation will create shared ownership of the school and provide value in the form of ideas your team may not have!

11. Dean for a Day

Your AP out sick? Request a sub and pull a teacher to cover the principal duties. No better way to recognize staff than to provide them with career development opportunities.

12. Wellness Wednesday

Athletic wear on Wednesday! Maybe even some staff yoga or meditation? Promote a healthy lifestyle and reward your teachers.

13. Coffee Cart

Wheel a complimentary coffee cart around, room to room once a week. Coffee isn’t terribly expensive and this has the added benefit of making certain you say hello to each and every one of your teachers for at least that morning.

14. Handwritten Letter from Principal

In the day of technology, a handwritten letter has taken on a whole other level of importance. This is the easiest one on the list and might have the most impact on a personal level.

15. Professional Conferences

Use your PD funds to provide professional opportunities for teachers outside of your building. 

Tangible Teacher Rewards

Note that very few rewards on that list will carve out space on your budget. Most are simply time-related. This is intentional. Most schools do not have funds allocated for teacher rewards and time is already a valued commodity in education.

 If you would like to include tangible rewards in your reward system consider gift cards as a means to achieve this. Dedicate a day in the summer to contacting local businesses. Explain to them what you're doing and who will benefit from a donation. 

You will be very surprised at just how much your local community would like to help your cause! Quality teaching increases student success. Successful students are successful graduates. Successful graduates are productive citizens. Productive citizens create great communities. 

How to Run a Reward System for Teachers

Step 1: Set the goal. 

Is this a group goal or an individual goal? Why is this important? 

Communicate the why. Sell it to your staff. Put on your marketer hat here.

Step 2: Set the time frame. 

How long are we monitoring this? When does it start? When does it end? Does your reward have a date? Is it a one-time thing, or recurring? 

Your goal is for teachers to have an attainable goal that isn’t too far out. Teacher Appreciation week is great, but it's awfully tough to look forward to May when it's only September.

Step 3: How will you monitor? 

What is necessary to keep track of this information? 

Use the tools your school already has to monitor your goals. If they don’t or you don’t have the necessary access, then you’ll need to use a data input tool like Google Sheets to track the goals you have set. This is simple and can be learned by watching a youtube tutorial if you're not already proficient with sheets or excel. 

A secondary note on this is who will decide who is recognized. Will it be admin, other teachers, students, or parents?

Step 4: Reward your staff! 

Carry out the reward as you promised. Put it on your calendar. Make it important, and weave it into the way you do business.

Step 5: After Action Report. 

Did your reward system achieve the desired results? Was the reward meaningful towards teacher morale? Did your monitoring system work as intended? Did the logistics of the event or system enhance or limit your success? 

Take time to think about your process and use that information to improve future efforts.

Teacher Rewards at Your School

We all want to do our best for students. But we shouldn’t ask teachers to strive for excellence in anonymity. Great work should be celebrated! 

Teaching has been a tough profession lately. It is extremely important for the future of our profession and for our kids that our teachers are treated as professionals and praised for quality work. 

There are a great many things to fix and improve. As your school’s leader, some of those you can control. Some you can influence. Some are out of your hands. 

Rewarding your staff is within your grasp.

Learn more about the author, 
Jordan Pruitt
 

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