To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week this year, we organized a special giveaway to thank educators for all they do to support students and schools. We asked for nominations and a short explanation of what makes the educator so outstanding, and over 20,000 of you responded—sharing personal stories about the creative, caring, and dedicated professionals who made a big difference for you during a trying year.

You told us about educators who stepped up to cover your class, who mentored and supported you, shared veteran insights and tricks of the trade, and passionately brought their subject matter to life for students every single day, all across the country.

You even spotlighted educators going above and beyond the call of duty—from a teacher in an Alaskan village who raised thousands of dollars to take her seniors on a trip to Hawaii, to an educator in New York who helped a student experiencing homelessness secure financial aid and stable housing.

Here are a handful of the things teaching professionals really appreciated about each other this difficult school year:

In Recognition Of Outstanding Leadership

In times of trouble, Hanna, you’re a Guiding Light: “She is the only other SpEd teacher in my building. She has helped me figure out what materials will work best with my students, how to place orders for them, and how to get everything set up for the most efficient groups. It’s hard enough being a first-year SpEd teacher, but since this was a new position, I had nothing to start the year with. It was a lifesaver to have a veteran teacher help me get set up.” —From your colleague, Heather

Thanks for Fostering A Collaborative School Environment, Maridan: “As an experienced teacher, she is always willing to help others with lesson plan ideas, pedagogy strategies, behavior management issues, or just lend a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.” —From your colleague, Ginger

Heba, you’re the very picture of Grace Under Pressure: “Our principal and fearless leader! She assumed her role as principal at a most challenging time—in the middle of the pandemic—and led our school community with such responsiveness, certainty, and grace. She has the rare and wonderful ability to maintain high expectations, while also leading with kindness and compassion. She devotes so much time and energy to our school community.” —From your colleague, Lindsay

The Little Things: Small Action, Big Impact

You leave kids with Prized Possessions, Wendy: “When the kids leave our school (a residential placement facility), she makes sure they have a backpack full of supplies and a gift from her to encourage them to be successful.”—From your colleague, Maria

Lesley’s Caring Nature was a beacon during a tough year: “Since school was virtual until recently, she had been busy mailing her students sweet notes and packages, which send a message that despite how much their lives have been uprooted, their teacher cares about their well-being in addition to their grades! Nothing has changed since schools reopened. She is constantly holding competitions and raffles with prizes to engage students and motivate them to excel.”—From your loving husband

You’re a Classroom Legend, Stephen: “He has taught for 37 years, and even today, he will run into students that he had back in the 1980s, who will say, ‘I will always remember your stories!’”—From Karen

Megan is always ready with a Cup of Kindness: “She leaves a cup of coffee on our desks as a pick-me-up, thank you, or just a good morning and have a good day.”—From your colleague, Antje

Years later, Lisa, you still give your Undivided Attention: “She and I once taught together; we have changed/moved schools and we still get together to share stories and hold each other accountable for getting away for a simple meal and time together.”—From your friend, Darilyn

Celebrating New Teachers

Just like in the movie, Margaret has True Grit: “She’s a newer teacher with her first year being at the beginning of the pandemic. Despite so many changes to the educational environment, including a school merger for us, she continues to be a positive influence to all of her students and pushes them to greatness!” —From your colleague, Kristen

Confessor, your Acts of Service don’t go unnoticed: “Whenever he’s needed, he spends some of his extra time at school helping students; this includes his lunch hour, prep, recess. He is the first one to arrive at school and the last one to leave, always lending a helping hand.” —From your colleague, Leslie

You’ve brought a Passion for Helping Kids to your second career, Michelle: “She received our school’s award for Best Beginning Teacher last school year. She is very passionate about her new, second career. She has a background in engineering and management but gave up that career to become a middle school science teacher.” —From your colleague, Linda

Cecily is Never (Ever) Afraid Of A Challenge: “She is energetic, enthusiastic, intelligent, resilient and caring. She took on some classes that had been without a real science teacher for most of the year and turned them around. They are so much more successful and engaged, thanks to her winning personality, classroom management, and content knowledge. I can’t say enough wonderful things about her. We sure do appreciate all that she does for our school community.” —From your colleague, Anna

Letting The Fun Times Shine

Krista’s assembled the Building Blocks for an epic group: “Lego League! She oversees our award-winning Lego team. She inspires students to problem solve and think out of the box to collaboratively complete their Lego tasks.”—From your colleague, Jennifer

You’re a Real Marvel, Brandon: “He always decorates his room with Marvel characters and famous action figures. And he even has his own greenhouse in his room!”—From your colleague, Michael

Meghan’s Silly Serenades are music to our ears: “She sings happy birthday to every student in whatever genre they prefer: country, rap, etc.”—From your colleague, Kimberly

Thanks for Keeping it Real, Wendy: “She makes learning fun for her bilingual students. She does real life activities with them, such as building Gingerbread houses, reading Judy Blume’s “Freckle Juice” and making it.”—From your colleague, Catherine

Krista is always up for a Dino-mite Adventure: “Just this week she transformed her classroom to a Jurassic Park setting to explore and prep for state testing. She puts her heart into every lesson by providing hands-on learning.”—From your colleague, Mary

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