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9 tips to recognize teachers and staff throughout the year

Retain and motivate your staff with positive acknowledgment

As a leader, it’s important to create a cohesive team culture for your employees. A major part of this is showing recognition for your team of administrators, office staff, and teachers throughout the school year.

Your staff walks through the school doors day after day for more than just a paycheck. They want their contributions to make a difference and impact their students – the real reason they are there. Along the way, though, staff members also want to feel appreciated and recognized for their hard work, and this starts from the top down.

Recognition in the workplace has been proven to increase retention, engagement, performance and a sense of fulfillment for employees. Knowing their leader cares about their role and the effort they put forth, employees feel a greater sense of accomplishment, purpose, and ultimately reward. 

It’s important to remember that recognition needs to be authentic. Your staff can easily identify an artificial compliment during the morning meeting. How do you ensure your praise is sincere? 

  • Be thoughtful and specific. Take a few moments ahead of time to articulate – in your mind or in writing – the explicit value the person’s actions have brought to the school/team/students/etc.
  • Use your staff members’ names when recognizing them in front of their colleagues. 
  • Make eye contact and use positive body language. If you seem disingenuous or disinterested, your efforts will have a negative lasting impression and create distrust amongst your staff.  

Along with authenticity, consistency is key to effective recognition. Starting off the school year strong is essential, but you want to maintain steam throughout the year. Being consistent will keep your staff engaged during the hyper-active times of the year and feeling motivated through the last days leading up to summer break.

Here are nine tips for recognizing your staff throughout the school year that will keep them engaged, fulfilled and hungry for more.

Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Peer-to-peer recognition creates a considerate team environment and fosters collaboration. You can create a board in the staff lounge or front office with notes of appreciation to colleagues, nominate a staff member each week and hang their photo on a board with positive mentions from colleagues, or post sticky notes with positive messages on a teacher’s room door. You can also recognize staff members on their birthdays – whether it’s a monthly email recognizing staff’ birthdays or simply wishing ‘Happy Birthday’ to your personnel on their special day, the thought will provide feel-good moments to your team.

Celebrate Milestones

Observing staff anniversaries or applauding milestones is a touching recognition opportunity. Celebrating a new teacher’s completion of their first year or a tenured staff member’s 20-year anniversary at the school, these highlights are vital to celebrate. These are great gifting moments as well. A personalized plaque or a gift card to a local restaurant are popular options that are easy to get and have a meaningful impact.

Acts of Kindness

A simple compliment goes a long way. Exuding genuine kindness towards your colleagues and staff every day is an easy and effective way to build rapport and show you care. Showing an interest in a staff member’s personal life is a considerate way to display compassion. Asking about their weekend plans, their family’s vacation, or purely how they’re doing on any given day shows an easygoing and natural approach to be a thoughtful leader.

Positive Feedback

Along with acknowledging achievements and providing shout-outs to your team, it’s important to reinforce their performance with positive feedback. Constructive, encouraging, and actionable feedback is just as beneficial as a ‘thank you’ on a consistent basis. It helps your team feel a sense of accomplishment, reassures their dedicated efforts, and emboldens their drive to keep going.

Free Staff Meals

Providing your staff with a free breakfast or lunch a few times a year is an enjoyable way to recognize their roles throughout the school year. Giving staff time to sit and enjoy a break with each other is also a great way to maintain collaborative rapport amongst the larger team. A free meal is an easy way to appreciate the entire team at one time.

Growth Opportunities

Providing project opportunities to encourage growth is another way to recognize your team for their continued efforts. Providing committee leadership openings is important as well. Continuing to encourage staff to enhance their skills, discuss their long-term plans, and consciously put them in growth situations will flex your muscles as a leader and grow their individual flame. Make sure to offer continued support, guidance, and feedback as well.

Give Time Back

The gift of time is a hot commodity to educators; shortening a meeting or surprising your staff with a cancellation to give time back is an appreciated way to recognize their busy schedules. Any extra time to plan or catch up is always valuable. Also, ensuring staff meetings are concise and efficient is welcomed. Provide relevant district or school news in a timely manner and avoid frivolous topics that can be covered in an email.

Signs of Appreciation

It’s important to show your staff appreciation for all their contributions. Whether it’s the secretary who manages the homecoming committee or the teacher who is always ready to cover another class, letting your staff know you are grateful and value their efforts is essential.  A sincere ‘thank you’ is the quintessential sign of gratitude that every leader needs. Writing a handwritten note or humbly saying ‘thank you’ to a staff member is an effective and noticed method for recognizing them on a regular basis. Even better, it doesn’t cost a thing.

School Merchandise

A fun way to recognize your staff, while also presenting a consistent brand image, is giving free merchandise. Apparel, office supplies, drinkware, and writing utensils are all great items to display your school logo or mascot and gift to staff members. The options are endless. Utilize ‘spirit days’ where staff can wear their school apparel. Your team will feel a sense of pride using and wearing items with their school imagery and branding.

Remember, your teachers, administrators, and staff choose to be at your school for more than a paycheck. Let them know their contributions don’t go unnoticed. Put these nine tips into action to show your genuine appreciation for long-term retention, engagement, and happiness.